There’s something about air travel that triggers a massive personality change in me. Healthy lifestyle habits and good intentions are abandoned and before I’m even airborne I’m scarfing pretzel-wrapped hot dogs while wiping my hands on the pages of a US Weekly.
I’ve heard that many ex-drinkers find staying sober in an airport challenging, even years after their last drink. It makes sense. No one will look at you sideways if you order a martini at 7 am. You either have time to kill or you’re excited about your vacation or both. But let’s be honest, they aren’t great bars, and being semi-hungover on a flight isn’t that fun. There are a million more productive ways to pass the time. Even at an airport.
This is my airport strategy. I’m a frequent flyer–so if these recommendations come off as bougie, it’s because I’ve taken enormous pains to eliminate as much of the inconvenience as possible.
1. Fly like a pro.
Remember the movie, Up in the Air? George Clooney’s character has perfected the art of efficient air travel. Consider this a defensive strategy and do all the things that make checking in and onto your flight on time as seamless as possible. The idea here is to be proactive about minimizing frustrations and delays. Check-in to your flight the night before. Get your boarding pass on your phone. Sign up for TSA-Pre and Global Entry. Get dropped off at the airport by a car service or a friend so you don’t have to park. Take advantage of loyalty and/or airport lounge programs if they’re benefits offered by your credit card.
2. Fly direct.
I’m obsessed with direct flight travel—and you should be too! This isn’t the time to try to save $100 by routing yourself through Chicago on the way to Cancun. Avoid the potential for more delays, frustrations, and temptations, and just get where you need to be as efficiently as possible.
3. Relish in the downtime.
How often do you actually have a few hours to browse magazines and eat pretzel dogs? Never. Take a stroll through the terminal and get in your Fitbit steps. Many airports have express spas so you can get a cheeky manicure or chair massage. Pick up some fun snacks for the flight. Meditate or practice your sun salutations in the yoga rooms popping up in airports all over the world.
4. Belly up to a different kind of bar.
A world-class sushi bar while laying over in New Jersey. An award-winning coffee bar in Copenhagen Airport. Exotic juice bars in Dubai. Whenever I fly through SFO, I race to The PLANT Organic Cafe, for my favorite avocado, grapefruit, and fennel salad. Why pout over an $11 Heineken you won’t be drinking when there’s so much muy delicioso food and drink to try–and if you’re desperate there will always be pretzel dogs at BWI. P.S. While researching this article, I came across Vane Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to health and wellness at airports. Check them out here to research your next airport layover.
5. Create a travel bug-out bag.
A bug-out bag is an emergency survival bag that you can grab from your closet in the event of a sudden zombie apocalypse. The travel version, in my opinion, are the essentials that will keep you content and sane even if your travel plans go terribly wrong. Which they inevitably do. I don’t like being cold, hungry, bored, or lost, so mine includes: headphones, Kindle e-reader with books already downloaded, portable charging battery, actual book or magazine, cash in US$ and whatever currency is used where I’m going, snacks, chapstick, printed copies of my car rental and directions to my destination, pen, and a scarf
Like most things in life, successfully navigating the airport sober gets easier with practice. But until you’re able to sail through customs with the composure of a Zen master, plan ahead, minimize frustrations, and try to keep a sense of humor close by. One day the experience of being bumped off your plane and having to spend the night in the Budapest airport will be hilarious. I promise. 😉