5 Day-Of Travel Tips to Ensure a Zen Start to Your Vacation

Stressful airports and last minute packing can cause tensions to run high with your travel companions and your own anxiety to creep up on you.  Follow these 5 tips for a relaxing start to your vacation.

(And if these fail, there is no shame in having a cocktail at 6 a.m. if you need it. You're on vacation, after all!)

1)      Pack Ahead of Time

There are 2 types of people in this world – those who pack their suitcases ahead of time…and those who wait until midnight before a 5 a.m.  flight while still doing laundry.  In my life, I am the former and my husband Kiran is the latter.

Everyone made it, still smiling!

Everyone made it, still smiling!

While it always works out for him and he has yet to forget anything important (probably thanks to his amazing wife), my philosophy on packing is that you should just get it done ahead of time and use the days and nights leading up to your trip for pampering.

In addition to your packing your suitcase, you’re going to want to plan out what you’ll be taking on board as your “personal item” (be sure to check out your airline’s rules on sizing).  I never travel without my favorite tote bag, the Longchamp Le Pliage,  which is lightweight, holds everything I need and still looks put together. 


2) Check-In Online

If you’ve ever wondered how travelers get the best seats or end up with tons of overhead bin space for their luggage, I’ll tell you one easy and free way – online check-in. 

Most airlines allow you to check in online via their websites 24 hours before departure and at that time, you can change your seat, pay for your checked baggage and most importantly, receive your boarding pass.  You’ll receive your boarding group (the order in which you’ll board the plane), boarding time and a tentative gate number so that you can prepare for your arrival at the airport.

Airlines will often release their premium seats in each cabin during online check-in if they haven’t been sold so you may get lucky and snag that sweet seat without having to pay.  And, the earlier you check in, the better chance you have of getting a more favorable boarding group, allowing you to avoid having to gate check your carry-on or worse, stow it 20 rows behind you!.

This 24 hour prior check-in is especially important if you fly Southwest Airlines and you haven’t added any upgrades – since there is no assigned seating, your boarding group is assigned in the order in which you check-in.  This boarding group number shows the order in which you’ll board the plane and choose your seat. The sooner you get on, the better your seat choice will be!


3)  Plan Your Morning

Travel mornings can be chaotic because who is functioning at 3 a.m.?! (Answer: almost no one)

After years of early flights, I’ve learned that my tendency to think “oh I’ll just do that task/pack that item when I wake up in the morning” is a bad way to start a vacation.  I usually forget whatever it is that I was supposed to pack or delay our departure trying to do whatever task I needed to do. 

I now force myself to pack the last minute things the night before, even if it means staying up a little bit later. I’m an obsessive list maker so I don’t let myself get into bed until everything is checked off and my airport outfit is laid out - that way,  I can just get up and go.


4)  Go To Sleep Early

I love everything about the travel experience, from packing to flying, so I’ve started planning out the night before a trip to start my vacation early and extend my enjoyment.

Is there anything more entertaining than a Bravo reality show? Photo Credit: YachtCharterFleet

Is there anything more entertaining than a Bravo reality show? Photo Credit: YachtCharterFleet

Once everything is ready to go, I’ll pick up take-out, put on a vacation-themed tv show or movie (I LOVE Bravo’s Below Deck!) and make myself my signature Margarita.  Not only does this get me into vacation mode after a day at the office but it helps me get a good night’s sleep.

Since vacation time in the U.S. can be so limited, you’ll want to hit the ground running when you arrive at your resort, not be a zombie from lack of sleep.


5)  Trusted Traveler Programs

This is probably my favorite "day of travel hack" for a stress free airport experience and although you have to plan ahead on this one due to the application process, it can save you lots of time in the end. 

My preferred trusted traveler program is Global Entry.  This Department of Homeland Security program for pre-screened travelers allows you to pass through a dedicated immigration checkpoint when returning to the U.S. from abroad and also provides TSA PreCheck benefits at U.S. security checkpoints – no more taking off your shoes and waiting in long lines!  There is a cost associated with applying for this program but once you’re approved, you have the benefits for 5 years.  If you travel a couple of times a year, the application cost more than pays for itself in convenience. TSA PreCheck can also be applied for alone without Global Entry and is a much quicker application process.

Global Entry isn't the only option for cutting down your immigration checkpoint wait times - Mobile Passport is growing in popularity at U.S. airports and is totally free.  While it doesn't offer TSA PreCheck benefits like Global Entry does, there is no interview and no background check.  This program is currently being offered in limited airports and for U.S. and Canadian citizens only.  You just download the app, fill in passport information for each traveler, answer a couple of quick customs questions and you're good to go!  

Thanks for reading! Roxanne Grewal


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