From family traditions to homemade treats, decorations and presents, the holiday season — though often cold outside — in many ways truly warms the heart and spirit. Unfortunately, many people check their cheers of good tidings when they arrive at the airport. Long lines, crowded planes and tired families can add up to a travel headache, and the holiday spirit is often the first to go when faced with delays and travel snafus. Although travel can be stressful, there are so many wonderful conveniences, technologies and thoughtful travelers that can make any trip, even one during the busiest travel season, smooth and easy.
During this time of thanks, it’s helpful to remember what you are thankful for while traveling, and the holiday season also reminds me of the importance of kindness and thoughtful gestures. Good customer service with a smile can instantly alleviate most stressful situations. I always try to project a pleasant and helpful attitude during my work, because as a consumer I truly appreciate it and know the huge difference it makes. A small action can have a disproportionately large impact. Helping elderly passengers struggling with bags or randomly treating someone behind you in line to coffee. These small gestures and pleasant surprises can instantly transform someone’s day and remind them of the true spirit of the season.
I try to remember to appreciate the small things too: space in the overhead bin when I get to my seat, timely information — even if it may not be the news I want to hear, I appreciate knowing how long the delay will last rather than be left guessing–early arrivals and, most importantly, safe arrivals.
Next, I am appreciative of the amenities at the airports. Airports have so much to offer now; you could truly spend a pleasant evening — have a date even! — in some of the newly updated airports across the U.S. From fine dining to concerts to wonderful shopping centers, airports offer a wide array of pleasant ways to pass the time if your trip is taking longer than you hoped. The shops in the terminals can alleviate holiday stress too. If you need a last-minute present, pick something up at an airport store, and you won’t even need to pack it. JetBlue’s own Terminal 5 in New York is a perfect hub for all of these amenities.
In addition, there are so many travel technologies that I am grateful for both during my work and leisure time. Technology not only allows us to cross the country in just a few short hours to visit loved ones and friends during the holidays; it also helps us to travel smarter.
I am thankful for travel apps that make my travel simpler and more leisurely. Different apps can help you secure the best plane seat or allow you to navigate unfamiliar cities and back roads. Technology gives anyone with a smartphone access to travel tools, tips and tricks that make traveling easier than ever before.
Some of my favorite travel apps include:
- Seatguru: Find the best seat in the house (or on the plane in this case). Seatguru shows you the location of power outlets, emergency exits, overhead bulkheads, narrow seats, etc. It helps you find what you want or avoid what you don’t want all before you board the plane.
- TripAdvisor: Provides great reviews customer reviews on hotels, restaurants and local attractions.
- Weather Channel: Great tool to know exactly what to pack!
- Google Maps: Never get lost again with these maps at your fingertips.
- TripIt: Plug in all your travel details — flight schedule, hotel, rental car reservation — and TripIt will gather all the information and produce a travel itinerary for you. It breaks up all your info into easily digestible components and will even update your information if your flight schedule changes! It’s also a form of social networking where you can follow family members or colleagues and remain up-to-date on their travel schedule and progress.
Tech gadgets also help make the travel waiting game more enjoyable. Lightweight, compact devices may be small and easily packable, but they carry a boredom-breaking punch. Every time I pull out my Kindle to read, I am thankful for the hours of entertainment at my fingertips. Bose headphones can also be a lifesaver on long travels. Not only do they allow me to relax to my favorite music, they also provide a bit of mental space, which is especially important when traveling near an excited family or loud cellphone talker.
Then there are higher-end gadgets that bring the luxuries of home on the road with you. Personal Wi-Fi devices allow travelers to remain connected, faster and easier, while on the road. AirPort Express from Apple is a great tool if you want to bring the ease and speed of your home Internet to the airport or to your hotel.
And, your favorite show or sports game can follow you on the road too. Slingbox enables you to tune into your home cable or DVR over the Internet and watch on your smartphone, computer or iPad. You’ll never have to miss that big game again, and if you are traveling with kids, you can keep them entertained during waits and delays.
As a professional and a fellow traveler, I see some people handle travel stress with grace and those who sometimes need a helping hand and to take a deep breath. Here are a few tips and my favorite resources to help you remain calm and kind when dealing with crowds and busy airports this holiday season.
- Your most important carry-on item: When you are making your travel checklist this holiday season, don’t forget to bring your patience to the airport. Arrive at the airport prepared with your boarding pass printed out or pulled up on your smart phone, ready to be scanned. Also have your ID or passport handy, your gadgets charged and a healthy dose of patience; all of which will help you face a crowded airport.
- Take a breath: If your patience is running low, take a deep breath and count to 10. It’s a good rule of thumb and helps you take an extra moment to remember the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated (even during stressful holiday travel).
- Refreshments: A small amenity bag packed with toothbrush, toothpaste and face wipes can keep you refreshed and in good spirits when faced with travel delays. A delicious snack can sustain your mood and ward off hunger and crankiness too.
- Remember, it’s the holidays: Take a moment to enjoy the holiday travel perks too! Many companies extend small extras to help alleviate holiday stress. JetBlue offers holiday snacks and concerts to celebrate the season. Take a moment to enjoy these treats.
- Enjoy the view: Take a look at the view while you are up in the air. You may catch a full moon or a beautiful view of the sunset or holiday lights twinkling below.
For more travel tips or to share your favorite destinations and insider knowledge, follow me on Twitter @Wingwoman_Tracy.
Read Tracy’s previous columns: Kiss Summer Goodbye With These Fall-tastic Travel Ideas, The Wind Beneath Your Wings: Giving Lift To Your Perfect Summer Trip, Snorkeling, Rum Punch and Beyond: Top Spring Break Spots and How A Kiwi Led To My Biggest Airport Snafu