You’ve spent weeks – maybe even months – planning your dream Paris vacation. Why should the first and last hours of your trip be a nightmare? Here are some ideas to help you minimize the stress of air travel… and even enjoy it!
Be nice to yourself. Think about the things that will keep you upbeat and positive during your trip and create your own happy place. Here’s my strategy:
Be nice to others. Will a smile and a wink get you that upgrade to first class? Will you receive a humanitarian award for exercising patience in the security line? Unlikely. But wouldn’t you rather go through the day with a smile rather than a scowl?
Of course, it’s tough to remain chipper when things don’t go according to plan. Remember, calmly asking “what are my options?” is likely to yield better results than shouting “this is unacceptable!”
Make informed choices. Advice from every airline customer service agent I know (and I know quite a few): do not book your ticket through a third-party website (e.g., Expedia.com, CheapoAir.com). This is typically followed by a 10-15 minute rant; I’ll spare you the details, but here’s what it boils down to: because of fare restrictions and the way third-party reservations are handled in the system, the agent’s ability to help you solve problems is extremely limited, even if the problem is completely out of your control.
Do your homework. Minimize anxiety and chaos by knowing what to expect and controlling what you can control.
Get to the airport early. I plan to be there 3 hours prior to departure for international flights. If this seems excessive, remember that most airports/airlines require you to check in 45-60 minutes prior to departure. You must board the plane 20-30 minutes prior to departure or risk losing your seat.
If you sail through the check-in process, passport control, and security with no delays, you can treat yourself to a leisurely glass of wine, browse the duty free shops, and maybe even get a pedicure. But if you get stuck in the behind a school group of 20 teenagers… it’s nice to know you have plenty of time. (Remember that TSA Precheck and Global Entry mean bupkes in airports outside of the U.S. A first- or business-class ticket may allow you to skip some lines, but that’s not an option everywhere.)
Once on the plane… relax. You’re almost there. Organize your stuff so that you can reach it easily, sit back, and open your book or listen to some music. There’s not much else you can do at this point, so you may as well relax and dream about your tour of Montmartre.
Don’t underestimate the value of an airport pick-up. For years, I dismissed this as an unnecessary luxury. But I decided to give it a try on a recent trip, and arranged a airport pick-up package in Paris through American Concierge… after a particularly challenging day of travel, the sense of relief when Rich met me at the airport was overwhelming. He helped me with my bags, guided me through the airport, and voila… I was on vacation in Paris!!
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Tour Length: 5 – 6 hours