The next instalment is finally here! In the first episode, I told you a few things that help me prepare for a trip. Here, we’re going to talk about the process of travel itself.
Come fly with meeee…
If you’re flying, make sure you’re at the airport extra early. I’m personally super paranoid about having any sort of pre-flight errands or activities planned because I know that those might slow me down or distract me from my departure time. If you’re more able to stay on track and still get to the airport on time, that’s great. But either way, you never know who’s going to get into a traffic accident and where, or if someone’s decided to run down the up escalator at the airport again, causing it to shut down (yep, this was in Atlanta)–so leave some leeway. You really don’t want to miss your flight.
Make sure you stay hydrated and nourished on your flight, especially if it’s a long one. I’ve taken to packing my own snacks, which is (a) not that much work and (b) so much more appealing an option than the airline food. Try to avoid the bread and pasta because carbohydrates, chemically speaking, dehydrate you. Drink water! I know that trips to the plane bathroom aren’t all that fun, but hydration helps combat jet lag, and walking to and from the bathroom will help your circulation. And don’t by shy about asking your aisle-seat neighbor to let you out, even if he is asleep. We’ve all been woken up for this, and every aisle-seat passenger expects this to happen. It’s annoying, but it’s not a big deal. Plus, two very viable alternatives are:
- Doing the awkward shimmy and double leg swoop, only to have the aisle seat passenger wake up mid-maneuver to find your butt in his face. (It’s always a he when this happens.)
- Feeling guilty about waking up the two people next to you when you have to pee and waiting for them to wake up–and when they wake up, your plane hits some particularly bad turbulence FOR THREE HOURS, so you specially petition the pilot himself to let you use the newfangled downstairs restroom, and he refuses, so you have to wait until you deplane and go through customs. (This happened to me, and after that, I’m pretty sure my bladder can handle the apocalypse, four horsemen and all. TMI?)
Lastly, you might also think about bringing mini versions of your skincare regimen on board if your skin is particularly sensitive to environmental changes. Pond’s cold cream is great for airplanes because it’s a moisturizing, one-step way to clean you skin, and no water is required. I’m planning on bringing some hydrating rose toner in my carry on when I fly to Asia in January because it’s an easy, in-seat way to keep my skin fresh. Lastly, deodorant and toothbrush are must-have items, as are slippers, an all-purpose balm like Aquaphor or Ultrabalm, and the Bucky eyeshade with earplugs.
As for methods of keeping yourself occupied in the airport and in the sky: only you know what you’ll actually want to do on the plane. I’ve found that trying to force myself to do work on an airplane is futile, so I usually pack magazines or similarly light reading, along with a pretty long [paperback] book.
The open road
Road trips have their own special set of requirements. For the love of dog–and you know I love dogs–pre-flight every single tiny step of the way, and make sure there’s someone near a computer somewhere who knows you’re on the road and can look up emergency directions if you get lost in, say, southern Quebec. (Mom, thanks again for bailing me out of that one!) That doesn’t get you off the hook, though; you can usually prevent emergency phone calls if you have maps of the areas you’re passing through and the willingness to make pit stops and even pull some dodgy U-turn maneuvers. I also like to look up parking options, if my destination is a larger city.
You can drive alone, and that works, but it helps to have a navigator. Your navigator will be one of your travel companions, which is another reason that you have to pick your travel buddies wisely. The ideal navigator doesn’t even have to be a great navigator, but he does need to possess the ability to convey options in a clear, informational manner. He needs to be able to keep calm even if something goes wrong, or if the directions don’t match up with real life. There is a world of difference between coming to a fork in the road and having your navigator yelling at you to “just pick something, dammit” without actually telling you where you might be going and having your navigator outline where he suspects each road might be going. Trust me, you don’t want the former under any circumstances.
Unless you are going it alone, you will probably take turns driving. When you’re in the front passenger seat, there are a few rules you should follow:
- You are the navigator if you are in the front. When you climb into the right side of the car, take a minute to look over the directions and the maps and figure out the general direction you’re going. You’ll be called on later to know this. This also means that you have to keep up with how far you’ve driven and where you are with respect to the next step in the directions.
- Driver chooses music. I am particularly bad about following this rule, but I know that this is the only way for the driver to destress, while I have other ways of amusing myself (looking for funny town names, counting lines on the road, and…uh…doing normal things, like reading books and newspapers). You may be saddled with a rousing 6 hours of NPR. Tough luck, bunnies. This just gives you extra incentive to do the driving yourself.
- No passive aggression is allowed. None. Being passive aggressive does not help you get along with everyone else in your car! It breeds ill will and makes everyone stew in their individual resentments without actually facing problems head-on. If something is bothering you, then say it. This may provoke an argument–but the good thing about arguments is that they are productive, and resentments fizzle pretty quickly once you air your grievances.
- As passenger, you are also Snackmaster. Be prepared to unwrap energy bars, proffer pre-loaded forkfuls of food, and guide a straw directly into the mouth of the driver. Again, if you have a problem with this, then you should volunteer to drive, which is way more exhausting than hand-feeding someone delicious chicken nuggets is.
- Driver controls temperature, but the opening of windows requires a majority vote. Simple enough.
As always, it’s smart to keep hydrated and fed, as this is the best way of preventing headaches. Packing your own snacks or stopping at a grocery store ensures that you eat what you want to eat. Keep some Tylenol in the glove box, and make sure your sunglasses don’t put top much pressure on your skull. (You might laugh, but I’m serious! Bad sunglasses suck!) You can slack on the hydration if you are in South Dakota and there are seriously only two places in the state that have bathrooms. Use your judgment, unless you don’t mind peeing in a cup in front of a friend and perhaps some unfortunate SUVs or 18-wheelers in the lanes next to you. (But most people do mind, so…)
And the last thing I can think of is that you need to get good sleep the night before you start driving. Driving is a pretty tiring activity for some, and moreover, it’s soporific. All that sitting down and looking is boring and repetitive, and if you’re not careful, your brain starts to shut down, and it’s only a matter of time until you’re dreaming of having to perform covert weapons-hiding operations and running from a widespread terrorist attack of “emotion bombs,” whatever the hell those are–you know, leaping from building top to building top, never running out of breath and rolling out of the way of the train car just in time…wait, no, that was just my dream from last night. Provisional Passenger Rule No. 6 applies when the driver who has not gotten sufficient sleep: As passenger, you are entitled to some well-intentioned jabs and even light pinches or slaps when you notice that your driver is unusually quiet. Again, use your own judgment here.
Next up in part 3: Location, location, location! a.k.a. You’re here, now what?