Updated: Jan 4
I cannot begin to tell you how many airports I've been in. If I had to guess I would say at least 120. I have my favorites, the ones I could practically navigate blindfolded. But I also have certain airports that get under my skin and new airports in foreign countries I've never been to can still cause me some anxiety. Let's talk about it! Do you find airports difficult to navigate or intimidating?
Story Time: My first international solo experience
The first time I traveled alone I was 15. I joined a summer camp for teens on a sailboat in the Caribbean. This was the first trip where my mom or dad did not drop me off at the final destination. But...to be honest, I can't remember being anxious in the airport. I knew once I got to where I was going one of the camp counselors would be waiting to pick me up and make sure I was safe.
Fast forward to my post-college trip. I was a 22 year old girl that had just graduated from Michigan State University. I was ready to take on the world! This time, however, I felt anxious arriving in Europe alone. I would have to get myself through customs, into a cab, and to my first hotel on my own. The more I thought about this the more I didn't want to do it. But, I was not going to let this one little thing hold me back from taking the trip of a lifetime. I opted to sign up for a group tour for the first 10 days of my 88 days in Europe. This way, similar to my first solo travel experience, there would be someone there waiting to pick me up and make sure I was safe.
So, what did I learn from this?
The airport itself and arriving in a new country can be the most intimidating part of your travels. I'm here to tell you, with experience it gets easier. Here are some of my tips on how to navigate the airport with confidence.
Tips to navigate the airport like a pro
Give yourself ample time at the airport - especially if you are not an experienced traveler. I personally arrive at the airport 1.5 hours before a domestic flight and 2 hours before an international flight.
Choose the longer layover - this may sound like the last thing you want to do, but if you have to choose between a 1-hour layover or a 4-hour layover, choose the 4-hour option. This way you'll have less stress if everything with your first flight does not go according to plan.
Check-in before you arrive at the airport - add your ticket to your phone, pay for your bag ahead of time, provide all information the airline needs before arriving for your travel day. This will help you avoid long lines at the airport and navigate to your gate quickly.
Dress smart - this can be the difference between getting through security quickly or holding up the line. I suggest wearing something comfortable but stylish, light jewelry that doesn't have to be removed for the metal detector, slip-on shoes, and definitely socks!
Look for universal symbols - many foreign language airports have translated directions into English. Just in case, know your universal symbols for taxi, bathroom, baggage claim etc.
Don't be afraid to ask for help - airport personnel are there to help, gate agents can point you in the direction of customs, your connecting flight, and more. Don't be afraid to ask staff for help!
Pack Snacks - especially during COVID airlines have been limiting the snacks, beverage, and food options on flights. Your well-being should be at top of mind while traveling, having your own snacks can ensure you do not go hungry or have stress to find a restaurant during a layover.
Download the airlines app - seriously, do it! Delta's app for example is more up-to-date than even airport monitors at times. If there's a gate change, delay, or other pertinent information the app will tell you.
Do your research - as always, the more you know ahead of time the more prepared you will be. Look up things like custom requirements, airport parking options, items allowed in your carry-on, luggage weight limit, etc. For me the more prepared I am, the less anxious I'll be while traveling.
If you do not want to have to figure it out 100% on your own, arranging transportation ahead of time is always a great option. Someone with your name on a sign will meet you at arrivals before the baggage claim. With this option, you can trust you will safely arrive at your hotel baggage in hand. This is why Cherish has chosen to do airport pickups for each trip. Anxiety should not be the first feeling of your great travel adventure.
Want more tips? I'm currently offering office hours Mondays and Wednesdays at 2:00 PM EST to talk about general travel items. Come hang out with me.
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