Airlines, Apps, and Hotels that Actually Make Travel Less Stressful

Jo Piazza
·Managing Editor
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Some travel brands are actually trying to take the stress out of travel. (Photo: Getty Images)

This story is part of a new Yahoo Travel series, #StressFreeTravel, dedicated to making travel better in every way possible.

Travel stress is a very real thing. Hidden fees, crowds, traffic, bad food, worse customer service and delays all lead to raised anxiety levels, roiling anger and a lack of sleep.

A lot of travel brands actually contribute to this stress. Spirit Air, for example, seems to delight in causing angst among its passengers with its hidden fees and poor customer service.

But some travel brands recognize that a calm customer is a happy customer and a happy customer is a repeat customer. It is actually in a hotel or airline’s best interest to try to reduce a traveler’s stress levels as much as possible.

There are plenty of things, both large and small, that companies can proactively do to eliminate stress on the road. Simply making certain things easier can go a long way in eliminating exhaustion and anxiety.

These are some of the things that brands are doing to make the experience of travel less stressful and more enjoyable.

1. Making check-in times flexible. Major kudos to hotel brands that have embraced flexible check-in times in recognition that not everyone has the ability to check in at 2 in the afternoon or out by 11 a.m. This kind of flexibility not only allows customers to get more downtime during a trip, but it allows them more control over their time, which is an immediate stress buster.

Related: Why Hotels Are Saying Goodbye to Check-in and Check-out Times

Properties like Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Four Points LAX, Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel in Stockholm, and Westin Hotels worldwide have all launched flexible check-in and check-out times.

2. Serving food on planes. A little food can go a long way. Thankfully some airlines are taking this to heart and finally putting free snacks back in the hands of passengers. Flying can be so demoralizing, with the tiny seats, non-existent leg room, and technical glitches and delays, that keeping passengers from getting hangry will seriously cut down on stress levels. United Airlines has been smart enough to bring back free food, and starting in January economy passengers will receive a free stroopwafel (a Dutch waffle) breakfast snack on North American flights and an Asian-style snack mix. It may not be filet mignon, but it is certainly better than nothing.

Delta has long offered a variety of cookies and pretzels, in addition to the healthier option of a banana on many of its U.S. flights.

Related: 5 Stress-Busting Exercises You Can Do Absolutely Anywhere

3. Creating innovative communication platforms. Hotel Tonight, the last-minute booking application, launched one of our favorite hotel innovations this year with its Aces system.

Aces is an in-app chat feature that connects guests with the company’s team of insiders for access to everything from local tips to recommendations to room and hotel requests. Why does this cut down on stress? How many times have you put in a call to the front desk to ask for a wake-up ring, an extra toothbrush, or help finding a dinner reservation. How many times have you been left on hold or just not had a request fulfilled. It happens to me all the time. Aces takes care of all of that for you, with a single message.

“This moves us from being a booking service to being an advocate. We can provide real value for our customers by doing this, and so far the customers love it,” said Hotel Tonight founder and CEO Sam Shank. “Our average response time is 20 seconds and it feels just like you are texting a friend.”

4. Prioritizing sleep. More and more hotel chains are helping customers to prioritize their sleep. The Benjamin Hotel in New York City is one of the leaders in prioritizing sleep for hotel guests. It has an on-staff sleep medicine expert, Rebecca Robbins, who helps guests find solutions for getting a better night’s sleep. The hotel also allows guests to choose their perfect pillow, eye masks, earplugs, and white noise machines.

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Get a good night’s sleep in a hotel and you will want to return over and over again. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Lorien Hotel & Spa in Nashville actually offers a “Dream Button” on in-room phones that allows guests to order tension-relieving scent diffusers, humidifiers, and even bedtime books!

5. Making in-flight entertainment more enjoyable. Virgin America takes the cake on this one. It still amazes me how many cross-country domestic flights don’t even bother with in-flight entertainment these days, particularly given the price of most plane tickets. Virgin is head and shoulders above all of their competitors when it comes to creating a stress-free inflight entertainment system.

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A decent in-flight entertainment system makes flying 100% more relaxing. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The airline’s Red in-flight entertainment platform offers guests their own seatback touch-screen TV, with more than 25 films, live TV, video games, a 3,000 song library and an on-demand menu. This means you can order food when you want it, not at the whimsy of the flight staff. It might seem like a small thing, but giving passengers back a feeling of control over their time is a huge stress reliever.

The system also allows guests to swipe their card only once and keep their tab open for continuous ordering during the flight. It then automatically closes the tab for you when you land.

6. Making fitness easy. It is so hard to keep up with an exercise routine when you are on the road, so we applaud hotels that make doing so easier for their guests. The Westin’s RunWESTIN is one of our favorites.The hotel chain offers running concierges at a variety of locations and has teamed up with New Balance to craft three- and five-mile routes through various cities.

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You can’t use leaving your running shoes at home as an excuse any more. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The properties also lend you the gear so you can never use the excuse that your forgot to pack your running sneaks. They offer New Balance shoes and clothing for you to use during your stay for only $5.

7. Don’t overcharge. So many hotel chains find a way to nickel and dime their guests for everything. When you pay $400 for a room for a single night, you shouldn’t have to pay $16 for Wi-Fi. That is simply outrageous and stressful.

Related: Virgin’s First Hotel Got Rid of Everything We Hate About Hotels

Virgin’s newest offering in the hotel business not only offers guests free Wi-Fi throughout the property, it takes affordability a step further with its exceptional minibar. All of the items — from the Peanut M&M’s to the red wine to the little packets of Emergen-C — are priced at street prices.

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