On our recent twitter poll, you said ‘delayed flights’ stressed you out the most when flying, with very few of you saying you love airports.
The thing is, we see many reasons to love airports, but we also understand how stressful airports can be, especially if things aren’t going to plan. There are delays, queues, too many people, confusing layouts, not knowing where to eat, spending too much money, being hot, tired and uncomfortable, having to pay for extra luggage… did we miss any?
So, as it’s Stress Awareness Month this April, we’ve asked around the frequent flier FLIO team and have collected our top tips for reducing stress at the airport…
Exercise can help to melt life’s stresses away, or at least help you handle it better. But all those chairs just invite you to sit down until your flight leaves. We recommend sticking your bags in a locker and going for a walk. Some airports like Berlin Tegel have a circular layout so you can set yourself the challenge of doing laps. Use your Fitbit and compare your lap times/steps. Some, like Frankfurt, Helsinki and San Francisco, even offer free yoga rooms. Airport hotels often have gyms that you can pay into for an hour or two. Also, skip the conveyor belts and walk your way to your gate. Choose the stairs over the lift. Converse to what you may think, raising your heart rate will help you feel energised and relaxed by the time you have to buckle up in your plane seat.
2. Use the airport’s own anti-stress facilities.
The most progressive airports today recognise that people are not just objects to be moved through the building, but are humans who are often tired and stressed by their journeys. Some have innovative offers like massage chairs, sleep pods, quiet rooms, water features, art galleries, cinemas, museums and outdoor space to help you stay relaxed while you wait. Some airports even offer time with therapy dogs. We’ve seen more and more airports thinking about these things, so keep an eye out for them (or check the app).
3. Drink more water than you think you need.
Never underestimate the power of water to reduce your stress levels, and keep you feeling a bit normal. You’re moving a lot, and drinking plenty will help to keep you cool, calm and refreshed. Cornelia, our Head of Content, recommends buying water as soon as you can after security, in a newsagent/duty free shop rather than restaurants, where it’s usually cheaper. A tip: in Germany, the tap water is drinkable, so you can take through an empty bottle and fill it up in the bathrooms. In Dublin Airport, they have ‘Plane Water’ just after security, where you can just take a 500ml bottle yourself, and put €1 in the honesty box. Resist the call of alcohol if you can: this may make you feel good for a while, but worse in the long run (honestly).
4. Be early.
You hear this a lot, but really, it’s important. Even if you’re not one of those on-time people usually, do it for flying. Unforeseen things happen at airports: like crazy queues because you forgot it was a bank holiday, like kids throwing tantrums and refusing to move, like forgetting your passport and having to go home, like buses getting stuck in traffic. And not just that, being early helps you breathe: you have time to move slowly, not look at your watch, observe the people around you, browse shops, drink a decent coffee so you don’t have to drink instant coffee on the plane. It also helps you generally enjoy the time being in the airport. Catherine, our Digital Account Manager recommends allowing 1.5 hours before a national flight, and three hours before an international flight.
5. Eat well.
It’s tempting in an airport to head for the cheap, quick eats, but try and hold off for a healthy option like sushi, salad or wraps. Luckily food offerings are improving massively in airports, from street food trucks (in Oslo’s Gardemoen Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport) to a focus on fresh, local ingredients, and even local coffee roasters (like Stumptown in Portland International) there’s a lot more to choose from these days than the usual fast food outlets. Plus in airports like Dubai and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, they’re now offering Deliveroo delivery straight to your seat, so you don’t even need to walk for miles to your favourite eatery. Another reason to arrive earlier, so you can research the place that appeals to you. Often the best food takes a few minutes longer. But it’s worth it for your sanity.
6. Buy the kids a toy in duty free.
I do this every time I fly. The kids now know they get a little car or something small from the airport shops. Spoiled brats? Maybe, but here’s why it’s good: they look forward to the shopping trip, you can use the promise of a toy to get them ready for the trip to the airport, the shopping trip is something to do in the airport, and the toy is something to play with and hold for a few hours on the plane, while it’s still new. But try not to buy toys with a lot of little parts. Like lego. I’ve done this and spent most of my flight scrabbling on the floors under the seats around me looking for impossibly tiny pieces.
7. Switch off.
Of course, you may need to stay in touch with people, and use your phone for your boarding card, but in general try to treat the airport like a little time out. You could even put your phone in a charging station to avoid the temptation. (When you do need WiFi though, remember FLIO can connect you, and even help you find a power outlet.)
8. Keep cool.
Heat can make stress levels reach boiling point. With the lights, people and heating, airports can be hot. Don’t be tempted to wear all your clothes. Cornelia, our Head of Content, says: “In wintertime I stick my heavy coat into my luggage right before check in.” I bring hooks I can attach to my backpack so I can hang my coat/jumper from my bags, and save space: especially useful for little kiddie coats.
9. Print your tickets.
This comes from Catherine too. She says keep a paper copy as well as your screenshots or QR codes to avoid issues with phones running out of battery or being lost. It can also be handy if you’re travelling in a family, so whoever has a free hand can show the boarding card.
10. Bring the right things.
Cornelia recommends these essentials for long-haul flights: “power cord, warm socks to slip on during the flight, noise cancelling headphones for movies – great for sleeping too – neck cushion, tissues, book, a scarf in case the air con is freezing, toothbrush, second shirt and deodorant.”
11. Download FLIO.
Ok, ok, we would say this. But destressing travel is the reason we exist, and why we use #enjoytheairport hashtag. We want to remove the hassles, and make airports the fun, exciting places they can be. They should be part of your travel memories, not an annoying bookend. How do we do this? We try and anticipate all your airport needs. We show you your flight booking details. We give you live flight info so you can find your gate and how much your plane is delayed, without leaving your seat. We give you maps of the airport layout. We’ll connect you to WiFi so you can message friends and family and not worry about local networks. We tell you the best way to get into the city, and where to buy transport tickets, and tips for eating and drinking. We let you book hotels, meeting rooms, parking and lounges, and we give you money off drinks, food, products and more. We even store all your flights so you can look at a globe showing everywhere you’ve been. You can find us here on iOS and here on Android.
We hope this helps. Of course, the airport is just one stressful area of life, and (hopefully) a short-lived burst of hassle. We would never compare it to the immense stresses of work, family and bills. But for many, it can take the joy out of flying. And we believe it should and can be exactly that. It’s what we’re here for.
If you have any tips of your own, we’d love to hear them. Add them in the comments.