11/04/2014 09:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Travel Nirvana: 22 Tips to Bring the Joy Back to Air Travel

David McNew via Getty Images

Can you really get to heaven in economy class? Photo:

Yeah, I know. Air travel isn't fun. And nearly every traveler loves to complain about it. I already did so with my earlier post, "The 7 Most Annoying Things that Airlines & Airports Do in Latin America," for which I got a lot of supportive feedback on my travel blog,, as well as when it appeared on The Huffington Post.

I tried to make up for that negative rant with my later post, "The 9 Best Things about Flying Economy Class (Really!)." But I don't think that was enough. To be happy when we head to the airport, we need to find the mindset for enjoying air travel, regardless of what the airline CEOs, airport administrators and government security forces decide to subject us to.

With that in mind, I've spent some time thinking while sitting in airports and on planes. I've gone back to my original fascination with, and love for, air travel -- all to come up with this list of things that anyone can do to make air travel more enjoyable. See if these travel tips work for you -- and feel free to send along your ideas as well.

1. Arrive early. No one likes to rush, or be nervous about missing their flight. When you arrive early, you'll have time to relax -- and you won't have to worry if you're trapped in a long security line.

2. Breathe. Feeling stressed? Take a moment to concentrate on your breathing and relax.

3. Meditate. Center yourself in hectic airports and crowded airplanes by meditating: close your eyes, breathe calmly and focus on positive thoughts.

4. Smile at people. You'll be surprised how many people smile back.

5. Bring something to read. Whether it's on a tablet or a good, old-fashioned newspaper or book, bring material that can take you into other worlds.

6. Bring some music. Access to your favorite music -- or soothing tones that will calm you during a fast-paced travel day -- can help make the trip more pleasant.

7. People watch. Airports are absolutely amazing places to observe the human race. You'll find such a diverse array of travelers, each with their own story. You don't know their story, of course, and that's why it's fun: Make up a back story for the more interesting characters you see.

8. Make lists and set goals for your future. Traveling is one of the few opportunities that I have to disconnect from my email and the Internet, at least for a while, and take a broader overview of my professional and personal lives. It's a great chance to do some long-term planning and assessment.

9. Create your own amenity kit. There's no need to complain about the lack of amenities on the plane when you can create your own comfort kit. I always pack ear plugs, an eye mask and perhaps an inflatable pillow. These help to create my own little "world" of tranquility when on board the plane. (Others prefer noise-canceling headphones instead of simpler ear plugs, as they can be more effective in closing off noise disturbances.)

10. Walk around the airport. Just like people watching, a stroll around the airport can get your imagination and curiosity going, as you explore strange corners of the terminal. It's also good exercise!

11. Stand up every now and then on the aircraft. It's not healthy to sit down for too long. Even if you don't have to go to the lavatory, consider a walk down the aisle from time to time during your flight, or stand up and stretch next to your seat (try to avoid doing this during the inflight beverage service, of course).

12. Admire the wizardry of airliners. We may be jaded about the wonders of air travel, but that doesn't mean it's still a pretty cool feat of technology. Take a moment to actually look at those airplanes, and consider all the thinking that went into getting them into the air.

13. Take photos of things that inspire and interest you. Keeping your eyes open for interesting visuals -- whether it's a piece of offbeat airport architecture or an especially inspiring view -- will help keep your mind stimulated and open to new things.

14. Watch and read local news. One of the benefits of traveling is being exposed to new things and learning about far-off places, right? So why are you paying more attention to what's happening in your hometown than what's going on in the destination you're visiting?

15. Keep your own personal route map. If you're a visual person like me, having a personal route map, showing where you've flown, can be a fun way to document your travels. Draw your own or use a program like to create it.

16. Read a magazine you've never read before. Load your tablet with something new, or sift through the airport newsstand and pick out something different. Traveling should be a time to be exposed to fresh ideas and experiences.

17. Read about where you're going -- even if you've been there many times, and even if it's a business trip. OK, maybe you've been to Mexico City more than a dozen times for business meetings, and maybe you've been to Columbus, Ohio even more. But there's always something new you can learn about a destination. Look for the fresh, the new, the unexplored.

18. Sleep. Sleeping in a seated position may not be ideal for most people, but it's still a good way to restore your energy (be sure to employ the items in your personal amenity kit, mentioned above).

19. Write. Being exposed to new experiences, and having time alone to review your personal and professional lives, should give you lots to write about. Or you might want to try your hand at a bit of fiction, inspired by the things you see while traveling.

20. Watch a bad movie. I hate The Time Traveler's Wife. But that didn't keep me from watching it during a long flight a few months back. Sometimes you need a stress-free chance to escape.

21. Watch a good movie. Flying can also give you lots of uninterrupted time to catch up on movies that are actually good. Bring one with you, or check out what's playing inflight by visiting the airlines Website or the site of the inflight magazine before you travel.

22. Remember: This trip is an experience that will be with you forever. If you're like me, you dreamed about traveling the world when you were growing up. Now you're actually able to do it. Don't let that fact escape you. No matter how annoying the security lines are, or how tiny the airline seat is, travel is something that enriches your life, and the memories will stay with you for a lifetime. Seek the dreams you want to fulfill, and keep them in mind when you board that next flight.