Travel Tips: Airports & Planes

my seven

I’ve flown quite a lot in my years. I was lucky enough to live a pretty well-traveled childhood, allowing me the ability to become a confident air traveler early on. I also flew a lot in my broke college days, which helped me hone ways to travel cheaply. These days, when it comes to air travel, I try to make everything run as efficiently as possible. Because flying can be a pain in the you-know-what.

In keeping with a travel theme, I thought I’d share my top tips for airports and planes that I’ve learned over the years! I know, I know…Nothing irks me like that random dude in the security line who thinks because he flies twice a month for business he can start barking orders. Everyone’s an expert, right? But because this is my blog I AM the expert…at all the things. So, for this post, I’m gonna be that guy in line tellin’ ya how it’s done.

Not checking a bag? Make sure you’ve got your life together. 

You don’t want to spend close to 45 bucks to detach from your suitcase for a few hours? Me either. But with that money-saving privilege comes some responsibility. Mainly, minimizing and organizing. Streamline your wardrobe and make sure all your pieces can mix and match. Ditch that extra pair of shoes. Wear your clunkiest items (boots, sweater, winter coat, scarf) so you don’t have to shove it in your carry-on luggage.

Keep your clear, quart-sized bag of liquids at the top of your bag or in a front zippered pocket of your rolling suitcase. Make sure your laptop is accessible and can slide right out. When you saddle up to one of those metal tables at airport security, go ahead and grab a stack of 3 bins. Let’s not kid ourselves into taking less and then having to reach back for more and disrupting the flow of fellow travelers.

Bring a water bottle! 

Darting from one end of an airport to the other can be exhausting and planes are Sahara dessert dry. If you don’t wanna shell out a fiver for a bottle of H20 then you better come prepared. I always bring an empty Nalgene with me when I fly and my first stop after passing security is to locate the nearest water fountain. I then guzzle down as much water as possible, use the ladies room before boarding begins, refill water bottle again, keep drinking, board plane, throw down my stuff, and then pee again while the plane continues to board.

(You didn’t know this was going to be a detailed account of my bladder activity did you?)

While I like to treat myself to a ginger-ale or a cran-apple juice during drink service, I also continue to drink water throughout the flight. I also don’t drink alcohol on flights (ok, maybe a glass of wine on international flights for a little help in the sleep department). Guzzling all this water helps me feel alive when I reach my destination and impacts jet lag levels.

Pack along a bevy of snacks. 

Can you tell I hate parting with money? Well, I do.  Airports are notorious for over-priced (and pretty gross if we’re honest) snacks and meals. And you can’t count on the airlines to make it rain peanuts anymore. So it’s better to be prepared. If I know I’m going to be traveling during a meal I try to pack that meal or at least part of it. A sandwich is easy to bring along. And some combination of trail mixes, crackers, carrots, and protein bars round out an on-the-cheap dining experience. I also like to bring a fruit for the actual up-in-the-air part of the day. (See again: hydration.) My favorites for this are apple slices, oranges, and grapes.

Gotta spend? Go to Starbucks. 

Sometimes a girl’s gotta treat herself. If I’m flying out super early I’m gonna want some caffeine. I’m human aren’t I!? And sometimes (especially on return trips) I may not have the appropriate level of food options to meet my level of hunger. In these situations I seek out Starbucks for a few reasons. Mainly, and this is purely psychological, I already expect Starbucks to be a little over the top when it comes to pricing. This doesn’t stop me from getting an iced coffee every now and again in my day-to-day life so it seems fine to do the same in my airport life. (I can’t find any sources that speak to the price differences between airport vs. non-airport Starbucks. In my personal experience the prices have never felt that different. If any baristas care to weigh in I’m obvi interested.)

Second, you can use any Starbucks gift cards that may be lingering in your wallet. Want a bagel and cream cheese? Get it with ~*~pretend~*~ money. Much more fun than a debit card attached to a ~*~real~*~ bank account! And finally, sometimes you hit the jackpot and the Starbucks will have FREE wi-fi when the airport itself is asking you to throw down $4.95 to connect. This has happened to me on two recent trips going through the Atlanta and Houston airports. Praise be, St. Arbucks!

Don’t go overboard with entertainment. 

It took me a long time to figure out that the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,”doesn’t mean I need to haul 2 novels, a book of crossword puzzles, and 3 magazines on a flight from Lexington to LaGuardia. I like to choose about 2 forms of entertainment and leave it that. Perhaps the book I’m reading and a phone full of downloaded podcasts. Or a new magazine and my laptop.

Yes, I know there’s always the chance of being delayed for hours on end but that situation is well-deserving of a perusal at the airport bookstore and treating ones-self to a New York Times bestseller (or a stack of tabloids…no judgement).

Flight cancelled? Pick up your cell phone. 

People in airports are super susceptible to herd mentality. A flight gets cancelled and you follow the mass of bleary-eyed travelers to a snaking line leading to an airline counter. Every single person in this line wants to explain to an over-worked gate agent why they are uniquely inconvenienced by the day’s misgivings. Meanwhile, you wait in line for hours on end because it seems like “the right place to be.” I consider myself an extremely patient person but no. Just no. I would much rather call the airline itself and work something out over the phone.

You’re in a metal tube hurtling through the air at ridiculous speeds…go ahead and be a decent human being for the duration.

Kindness and politeness are good rules of thumb during any sort of transportation. However, it always seems to allude people the most when up in the air. Which boggles my mind given the weird feat of getting from Point A to Point B up in the SKY where we humans don’t naturally belong. So my final tip is a little karmic in nature but still very important nonetheless…

Listen to your flight crew and follow their orders. Say please and thank you during drink service. Don’t hog the armrest. Don’t roll your eyes or make audible noises of displeasure. Don’t bemoan a remark or announcement that is out of the realm of the speaker’s control. Keep your tone decent when speaking to other passengers. Keep your language clean when speaking to your travel companions (everyone else can hear you, too.) Don’t freak out about babies or kids–you can choose to ignore them or better yet, make funny faces at them, talk to them, or offer to hold them. Thank your flight attendants and pilots as you dis-embark.

Being an asshole will not get you to your arrival destination faster. I promise. It’s just going to make the journey more ridiculous for the rest of us!Kindness goes a long way!!!

Over to you! What tips or tricks would you add to this list? Any air travel horror stories you’d care to share? (And what you learned from them, of course!) I’d love to hear! 

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3 thoughts on “Travel Tips: Airports & Planes

    1. Totally been there. Especially on longer flights, I just end up watching the TV programming or reading the in-flight magazine the whole time and forget that I even brought like THREE books! lol

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