SMILE, IT’S CHRIST­MAS

How to be a top Yule­tide trav­eller

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM | CHRISTMAS - DAVID SMIEDT

Yule­tide hol­i­days are as much a part of an Aus­tralian sum­mer as singed snags, swimming be­tween the flags and calls of “howzat” from the telly. The des­ti­na­tions are in­vari­ably worth it – be they peo­ple or places. But whether you’re get­ting away or get­ting to­gether, it’s the jour­neys them­selves that can sap the spirit, both per­sonal and Christ­mas.

This is be­cause of the sheer vol­ume of trav­ellers which, in turn, places trans­port net­works at ca­pac­ity. Which means one hic­cup – a fogged-in air­port here, a computer glitch there, Barry in bag­gage han­dling chucked a sickie – can cause se­ri­ous de­lays, frayed tem­pers and the ris­ing con­vic­tion that per­haps you should have just stayed home.

Don’t even think about it. What’s on the other side of that ar­rival gate out­weighs the ir­ri­ta­tions it took to get there. Bet­ter still, with a slight at­ti­tude ad­just­ment and the right tools, you can di­min­ish the stresses and em­pha­sise the de­lights.

CAFFEINATE EARLY

We feel you. You shouldn’t have to face a cold and in­dif­fer­ent world, let alone a ter­mi­nal, with­out a long black or two on board.

Don’t wait un­til you get to the air­port, be­cause every­one else will have the same idea. By the time you get to the front of the queue, the in­evitable price gouge – “one small espresso, that’ll be $9.50 thanks, sorry we have a $10 min­i­mum on card” – will only el­e­vate your stress level. Wake up 15 minutes ear­lier and DIY or get your Uber driver to swing by a cafe on the way. And of­fer to buy them one too. It is Christ­mas af­ter all.

DON’T CUT IT FINE

While you’re caf­feinat­ing early, you might as well do the same to your en­tire trav­el­ling day sched­ule. That dream run from taxi to check-in ter­mi­nal to bag drop through se­cu­rity, on to the con­ve­niently lo­cated nearby de­par­ture lounge and aboard with­out break­ing stride is a freak oc­cur­rence. A travel lotto win.

Air­lines don’t sug­gest you get there two hours be­fore­hand be­cause they’re in­ef­fi­cient. Rather, they’ve fig­ured out that this is the time it takes to get thou­sands of peo­ple through the nec­es­sary steps.

AND SMILE

You know that ha­rassed per­son be­hind the check-in desk who’s prob­a­bly dealt with more abuse in a day than you do in a year at work? Ask how they are. Maybe sum­mon a bit of warmth. It won’t score you an up­grade – those days are gone – but it may re­sult in an exit row seat or a gate that stays open a few minutes longer.

BOOK A TRIP

Be­cause you’ve ar­rived with some time to spare, don’t join that snaking check-in queue just yet. It’s not go­ing any­where. Hit up the book­store in­stead and start your hol­i­day read­ing now, in­stead of on the plane. With a page-turner in hand, that in­cre­men­tal shuf­fle will pass quicker than Dan Brown’s ca­reer.

To en­rich your travel ex­pe­ri­ence more, forego Jack Reacher or Liane Mo­ri­arty (bril­liant as she is) and head to the non­fic­tion sec­tion for a tome about the des­ti­na­tion you’re vis­it­ing. It will bring depth and di­men­sion to your trip. Any­thing by pa­tron saint of travel writ­ers Bill Bryson will do fine.

THE CARRY-ON CARRY ON

On ev­ery flight, there are those who try to cir­cum­vent the rules with bags that are patently too big, too heavy or too en­ti­tled (sorry, that’s the own­ers). Which means staff have to stop the flow of peo­ple onto the plane, weigh the bag, ar­gue with own­ers about the va­garies of what a kilo­gram means and call on ground staff to re­move it.

And all be­cause they couldn’t bring them­selves to wait by a con­veyor belt for a few minutes at the other side. Un­less you’re trans­port­ing an or­gan for trans­plant, don’t be that per­son.

APP-LY YOUR­SELF

There are a bunch of free mo­bile phone apps that can make travel a more serene and valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence. Headspace is a free med­i­ta­tion app avail­able on both iOS and GooglePlay that guides you through ses­sions that run from five minutes up­wards.

