Ever had a vacation virtually ruined and not by a disappointing destination, but by the flights themselves, either going there, or coming back? And I’m not talking about lost luggage here, which admittedly is always a major pain and statistically is happening more often with each passing year. Rather, I’m talking about the whole “horrible” flying experience.
You see, if flying used to be “fun,” most of us don’t consider it so anymore. According to many surveys, most people would prefer to drive to their destinations, rather than to take flights to get there. Why? Well, let’s be honest – there are a whole host of reasons. From booking tickets, making sure you have some of the local currency to use when you get there, getting to the airport, going through security, being packed into what feels like a sardine tin, and then perhaps being stuck there for hours waiting for a “slot” to take off, is no picnic. Then, if you have a connecting flight, you get to look forward to racing to try to make that connection, if you can make it at all, because your first flight was so delayed. What’s worse, it all seems so unavoidable, because you simply can’t drive to most foreign destinations. You have to fly.
So, how do we avoid these scenarios? How do we have a stress-free flight?
Well, although no plan is fool-proof, there are steps you can take to avoid many of the standard problems, and/or alleviate others. Here are some good tips:
- Take Care Booking Your Flight. This is of paramount importance. Many problems come from poor or incorrect booking of flights. Make sure you research the costs, that all fees are included in your final price. Then, be certain you’ve selected your seats both coming and going. If you have children along, consider selecting seats closer to the toilets.
- Make Sure Your Layovers Between Flights Are Long Enough. Yes, we all hate those long layovers between connecting flights, but they are becoming more necessary for practical reasons. Flight delays are climbing in frequency and length of duration. So, make sure you allow enough time to make it from one connecting flight to the next. Often, an hour is simply not enough. It certainly isn’t if you have to go through customs. Besides, it’s better to spend an extra hour in an airport rather than an extra day because you missed that connecting overseas flight.
- Tag Your Luggage — Check The Weight Allowance. Different airlines allow different amounts of luggage. Many charge extra for checked bags. Be certain of the total weight limit. Get that wrong and you’ll think you are carrying gold in that “extra” suitcase, because it will cost so much to take it along! Often, online, as with Virgin Atlantic, you can find a website that gives you precise limitations as to maximum size of a piece of baggage, number of pieces, and total weight limit. Make sure you stay within those parameters. Tag your luggage clearly. If it gets lost, this will help them get it back to you. And remember those longer times between flight connections I’m promoting? They help to avoid lost luggage. Tight connections mean your luggage may not make it to that next plane, even if you do!
- Have Some Local Destination Currency With You. This is important. At the end of several flights, perhaps a day or more in length, you will probably just want to get to your hotel and collapse. This usually involves a taxi, bus, shuttle service, train, or subway ride. You will need local currency for these. What’s more, you should have a good idea of what that currency looks like, what the current exchange rate is, be able to quickly calculate and compare costs. Otherwise, that taxi ride, as compared to a shuttle, may turn out to be prohibitively expensive. For help with this, go to Currate.com.
At Currate.com’s website, you will find everything you need to resolve the above issues. They have regularly updated exchange rates, a reliable onsite currency calculator. What’s more, they even have images of over 180 world currencies. So, if you need to know what an English pound looks like, versus an Egyptian pound, for instance – no problem! Besides all this, Currate.com has a Google-style, world map for you to use where all you have to do is point to your destination and click. As if that isn’t enough, Currate.com has another, wonderful feature, as well. If you have a mobile phone with Internet browser capability you can just go to, http://currate.com/m, or for phones that can handle enhanced capabilities http://currate.com/e. This way, among other things, you always have access to up-to-date information on the current rates of exchange and access to the currency conversion calculator. For this reason, I find Currate.com and my mobile phone indispensable tools when traveling.
- Always Have Your Paperwork Handy. This includes your tickets and photo identification. Two or more versions of photo identification are best, with one obviously being your passport and/or any visas you may need. Keep these in a folder, that you can quickly access, because just going through security, for example, can require you to show them several times. And, you will be required to display this paperwork coming and going, so truly – keep it handy!
- Carry Your Bag With You Onto The Plane. I’ve mentioned this before, but it is so important. Because luggage does get lost with ever-greater frequency these days, make sure you always pack an overnight bag to carry on the plane with you. This should include anything you consider an absolute necessity, including any paperwork, prescriptions, a change or two of clothing, cameras – anything you need to make sure that your holiday is a reasonable success.
- Relax And Dress Comfortably. You’re on vacation, try to enjoy it. Not everything will be perfect, but it can all be seen as an experience. Getting angry won’t resolve your problems. Staying calm and collected is a much better idea. Clothes should be comfortable for those long flights. You can always change into something more formal once at the hotel.
Will all this guarantee you a stress-free flight? Sadly, no. That’s just not possible. For example, who might be seated next to you, or how they behave, is still up to fate. And super-long flight delays can still wreak havoc with your plans, those connecting flights. Weather can interfere. And lost luggage, again, is always a problem.
Nevertheless, if you do remember always to take the above steps, you help to assure yourself that there will be fewer problems. They will occur less often, and usually will be less severe in nature when they do occur. And that will go a long way to reducing your airline travel stress. And remember Currate.com. It will go a long ways to helping you reduce stress over knowing the most up-to-date rates on currency exchanges. Keep that mobile phone with Internet browser capability handy!
Rob Shelsky, Currate.com Contributing Editor