If you are anything like me, you are constantly looking for ways to make your commute easier — or at the very least, less painful. I am lucky enough to work in New York City, right in the center of Midtown, where all the action is happening. Working in Manhattan is great, but the one major downside for me? Commuting to work via public transportation. You see, I work in NYC, but I live on Long Island, and while I love and appreciate being so close to the beach and also getting to experience the wonders of the big city, I do not love commuting. I hate commuting. I hate it so much that just thinking about it makes me feel agitated.
Commuting is never fun, but when you add public transportation into the mix, it becomes a thousand times worse. Whether you take the train like me, use subway systems for extended periods of time (I'm not talking about taking the subway three blocks), or hop on a bus, public transportation is a nightmare. You have to deal with delays and cancellations that can screw up an entire day. You have to commute via a schedule that is not your own. You have to sit next to people who smell weird, or fall asleep on your shoulder, or sharpen knives in front of you (this happened to me once, and I still don't know why). Worst of all, you usually have to pay for this misery — and those monthly metro cards definitely don't come cheap.
If you're just starting a new job that involves commuting, or you plan on using public transportation to get to college this fall, getting to and from where you need to be will be the most annoying part of your day. Luckily, I'm here to try to make it a little bit better for you. After almost five years of commuting every single day, I have found ways to make the experience slightly less painful. Here are a few tips on how to make commuting via public transportation easier:
1. If your form of public transportation has an app, download it
Find out if your form of public transportation has an app, and if so, use it. For example, the Long Island Railroad has an app that tells you schedules, delays, and cancellations. It's super helpful, because I can know before I head to Penn Station if anything annoying is going on. If your personal form of PT doesn't offer an app, check on Twitter for updates.
2. Always bring a sweater
I don't care if it's 100 degrees outside, and you're sweating walking from your car to the train. Public transportation is notoriously freezing. The Long Island Railroad trains are like little iceboxes. A light sweater should fit in your bag, and will keep you warm.
3. Invest in good headphones
This should be obvious, but I can't begin to stress how important it is. You don't want to listen to other people's weird conversations, or the terrible music blaring from someone's super loud headphones. Listening to music is necessary. You could also try listening to books being read, or even watch movies.
4. Pay for a subscription music service
Speaking of music, you should seriously consider paying for a subscription of some sort. When you pay, you can download music to your phone so that it can be played offline. Public transportation doesn't usually have Wifi, and it's annoying to go in and out of songs.
5. Sign up for tax-free commuter benefits
If you have a full-time job, check out your benefits. Many times, you can get tax-free commuter benefits. This means that you get a credit card where you put the correct amount of money on it every month, and use it to buy your tickets. At the end of the year, you'll get a tax break on some of your purchase.
6. Have a book or magazine on you at all times
Plan for the worst. Sometimes delays happen before you get on the train, and sometimes they happen while you're on the train. I once sat on a train for more than an hour without moving. Bring something to keep yourself entertained, because your phone will get boring fast.
7. Get yourself a portable charger
Again: plan for the worst. Few things are more annoying than your phone dying in the middle of a commute. You can buy portable chargers everywhere nowadays, so just get one in case.
8. Carry around a pair of flats
If you have to wear heels wherever you're going, pack flats to wear while commuting. They are more comfortable, and it makes your life while commuting instantly more pleasant. You can go for flip flops in the summer, but whatever you do, please don't wear sneakers with a business suit. There is absolutely no reason to look like an '80s businesswoman, especially when wearing flats looks better, and makes more sense.
9. Plan your time carefully
If you have to be at work or school at a very specific time, do yourself a favor and give yourself extra time. Again, always plan for the worst. The moments you have to be somewhere are the moments there will be delays or cancellations. Here's a story to convince you. Once, I was going to the city to interview Ryan Reynolds. I hate waiting around places, so I took the train that would get me in exactly 15 minutes before the interview. Then there was a tornado, and I got stuck on the train in Queens, and service was suspended. I never made it into the city, and I missed my one chance to make Ryan Reynolds fall in love with me. So please, give yourself extra time.
10. Talk to your boss about working from home if the weather is bad
I'm lucky to have the best boss in the world who tells me to work from home if it is snowing or storming badly, because she doesn't want me to get caught in annoying delays. Talk to your boss about this kind of thing. If you're able to work from home if something weird is going on outside, it will make your day a lot better.
11. Always have hand sanitizer in your bag
Public transportation is pretty gross. Use hand sanitizer.
12. Use your commuting time wisely
You have two choices: use your commuting time to sleep or relax, or use it to do something productive. Maybe you want to carry around your laptop or tablet and get some work done while you're commuting. Maybe you would rather sleep. Maybe you can use that time to read. Just don't sit there, mindlessly staring out the window, bored. That's a waste of time.
13. Force yourself to be positive
Sometimes, I get so frustrated with commuting that I have to calm myself down and force myself to stay positive. Commuting is annoying, but you can turn it into your time to decompress and relax before going home. I like having that hour of time to sleep, go on Instagram, read, or just relax and listen to a new CD.
14. Keep your ticket close
Buy a little ticket holder to keep your ticket safe. If you need it to be out during the ride, clip it to your clothes so it doesn't fall. I once paid $330 on a monthly ticket. A day later, I lost it, and I had to shell out another $330 for a monthly ticket. I paid almost $700 to commute that month. Don't ever let this happen to you.
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