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18 May 2022

Airport delays are back: Everything you can do to avoid holiday stress

Airport delays are back: Everything you can do to avoid holiday stress

Travellers at Heathrow have been stranded this week, as delays due to a technical issue rumble on.

It’s a stark reminder of the realities of travelling: it can be stressful! As exciting as it is to be planning holidays again, it’s fair to say our brains might have glossed over some of the angst involved – or forgotten how to handle them.

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For Sam Willan, global VP of marketing for student travel marketplace StudentUniverse (studentuniverse.co.uk), travelling “doesn’t need to be” stressful, but “preparation is key, especially these days”.

Get your to-do list done early

The best way to avoid last-minute stress? Get your travel admin to-do list sorted early, particularly as there are extra factors to consider nowadays. That way, you can tick things off in bite-sized chunks at a pace that suits you.

“Be sure to have all the right documentation,” says Willan. “With travel rules varying from country to country, travellers should ensure they check both airline and destination requirements, with plenty of time before their departure. The last thing travellers want is to be turned away at the check-in desk for an expired passport, or not having completed the right forms or taken the correct test.”

The pandemic has given us a warped sense of time (2019 was a few weeks ago, right?) so dust off those passports and check expiry dates well in advance, so you’ve got plenty of time to renew them without giving yourself a heart attack – and spending a small fortune in the process.

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Travel insurance has always been important – perhaps now more than ever, if you’re worried about losing money due to sickness and cancellations. Spend some time researching the best insurance for your needs, and find out about cancellation policies etc.

Covid rules haven’t entirely disappeared around the globe, either. “While England has dropped arrivals testing, lots of popular holiday destinations still have requirements in place, especially for travellers who are not fully vaccinated, often including children over 11,” says Nick Markham, co-founder of Cignpost ExpressTest (expresstest.co.uk).

“Countries are implementing their own entry rules with different tests, timescales, age limits and documentation. Check the requirements for your destination carefully at Gov.uk and plan necessary tests in advance to avoid last-minute stresses.”

Be tactical with your budget

We’re out of practice with splashing the cash, and it’s easy to lose track of your budget if you don’t plan ahead – cue arguments and headaches aplenty. Have a think about where extra costs might crop up, and how you can trim back to free up as much money as possible to enjoy on your trip.

“When it comes to the departure lounge, it pays to be prepared, with prices often sky-high for any last-minute additions to your packing list,” says Willan. “The same goes for in-flight snacks – while you can’t bring drinks through airport security, food is perfectly fine and will often save you a small fortune, not to mention keeping everyone happy as you make it through some long – but worthwhile – travel days.”

The same applies to exchanging money. Just think: any cash saved by finding the best exchange rate could go towards sundowners on the marina.

Ready yourself with stress busters

What about adding some stress busting strategies to your travel essentials list? So when those pressure point moments arise – when everyone’s hangry, irritated and crowds/delays/security queues are pushing your nerves to the edge – you’re ready.

“Learning to cope with any stressful situation needs to become a habit, so practice these techniques over several weeks prior to travelling. That way your mind will find it easier to switch into these practises,” says therapist, author and relationship expert Marisa Peer (marisapeer.com), who says “square breathing” is one of her favourites.

“When you take slow deep breaths, it instantly tells your nervous system there’s no real danger, and helps you relax,” Peer explains. “Begin by slowly blowing all the air out of your lungs. Then, gently inhale through your nose slowly to a count of four. Hold at the top of the breath for a further count of four. Then gently exhale through your mouth for four. At the bottom of the breath, pause and hold for another four. Repeat this 10 times.

“You can get young children to try, too – let them pretend they are a balloon. The most important thing is they breathe deeply enough their stomach distends when they breathe in.”

Colouring sets, snacks and favourite storybooks can be tucked into your rucksack for tired kids, and don’t forget some comforting distractions for grown-ups, too – and make sure to download a few good podcast episodes before leaving the house.

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