Traveling is fun, and yet sometimes being away from the comforts of home is not so great. That's because we all get used to having certain luxuries right at our fingertips, and a life on the road isn't always conducive to that. (OK, it's hardly ever conducive to that.) But there are ways to make traveling a little more comfortable.
It's really all about thinking ahead to what makes traveling so uncomfortable in the first place. And then, taking steps in making it not so horrible. So let's see... there's the noise, the temperature changes, the lack of snacks — you know, not so horrible things that feel extra horrible when you're far away from home.
But these tend to more travel-y problems, such as the things that happen when cooped up on a plane, or when squashed into a train seat. What about the things that can make you super uncomfortable once you arrive? These things need to be considered, too. For instance, what are you going to wear, and what kind of shoes will be best? Really, these are invaluable decisions that can kind of make or break your trip.
Luckily, however, none of these "problems" are unfixable or unpreventable. It's not difficult to bring snacks, an extra sweater, or some Advil for that pounding barometric pressure headache. It's also not difficult to plan ahead and stock up on the best gear. So if you're about to head out on a journey, here are some ways to make getting there, and being there, a little more comfortable.
1. Break In Shoes Before You Leave
It's a good idea to pick up a new pair of kicks before a big trip. After all, you're going to be spending a lot of time on your feet, so proper footwear is totally essential. But whatever you do, don't wait until right before a long hike, or an eight hour walking tour, to whip out your shoes for the first time.
If you don't properly break in your shoes beforehand, you're basically asking for a blister. And really, there's nothing worse when you're trekking around all day. So wear those shoes out and about, and give your feet a chance to mould to them. Once your vacation arrives, you'll be ready to stroll around, blister-free.
2. Wear Lots Of Layers
The thing about traveling is it often means going into unpredictable climates. Sure, the temp might be pretty even-keeled back at home, but this new city could be a whole different story. So, plan ahead with layers galore. I'm talking about light jackets over sweaters or tank tops — the whole thing. That way you can peel layers off and put them back on to your heart's content.
You'll want to layer up for the travel process, too. I mean, has anyone ever been on a plane or train that wasn't absolutely freezing? (Probably not.) Be sure to pack a big comfy sweater, or a huge scarf, to use as a coverup when your seat mate decides to blast the A/C.
3. Carry A Trusty Flask
When you're about to board a long flight, the thought of being crunched up in a seat for 12 hours can be less than thrilling. But don't worry; it doesn't' have to be awful. All you need to do is stay properly sloshed and the long trip will be over before you know it.
OK, I exaggerate — maybe not sloshed, but a little splash of liquor can help take the edge off even the most uncomfortable circumstances. "Alcohol relaxes the muscles, boosts the mood, [and] aids in sleep...," noted Caroline Costello noted on HuffingtonPost.com. "To get in on the action, book a flight that serves free drinks to economy-class passengers (Alaska and Hawaiian come to mind) or ... tote a hip flask." That way, you'll always have a little pick-me-up/sleep aid by your side.
4. Make Sure Essentials Are Within Reach
You don't want to be stuck high and dry on a plane without the comforts of home, so stock your carry-on bag with mini versions of everything you could ever need. Think phone chargers, water bottles, snacks, pain killers, antibacterial gel — really anything that'll cure what ails you.
You also might want to stash valuable things in your carry-on, as it can offer peace of mind if your luggage gets lost. According to Ed Hewitt on IndependentTraveler.com, "Recent stats indicate that, on average, at least one bag on every flight is lost or delayed. If there's anything you can't live without, pack it in your carry-on. This is especially true of items that are not easily or inexpensively replaced, such as running shoes or a lightweight raincoat." Better safe than sorry.
5. Bring An Eye Mask & Ear Plugs
Other people's noises and distractions are some the worst things about traveling. Maybe you're on an overnight flight and a baby is crying, or you're shacked up in a hostel and the couple in the next bunk simply won't shut up. When these things happen, you'll be happy to tune the world out with a pair of ear plugs and an eye mask. Trust me, these two things are really invaluable, and you'll be so glad to actually get some sleep.
6. Get Yourself A Window Seat
I think window seats are amazing for two reasons: you get a better view, and you get a wall to lean on. This will come in particularly handy when trying to take a nap. As Christine Sarkis pointed out on HuffingtonPost.com, "You can easily boost comfort by rolling up a jacket to lean against. [And] by varying the angles of your repose, you’ll also spare yourself some of the discomfort that comes from sitting in the same position for hours on end." If all of that sounds appealing, then book your tickets early and snag the good seats before anyone else.
7. Make Sure You Have Room To Stretch
Whether you're on a plane, trail, or automobile, always remember to take time to stretch it out. That's because sitting in one spot for a long time is anything less than comfortable, and can even make you sick. This is especially important when crammed into a small seat on a plane, so make sure you leave extra room for your legs to stretch out.
This might mean stashing your belongings out of the way. As Sarkis noted, "... that carry-on is taking up the space your legs desperately need for stretching out a few more inches. Use the overhead bin (if there’s room) to stow most of your belongings, keeping only what you immediately need with you at your seat. And don’t overstuff the seat-back pocket — ... the bulge will also compete with your knees for space if the person in front of you reclines."
8. Buy Some Well-Made Luggage
There's nothing more annoying than one of those not-so-rolly rolling suitcases. You know the kind — they break and fall over and you just end up dragging it behind you for most of the trip. Really, that's no way to spend your trip. Look for a solid, four-wheeled suitcase that can stand up on it's own. I've found these are the easiest to use.
If you're going the backpack route, be sure to get yourself properly fitted before your trip. A backpack that fits well will be so much more comfortable than one that's too big, too small, or too heavy.
Traveling may not always be glamorous, but it doesn't mean you have to spend the whole trip feeling uncomfortable. Plan ahead for all those little annoyances, and I'm sure you'll feel right at home no matter where you are.
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