Travel Comment

Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Avoiding airport stress

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One of the ways I counteract the boredom of queuing up in airports is to observe my fellow travellers. Although this could hardly be called a scientifically sound system of research I have come to realise just how stressful many people find airports.

It's not surprising of course - airports are little microcosms of life.

Watch any departure or arrival hall and you'll see scenes of rejoicing and moments of grief-stricken farewell.

Life's arrivals and departures are there for all to see, as are passionate love stories with all manner of endings.

Add to that the stress that many people feel about flying at all and especially nowadays, when there is so much heightened security, and you have the perfect recipe for people to "lose it".

So how can you reduce your stress levels and the anxieties of those travelling with you?

* Do all you can not to be late to the airport. Nothing instills panic more than running late. You might not like hanging around in airports but it's vastly better than having to run through them to catch a plane.

If you've been in the Auckland International Airport immigration queue when several flights are leaving at similar times you'll probably have seen plenty of cases of sheer panic.  I've never known anyone to miss their plane through being stuck in the queue, but if you're seriously worried tell one of the people on duty and you may be able to be fast-tracked if necessary.

* Make sure you've double-checked your luggage allowance so you don't have to open your bags in front of a dozen fascinated fellow travellers and then make decisions in haste about what to jettison or relocate.

Check on the particular gel and liquids rules for the airports on your routes too - they do vary. I lost my little bag of long-haul gels and sprays on my last trip home. The result was I breezed through security checks and arrived in similar condition to previous trips. Clearly my "essential" moisturisers, sprays and lipgloss were not as vital as I'd thought.

* Don't lose your cool with the check-in staff. No-one responds well to rudeness or being shouted out and you could well find it seriously counter-productive.

Even if the problem is not your fault keep calm and smile. In my experience this will almost always works better than frothing at the mouth and will keep your stress levels down too. One technique I have borrowed from my journalism days though is to stay put (or close by if there's a queue) Out of sight can be out of mind.

* I've noticed a growing tendency for people to get uptight about when they can get on the plane in case the overhead compartments are full. Sure some people still seem to get away with breathtakingly large bags on some airlines, but if you stick to the rules and have the correct sized bag, the airline staff have to help you find room for it, even if it means moving one of the giant bags out of the way.

I make sure I've identified a few of these monsters while I'm waiting and, if necessary, I can volunteer these to be moved if there's no room for mine!

If you travel with a small enough bag you can keep under the seat - it's easier to access, you can keep an eye on it easily and no one else can use the same space.

- Jill Worrall

Click here for Jill's Escapism blog.

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