Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

How to manage a nervous travel companion

Do you disagree about when to leave for the airport, how and what to pack, and where to keep the passports? Here's some advice on managing a nervous traveller

What do you do when your other half is a nervous travel companion? Getty Images
What do you do when your other half is a nervous travel companion? Getty Images

This is how a holiday with my husband typically begins: I wake up at whatever ungodly hour before my flight is due to take off; breathe a sigh of relief upon the sight of my neatly packed suitcases; visualise exactly where my passport and other documents are stowed; debate how much time it’ll take me get ready; remind myself to not forget the toiletries bag; and promptly hit the snooze button. “Where are the passports?” comes a sleepy, ­albeit insistent, voice from the wrong side of the bed. Oh, good, the aviophobe is up.

“They’re in the passport holder. You watched me put them there last night, remember?” I mumble back, adding for good measure: “And the currency is in there, too.” It takes my iPhone alarm nine minutes to sound its dulcet tones; it takes my husband – who has been snoozing for 54 minutes by this point – about 90 seconds. “And the tickets?” It’s almost a plea.

I count to 10 and repeat the words I have been uttering for the past few years. “We don’t need a copy of the tickets; they’re on our phones, and we’ve already checked in and got our boarding passes. Remember?” That last rejoinder comes out shriller than I’d like, but I know that I will soon be confronted with queries about hotel confirmation printouts and whether the currency and our passports are actually with us – that last one twice, once in the house and once in the cab.

The majority of the ride to the airport is normally spent in stony silence; it’s the calm that follows the when-should-we-leave storm. In the end, nobody wins. We leave earlier than I – and my hair – would like, but much later than my ­husband hoped. I’m talking more than three hours here: a full 30 minutes to get to the airport – lest we get caught in the 4am traffic jam – and 180 more to do ­what we could have in 90. Or less.

Anyway, with this being the Year of ­Tolerance, I have decided to put to use all the ­tactics I’ve developed over the years, and that might help others whose travel ­companion is nitpicky and/or neurotic.

Get them to pack the things they are most stressed about themselves

In her novel Dreams of Joy, Lisa See rewords an old Asian proverb: “Seeing something once is better than hearing about it a hundred times. Doing something once is better than seeing it a hundred times.” And, if I may add, saying something (just) once, if that, is better than repeating it a hundred times.

Play to your strengths

If you’re a quick dresser, a skilled packer, or don’t get frustrated with a sedate cab driver, take control of these situations to save your partner some bother. Think of it this way: you’re more likely to patiently repeat your words or recheck the paperwork you’ve carefully arranged beforehand, if you’re not drying your hair at the very last minute.

Defuse the situation

Panic and ­sarcasm are a volatile mix, and a nervous ­traveller is best handled with kid gloves. If you’re about to leave and have discovered that the toiletries bag has been left on the dresser after all, point out that it won’t take one of you much longer to retrieve it than it will take the other to load the boot. This is not strictly true, but it’s a solution to a problem that’s not all that pressing, given the number of idle airport hours awaiting you. I find that having a laugh, playing music and waxing eloquent about the beach/spa/sites you’re headed to also change the energy field for the positive.

And, finally, if all else consistently fails, stage an intervention

Talk to your travel companion well in advance about some of the habits that most annoy you, and how to avoid them on D-Day, and be receptive to any feedback they might dish out in return. For instance, for all of his travel tics, my husband is infuriatingly chill about packing and unpacking – a mindset I can’t credit myself with yet.

Updated: January 26, 2019 11:03 AM