You've booked your ticket, flicked through the guidebook and you're counting the days to the big holiday. But you can't help feeling just a little nervous. Pre-flight tension or 'PFT', affects first-time travellers and old hands alike, but there are a few tips to help you get to the airport worry-free.
Take care of essentials
There are lots of little things to organise before an overseas trip and you'll feel a lot better if your paperwork is organised well in advance. Passport up to date? Check. Visa if required? Check? Insurance cover suitable for your destination? Check. Keep important documents together and make a couple of sets of photocopies to be kept separately. Make sure your bank ATM and credit cards will work in your destination and get some US dollars or euros for emergencies. If you want to keep in touch with friends, let them know your plans through Facebook, Twitter or plain old email. If you're really keen, set up a blog site (try www.mytripjournal.com) so you can post photos and stories while you're away.
Reading up on your destination is half the fun. Your guidebook, web sites and online travel forums will get you excited and confident. Make sure you know the best way to get from your destination airport to your hotel on the first day.
Pack. Then pack again
The old travel cliché of packing what you think you need, then halving it, rings true every time. Travelling light is not just a way of avoiding backache, it means less pre-flight stress. Those jeans and jumpers probably won't see the light of day at that beach destination, and three pairs of shoes? Forget it. Remember that you can buy anything you need (or have forgotten) when you get there. Make a realistic list and stick to it. Just don't skimp on your favourite toiletries and underwear! Make sure your hand luggage includes something warm for the flight, a good book, basic toiletries and handy things like your phone charger and iPod. Camera gear and laptops should also go on the plane with you, but anything sharp (scissors, pocket knives) definitely shouldn't.
Get there, stress free
Getting to the airport is easy enough – trains, buses, taxis or a private car will all get you there – but plan for contingencies. Traffic jams, train delays and parking problems can all add to your pre-flight stress. Check timetables, allow for traffic congestion (will it be peak hour?) or arrive early at your pickup point if you're taking an airport shuttle. Factor in some extra time so you arrive early and stress free.
Avoid the last minute rush
Even seasoned travellers make this mistake – rushing to the airport in a panic and sweat to find a lengthy queue and your check-in desk closing in five minutes. If check-in opens three hours before your flight, aim to arrive half an hour before that. Grab a luggage trolley, find your check-in desk and line up early. On most international flights, the first people to check in get first choice of the best seats – if you have not already selected your seats online - (you know you want the window). You won't end up squashed into the middle aisle. And you won't be stressed.
With your luggage checked in and your boarding pass in hand, head for the departure lounge. If there's time to burn, browsing the shops, flicking through magazines in the bookstore or picking up a few last minute gifts can be good stressbusters. Or just find a seat near your check-in counter and relax - airline staff will take care of the rest. Enjoy your holiday!
This article was first published in June 2010 and was refreshed in July 2012.