I’ve never forgotten my friend Luke Kanies telling me one of his golden rules for travel: “never eat food in a centre for mass transit”. Over the years I’ve gathered a few more, some cribbed from friends (Hi Jeff! Hi Gary!) and others the result of hard-learned experience. Here’s twenty of my tips in no particular order:
Always be polite to airline and airport staff. Always. No matter how shite things are going: manners matter. Polite, firm and calm will get you so much further than a temper tantrum. I was bumped off a flight in O’Hare with another chap a couple of years ago. He was ahead of me in the service line. When he got to the front he started screaming at the ground crew. They were polite but firm. I walked up next and you could see the worry in their faces about a repeat experience. I apologized for the man’s behavior and asked politely what my options were for a follow-on flight. They were so happy I wasn’t going to lose it that I got onto the next flight with an upgrade to first. The other chap … when I boarded my flight he was still waiting, fuming, on the standby list.
Flight crew are humans too. Please and thank you are mandatory. Make eye contact. Smile. If something doesn’t work or you need something raise it politely and firmly. And if they can’t fix it tell them it’s okay and thank them for their efforts. Even when flight crew are in horrible moods I maintain the smiling politeness. Manners matter.
Always Be Charging - if you see a power point, charge your electrical devices. Because for sure, despite your flight having power, when you most need it then it won’t be working.
Always Be Connecting - closely related to #3. If you need to send that email then do it before you board because if you really need it then the wifi will not be working.
Never check luggage. Easier said than done for some folks (hello friends with kids…) but if you can avoid it then you significantly reduce the risk of a) your luggage not arriving or b) being mauled/searched/robbed.
A soft compressible bag like a Porter 46 is your friend. You can roll and pack sometimes more than a week’s clothes in one.
Buy a small power strip - that way you only need one adapter when you travel to lands with foreign power.
Have a go bag with all your travel shite - medicine, toiletries, cables, adapters, power strip, etc - packed inside it. Remember to actually PUT the go bag into your bag. I do a mini-checklist to help here: “passport, go bag, headphones, etc.”
Buy good noise reducing headphones. Whether on the plane or off they’ll make your journey a lot more comfortable. Remember to pack them. :)
Enroll in every TSA Pre, Global Entry, Clear, security program etc that you have the patience to/can afford/are eligible for. With Global Entry I got off my last international flight at JFK and was in a taxi 6 minutes from leaving the plane.
If you’re a frequent traveller then club memberships are enormously useful, especially if you get stuck or need to hit an early flight. Nothing beats having somewhere sane’ish to retreat to if things go pear-shaped. And they will at some point. Also the staff inside the club usually have shorter lines and are provide better customer service to solve your problem than the service center outside.
Exit rows are your friend if you’re flying economy/premium economy. And there’s no shame in asking if they are available if you can’t book them in advance. Again, polite and smiling.
Don’t drink on the plane. Even a short flight. Airplane air conditioning causes dehydration. Add to this pressure and tiredness and you will get a travel hangover. Couple that with jet lag … equals a horrible experience. I sometimes have a glass of wine with a meal but mostly stick to water. Ditto with getting on a flight with a hangover. Honestly, it’s a hideously painful experience.
Aisle and window seats are where it is at. The middle seat is the worst. Never accept a middle seat.
If you don’t enjoy turbulence or are a nervous flyer then the best possible seats are right over the wing. On many aircraft these are usually the 20-22 rows (often exit rows too) and are the most comfortable and stable ride. Check your seat map to find the row numbers.
(One of my (more) irrational rules) I never get on a plane smaller than an A319/320.
If you have a laptop/kindle/etc always have backup paper-based reading material: a couple of magazines or a light paperback. If your device runs out of battery or you can’t use it for some reason. Your backup will surely beat the airline magazine.
Always have breath freshener, gum, listerine strips etc. You never know when you might get to brush teeth or what you might have to eat. No one wants your icky breath on them for your whole flight. Same applies to deodorant. Always have a spare stick around. It’ll make you feel better and folks around you will be super happy too. Also, and this should be like … you know … obvious, but have a shower before you fly. Please.
Don’t be a dick in the boarding queue. Everyone is going to get on the plane. Pushing to the front of the queue waving your SuperEliteAwesomeDiamond membership card and questioning everyone in the boarding line about whether their presence in the line is valid makes you look like a tool. If I hear: “You know this is Group 1 right? Are you sure you’re in the right line…” one more time… :( On a similar note - don’t block folks getting off the plane. That is guaranteed to delay boarding.
It’s no fun flying with kids. I know, I know… But seriously most of those parents with the screaming baby are having a hideous time too. Being rude to them or treating them like shit won’t stop the kids melting down. It’ll likely make it worse.
My last extra tip: The Golden Rule. In transit: treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself. If you don’t … remember karma is nasty and cruel and always comes back to get you.