Not-So-Secret Tips on “Stress-Free” Traveling

Early morning the other day, my youngest sister jolted what was usually a slow start of our daily routines at home. She was supposed to leave before 7:00AM to the airport to catch her flight to Cebu. A low pressure area’s been hovering for days so it’s been raining non-stop since past midnight. And it looked like it had no plans of stopping that early morning.

Finding a taxi was a challenge since it continued to rain on relentlessly. We spent almost an hour calling every cab company listed on the phone book to no avail. Either the numbers were busy or there were no taxis available at that time. At past 7:00AM, my sister’s already rushing here and there.

Finally, her friend who was already at the airport finished checking in and went outside to flag down a taxi and asked the driver to pick her up. She left the house with less than an hour to spare for the scheduled flight.

My sister and I are different in so many things. She’s the cool, go-with-the-flow one who hardly sweat the small stuff. That translates to almost everything she does. I’ve long learned and made an effort to adapt on her “wing it” attitude. But it seems that Monday morning started out for her with a lesson in mind.

At some points in the past, I’ve in some occasions been late going to airports. One worst case happened two days before Christmas. I wasn’t able to anticipate the traffic so I arrived really, really late. It was frustrating to see a very long queue of people leading to the airport entrance when my flight’s already nearing boarding. I missed my flight and spent my first and only Christmas in Manila since I couldn’t rebook in time to celebrate it at home.

I think that most of those who travel, if not all, go through similar experiences in the past. A trip that didn’t start out as smoothly as one would want it to be. And that maybe at some point in time, many of us do fail to prepare for every eventuality. So here are some lessons I’ve learned from the mildly stressful to the downright frustrating beginnings of what thankfully turned out to be fun and unforgettable trips:

  • Make time to do that packing/to-do list – This may sound too OC for some, but it serves its purpose. It always helps to have a checklist of things you need to bring. This is an almost airtight way of ensuring that nothing important gets left behind.
  • Leave your extra baggage behind – Pack light, literally and figuratively. The less stuff you carry around, the less reasons you have to worry. It’s easier and cheaper to make those airport transfers. Take a leaf off a backpacker’s book. Unless you’re in for an extended trip, it’s far more convenient not to have any check-in luggage. This way, it’s much more convenient to ditch the pricey airport cabs and opt for airport shuttles or trains.
  • A little paranoia won’t hurt – Trust is very important when traveling. It’s a perfect opportunity to meet new  people. You can’t start making friends if you’re going around distrustful of everyone. However, it pays to be a little paranoid sometimes. It’s a great time to hone observation skills, to figure out people as much as you can, and learn how not to trust too much. Don’t leave your bags unattended especially in airports. Having it stolen will be the least of your worries. The last thing you’d want to happen is for someone to slip prohibited drugs or materials that can get you deported or worst, spend time in jail. Do a basic research about your destination. Read the news. There are countries who have scary ways in dealing with drug mules. There are even stories of ordinary tourists being mistaken as couriers.
  • Don’t bring anything that can get stolen – Do you really need that earring or necklace? Will you really get some work done on your laptop? Do you really need to constantly check your smartphone for updates? What do you intend to do on your trip? It can be challenging not to get tied up with your phone once you’ve made it a habit to constantly check it for news from home or when you’re mind’s off somewhere at work. Try to disconnect and spend the quality time focused on where you are. Leave valuables behind, either at home or at the hotel safe. If that’s not available, find alternative ways to keep them safe.
  • Stash some local currency in your pocket – A trip to Guangzhou by bus from Hong Kong left me stranded, alone, and lost in a dark, quiet rotunda in the middle of the city at half past midnight. It was a long and very memorable story. Fortunately, I had a bit of cash changed to Yuan while I was still at Manila’s airport. It was enough money to pay for a taxi. I think it helps to have just the right amount of local currency for any emergency.
  • Keep your sense of adventure – Some things may not play out as you want it to be. But think of it as part of the entire adventure you’re getting yourself into. Airport related travails may sometimes be exasperating but they’ll make up for some tales you can tell your family and friends. Everything has its place in every trip. The trick is to collect as many experiences as you can, have fun, and learn as much as you can from them.

The stories and experiences are among the many reasons why I love to travel and read about others’ tales whenever I can. There’s nothing like traveling to teach some of the best lessons in life.

And by the way, it turned out my sister’s flight was rebooked to the afternoon schedule due to zero visibility caused by the bad LPA weather. They also got a free one-way ticket valid for six months out of it. So all’s well that ends well.

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2 thoughts on “Not-So-Secret Tips on “Stress-Free” Traveling

  1. Great list here! I think people really underestimate the importance of having local currency. I always get $100 (US) of the local currency before I go.

    1. Thanks! I only do it occasionally before the incident, confident that I can easily have x amount of $ changed at the airport if necessary. I learned my lesson well after that.

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