Whether it’s for work or vacation or to visit family during the holidays, most of us are going to find ourselves traveling alone at some point in our lives.
If the idea sounds like a complete nightmare to you, you’re definitely not alone. Long lines, getting through security, and waiting through multiple delays at your gate is bad enough when you have a buddy to help get you through. Alone, it can become even more nerve-wracking. But traveling alone need not be such a nuisance. Ultimately, we have a choice: We can let the airport win and completely drain us of our life force, or we can adapt and change the typically trying experience into “me-time.” Below are a few tips on how to do just that.
1. Consider more than the destination when you pack
It’s easy to get so caught up in making sure we have what we need for the destination that we overlook what we need for the journey. So, when you’ve finished getting packed, take a moment to think of all the ways you get uncomfortable when you’re waiting for your plane. Personally, my knees get horribly achey, it always seems to be freezing, and I get hangry but don’t care to drop a ton of money on lunch. Fixes? A blow-up footrest, compact fleece blanket, some chamomile tea (hot water is usually free), and a homemade avocado and cucumber sandwich. It’s just enough stuff to keep me feeling cushy without me having to pack everything away as soon as I get set up.
It’s also nice to include one item that doesn’t necessarily solve a problem but does make you happy. For me, it could be anything from a travel tube of the new hand cream I’m in love with to a trinket my late grandmother got me. If it puts me in a good mood and is easily stowed, into my bag it goes.
2. Download a meditation app
Taking a moment to recharge during the ‘hurry up and wait’ game can be a complete lifesaver.
You don’t have to be a nervous flier to find airports really stressful — even after you’ve made your way through security. Whether or not you’re someone who meditates, taking a moment to recharge during the “hurry up and wait” game can be a complete lifesaver. If you’re new to the practice or think it might be too difficult to find your center in such a busy place, I couldn’t recommend a meditation app enough. There are some pretty amazing options out there that can easily help you relax and find your calm before you head off to board your flight.
3. Take advantage of all that time with a leave-on mask
I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a wild sleeper — so an overnight face mask is usually a no-go for me. Where it can make an appearance, however, is on a long trip.
Before you go to try this yourself, I would suggest you follow a few simple rules. First, make sure you’ve cleaned your hands thoroughly. I don’t think I need to tell you just how gross an airport can be when it comes to bacteria, but you definitely don’t want to transfer any of it to your face. Next, wipe your face with a disposable facial cloth (or towel dampened with micellar water if you don’t do the disposable thing) to remove any impurities. Finally, pick a mask that absorbs into the skin and doesn’t require wiping off. You’re looking to relax, not give yourself a chore after you land.
Now, when your flight’s all finished, you can step off the plane looking nice and dewy instead of dry and drained. (Just don’t forget to stay hydrated!)
4. Pick up a hobby or skill
It might not seem like it at first, but an airport is actually a pretty good place to teach yourself something. You’re in a situation where you’re mostly just sitting and waiting, and there’s not going to be much around to distract you — especially during the journey itself. As for what to learn, it’s entirely up to you. There are tons of apps and videos out there that will teach you something for free, so you shouldn’t have any trouble at all finding a subject that interests you. And don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to just the digital! Just make sure to choose something feasible. So long as it doesn’t require a ton of equipment, the sky’s the limit. (Fun fact: I actually taught myself to knit while waiting for my best friend to give birth.)
5. Do some personal housekeeping
Whether it’s organizing your photos or coming up with a 5-year plan, we all have those projects we can never quite find the time to get around to. Just like with learning something new, waiting around at the airport might be the perfect time to buckle down and do it. Even if you know there’s no way you’re going to be able to finish, it’ll still be well worth a shot. Especially with longer projects, getting started can be the hardest part. So, no matter where you are in the process, there’s a very good chance you’re going to feel much lighter than if you hadn’t started chipping away at it at all.
Originally from Illinois, Sarah Militello is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and founder of women’s lifestyle and travel website Milk & Flowers.