Air travel, especially during the holiday season, can feel exactly like Prince Philip fighting off the Maleficent and her forest of thorns in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
Now, being in a long-distance relationship means that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in airports in the last year. And luckily for you, this means I have gained valuable traveling knowledge that I am about to share at absolutely no cost to you. (This will be the cheapest thing about your travels, I promise.) I am by no means an expert, but I have made some observations and mistakes that may save you some time and/or anxiety.
PART 1: PREPARATION
Checked Baggage vs. Carry On
First of all, you need to decide whether you are going to check your bag(s) or tough it out with a carry-on. Your decision may be based on airline you choose to fly. Some allow a free checked bag, others don’t. I personally like to check a bag when possible because I don’t like to pull my suitcase around the airport with me. (Bathroom stalls are hard to navigate when you’re trying to share the 5’x3’ space with a roller bag.)
Checking a bag also eliminates the hazards of the “3 oz. liquid bottles must fit in quart-sized Ziploc bag” issue, and makes going through security much easier, in general. I realize the hair products that my friends and I pack probably don’t impact many dudes, and for all you fellas, just enjoy your low-maintenance mane.
Summary: There’s no shame in checking a bag. If it’s free, don’t hold back.
PART 2: THE AIRPORT
Brag Alert: I take pride in how streamlined I have made my personal security process. While you’re standing in line, have ID and boarding pass ready to hand to security. Bonus points: If you’re friendly, they’ll be less snippy. Scan the security lines and avoid lines with families and elderly at all costs. Find those businessmen and women and follow those cool cats. Now you’re getting ready for the x-ray vision machine/invasive pat down. At this point, it’s all about not being the one who’s holding up the line. If possible, pack those liquids in a checked bag. Wear shoes that slip easily on and off. Make sure your laptop is easily accessible so it can cruise in it’s own tray. Once through the line, quickly gather your items and move aside. Remember, it’s all about not being the person who holds everything up.
What to Wear
Ladies: I have some traveling attire go-to’s that I am excited to share. For those of you who know me personally or who have seen me walking around our college campus in the last four years, you know I’m a fan of yoga pants. If you’re spending your whole day sitting in airports and planes, rock those yoga pants. They’re comfy and warm and stylish, which are all great things for travel. If you’re going somewhere where the sun will shine, I love a good maxi skirt. Maxi skirts are basically crotch-less yoga pants, so you know I’m onboard. Pair with a cardigan or denim jacket and you’ll be ready to fly. Layers are your BFF! (Bonus of the maxi skirt: you can wrap it around your feet like a blanket when your plane hits refrigerator temps.)
Gents: You can get away with wearing just about anything. If you are single and looking for a traveling buddy, you can make an effort by wearing anything but sweats. Generally make sure you smell clean.
Once past security, your airport may or may not have a lovely variety of restaurants, magazine stands, coffee shops, etc. Personally, I like to grab some coffee and wander for a bit before I spend hours of my life under the control of The Seatbelt Sign. This is the time to select some magazines and find better snacks than the five pretzels that will be provided in the air.
My #1 rule about time management: Hit the bathroom 5-10 minutes before your flight boards. This is an act of self-preservation! I don’t care if you don’t have to go – nothing is more depressing than getting on your flight and realizing 40 minutes in that you have to pee and there’s no way you can make it for the next two hours without using the insanely tiny airplane bathroom.
PART 3: ON THE PLANE
Depending on your airline, you may or may not get to choose your seat beforehand. If your seat depends on boarding groups, all I can say is, Best of Luck. Unless you have a traveling buddy, I promise that there is nothing to stop the giant from sitting next to you, even with assigned seats. In my experience, you have two options:
- Fake a cough until someone normal approaches, and/or
- Cross your fingers and hope for the best.
It’s all pretty basic after you’re flying through the air in a pressurized metal tube. Deplane, collect bag, leave airport immediately.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
If you needed any more motivation to pack strategically, hear this tale of caution:
Last month I stood in line waiting to check my bag and watched as a patient airline employee weighed and reweighed a frazzled lady’s bag at the counter. Frazzled Lady continued to pull clothing and accessories out of the bag in an effort to hit the weight limit for checked bags. Goal weight was finally achieved and Frazzled Lady stuffed the now bag-less items into her already full carry-on. The next time I saw Frazzled Lady, I was aboard the plane and looking for an empty window seat. As I glanced up the aisle to see why no one was moving, I saw Frazzled Lady attempting to hoist her overstuffed carry-on over her head and into the overhead compartment. A kindly passenger stepped in to ensure that her bag wouldn’t pull her over backwards. After minutes and impatient passengers passed, Frazzled Lady ended up pulling the excess items out of her carry-on in order to make it fit in the overhead compartment.
Summary: You can do better. Don’t be that person.
This was a long one, I apologize for any babbling. May the Traveling Gods be with you and your loved ones, whether going by planes, trains, or automobiles during the holidays.
Most Adult thing I did today: Finished 90% of my Christmas shopping.
Least Adult thing I did today: Once again, ate too many Goldfish crackers.