The recent terrorist plots involving airliners is indeed scary, but certainly not surprising to anyone who has been awake to the current climate in the world over the last few years. And, while I am 110% and then some for safety and feeling secure when I travel by air, I have to wonder about the latest set of band aid, panic driven, reactive solutions the transportation authorities have put into effect. Do they really make us any safer? Or, are the people in charge who are truly good hearted and safety conscious simply at a loss (or have their hands tied) at what to do to REALLY make a change for the better? It makes me wonder when we’re so busy confiscating people’s toothpaste, eye drops, and water to notice a 12 year old boy passing through security and boarding a plane without any passport, ticket or boarding pass .
Like it or not, we’re stuck with the rules if we want to take to the skies to get where we’re going. While I am far from a frequent traveler, I do love to travel and am leaving for Calgary, Alberta in just a few weeks to go play in Banff and Jasper National Parks. I’m a nervous and impatient flyer under the best circumstances, so these new restrictions have me irritated and stressed out. How do I best handle my carry-on stuff and take care of my needs now that the authorities have made it incredibly difficult to do so. I’m an avid photographer (check out http://www.paulagphotography.com to see some of my work) and never check camera equipment. I’m also very diligent about taking care of my body and comfort when I fly so I don’t get sick. It behooves me that the same bunch of authorities that preach — hydrate when you fly, use eye and nose drops to keep things moist to avoid colds and other nasty flight related health problems (think- the whole deep vein thrombosis thing) – are now making it bloody difficult to do that. Unless of course you’ve found yourself powdered water and eye drops at the local REI, at which time let me know.
That being said I am still totally committed to not only enjoying my trip but staying healthy and relatively sane during the “en route” travel days. Here are my top tips for taking care of your own needs and staying calm in this inconvenient travel environment.
1) Hydrate Anyway
While you can’t pack your own water, you can drink like a fish in the airport and request plentiful amounts of water from the flight staff. In my opinion, the airlines damn well better be prepared to handle additional requests for water and beverages while in the air since no one can bring along anything. As I keep saying at home — I will be the queen of the “ringy-dingy” call button asking for water since I am used to downing at least one 32 oz. Nalgene bottle of my own on cross country flights. You are responsible for your own well-being, so don’t be shy to ask for what you need. Just remember to be respectful as most people who work the flight staff truly do want to help you (the small percentage that are bitchy and unhelpful, simply avoid them).
2) Plan for Delays, Long Lines, and Aggravated People
Whenever I drive the expressway into Philadelphia I get ticked off when the traffic is backed up. I don’t know why since it is rare (except at say 5am on a Saturday) that it is NOT backed up. You can count on a mob scene, long lines, rude, and irritated people when you hit the airport. Don’t fool yourself into believing it’ll be a cakewalk like flying circa 1980. That being said, do whatever you need to do to distract, calm, or otherwise amuse yourself during this part of the journey. You can’t change it, but you can change your approach to it. Make the best of the situation and never, ever mouth off to anyone in the airport, or we’ll be watching your face on CNN and your name whizzing by on the crawl.
3) Know Before You Go
While the list of prohibited items is a moving target, it helps to review the list before you head out. The latest is at the TSA website. The anal person in me wants to print this out and take it with me in case I get questioned about items not on this list. Of course, some of the language on these regulations is a scream. I never realized gel bras were a threat to national security. And, to hell with you little citizens with medical needs, it’s not convenient for the TSA to cater to you, but please, fly the “friendly skies”. Welcome to big brother and the invasive land of security. Travel light, and take all precautions you need to take care of your belongings and your own well-being.
And then, breathe some more. It is amazing what deep breathing can do to keep you calm, centered, and out of a full fledged panic attack or rage. Not breathing isn’t going to help you get through security any faster and certainly isn’t going to make you feel any better. Do your best to stay in the moment knowing “this too shall pass.”
4) Keep It in Perspective
Especially if you are traveling for pleasure, keep things in perspective. You’re choosing to travel by air (of course I’d need a month’s vacation to drive 3,000 miles, so my choices are limited!). As long as you stay safe and sound, the hassle is worth it. While I’m not convinced the current measures make things any safer than before, you simply have to trust and believe that all will be well. Even with all the terrorist hub bub, it is still safer to fly than drive the expressway to work.
5) Focus with the End in Mind
This is easiest done if you’re on a trip for pleasure. Visualize the great time you’re going to have at your destination. Tap into all the great things you are going to do and see that pumped you up about traveling in the first place. I know I will be visualizing paddling on Maligne Lake or hiking in the Canadian Rockies or splurging on fine dining. Even if you’re traveling for business, focus on the objectives of your trip and how you can make it most meaningful and successful. If you’re a nonstop road warrior, I don’t have a great deal of advice for you. My guess is you’re pretty used to the routine and either a) love the lifestyle or b) are putting up with it for a finite time to achieve another goal. (If your answer is neither a nor b, maybe you need to consider a career change.) While I am all about enjoying the journey, when it comes to air travel, in my opinion, it is just a means to an end (getting there).
If you’re traveling – good luck and stay calm. I’ll let you know if I have any earth shattering insights after my trip.
Any frequent travelers or road warriors out there who have advice, comments, or experiences to share, please post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
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