So you’re flying home for the holidays. You’ve had your presents mailed directly there, trimmed your luggage down to a carry-on, and exchanged 400 emails with your mother about menu planning. All you have left to do is make it through the airport and onto the plane. Here are a few pieces of wisdom to make the whole thing go without a hitch.
Bring your own snacks.
Maybe you ate a super filling smoothie bowl before heading to the airport. Maybe you have your heart set on Panda Express once you get to your gate. But next thing you know, your flight is delayed six hours, the Panda Express in your terminal is under construction, and you’re fighting airport pigeons for peanuts you find on the mangy carpet. So pack something, even if you don’t have time to prepare a whole meal—some wasabi peas, a candy bar, a couple apples. You will not regret this.
Air travel is a great excuse to drink a martini at 11AM or a bloody mary at 11PM.
Airports are weird societal spaces that exist between destinations and timezones. If you’re killing time at the airport and trying to stave off the stress of holiday travel, just embrace it. Sidle up to a bar and order something that makes no sense. Order a breakfast whiskey or a margarita digestif. The great thing about airports is that there are no rules. (Just kidding, there are a lot of rules.)
Do not practice your musical instrument at the airport.
Oh, you have a ukulele? Cool! Do you know any songs on it? Oh cool, so just that one Jason Mraz song? Oh wow, you’re going to play it right now for me, in this confined space that we’re sharing together with several hundred other unsuspecting bystanders?
Bring at least one blanket-like article of clothing.
Maybe it’s a gigantic scarf; maybe it’s an impossibly soft sweater; maybe it’s a regal caftan. Bring at least one soft, voluminous article of clothing that you can use as a blanket on the plane and as an extra shield against the cold when you’re waiting for your parents to swing by the airport with their station wagon.
Get free money.
At high-traffic times like Thanksgiving and Christmas, airlines often overbook flights and then have to bribe passengers to switch their flights with free credit. If you have a few hours of flexibility to get to your destination, keep an ear out for these offers. You could make $1000 to $2000 of credit just for tolerating the airport for a couple extra hours.
Hoard airplane snacks.
Are you still super full from the peanuts you ate off the floor earlier? It doesn’t matter. Accept the bag of chips and the small packet of cookies that the flight attendant offers you. You will be hungry on your cab ride from the airport or on your flight back at the end of the weekend, or in two months when you’re out of groceries, and you will find a small, crumpled bag of chips in your backpack and it will be the best gift of all.
If you’re stressed...
... Just take a deep breath and remember that everyone else at the airport is probably stressed too. Your problems are unique and special and important and also exactly the same as everybody else’s. If you start to feel like your temper is being tested by the abysmal chaos of holiday travel, take a deep breath and smile at someone who looks like they need it.
Tell us your best airport strategies in the comments.