Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tips from a frequent flyer

I won’t deny that for a good portion of my life I was absolutely terrified of flying, to the point that I was set on never leaving the ground again. But after much soul searching along with not having any other choice, I decided to start traveling again and I have now been on 18 flights in the last 2 years. I wouldn’t say I’m a professional jet-setter, but as my Aeroplan says, I am a “frequent flyer” and I do have some advice for making your next airport trip easier.

Things to do before heading to the airport

1.   Download the app on your phone for the airline if available. This will allow you to add your booking reference and keep you updated on flight info.
2.   Check your flight for delays. I would say that my flights are delayed about 50% of the time especially in the winter. Rarely, a flight can be cancelled and if it is due to mechanical problems with the plane, most airlines will provide you with accommodations if needed.
3.   Check-in online and print your boarding pass. This will save you time at the desk and allow you to go directly to security if you are not checking bags. Some airlines have additional charges for checked bags which can be paid for ahead of time when checking in online.
4.   Choose your seat. Most airlines will allow you to do this as soon as you book your flight and personally I like to sit near the front of the plane because you get to board last and get off first. Sometimes finding room in the overhead compartments can be frustrating because of the first-come-first-served mentality, but being at the front of the boarding line means you will be more likely to find space. If you are not able to find room or your bag won’t fit (oops, packed one pair of heels too many), you may be forced to check your carry-on bag.
5.   Wear comfortable shoes. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but airports are huge! Sometimes you have to walk pretty far to get to your terminal/gate and you’re not going to be too concerned with fashion after walking (or running) that far in heels.
6.   Have a plan. Know where you are going or give yourself lots of time to figure it out. If you are parking, figure out which parking lot is least expensive and how to get to the correct terminal from the parking lot. Some airports have buses and trains.
7.   Give yourself lots of time! This tip deserves the exclamation point because airlines are very strict about their check-in times.They usually require to have your bags checked a minimum of 1 hour before the flight and sometimes more. Showing up 15 minutes late and then pleading with the lady at the counter won’t work…trust me.
8.   Pack your purse with must-have items, which leads me to my next topic…

Packing

There are obviously many different scenarios that affect what and how much you need to pack. When traveling, If I am only going away for up to 5 days and it is much easier (and occasionally less expensive) to just bring carry-on luggage. Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on size bag and one personal item, such as a purse. Make sure your luggage sizes meet the criteria and make sure to take full advantage of it, for example my daily purse is on the smaller side so I put my purse inside a bigger bag along with items to use on the plane. Do some online reading on the airline website to make sure you are informed on what items you can or cannot bring on the plane, required luggage sizes/weights and additional charges that may apply.

How to pack your purse for your flight

Whether you’re a Michael Kors or Marc Jacobs kinda girl, here are some essential items that I recommend stuffing in your purse before hitting the airport. Some of these items can be purchased at the terminal, but sometimes they have less selection and higher pricing.
1.   Earbuds. Some airlines do supply these and others will make you pay for them.
2.   Magazines/books. Although many North American airlines have individual TVs, that is not always the case and in some instances they are not working or you must pay to continue watching.
3.   Gum. This is obvious for most people because it helps with ear-popping, but is also great to have if you plan on having a conversation with the person you are sitting next to.
4.   Cash. You may want to purchase wine or alcoholic drinks and some airlines only accept cash for these purchases.
5.   Passport. Double and triple check this step!
6.   A pen. Usually when traveling out of the country, you will have to fill out a customs and border protection card. Fill this out ahead of time if possible. Also, when returning from a trip you may have to fill out a declaration card that is usually handed out on the plane.
7.   Make sure to check on the airline website for which items are not allowed in your carry-on luggage. If bringing a laptop, ensure that it is easily accessed because during the security check you will have to take it out and separate it from the rest of your luggage. For liquids, usually a maximum of 50ml is allowed for each bottle and I suggest buying special travel containers that you can fill with your own liquids such as moisturizer and shampoo. Do not attempt to bring anything on the plane that can be mistaken for a weapon, this may sound obvious, but I once had my tweezers confiscated.
8.   Important medications. In the unthinkable circumstance that your luggage is lost, you will be glad to have this in your purse. If you plan on being gone for a while, make sure to have enough medication for the entire duration of your trip.
9.   Bring stuff to take care of biz while sitting on the plane. Make a to-do list of tasks that can be done especially on a long flight such as replying to emails, finishing paperwork or studying. If your the type that values structure and organization, you can also use this time to make an itinerary. If your trip is for business rather than pleasure, make sure you have any extremely important documents with you.

10. Relax and enjoy the down time!

Travelling can be very stressful and can cause you to be an anxiety ridden nail-biter, or maybe that’s just me. Either way, planning ahead and being well informed can only make your next trip more enjoyable. There’s no better feeling than arriving at the airport and knowing exactly what you’re doing and you may even be able to give some advice to a frazzled acquaintance on the art of traveling.


Do you have any helpful tips on airports or flying? Tell us about it in a comment!

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