Big crowds, long lines and delayed flights – while they don’t put you in the mood for holiday cheer, they are often unavoidable during this time of year. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine gives tips on avoiding airport stress and says that planning ahead is key in avoiding the ripple effect of stress.
“The holidays can be a stressful time to travel, but if you anticipate some of the traffic, parking issues and long lines and allow extra time, you can avoid some of the stress,” said Dr. Asim Shah, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor.
Before even leaving for the airport, prepare by making sure you have all of the appropriate travel documents, including tickets and proper identification. Weigh your luggage to be sure there will be no delays or extra fees once you check a bag and be sure all of your liquids for your carry-on luggage are the appropriate size.
“Try not to pack things that can be removed, such as extra liquids or other items that are not allowed in carry-ons, to avoid wasting time once you get to the airport,” said Shah.
In anticipation of long lines and delays, be sure to pack activities for young kids, such as games and music. If traveling with older adults, be sure to pack all appropriate medications in your carry-on luggage.
Don’t forget that travel time to the airport might be longer due to traffic, and parking lots at the airport might require extra time. If you usually arrive one hour before a flight, consider arriving two or more hours ahead to avoid any added stress.
Shah says to always be aware of when the next flight is after your original flight, and always have a backup plan in case you are delayed.
He also recommends not being upset if you find yourself selected for a random security check at the airport.
“Remember that they are doing their jobs – for your safety and for the safety of others,” he said.
Holiday stress can lead to arguments, and Shah offers tips on how to deal with these, whether they are with loved ones or strangers.
“If you find yourself in a tense situation or you are upset with someone, try to keep your cool,” he said. “Remember that an argument will cause even more delays.”
Shah recommends taking deep breaths and even closing your eyes to disassociate yourself from the situation for a few moments. He even recommends listening to soft music or playing a game of Sudoku to try to calm yourself.
“Know what your stress reliever is, whether it’s listening to music or playing a game, and do that,” he said.
Shah also reminds us that there is a bigger gain at the end of all of this stress – spending time with loved ones during the holidays. Keeping this goal in mind is important when in a stressful situation. For those who are concerned about being united with their loved ones during the holiday season and have added stress because of this, Shah says to remind yourself it’s only a short period of time that you will be spending together.