I'm not a person who travels a lot (and y'all know how I hate flying), but I have done my share. I thought I would pass on a few tips that I've learned over the past several years. (NOTE: Things change so none of this is written in stone.)
- Check here to see what the rules are about what you can and cannot take on your flight!
- If you can, try to get luggage where the 2 main pieces match closely in size. Most airlines give you the same weight allowance for both bags (if you are given the option of 2 bags). This time, I get 50lbs for each of my 2 bags (for which I'm paying a very reasonable fee) and I was able to make the best use of every pound.
- Make sure to "try on" your luggage and carry-ons before you leave. Make sure you can handle the luggage solo (should you have to) and that you are comfortable with the weight of your carry-on items. Can you hold or wear it all without straining your hands or body? Can you walk quite a way holding it all? Can you easily access your money, tickets, and other essentials? True story: I once found myself at DFW, trying to balance one piece of luggage on another because I had started out with a travel partner who got sidelined during the return trip. It took forever to find a porter to help me out.
- If you are going for an extended stay somewhere (or if you are going to have a lot of excess luggage), it's cheaper at times to use USPS's Flat Rate boxes and mail things ahead. It's fast, insured (to a point) and you can even request items be held for pick-up.
- Invest in empty bottles and containers from the "dollar" shelf at a store. You can take a lot of essentials (shampoo/conditioner, lotions, etc.) by using the containers and tucking them throughout your luggage. Much easier to tighten up your packing space with smaller containers.
- To save room in bags, you can tuck some things (like your containers from above) into socks or shoes,
- Never, ever pack your essential medications in checked luggage. You might get stranded at a layover, or your luggage could simply get lost or delayed. I had an aunt visit once and we ended up taking her to the local air base to get an emergency replacement of a daily med that was lost with her checked luggage. Her luggage was located - three days after her flight landed.
- Always keep a bit of cash on hand - but also keep a debit or credit card handy. Some (if not most) airlines don't accept cash for in-flight items. If you don't have (or want a credit card), get a re-loadable Visa or MasterCard. These are available at most big box stores. (By the way, these cards are great for buying things online or applying for trial versions of services.)
- Unless necessary, don't dress to impress. That was fine when air travel was a major, major luxury. These days, you might get stranded somewhere or have to jog half a mile to a gate. Dress for cleanliness, comfort, and neatness. Comfy footwear is essential! If you do make the mistake of wearing tight shoes on a plane (or train, or long auto ride) do not take them off. Your feet might swell and then you have to get your dawgs back into those already tight shoes. (Trust me on this one. I had a bad experience thirty years ago that I only was able to laugh at about 5 years ago...)
- Keep baby wipes, talcum powder, and deodorant in your carry on - even if you have to get the teensy-tiny trial/travel sizes. Again, you don't know what kind of delays you might run into. Baby wipes are good for freshening the body or, in some cases, getting small stains or lint off clothing. Talcum powder helps keep your body cool and fresh-smelling. I like to dress in layers when I travel (maybe a cami or t-shirt under my outer top) and I will dash the powder in between the layers to keep me comfy.
- If you happen to have extremely long (or multiple) layovers, you might want to look into paying for a day pass to an airline club room. I detail my experience with one in this post. Well worth it if you are traveling at a personally stressful time or just want to treat yourself.
- Ladies, keep a bandana or headband or some hair clips in your carry on. You might start out having a good hair day but there's nothing like some unexpected stress to ruin that achievement.
- I also suggest not wearing a full face of makeup. Makeup can be drying. The canned in-flight air is drying. It's better to do a little touch-up just before landing on the last leg of your flight. You might want to dab your face with a wet towel or napkin to keep your skin happy.
- Enjoy the layovers. Don't just people-watch; try interacting with other travelers. Of course, you want to be careful, but how often do you get a chance to spend time around people from so many different places?
- If you are a loner and want to kill time on layovers (or onboard), you can see if your local library has electronic reading/listening services for mobile devices. Make sure to fully download the books for offline use. (I use the Overdrive app to borrow audiobooks from my local library. After downloading the app, all I needed was my library card to sign in an.) You can use the Overdrive app on PC as well as mobile devices. Check a previous post about the app.
- Use the bathroom at every layover if you can. I don't know about you, but once I get on a plane, I don't like to leave my seat. Depending on your location, you're bumping and squeezing past other passengers coming and going.
- This last tip is one that I am only half-sure about but it's always worked for me so I wanted to share it: Try to download the app for whichever airline you're traveling with. Whenever I have done this and gotten an electronic boarding pass, I've usually been given the wonderful, delightful gift of TSA Pre-check. I'm not sure if it's because of the electronic pass or the credit card tied to my ID and ticket, but it is lovely. I know that you can apply for and pay a fee to get the luxury of pre-check, but I don't have the budget for that. Only once did my pre-check status get ignored and I didn't mind at all because it was during a high-security alert. So, basically, I'm not sure how I got picked for the pre-check so I can't swear how it works. I'll see tomorrow when I do my check-in via the phone app.
For some of you, these tips are ho-hum but, for a lot of people, travel is not an everyday thing. I hope that these tips help make your next flight easier.
Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I get ready to head out and into a new chapter of my life.