Americans are venturing out again after being cooped up due to pandemic travel restrictions. But they are quickly learning they are not alone as they encounter long lines in airports, restaurants, and tourist attractions. These lines are often due to an abundance of travelers combined with staffing shortages.
“It’s a perfect storm right now,” said Darley Newman, a travel host and an executive producer in New York City. “There are workforce shortages, flights getting canceled, and a shortage of staff who are well trained. This means travelers need good strategies and patience when hitting the road.”
If you are traveling soon, then it’s best to plan as much as possible. “You really have to be the Girl Scout of your travel group and be prepared for anything,” said Newman.
Here are some common issues and solutions so that you can try to make the best of your situation:
Problem: There are long lines at food establishments, tourist attractions, and for checking in at hotels and cruises.
Before you travel, lower your expectations, and assume that you will need to wait in a long line.
Solution: Bring your own picnic, make a reservation, listen to a podcast, or meditate.
Instead of BYOF (bring your own food) you can reframe the experience as something enjoyable like a picnic.
“When I go through an airport now, I bring a picnic,” said Newman. “I bring sliced kiwi fruit, cheese, and crackers — basically anything that travels well, like those Babybel cheeses that are individually wrapped.”
Since you can’t bring liquids through security, Newman also recommended bringing your own refillable water bottle. Most airports have water-bottle filling stations near the restrooms.
To avoid those long lines before you travel, you should make a reservation as far in advance as possible for restaurants and tourist attractions.
“We are in a time period of travel now where if you don’t have a reservation, you’re not getting in,” said Shelby Dziwulski, founder of the Denver-based travel company Authenteco. “Even historical attractions require reservations.”
If you are already at your destination and didn’t make reservations, then Newman suggested that you opt for a place that offers takeout and find a nice outdoor spot to dine. “I look for those places that would generally have faster service because service has gotten slower everywhere.”
If you do have to wait in line, try listening to a podcast, watching a downloaded TV show, or listening to a guided meditation. You can even use the time to learn a new language that might be helpful at your intended destination.
Problem: You are stuck in an airport.
Flights are being delayed or canceled, so if you are flying, there is a good chance you will be in an airport for an extended period.
Solution: You’re not stuck, so get a spa treatment or find an airport lounge.
You can reframe this situation by not using the word “stuck” and instead consider all the entertaining possibilities offered in an airport.
“I really enjoy airports. Many have interesting architecture, wonderful art exhibits, restaurants, and shopping options,” said Stefan Bisciglia, director of I Cruise Solo and co-owner of Specialty Cruise & Villas travel agency in Gig Harbor, Wash.
If you are interested in viewing art, Logan has a public art program. You can use their interactive map (select terminals, your terminal letter, departures, and then art exhibit) to see the current exhibits.
Another option offered in airports is spa treatments. If the airport doesn’t have a spa, then Newman recommended massaging your hands using a stress-reducing lavender lotion (only 3.4 ounces or less to get through security) while listening to spa music on your noise-canceling headphones.
After you are done relaxing, you can find an airport lounge. Previously, lounges were an exclusive option for frequent flyers, but now some are available to anyone willing to pay a fee.
“Traditionally, lounges were for first- and business-class passengers, but many have turned into membership models,” said Bisciglia. At Logan, The Lounge is available for $45 and includes unlimited drinks (including alcohol), food, newspapers, and workstations.
Problem: The airline is losing luggage.
Many people have recently discovered that the airline routed their luggage to the wrong destination and sometimes the airport doesn’t know the luggage location.
Solution: Use Apple AirTags to track your luggage.
Apple offers a product called AirTags that you can place in your luggage so you can track it as it travels. “By using the Airtags, when the airline says your luggage is lost, you’re not doing this loop around trying to figure out where your luggage is, and instead you can literally say to the airline, ‘It’s right here,’” says Dziwulski.
Problem: You have trouble booking hotels or reservations.
With everyone traveling right now, it may be challenging to book a vacation.
Solution: Hire a travel agent.
Most travel agents are free or charge a minimal fee. They are experienced in preventing problems and fixing issues when they occur.
“We are here to help, and you will not wait hours on hold like you would with the online companies,” said Phil Patterson, president and owner of P&H Travel in West Bridgewater.
Another advantage to using a travel agent is that they are knowledgeable. “We know all the secret tips and tricks for not having to deal with the line. For example, if you’re active-duty military, there’s a secret line that nobody knows about,” said Dziwulski.
Remember that traveling is a privilege.
Often people assume that a vacation means they will have a stress-free experience, but that isn’t always the case. “If you want to travel, just be happy you have the opportunity to travel,” said Dziwulski.
Newman said that probably one of the most important things to remember when using your packing checklist is to “pack your patience.”