Want to make your next flight experience easy? It all comes down to one thing - travel light.
It doesn't matter what your destination is, or whether you're traveling for business or leisure. You'll want to arrive with as much energy and focus as possible for the coming adventure or challenge. Traveling light will help. And with a bit of luck, you can entertain yourself along the way or even get some of your work done.
It's good to relieve yourself of distractions so you can save your mental bandwidth for productivity or planning your journey. Mental bandwidth refers to the capacity your mind has for processing information. Your brain can only handle a limited amount of tasks, and stress heavily reduces the total volume and quality of your biological processing power. Taxing your mental bandwidth with silly things like whether you packed your phone charger can limit your capacity for higher order functions while you're on the plane, such choosing your in-flight meal or enjoying the latest episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine from your laptop.
Here are some tips to make things easy and efficient for your next flight.
- This is the most obvious tip, but it's also the most essential for a stress-free flight: bring as little as possible. Your bag will be lighter and you'll have a quick overview of your bag so you can find anything in a pinch.
- Packing can be annoying if you need to think about whether you brought everything. Make a digital list with all of the things you need to pack. I use Google Keep for this. Every item I need for a short or long trip is here. Traveling with kids is an extra list ;-). Uncheck all items and recheck as you pack. If you've ever forgotten anything, just add it to your list (I think of you, US power plug) and you will never forget it again. It's not just about forgetting things, it also means you don't have to think about what to pack for even a second. “Do I have everything?” is something you'll never have to think again.
- Now this is a contentious one and not everybody agrees, but I like to organize my bag by having small bags. Think about the items you need quick access to and which ones you can bury and forget about during the flight, then organize your bag accordingly. Cables in a little pouch; toiletries in a see-through, plastic, zipped bag; clothes in vacuum bags or packing cubes. This makes it super quick and easy to find anything you need. A tightly organized bag sounds like a chore and it is, but you only need to plan it once in your life. Get it right, and it will serve you on every trip you take in the future.
- If at all possible, use a backpack instead of a trolley bag as your carry-on. You’ll have both hands free to carry your espresso and check the boarding gate on your phone. You’ll also be able to make the little sprint if you’re a bit late. Most importantly, if the zombie apocalypse breaks out, what would you prefer to have while you're running for your life - a smart backpack or a trolley bag?
- When it comes to picking bags, well, I haven’t found the perfect travel bag yet. But my current backpack is small, waterproof and has a side opening to quickly grab my laptop and push it back in when I need to get going. This makes getting work done in those spare moments easier with less hassle. Not having to dig through your bag when getting to your stuff saves your mental bandwidth and helps you focus.
While at the Airport
- Traveling is so much nicer with a nice soundtrack. On my way to the airport I like to be inspired by a good podcast or entertained by grumpy tech pundits. When it comes to landing at your destination, walking out of the plane with energetic and optimistic tunes gives you energy and a sense of purpose. Create a playlist of tracks that do it for you and download it to your phone. Here are a few travel tunes I like to listen to.
- The most taxing phase of air travel is going through security. Well, that and delays ;-). Mastering the security process is key. Again, having your bag organized to handle this helps. Keep your electronics, gadgets and toiletries in an easy-to-access space so you can quickly unpack and repack your things, and make sure you're dressed for the occasion. That means that your belt and shoes are easy to remove before everything gets scanned. You'll also need to keep a cool head to make sure you don't leave something behind in your rush to leave security. As any Tai Chi master will teach you, the greater the force or focus you need, the higher the level of relaxation you need. Yin, yang and all that jazz. Use your 5 minutes (or more) at security to be as chill as possible.
- Download the app for your departure airport on your phone and bookmark your flight. Personal assistant platforms like Google Assistant and Alexa are great, but can be just a little slower to update you on gate changes and the like. Airport apps are often built on the same datafeeds that also power the flight information displays at the airport. Stop searching for your flight on the display boards and just follow your notifications.
- This one might be personal. But if you have room to spare, stow your jacket or coat in your bag. Moving through the airport without the extra layer feels so much lighter. Just try it. Also, you won't need to take it off anymore when taking your seat in the plane.
- Another method to keep your mind free is simply to be nice to people you meet on your way. Unnecessary conflict only clogs your mind and reflects badly on you. Why bother with petty conflict if you can work on great challenges instead? Nobody likes the jerk who annoys the flight staff because they were the only one who had to bring their suitcase in the cabin (travel light, and try not to argue about bringing a suitcase in the first place, you hothead).
After Your Trip
- Make unpacking the first thing you do when you arrive back home. Your tightly organized bag will allow you to do this in just a over a minute. Now you can leave your journey behind you and enjoy your welcome.
These tips might sound like a lot of hassle. But if you make the effort you’ll keep your mind free to think about things that actually matter. Like figuring out why everybody rushes to board the plane as soon as possible, when every person in the plane departs at the same time. Don’t tell me it’s because you use a trolley as your carry-on - you only carry a backpack, right?