The problem is global: This week, German airline Lufthansa announced it would be canceling 2,000 flights this summer. Meanwhile, US airlines have dropped service in several smaller markets due to pilot shortages. Everyone knows someone, it seems, who was stuck in an airport, still waiting for their missing luggage or both.
All of which means that suddenly, what had felt like one of our only respites — the classic summer jaunt — feels as stressful as being stuck at home for yet another summer.
So, other than canceling summer and hunkering down once more, how are we to cope?
The key to getting through the challenge of summer travel — should you choose to accept it — will be about managing your expectations, knowing where you fall on the risk/reward spectrum (that is, understanding whether the benefits of travel for you outweigh the very real risks), learning what you can control for yourself and knowing if you can let go of the rest.
One very big thing you can control: Your decision to assume the risk that is the current state of air travel. One way to lower incident-related stress is to assume, in advance, that there will be an incident. Something is likely to go wrong. That’s OK; this year, at least, it will be par for the course.
What you can’t control: Your flight being delayed or canceled. The poor attitude of the ill-equipped, likely over-worked, concierge at the hotel. The long lines at the airport. Those fellow passengers, or how (and if) flight attendants respond to them. These are things that are out of your hands.
Deciding to travel is accepting, in advance, these truths and resigning yourself to the fact that you can’t do anything about them — at least not in the moment. You can use these experiences to make different decisions later, but for now, this is your reality.
You also can’t control how airlines will respond to delays and cancelations, how they do or don’t seek to make accommodations and allowances for passengers, or whether the staff makes an effort to ensure the comfort off all passengers. But you certainly can control your decision to fly with that carrier again.
View the trip as an experience that will go exactly how it goes. In summer travel, as in life, you can control your expectations, and your response, but not the outcome itself.
If you think you can take whatever comes in stride, knowing you set yourself up for success as best you could, you may be able to take on travel’s psychological and emotional risks.
If you don’t think you can handle an unforeseen event like a delay or cancelation, you may be better off staying closer to home. Opt for a drivable destination, or simply stay put with an intentional staycation, one where you block off relaxation time, unplug from digital technology and plan fun outings beyond your normal routine.
What’s one more year?