how to survive the airport (and other important traveling tips)

Here’s the thing with traveling: it’s all really great in theory. Then you get to the airport. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll have one of those deliriously wonderful direct flights and arrive at your destination before you even have a chance to waste ten dollars on a soggy sandwich, but you probably won’t. 

With flying, the odds are never, ever in your favor. In the past four years, I’ve been on over 50 planes and maybe three have gone as planned. During one particularly bad incident, a train at Newark Airport broke down and puppies were barking, babies were crying, men were yelling, workers were screaming through megaphones and it was like a scene out of The Day After Tomorrow. And because traveling should not make you feel like the world is ending, I’ve comprised a list of nine things you should know before hitting the airport this Spring Break.

1. If your flight is cancelled—accept it. Go to the nearest Customer Service help desk (not the agents at the gate), and ask them to book you on the next possible flight, or maybe see if you can reroute elsewhere. Whatever you do, do not decide to take a different form of transportation. Absolutely do not decide to take a train to a local bus station in hopes of getting a GreyHound bus to your destination. The Airport That Shall Not Be Named is the second least happy place on earth. The bus station ten minutes from said airport is the first. If you’re into being chased by old men, having sobbing breakdowns in small bathroom stalls and being surrounded by workers who literally hate you, then by all means, take a bus. However, if you like being happy, take the next plane.  

(Side note: if you do happen to get stuck in a horrible Bus Station-esque place, quick, leave. There’s probably a Starbuck’s within 100 feet of where you are. GO.)

2. If your flight is delayed, it’s probably due to weather or mechanical problems, so don’t yell at the employees. Wouldn’t you rather have a late flight than a crashing plane? If you complain about a flight delay,you’re basically saying, “I WISH THIS PLANE WAS FLYING IN DANGEROUS CONDITIONS.” Don’t be that person. 

3. Flying on an empty stomach can be the worst thing. If it’s windy (and it’s just always windy when you’re flying, right?), then there will be no shortage of turbulence and then an empty stomach becomes your worst enemy, especially since flight attendants can be so stingy with the good shortbread cookies. Solution: bagels.

If you’re headed somewhere tropical, it’s going to be really tempting to force yourself to hit up the smoothie and sandwich shack that will keep you from looking bloated in a bikini, but those shops charge premium prices. You’re going to be paying $11 for a sandwich and $5 for a bottle of water. Go to a well-known food chain like Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonalds, remind yourself you’re being economically friendly and just eat the carbs.

If you have an early flight and don’t feel like eating, don’t drink coffee either. You don’t want to be over-caffeinated, twitchy, unable to sleep and nauseous while up in the air.

If you have room, bring an empty water bottle with you. There are plenty of fountains once you pass security, and filling up there can save you from buying a high-priced bottle at a kiosk.

4. Do. Not. Forget. Sunscreen. If it’s over three ounces it will have to go in your checked bag, if it’s less than three ounces it can go in a clear Ziploc bag in your carry-on. The only thing worse than ruining your vacation with a lobster-red sunburn is getting skin cancer. 

5. Layers. Annoying as they may be to take off when you’re going through security, layers are the only thing that will save you from suffocating while on the ground and from getting hypothermia once you hit 10,000 feet. They’re also nice as you switch climates. Tip: aisle seats are much warmer than window seats.

6. Ask for directions. Accidentally leaving security, getting on a train to Newark, having to take the train back, standing in a security line of over 400 people, then finding out you’ve missed two flights is not fun. At all. There are workers everywhere, usually wearing a distinctly colored vest,just ask nicely. 

7. The expression “better late than never” does not apply in airports. If you are late, you will be bumped from your flight, and your trip will never happen. Anticipate delays. Be. Early.

8. If you’re traveling out of country, do not forget your passport. Make sure you’ve packed all the correct travel documents and any proof of vaccinations if they’re needed. 

9. Lastly, watch Up in the Air before you go. You are Anna Kendrick. Let George Clooney serve as your traveling model. Trust him. 

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