I have a love/hate relationship with travel that I'm working on resolving.
I've been to my fair share of places - and it's never the destination that disappoints or exhausts me. The act of traveling, however, can be frustrating, draining, and downright discouraging. I hate airports, the lack of personal space on airplanes, and too-soft hotel beds. Lately, however, I've been traveling pretty frequently - and when you're a consultant in this day and age, airports are familiar territory. Here's my goal: to take the strain out of traveling so it fits more easily into my routine. Here are 5 simple steps I've taken to achieve that goal.
1.) TSA Precheck
We've all been there - your flight is boarding, and just because the traffic getting to the airport wasn't bad enough, the universe has thrown in a veritable landrush at Airport Security just to thoroughly ruffle your feathers. As much as we talk about budgeting at ASC, this first step is exactly our idea of money well spent. It's a little known fact that TSA PreCheck isn't just for big ballers anymore. For a one-time fee of $85 that covers you for 5 years, you can enroll in PreCheck and be granted a Known Traveler Number. The process includes an online application, an in person interview at a location near you, and a brief waiting period while your application is reviewed. I've only been a Known Traveler since this summer, but it's been well worth it every time I've walked into BNA. Now, I'm more worried about whether or not Vino Volo is open than I am about getting stuck at airport security behind a family of nineteen headed to DIsneyland.
2.) Pick an Airline You Trust
This is pretty simple: but in case you're addicted to Skyscanner or Travelocity, here are the pros. Using an airline you trust, consistently, normalizes the process of travel through familiarization. All airlines do things a little bit differently, and adjusting to all those differences can really suck. I exclusively fly Southwest Airlines. I'm completely assimilated into the system, from checking in to my flight 24hrs beforehand to land an essential spot in the A Boarding Group, to using my Rapid Rewards credit card to rack up points that I actually use. Two free checked bags comes easily in handy, and my Known Traveler Number is associated with my account, so I don't have to worry about getting my boarding pass PreCheck ready. Hopping around between different airlines means taking a lot of extra little steps every time you travel. This is not to say that everyone should only use Southwest airlines - but it really takes a bite out of the hassle to know exactly what to expect, when to expect it.
3.) Fly at Normal Times
So you're looking at flights and you come across that truly ghastly 4:30AMer, with a very appealing price to compensate you, financially, for putting yourself through the absolute hell of getting to an airport at 3AM. My advice? Do not do it. Level with me for a second here. Cutting costs as the risk of your mental health is a big ASC no no. The flight looks inexpensive, from a pricetag point of view - but there are costs that come in elsewhere. Getting to the airport, for example: Either no one can drive you, or you drive yourself and park, or you whip out your go to rideshare app to a ridiculous surge that you absolutely deserve to pay. Not to mention the absolute interruption of routine - unless you're an Olympian - recovering from being up at odd hours is no way to spend your time. Tiempo es dinero, people - and if you're spending the whole first day of your trip exhausted and disoriented, you may as well have stayed home.
4.) Budget Realistically
This, of course, applies in all circumstances: but I've learned that for me, specifically, travel is where I'm most likely to accidentally overspend. Travel budgeting includes a lot of big-ticket items that can take up most of your attention: flights, hotels/lodging, and transportation. But it's also key to factor in the little purchases that travel necessitates. Food and drink at airports, that emergency drugstore run, in-flight wifi and/or messaging, even rideshare in a different city. This is not to say that you wouldn't have those things in mind, but I'm way less likely to run up a $50 bar tab in the terminal if I've consciously budgeted $75 on airport alcohol for the entire trip. (BNA specific lifehack: the bar at Vino Volo has outlets underneath for paying customers. Drink up, charge up, fly happy).
This is a bit of a junk-drawer step. Airports are stressful. Everyone knows the struggle of wanting to stay charged while staying entertained. I've taken to reframing travel time as time to start shows, time to get to the bottom of that mystery novel I started, or just time to organize my life in my planner. Take a deep breath, the time is going to pass anyway, you may as well capitalize on it and use it to take a break. No naps though, I do not sleep on airplanes for the sake of all of those around me.
Are you going anywhere anytime soon? Any steps you take, personally, to take the big deal out of travel? Whatever they are, I hope they're working for you - and if you get something out of any of these suggestions, feel free to let us know!