How to manage airport stress: 10 hacks to help you survive the 2022 travel chaos

You can’t read or watch the news at the moment without hearing horror stories about airport stress. In so many cases, the criticism from frustrated travelers looking forward to their first business trip, vacation, or family reunion in some time is completely justified. While it’s been disappointing to read how some governments have blamed the airlines for the current operational challenges, ultimately, today’s traveler has bought their ticket in good faith and wants to get away as seamlessly as possible.

Having worked in aviation for 17 years, from starting at the check-in counter to being senior cabin crew and now managing our people department, I have definitely witnessed my fair share of delays, long wait times, and airport stress. So far this year I have traveled about once a month, some for work, and others for holidays, and I have of course noticed the difference not just in the logistics of traveling, but also in the travelers themselves. Pre-pandemic, most of us were so used to just jumping on a plane like a bus and thinking nothing of it, but now we’re either having to remember the processes, adjust to the new requirements, or both.

All of our colleagues in the terminals and on board the aircraft are working tirelessly with great kindness and professionalism to iron out as many negative experiences as possible. To further help relieve those stressful situations and save time, here are some handy common sense hacks that every traveler should know about.

Do your homework

Make sure before heading off to the airport that you’re familiar with the most up-to-date passport, visa, vaccination and Covid requirements for where you’re traveling to. Chances are, things have changed since you last traveled, and the last thing you want to do is to get stuck at check-in only to be denied boarding.

Check entry requirements a few days before flying

While restrictions and face mask rules are easing around the world, as we’ve learned before, things can change quickly, sometimes with minimal notice. So it’s not worth only reviewing the country’s entry requirements a few weeks before your travel, you also need to check them again a few days before you go, and even the day before your flight just to be sure.

Print your documents

It may seem easier to travel with e-tickets and certificates downloaded to your phone, but in this current climate taking a printed copy of your documents is actually faster. When flying now I always have everything I need printed out and stored in a clear wallet. Whether it’s a check-in agent or an immigration officer, I can just hand them the wallet and everything is there, rather than going into different emails or files on my phone. With paper documents, especially if there are delays, it also skips having to worry about a dying phone battery.

Pack across suitcases

This is an old tip, but if you’re traveling in a couple or as a family, avoid having individually packed suitcases. By packing your items across two or more bags, it means if one suitcase does go missing, you at least still have some clothes you can use until you are reunited.

Know your airline’s hand baggage allowance and actually stick to it

A lot of travelers don’t want to risk checking anything into the hold and want to travel with hand luggage only. It’s understandable given the footage online of piles of mishandled bags, but it’s also where people can run into problems. Often someone buys a bag that is compliant with their airline’s hand baggage allowance but they overfill it. If the bag ends up bulging, it doesn’t fit into the sizing gauges, and it inevitably has to be checked in. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially as there isn’t an industry standard hand baggage allowance, and this is where a lot of travelers get caught up as well. Pack carefully and check your allowance to minimize that stress and frustration at the check-in counter and the gate.

Pre-order liquids to be picked-up airside at the airport

If you are only traveling with hand luggage, and worrying about taking all of the three once bottles and making them last for a week, it’s worth knowing that Boots and World Duty-Free offer an airside click and collect. So if you want that larger shampoo or a particular skincare item, or even baby items, you can order them online and they will get delivered to the designated airside store on the day you travel.

Dress for the journey

When I travel it’s still lovely to see people getting dressed up for the occasion, but elaborate outfits can often mean delays at security—think strappy boots that take ages to undo. Inevitably when they get to security, they get stressed, the people behind them get frustrated, and then that causes one of many unnecessary delays at security and the queue gets longer. When I travel I always wear comfortable slip-on shoes and have an outfit that is layered. That way, it’s not only easy to take on and off to make going through security seamless, but also to be comfortable depending on the temperature in the terminal, onboard, and at the other end.

For more tips, see what to wear on a plane according to the Condé Nast Traveler editors.

Be prepared for security

Always assume you will have to put everything in the tray at security and don’t just wait until you get to the front of the line. While you’re waiting, take your shoes and belt off, take your liquids and laptop out of your bag, and put anything that’s in your pockets in your bag. An organized flight bag with designated compartments speeds this process up even more.

Pack for a delay or cancellation

You might not need to wait, but if you do, having something to keep you happily occupied is key. Pack a portable charger for your devices, a snack (which won’t be confiscated at security or customs if you forget about it), a good book, and some headphones—to keep you amused and also potentially drown out those around you who you ‘d rather not be sharing your travel experience with.

Be kind

It can be tough when we’re stressed, but it makes for a far nicer travel experience when we’re helpful and patient with our other travel companions, and the people who are trying under immense pressure to get us away safely, comfortably, and punctually. Also, try and remember to be kind to yourself, and don’t let a delay or small error ruin your overall experience.

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