Even if you’re not the ommm type, these mini re­treats can bring a sense of height­ened calm to the most stress­ful of sit­u­a­tions.

Speak­ing of which ...

CHILD-FRIENDLY

Imag­ine, if you will, be­ing seven years old and drunk on adren­a­line at the prospect of fly­ing for the first time. Now, for ar­gu­ment’s sake, let’s add a toddler to the mix who’s just dis­cov­ered how to walk af­ter a life­time of im­mo­bil­ity. Then ask both of these lit­tle crea­tures to sit still for three or more hours. Be­cause they’ve got SpongeBob on an iPad. Then en­vis­age be­ing in charge of two such un­der­rested and over­stim­u­lated dy­namos while a planeload of strangers shoots death stares at you.

Chil­dren make Christ­mas, so cut them and their par­ents a bit of slack. It is what it is and be­sides, that’s why they have wine on board. Still not con­vinced? We have three words for you: Noise. Can­celling. Head­phones.

PS AND QUEUES

Fi­nally, the plane lands. For some, how­ever, that ping that ac­com­pa­nies the cap­tain turn­ing off the seat­belt sign acts as a start­ing pis­tol in the mad scram­ble to the front.

News­flash: there are no medals for com­ing first. Un­less you’re that same per­son with an or­gan in an Esky, what’s the point? You’re prob­a­bly still go­ing to have to wait for your lug­gage and if you have a con­nec­tion, chances are the air­line staff have al­ready no­ti­fied col­leagues.

Har­rumph­ing while train­ing for the eye roll Olympics as some old dear strug­gles with her flo­ral wheel-along case isn’t go­ing to make your hol­i­day start any sooner. Just be grate­ful you didn’t have to look at her end­less grand­chil­dren pic­tures or fever­ish in­quiries about whether the mile-high club is also on your bucket list.

If some­one is ahead of you, they get to go first. End of story. And for the love of all things de­cent, wait un­til you’re in the ter­mi­nal to put your back­pack on so you don’t clonk fel­low trav­ellers on the head with ev­ery turn as you shuf­fle to­wards the door.

JUST A TIP

Here’s one for the cruisers. The peo­ple mak­ing your beds, cook­ing your food and mix­ing your drinks are do­ing it par­tic­u­larly tough right now. Par­tic­u­larly if they are from a coun­try like the Philip­pines where 70 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is Catholic. In short, they are miss­ing out on Christ­mas with their fam­i­lies so you can spend Christ­mas with yours.

Em­brace the spirit of the sea­son from your heart into their pock­ets. How­ever much ex­tra you think hos­pi­tal­ity work­ers get paid over this pe­riod, the re­al­ity doesn’t come close. You’re there be­cause you want to be, they’re there be­cause they have to be.

BYO

In an era where you can fly to Bali for less than a price of de­gus­ta­tion with paired wine, it’s per­haps time to dial back the out­rage at the fact that air­lines no longer pro­vide free meals and drinks. I paid 50 whole dol­lars for this ticket, where’s my cab sav and Neil Perry? Re­ally? For good­ness sake, bring a sand­wich al­ready.

CAR­BON PRES­SURE

The democrati­sa­tion of air travel has been a boon for pas­sen­gers – you’ll go through a greater num­ber pass­ports for lack of space than your par­ents ever dreamed of – but a huge blow to the en­vi­ron­ment. More planes, more flights and more des­ti­na­tions have re­sulted in a spike in CO2 emis­sions.

You can do some­thing about this by tick­ing the car­bon off­set op­tion when book­ing your ticket. The ex­tra dol­lars – off­set­ting a Syd­ney-Mel­bourne flight costs about $2 and it’s about $50 from Mel­bourne to London – gen­er­ally go into fund­ing re­new­ables or forestry projects.

If your choice of air­line doesn’t have this op­tion, ask why not. Ask it of­ten and loudly. Still no joy but it’s a deal you can’t ig­nore? Head to cli­mate­care.org where you can cal­cu­late the ef­fect of your travel and make an off­set do­na­tion.

Merry Christ­mas and safe trav­els.

PIC­TURES: PAULA MAY/UNSPLASH, ADAM BRUZZONE

Go with good grace and en­joy lo­ca­tions like Roy’s Peak in New Zealand and Kan­ga­roo Is­land, SA. NEW ZEALAND

KAN­GA­ROO IS­LAND

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