It’s easy to be happy and enthusiastic about traveling when things are going well — flights leaving on time, connections made, nice weather, making wonderful new friends, and seeing the world. It’s easy to think the world is full of sunny skies and unicorns when things are just about perfect. But what about when things go wrong? Not the big kind of wrong that will completely ruin a vacation, but the kind of wrong that is going to knock you off your game, make you think about what you’re going to do, and challenge you to find ways to be happy with your travels.
Since I’ve had to face this issue several times in the last year or two, I want to share with you some things I’ve learned about how to handle the stress of traveling in a way that still allows me to enjoy it.
As frustrating, annoying, and maddening as air travel can be, it is often the only way for you to get where you want to go on the schedule that you need to be on. It the new procedures, fees, and hassle have you opting out of air travel, great, but for many of us it’s an ordeal we need to learn to deal with. While it may not be easy, there are things you can do so that it doesn’t ruin your entire travel experience.
You can do your part to get to the airport early, pay to check your bags, and maybe even pay extra for a premium seat and early boarding. But once the airport process begins what follows is largely out of your hands. Taking out frustrations on any airport personnel is not going to get you a positive result. Problems need to be handled politely, but firmly, with your rant kept inside of your head. Yelling at the ticket agent is not going to make your flight un-cancelled. Yelling at the TSA officials is not going to get that large bottle of perfume through the security check point. Yelling at the gate agent is not going to make your delayed flight take off any earlier. And don’t even think about pushing and shoving your fellow passengers – you are not more important than they are – and you don’t need to have the police called to straighten out the problem.
So what can you do? What are you options?
Stay calm. Typing that advice is so easy, yet it’s so much harder to follow when you’re in the thick of things. But it really is the only good choice.
Let go of the petty annoyances, and consider it an unfortunate part of what air travel has become; it’s part of the price you pay. Real complaints and grievances need to be addressed, but most often the person who can solve the problem is not the person in front of you. I’ve had issues with a TSA representative that have been resolved by politely asking for a supervisor and others that have required me to write a letter a few days later. I have filed a complaint against an air marshal, a police officer, and a TSA officer by getting information at the time of the event, and writing a letter of complaint with all pertinent details and no emotional drama. It works.
If your flight is cancelled or delayed, whip out the phone and start looking at what your options might be. Is there another flight that you could get on? Are you going to miss a connection? Start figuring out a variety of options that could work. When this happens to me, I usually have dozens of ideas about how I can get where I need to be. Some of the options are more desirable than others, but just the act of researching and planning makes me feel more empowered and less like a victim. The agents will try to help, but helping yourself and then getting them to go along with it may be more likely to get the result that you want. And if after all that research you don’t need to make a change? Oh well – I think proactive is always better than reactive.
What doesn’t work is escalating a situation at the beginning of your travels. You want to go enjoy your travels not get stuck arguing at an airport. Ask yourself if, at that very moment, you’d rather be right or happy. I choose happy!
Coming next: Illness and Injury on the Road
Photo credit: from the collection of Mary Jo Manzanares