Tips for a stress-free flight during the holidays

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There's nothing worse than missing a flight. Give yourself plenty of time to prep so you don't end up in a rush. (Photo by Sarah Hill.)
There’s nothing worse than missing a flight. Give yourself plenty of time to prep so you don’t end up in a rush. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

The preparation before a trip can be stressful for students who have to worry about schoolwork and finding a ride to the airport among other things.

Unfortunately (and fortunately) Christmas break comes right after a lot of stress gets built up from finals week. After that week in “H-E-double hockey sticks,” no one wants to get frisked by the TSA and sit next to a crying baby for a two-hour flight only to realize they forgot their (insert what is always forgotten). What’s worse is that flying right before Christmas can mean extra time and extra people at the airport.

Nothing can be done about how stressful finals week is or how busy the airport gets, but steps can be taken to alleviate the stresses involved in traveling. Here are a few things to do in preparation for the holiday travel season.

Keep up in school

This might seem pointless since the semester will be officially be over when students leave, but keeping up in school and even working ahead will allow time to prepare for a trip. Prioritizing one’s workload will actually help students during finals week.

“Stress releases hormones such as cortisol that make our heart beat faster, give us more energy and other changes to help us meet challenges,” said Mikle South, a psychology professor at BYU. “But if there is too much cortisol for too long it starts to break down our brain, including our memory. If we are too stressed we might lose our memory just when we need it most.”

Don’t let the stress of an upcoming trip get mixed up with the stress of finals week. With the end of the semester right around the corner, it can be so tempting to put off studying until the night before. This is a recipe for disaster. By doing so, students risk forgetting test material and important steps in preparing for a trip.

To keep stress at a healthy level, try making a checklist of things to do. Include items for the trip, for school and for work. Prioritizing these and checking them off as they are completed can motivate students to get even more done. Stress levels are sure to be above average during finals week, so having a record of what has been accomplished and what has yet to be done will help students stay on track.

The freedom of Christmas break can make it difficult, even painful, to focus on school, but getting on a plane after bombing a final would probably be 10 times worse. Start studying for finals now.

Pack light and in advance

First of all, don’t check a bag. A lot of airlines charge for checked luggage, which is a good reason why one should try to fit everything into a carry-on- size suitcase. While it isn’t common for bags to get lost, it’s a possibility that can increase during high-traffic travel time common during the holidays; therefore, play it safe by packing light with a carry-on.

If going home, students should remember that their family is still civilized and will have amenities like shampoo, face wash and contact solution.

“I end up leaving stuff like toothpaste in Provo because I know there’s plenty at home that I could use,” said David Watkins, a sophomore. “It ends up saving space, and I don’t have to worry about security.”

If traveling somewhere cold, make sure to wear the biggest items, like boots, a big sweater and a winter coat, on the plane to save space in the suitcase.

For those who must bring their entire life everywhere they go, just remember you can get slapped with fees of $100 or more if your bag is over 50 pounds. Also allow plenty of time at the airport in case lines to check baggage or go through security are long.

Security and check-in

Whether checking a bag or not, it’s a good idea to pre-print boarding passes at home or on campus. Check flight times before arriving at the airport to watch out for unexpected flight delays, and use technology to stay up to date on your flight.

“Every airline has an app now,” said Marc Neves of Papaya and Co. Travel. “Load it to your mobile device to give instant access to your flight reservation, on-time status, seat assignments and more.”

Before leaving home, put printed boarding passes and driver’s license together in a safe place for easy access when going through security. Have any laptops easily accessible for when they need to be screened in a separate bin.

Plan, plan, plan

It is so easy to forget important things when preparing for a trip in a rush, so plan everything well ahead of departure dates.

“Planning ahead helps us to spread out our stress levels so that we can deal with each project with a moderate level of stress, which is ideal for performance, rather than too much stress, which impairs our ability to function well,” South said.

Don’t forget to make arrangements for getting back to school after the break. Ask a friend or that cute guy/girl for a ride, and suggest stopping by Yogurtland on the way home.

There are various ways students can keep stress to a minimum this holiday season and make traveling a more enjoyable experience. Study for finals, pack bags and set up a ride home. Everything will go more smoothly when one is prepared.

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