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Travel Can Be Stressful, But It Doesn’t Have To Be: Tips For Stress Reduced Travel

Travel Can Be Stressful, But It Doesn’t Have To Be: Tips For Stress Reduced Travel

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Written by Drew Binsky

Navigating a busy airport or a new metro system can be confusing in the best of times – but these days it’s downright maddening. As pandemic restrictions have lifted and more and more places open to travelers, tourism has rebounded in a big way. With this explosion of travelers comes added frustrations and wrinkles that many seasoned travelers once took for granted. Thankfully, I’ve developed a number of tips and strategies for minimizing those travel headaches for first-time travelers and veterans alike.

Packing

Travel stress doesn’t just start when you leave home and head to the airport. For most, it begins as soon as they dig out their suitcase. My general philosophy when it comes to packing for a trip is that less is more. One way to reduce the stress of packing is to fly carry-on only. Not having to check a bag will reduce your wait-time when you get to the airport and eliminates the possibility of your luggage getting lost all together. There’s nothing worse than getting to your final destination and watching the baggage carousel go round-and-round without your bag.

Monitor Your Flight Status

Another thing that I make sure to do before even leaving for the airport is monitor my flight status online with sites like FlightAware or Flightradar24. Both of these sites will give you information about the status of your flight and even tell you where your plane is currently at. Having this information available to you before leaving for the airport is helpful in avoiding a longer-than necessary wait for your flight to depart.

TSA Precheck

TSA Precheck is a lifesaver. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch – but it’s definitely helped me catch flights that I would have otherwise missed and saved me countless hours of waiting in long security lines. TSA Precheck allows pre-approved passengers to go through an expedited airport security line, where you aren’t required to take off your shoes, or remove liquids and electronics from your bag. The designated line combined with fewer requirements adds up to a huge time savings.

TSA Precheck is available to US Citizens, US Nationals, and Lawful Permanent Residents. You can apply online and complete your enrollment with a brief 10 minute appointment that includes fingerprinting and a background check. Once approved, you’ll get TSA Precheck benefits for the next five years – all for a cost of $85. Many of the top travel credit cards, such as the Capital One Venture X card, will even reimburse you for your membership, making it completely free.

Lounge Access

Once you’ve made it to the airport and cleared security, all that’s left is to wait for your flight to start boarding and depart. Unfortunately, that waiting can be boring and uncomfortable – there’s only so much people watching you can do. That’s where having lounge access comes in.

Airport Lounges, such as those available through Priority Pass and The Centurion Network, allow travelers to have a private space to relax or get work done before a flight. Most lounges include complimentary food and drinks (including alcohol), along with a variety of seating options to fit both leisure and business traveler’s needs.    

Access to Priority Pass Lounges can be purchased on a one-time basis or as part of an annual membership. There’s a far better option though – most premium travel credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum include a Priority Pass Select Membership.

The American Express Platinum card also allows access to lounges within the Centurion Network, which is American Express’s own network of lounges that provide a more upscale experience than what you’d find in most Priority Pass Lounges. The Platinum card is the single best travel card for airport lounge access and will get you into more lounges than any other on the market.

Elite Status

Having elite status is a great way to reduce travel stress because it gives you access to a dedicated check-in line, priority boarding, extra baggage allowance (I still don’t recommend checking a bag), and upgraded seats. All of these things make your travel experience easier and more comfortable.

Most people think that in order to have elite status you have to travel all the time or spend lots of money with the airlines and hotels. While that’s certainly one way to get status, there are also other, easier paths towards becoming a top-tier elite.

Many co-branded credit cards, like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card, come with some level of elite status. Others, like the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card will allow you to spend your way towards status. No matter how you get your status, it can all add up to a better customer experience and less travel headaches.

Credit Card Travel Protections

Even with the best plans, something will inevitably go wrong when it comes to travel. There are so many factors that are out of our control – weather, airline staffing, mechanical issues – that if you travel enough, you’re bound to run into an issue.

Flight cancellations and delays, lost luggage, and rental car accidents can all be big pain points for travelers. Thankfully, with the right travel credit card, you might have insurance for those things and not even know it. Cards like the Capital One Venture X come with Trip Delay and Lost Luggage Reimbursement. These benefits will reimburse you, up to a set limit, when you incur expenses for lodging, toiletries, and food due to a covered delay or cancellation. This added peace of mind can be a big stress reliever when things don’t go according to plan.

Be Flexible

Being flexible is crucial when traveling. While it’s not always possible, I usually try to leave plenty of time between flights and important commitments. If I have to be somewhere for a meeting, I always try to arrive the day before in case my flight gets canceled or delayed. When scheduling flights on different airlines, it’s also important to give yourself enough time in between arrival and departure – travel protections don’t apply to non-connecting itineraries.

In general, having a go-with-the-flow attitude will make life easier but it’s especially true when it comes to travel.

Final Thoughts

Travel can come with lots of headaches, but so can life. Being prepared for the worst and knowing how to avoid travel frustrations before they happen is the best way to reduce your stress levels while traveling. When things go wrong – and they will – it’s important to know what protections and options you have for getting back on the road. Hopefully this list will give you some ideas for making your next trip all the more relaxing and enjoyable.

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Drew Binsky has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Drew Binsky and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Editorial Disclosure

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.