Five strategies that take the stress out of airports and air travel

The view from up here is a lot better when you've put yourself in a position to relax.

If the thought of schlepping to the airport, waiting in line, and facing a delay or a long layover raises your blood pressure, let me take a shot at helping you change your mindset. Remember that you can't enjoy the your journey if you screw up the the basics. Nail the little things that take immense stress away from the very first moment.

Make the time to get your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (or the equivalent in your home country, if available) clearance that allows you to use the expedited security screening (TSA PreCheck) and the expedited airport customs. This alone will save countless hours a year waiting in security lines, and is essentially free with statement credit reimbursement if you pay for it with one of several travel credit cards out there.

Be the master of your personal packing system. Everyone has different quirks here, but the point is to pack in such a way that puts your most important stuff close at hand so you can stow and retrieve it quickly... especially if you're the type who hates to be in others' way. Relatedly, find a good way to pack a light jacket such that you can get to it again and again. I find that big temperature changes between outside, entering the airport, the plane on the ground, and the plane in flight give me cause to constantly take my jacket on and off.

Figure out your rechargeable battery situation with something that works for you. I'm a big fan of the Nomad Leather Charging Wallet right now. Not having to organize your life around the constant quest to sit next to a power outlet is incredibly liberating.

Build in enough time arriving at the airport before your flight. Yes, I used to enjoy the daredevil antics of showing up with fifteen minutes to spare, and that I live two blocks from my home airport means that I can get from my sofa to my plane seat in eleven minutes (thanks TSA PreCheck), but it isn't worth it. As a general rule, domestic flights cut off checked baggage forty-five minutes before flight time, begin boarding thirty minutes, and aim to close the plane door ten minutes before flight time when everything is running on time. I like to show up an hour before go time, sometimes even earlier when I know I can grab a glass in a favorite wine bar or airport lounge.

Take steps to ensure you board the plane near the front of the line. Getting to your seat (mostly) unencumbered, finding enough space in the overhead to stow your bags, and sitting in peace before the stampede comes takes a big load off. This is easy if you fly often enough to have elite status on your airline, or if you are flying first class. But if those options are (very understandably so) out of your reach, look into the cost of picking up preferred seating near the front of the economy class on the plane (which usually gets you closer to the front of the boarding line), or simply paying for early boarding (at $12 on Southwest, this is a no-brainer). Another option for travelers who are pretty consistent with the same airline(s) is to pick up a version of your favorite airlines' branded credit card, which often come with early boarding privileges (and more... like a free checked bag every time you fly. The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select does the trick on American Airlines, ditto the Gold Delta SkyMiles AMEX and the United MileagePlus Explorer card.

...and a bonus, yet likely controversial, sixth recommendation when traveling with others: Let go of having to sit together on the plane. While the benefits of sitting together on longer flights are numerous (not least among them being preventing a stranger from sitting next to you), you may find that parting ways on shorter (2-3 hour flights) gives each traveler the flexibility to pick the seats that please them. I like bulkheads and sitting near the front. Meghan hates bulkheads and doesn't care where in the plane she sits. Sit where makes you happy, enjoy the flight, and meet up afterwards to enjoy your next airport!