I recently went for a weekend away in Berlin, carried on (a small 22 litres backpack) and took as little as possible. I still ended up not wearing my smart shirt (just in case of possible nice restaurant outing) or my long sleeved t-shirt (just in case of cold weather). The Kindle was not touched once.
Whilst travelling, I‘m always intrigued by how some seem to make it a real effort and jealous of how some have it sorted and stay so calm.
I’m not a massively frequent traveller/flyer, maybe 5-6 times a year, mostly within Europe. I do love the sense of anticipation an airport or a train station has. All these people jetting off in different directions, at the beginning of a new journey.
I also get hugely frustrated by how airports have now become what seems like a process of organised queueing (or herding) from the time I step into departures (or the shuttle bus) and out of arrivals. Due to this, I try to keep travelling activities as simple as possible to stay as calm as possible.
I have put together some pointers on how to travel more healthy or comfortably or calmly. It mostly refers to flying and is in some chronological order, but there is some crossover. Example – to bag your preferred seat you need to do this before you get on the plane, but this segment is in the On the Plane section. Capeesh!
Before you go
Packing – Keep it simple. Try and figure out the minimum of what you need. You should know by now if you always end up not wearing most of what you take. Don’t keep doing it. Packing is not stressful. It can take minutes, not hours.
The 20/20 rule – Use The Minimalists “Just in case 20/20 rule”, but for travelling. If you can buy it for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from your location, then you can buy it if you really need to. But you probably won’t. I quite often think – as long as I have my passport and ticket. I can sort the rest out later if I really need to.
Hydration – Take a water bottle. Even if you have to chug it at security, hold on to the empty bottle. Some airports have water fountains or taps you can use to fill them up again once you are through security. Luton Airport has a number of drinking water taps just after security. Saves you buying overpriced water and keeps to hydrated.
Sustenance – Do some prep beforehand and take your own sandwiches/snacks. It beats a pre-packed sandwich and the food on budget airlines is truly awful. They have no best before dates (as it lasts forever) and is criminally priced. It’s not as convenient, but your own homemade sandwich and a couple of blocks of chocolate make any delayed flight a little easier. I recently saw some folk come prepped with various Tupperware boxes full of goodies!
Clothing – Pick something comfortable to fly in or something that will not fit in your bag. Remember where you are flying to. Flying back to England in October from the South of Spain is not shorts and flip-flop weather.
Charge your phone – sounds obvious but it is amazing how you can chew through your phone battery when alternative arrangements need to be made or issues arise. I have recently seen people holding plugs into sockets (due to adapters) in corridors and also standing in the toilets whilst their phone sits next to the sink charging off a shaver socket. If it does become an issue, get a battery charger. These are getting smaller and more powerful. Don’t forget your international plug adaptor, either.
Entertainment – Take your own. Use the BBC iplayer or Amazon Video app to download films and programmes before you go. You have to be in your country to use these facilities. I have come a cropper a few times trying to download in other countries.
Maps – Print some maps/directions of where you are going to once you arrive. Google Maps is amazing, but not when your phone dies or gets lost. This is a just in case that has saved me a few times.
Check your passports expiry date – Do you know when your passport goes out of date? Thought not. Years ago, I travelled 3 times on an out of date passport before a lady at the check-in desk pointed it out to me. Happens more often than you think.
At the airport
Don’t drink coffee – Quite often most of the flights I take are first thing in the morning. Partly due to price, but also not wanting to spend my day packing and prepping waiting to go to the airport. Remember Parkinsons Law. Regularly, at airports, people ask me if I want a coffee. I love coffee, but I also want to go to sleep as I just got up at 2 in the morning to catch this 6 am flight. Therefore, give the coffee a miss you want to sleep.
Don’t drink alcohol – Just like the coffee, it’s as crazily temping. YOU’RE ON HOLIDAY! LET’S GET ON IT! I have never enjoyed a flight with a few beers in me. If sleeping and relaxing is your priority, save it until you arrive.
On the plane
Seating – If you want to sleep, scoring a window seat avoids being disturbed by fellow passengers during the flight and lets you lean against the bulkhead. If you like to move around, get an aisle seat. Avoid middle seats at all costs!
Change your watch – change your watch to the destination time. Do this as soon as you are on the plane. Start to adapt to local time as soon as possible, even if it is only a few hours. I find this massively helpful.
Pillow – if you have space, take a travel pillow or a little pillow (like to ones they give you on long-haul flights). They make the world of difference if you are trying to sleep. Also, very useful for long coach transfers at stupid o’clock that are popular with package ski deal companies.
Eyemask/blanket/slippers/socks – if you really want to have a bit of “luxury” on your budget/short haul flight take all or some of the above. The slippers and comfy socks are also great for long-haul flights and give you a little feeling of normality at 35,000 feet in a metal cylinder.
Headphones/Music – quality noise cancelling headphone or earbuds can make any journey much more pleasurable lessening the ongoing din around you. Find music that calms you or helps you sleep. I always play the Friday Night Lights Soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky which has me dropping off in minutes. Highly recommended.
Organise – put all your reading/listening materials in a separate bag (within your carry-on) before you get on the plane. When you reach your seat, take the bag out and put the carry-on away. This keeps everything in one place and stops you losing/leaving things. There are some quick nifty organisers/sleeves on Amazon.
Use your time – travelling is not time lost. Use it wisely to do things you don’t get to do too often at home. This could be sleep, watching a film or reading. You can go the other way and relax. You don’t need to fill your time all the time. Take some time to think or maybe meditate.
Toiletries – take some moisturiser and a toothbrush and toothpaste with you. A splash of water and moisturiser on your face and clean teeth can make you feel almost human again whatever trip you are one.
Circulation – Maintain good circulation by wiggling your feet and toes and get up to have a walk around every so often.
Go running / Take your trainers – I didn’t take mine to Berlin and soon regretted it when I saw others lapping the park in the sunshine. Going for a run in a city makes you feel a little bit more local and it’s rare that I don’t see something of interest whilst running. It’s a great way to explore areas that are off the beaten track.
Walk when you can – once you get to know a place, you realise how close everything is and how plenty of journeys are walkable. There is a balance to be made here. Walk everywhere on the first day and you’re shattered for the remainder of your stay.
Public transport – Use it as much as possible. It makes you feel more local. It tempting to always use the Underground/Metro (if there is one), but you have no idea of your bearings and miss all the interesting sights on the surface. I still have a problem catching most buses in London (scared stiff they will go in the wrong direction), but was hopping on and off trams and buses in Berlin.