Nothing, except perhaps a face-time call from my grandbabies, gives me as much sheer pleasure and excitement as travel. Which is probably a good thing, as I’m just about to complete 40 years of employment in the airline industry. During those 4 decades, I’ve been to a lot of amazing places. But WOW what changes I’ve seen. Travel can be difficult these days. Harried at its best, and stressful at its worst. I get it. Everyone in the industry gets it. But before I start sharing incredible destinations, hotels, resorts, and restaurants that I’ve visited, let me give you a few tips from a pro how to travel much more stress-free!
1. If you can afford it, the best way to get right through the security lines—and one you have to plan well ahead to obtain—is enrolling in TSA Precheck. With TSA Pre, shoes and belts stay on; pockets still must be emptied, but laptop(s) can stay in your bag, and the wait times are usually MUCH shorter. Now, depending on how often you travel, there may not be a price-to-value return here. TSA Pre costs $85 for 5 years, requires an in-person interview, and isn’t in use at *all* US airports (although it’s at all the big ones). According to the TSA website it cuts wait times to no more than 5 minutes for all TSA Pre Customers. However, warning: at super-heavy-business-traveler airports, like the LaGuardia Flight Delay Machine in NYC, it’s not unheard of for the TSA Pre line to be longer than the standard line. Just ask an attendant which one is quicker, and usually it’ll be the TSA Pre line despite the added length.
2. Print out your boarding documents before you get to the airport. Every airline that I’m aware of has that functionality on their website, and the paybacks are enormous, as your goal is avoiding the ticket counter lines at all cost! Even if you can’t print your boarding pass out in advance, at least go to your airline’s website and write your confirmation number (some will call it a PNR number) down and take it with you. Armed with this info and your credit card and/or Driver’s License or Passport, you can use the self-service kiosk for your airline.
3. 3.5 ounces per bottle of liquid in carry-on luggage is the max. They mean it. However, if you insist on taking your 20-oz. bottle of super-expensive shampoo or sun block with you, there are two choices. One, pack it in your checked luggage, if you’re going to have a checked bag anyway (and note that some airlines don’t charge for checked bags). But if not—pack the liquids up in suitable bubble-wrap, and overnight your treasure to your hotel, marked “hold for expected guest arrival.” Your hair, or skin, will thank you.
4. Pack light. I’ve done seven-day trips through Europe, including dress dinners, with just a roll-aboard bag. But if you need things only for the destination—such as tux, or even a wedding dress—and want them to arrive in pristine condition, ship them ahead. Make sure you insure them, but most major shippers like Purple and Brown have clothing shipping bags that will minimize wrinkleage. Take advantage of this if possible, because it’s all about getting you AND your belongings there with the fewest new wrinkles possible!
DAY OF TRAVEL
1. Charge your electronics BEFORE you leave the house. Some airports have charging stations; some airlines have onboard power. Not all do. Why worry about it? Charge everything you have up to 100%, then take your USB cords in your carryon so you can “share” power between your devices if need be.
2. Big laptop charging apparatus is best put into checked bags. Let’s face it—for anything larger than a tablet, the chargers can be bulky, heavy, and a pain. If you’re going to check a bag anyway, just put the heavy charger in the checked bag (but always be mindful of the maximum poundage allowed per checked bag!)
3. WEIGH and MEASURE your bags. Only so much will fit in the overheads, or under the seat in front of you—and you don’t want to have to gate-check and risk THAT hoo-hoo. Be smart. Plan ahead! The allowed dimensions for carryons can be found on your airline’s website.
4. Thirsty? You get that way at 41,000 feet, and it’s extremely dry in an aircraft cabin at altitude. Some airlines offer free, non-alcoholic drinks in the main cabin, but some don’t, so it’s best to BYOW. But you can’t carry a filled water bottle through TSA. What to do? One of two things.
a. Carry an empty water bottle with a cap through security, then fill it before you board. Boom. Problem solved.
b. Take a regular, plastic water bottle, fill it ¾ full. Then freeze it solid. Frozen water doesn’t count as liquid, it’ll get through security, and then it melts you can enjoy ice cold water during flight. Note: please don’t try this with alcohol or with super-fizzy sodas.
5. SMILE at your crew as your board. Do what your grandma told you—be nice. If you’re really thoughtful bring wrapped candies (little mini-Snickers or Reeses are always a hit!) and just hand them out with a smile and a thank you. Look, they’re not just there to show you their underarms as they come through the cabin checking to see if your seatbelt is on and your cellphone is off. They’re there to save your butt if something bad happens, and you’re going to spend quite a while with them in charge, so why not just be nice? You’d be surprised how much easier it makes your trip!
After that—board, sit, buckle, and have a great flight. And I’ll be talking about WHERE to fly, and how to find good DEALS, soon!