Be neurotically precocious
Let’s start with the obvious: arrive at the airport earlier than you normally would (i.e. at least three hours before your flight) and check in online whenever possible to avoid making more queues than necessary. If you can afford it (or have saved miles/points), now is also the time to upgrade. Not only will you be able to skip the lines, but you’ll be able to go to a lobby if you’re late instead of replaying The terminal on a shabby metal bench.
Keep your luggage to a minimum
Take only hand luggage. Nothing ruins a vacation like your luggage being MIA, and with the general state of airports at the moment, the chances of suitcases going missing are at an all time high. We’re dedicated fans of Away’s Carry-On, which is compact enough to meet sizing requirements – including on budget airlines – but roomy enough for everything you might need. Bonus points for the portable USB charger built into the design, a godsend if you’re stuck in a doorway with a dying iPhone and no outlet in sight. If you absolutely must store a bag, consider an AirTag as an added precaution, especially if you’re carrying valuables. You can even place Apple devices in one of Hermès’ classic luggage tags.
Use all delays to empty your inbox
Most of us are guilty of boarding the plane with chores weighing us down and at least 72 messages cluttering up our Gmail. Take the opportunity to make sure you have a good break from work; order a latte, hang in your door, and sort out all the details before you roll. Inbox 0 may be a pipe dream, but you can at least assign all urgent tasks.
Have backup plans
If you’re worried about your flights being canceled, decide ahead of time whether you’ll reschedule your vacation or take a vacation instead. Most bosses should be flexible to allow you to work your scheduled OOO days in case of a travel nightmare, but a courtesy email in advance should put your mind at rest. If not, make sure you have back-up plans at home. If you’re based in the UK, this could mean a last-minute weekend in the country – check out Firm top to bottoma 17th-century mansion turned gourmet retreat in Kent, and Parent’s housea Georgian heap in Wiltshire whose rooms have been transformed by interior designer Lucy Barlow – or you can simply enjoy the best of London, from the parks to the exhibitions.
Choose your reading material wisely
You will never end Ulysses as he sat at Heathrow. Instead, stock up on literary page-turners that will hold your attention even in a painfully crowded Starbucks: Girls by Emma Cline, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl and The goldfinch by Donna Tartt are all great starting points.
Do your homework
If you’re someone who’s always had a more liberal approach to vacation planning, a trip delay gives you a second chance to do some pre-trip research. Those who prefer analog guides should bring one of Wallpaper’s compact but indispensable directories, which offer bird’s-eye views of cities from Athens to Kyoto. Digital natives, on the other hand, can browse Trippin’ dwellers’ brilliant design-focused recommendations, or plan their route using Urbs. This is also a good time to study some basic words and phrases in your host country’s language(s); you’re never going to be fluent in Italian through Duolingo, but you might learn how to say hello, goodbye, and “more gelato, please” within the hour you wait for your flight.
Make a thoughtful investment or two
Impulse shopping at a duty-free shop is usually a mistake, but if you have a few hours to browse and are looking for designer sunglasses or a classic handbag, take full advantage. Just do a Google search before handing in your AmEx; all zero-rated items are not necessarily less expensive than their equivalent with us.
Make good use of your Netflix subscription
There is no longer any reason to suffer from poor in-flight entertainment. Download your favorite Netflix titles to watch without Wi-Fi via the streaming giant’s app, starting with any travel or food documentary series relevant to your vacation. Ugly Delicious, Chef’s table and street food are all shiny. Podcasts are another good option to spend a few hours; read our in-depth guide to the best series to listen to now or, if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, temporarily escape via Field recordingswhich consists of natural sounds recorded by audiophiles everywhere, from the frozen waters of Svalbard to the rainforests of the Congo.