Anthony Bourdain's 8 Tricks for Avoiding Travel Hell

Like booze, pills, and "Breaking Bad"? Jaded travelers might want to bookmark these useful tips from our favorite globe-hopping celebrity chef.

Photo: Travel Channel

The miracle of human flight. The wonder of X-ray technology. Viewed independently, these mind-boggling breakthroughs are worthy testaments to man's mastery over nature. Taken together, however, they're often double-barrel destroyers of man's will to live, as anyone who has done hard time in airport-security lines knows all too well.

Since the season for visiting families and beach resorts is upon us, we figured it couldn't hurt to get a few survival tips from someone who makes travel look easy—namely, Anthony Bourdain. The outspoken 56-year-old celebrity chef's gonzo Travel Channel series No Reservations wrapped up earlier this month after nine seasons and 142 episodes, but he's already back on the network with the second season of The Layover (debuts Nov. 19), yet another show documenting his nomadic adventures. Clocking that many miles can take a toll if you're not careful, according to Bourdain. "Traveling needs to be all about lessening the impact on you, your mind, your body, your soul," he says, "so that when you arrive in the good place, you're in some kind of shape to enjoy it."

Here, in his own words, Bourdain offers Details readers eight tips for traveling like a pro.

Tip 1: Don't be the asshole in the airport-security line.

If you go through security as much as I do, it can really take from you [if you're] an idiot. First of all, who likes to be hated by a group of strangers? You don't want to be that guy slowing up the line or, worse, that frustrated, smoldering guy tapping his foot. So act like you've been there before. Be a ghost. Keep your mind far, far, far away. The less you remember, the less impact it has on your life. Make no impact and it takes nothing from you.

Tip 2: Every now and then, dare to eat airport nachos.

I don't eat much inside the terminals. But I don't want to pretend I haven't eaten at the airport Chili's, T.G.I. Friday's, and all of those. Once in while, I've been known to embrace the beast and go for the nachos grande or the spaghetti Bolognese. Or you deliberately go for the most horrifying order and escalate the levels of loathsomeness, just because you're bored and you want to see who among your pals or colleagues gets sick first and who can handle it. So if you're eating nachos grande at an airport, it better be funny. It better be a good fucking laugh. And you better pass out stone-cold afterwards.

Tip 3: Speaking of which, have another.

I have to say, sometimes it's a good idea to have multiple margaritas before getting on the plane. Forget conventional wisdom about drinking before flying—but only if you're absolutely certain that the plane is taking off on time. Because—and trust me here—you don't want to find yourself hideously drunk on margaritas and then delayed in an airport. That could lead to belligerence and, well, an incident. Again, trust me here.

Check out this teaser from Season 2 of The Layover

Tip 4: Make chemistry your copilot.

Your best friends when traveling are the iPad and some chemical assistance to knock yourself out, because there's really nothing on the plane for you. I take an Ambien, maybe eat some cheese, and drink a hell of a lot of port. Everyone on my crew alternates between pills. Stick to just one type of pill and you risk dependency.

Tip 5: Eat on the ground, not in the air.

There is nothing to be gained and plenty to lose by eating airline meals. You're doing it to ameliorate the crushing boredom. You're not eating because you're hungry; you're certainly not eating because it's good. And afterward it's not going to make you feel any better than the Ambien and some port. Trust me. If you have to eat, stick to only the cheese. Your palate alters above a certain altitude, and your perception of food changes entirely. Plane food is deliberately overseasoned and the spice component is ratcheted up considerably to account for the dulling of your palate. Another reason to stick to the shitty cheese, port, and Ambien. And water, I guess. Sadly, staying hydrated is important and a good idea.

Tip 6: Embrace the turbulence.

In the air it's all about sleep—and catching up on films or shows. Some guys have to work; I don't work well on planes. I watch movies and TV. I mean, after being away for three weeks, I can't show up at home and say, "Sorry, baby, I have to catch up on Breaking Bad." I do that on the plane. It's my time that way. The box set of The Wire, being able to watch all five seasons—that'd be about as good as it gets for me. Maybe add in some turbulence? Seriously, I've flown so much, I'm at the point where I like turbulence—it breaks up the monotony. The terror and discomfort of the other passengers provides valuable entertainment.

Tip 7: When in doubt, sleep it out.

For me, there's no setting the body clock. It's all about whether I've had enough sleep within the last 24-hour period. If I didn't, then I clearly need more. You can't have too much sleep, but you can definitely have too little. When you arrive after a long flight, you need a shower and a nap. It gives you a routine, makes you feel spiritually like a human being rather than some piece of meat that's been air-freighted to the other side of the world.

Tip 8: Exercise your right to not exercise.

I'm not working out on the road. What, am I going to wake up and put on my sneakers and go down to the gym and then go out and eat and drink for 12 hours? I'm not taking a 24-hour flight and then getting on the StairMaster. I secretly hate those people in the elevator with their gym outfits. I understand it's an important component for professional travelers, but after 10 years, I'm just not one of them. I honestly despise them because I'm incapable of it. It's just not happening. Ever. I'm going to take a nap, shower, and go out and get some noodles.

— Dawson, a magazine writer and editor, is a regular contributor to Details.

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