Airline travel today is not what it was before the pandemic. Of all the suggested actions below, I recommend getting your head wrapped around today’s new normal in airline travel before you ever leave home!

I travel often and have also flown throughout the pandemic. I’ve gone from a flight with five people total back in May 2020 to more recent flights that are completely booked and full of overwhelmed and inexperienced passengers. I’m not a traveler who is without anxiety myself, but past experience helps to alleviate the inevitable stress as well as deflect negativity from others in airports.

Some airlines have limited travel in and out of cities where they once had regular flights, and cancellations are a regular occurrence. My trip in April this year is the first series of flights in months that have not been cancelled. There has always been the potential for travel plans to be disrupted but today’s reality makes airline travel that doesn’t change a blessing!

Sure, I’ve had my share of frustration and anger over the past few months, but have found there are some things I can do that help. Here are my suggestions:

  • Travel light and don’t check a bag unless you must. Checked bags take oh so much longer and waiting around a crowded carousel is a waste of travel time.
  • Travel with a small backpack like this one from Ori London along with your carry on bag. This backpack is super versatile and can double as a purse on arrival. I have one in gray and use it all the time. To keep your load light, pack in layers. I often travel with a black t-shirt, black long sleeve shirt, and a neutral sweater to go over it. I bring a white button down which can be dressed up with a scarf (or two) and a blazer that dresses up just about any outfit. For me, the non negotiable is shoes. I wear my ankle boots on board and pack running shoes and flats. Footwear can change an outfit in seconds. I also always bring a loose pair of pants, joggers or yoga pants for lounging.
  • My must have item when flying is a scarf. I bring a pashmina and use it as a blanket on cold planes and then use it to dress up outfits at my destination.
  • Go with the right attitude. Assume your flight will be cancelled and do your best to book your travel with an airline that has a lot of options should the worst thing occur. We recently changed our primary air carrier from Southwest to United because Southwest now has limited flights to and from Boston, while United has a fair amount of direct flights. We also got tired of the mashup before boarding Southwest flights!
  • I recommend direct flights whenever possible, or connections through cities that offer options if your flight is cancelled. It helps to fly through hubs in locations where you would be okay if you got delayed for a day or more.
  • Some people book connecting flights to save money, but direct flights are not always the more expensive flights. I don’t know why.
  • Assume the crowds will be large and security will be slow. I have Clear and TSA pre and never wait in any lines. I travel enough for this to be worth the cost and I like the convenience of not removing my electronics, shoes or jacket, never mind the efficiency. 
  • Understand what TSA pre entitles you to if you get that status on your ticket randomly. Don’t be the passenger that holds up the line. Information about security is on line so there is no excuse for being clueless. Just do your homework.
  • Check weather and potential storm systems to all of your destinations. Understand where your plane is flying from (i.e. your plane is arriving from Florida which is in the midst of a hurricane). 
  • If your airline recommends changing your flight due to a weather event, strongly consider that. If they change it, I can guarantee their change will be shitty nine times out of ten.
  • Mask or don’t mask—it’s up to you. Just don’t look at anyone doing something different like they are a dumb ass. We are all making the best decision for ourselves and it’s not the business of anyone else. On my first flight after the mandate was lifted, I wore my mask going through security, on the terminal train, and when lined up and boarding my flight. Why? Still don’t like that kind of crowded experience. My choice.
  • Be kind. Be patient. Meditate or sit and just breathe if you find yourself stressed. If you know this will be a problem, talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety medication.
  • “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” was the motto when I worked in the preschool. Some might say that’s negative thinking, but it’s always worked for me. 
  • Do your best not to get angry at the wrong person, like the attendants because Wi-Fi doesn’t work or at the ticket counter when your flight is cancelled. Some airlines have launched a QR code system so you can access support on line rather than waiting in a long line. Sometimes shit happens. No one’s fault.
  • Disappointment is okay—anger rarely is effective. Spread positive energy when you can. 
  • If you must check your bags, carry on your medications, hygiene items (toothbrush, wipes) and a clean pair of underwear and socks. Those small things go a long way to comfort should you experience a cancellation.
  • Don’t travel if you remain super frightened of Covid. There is only so much we all can do and I can guarantee there is no six foot distance or consistent masking. You will experience crowded areas.

These are just my thoughts and I hope they help. Let me know if you have anything to add!