SMILE, IT’S CHRISTMAS
How to be a top Yuletide traveller
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
Go with good grace and enjoy locations like Roy’s Peak in New Zealand and Kangaroo Island, SA. NEW ZEALAND