Friday, November 22, 2013

Travel Tips from a Road Warrior Part 2

In Part 1 of this series (see it here), I extolled the virtues of wardrobe planning. It really does make a difference when you take the time to decide what you’re going to take with you on a trip (choosing items that are comfortable, don’t require a lot of upkeep while traveling and also coordinate with everything else you’re packing), when and how you’re going to wear it and what’s going to look good throughout the entire trip. When traveling, I’m always challenged for time. Not that I don’t plan well, but rather the airlines rarely plan well! So that means that I’m often rushing through an airport, due to a late arriving flight and about to miss a connection. As a result, I usually have no time to eat, go to the bathroom or touch up my makeup. That requires some thinking on my part, so I try to do some things before getting on a plane that makes it a bit easier. Here’s my go to list for air travel preparation:

Prior to Your Airplane Trip
  • If you are a member of a frequent flyer program (and you should be) and haven’t done so, sign up for the TSA Pre Check service. It can take a couple of weeks but it’s worth getting approved to bypass the main security line.
  • If you’re not a FF member, my understanding is that sometime this fall there will be an application where travelers can sign up for TSA Pre Check. You can check up on this (and if it’s offered in your area) by going to the TSA website here.
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Before Leaving Your Home
  • Pack a couple of individually wrapped snacks that you can eat in a pinch (no liquids).
  • Pack a re usable water bottle to fill with water in the fountains at the airport (I like these from S’Well. I also reviewed this product here). Don’t fill it until you get to the airport!
  • If you use an Ipad, Kindle or other reading device, download any books or magazines you’re going to read prior to leaving the house. Airport WiFi is sometimes iffy and in some airports, it’s not cheap.
  • If you have a mobile MIFI device (sometimes called a hotspot, jetpack, etc) from your cell carrier, charge it up and pack it, along with the charger.
  • Make sure you’ve packed all of your chargers. If you can, consolidate by getting a device like this. If you’re going to a foreign country, make sure you take a converter (like this).
  • Make sure you have some dollar bills for tips (you never know when you will need an extra service that will save you time and add convenience).
  • Keep your travel documents (identification and boarding passes) in a safe but easily accessible (for you) place.
  • If you have a Smart Phone, download the app for your airline and check in using the app. An electronic boarding pass is great because you will also receive gate changes and flight updates via the app. If you happen to change your seat, you’ll also receive the updated boarding pass automatically.
  • Pack any medication in a separate pouch that you can slip into your carry on bag. I use bags that I get with cosmetics purchases (right now I’m using a cloth Clinique bag that I got as a “gift with purchase”).
  • Make sure ALL of your liquids and gels are packed in containers that are less than 3 ounces and fit in a quart size ziplock bag. Don’t wait to do this at the airport and don’t pack any full sized products in your carryon. If you’re checking a bag, great, but believe me, your life will be much easier (and the people behind you in line will thank you) if you take care of this before you leave home.
  • Wear comfortable, easy to remove shoes. No boots that are a struggle to take off. You’ll thank me for this warning when you have to go thru security and the line is long and you’re going to be late for your flight due to said long lines.
  • As part of the bullet above, wear socks (or trouser socks, tights, hose, whatever). If you have to remove your shoes (you really do need to sign up for TSA Pre Check), this will prevent your bare feet from walking on dirty airport floors. I’m not usually squeemish but yuck!
  • Pack a sweater/jacket/shawl in your carryon bag even if it’s summer. Airplanes (and some airports) are notoriously cold.
  • Make sure to pack ear plugs, even if you don’t use them at home. You never know when your hotel room sits above a busy street or the rooms have thin walls.
  • Carry on whatever facial moisturizer works for your skin as well as a lip balm and hand/nail cream. I never fly without these three things as I’ve learned, though experience, that the skin takes a beating in the dry, stale airplane air.
  • If you’re driving to the airport, make sure that you have enough gas in the car to drive home when you return. This is especially important if you are arriving late at night (or, more likely, your flights home are delayed and you end up getting home far later than you planned).
  • Make sure your bag is properly marked with your last name and phone number. It’s also a good idea to place your business card in your bag in case the outside identification comes off.
  • If your travel bag is black (like everyone else’s), tie a colored ribbon or a unique bag tag onto the handle so that you can easily recognize it in the sea of black bags coming down the baggage carousel. Better yet, use a different colored bag (mine is a deep, muted red).
  • If you’re not checking your main bag, PLEASE make sure that you only pack what you can lift. The flight attendants are not there to lift your bag into the overhead bins; that is your responsibility. It goes without saying that if you are injured or incapacitated in some way, you should check your bag. Same goes if you pack a lot and can’t lift it.
  • If you’re not checking a bag, make sure that you only have a carryon bag and ONE personal item, for a total of TWO bags. If you’re carrying a purse, a tote bag and a roll aboard suitcase, make sure that the purse fits into the tote bag. Just because the airline let you get on the plane with 3 bags at the first airport doesn’t mean the same airline will let you get on the plane at your connecting airport. Been there, done that.
  • If you like to watch movies on a plane, pack your own headset.
  • To “remain fresh,” wear a mini pad or panty shield and remove it when you get to your destination. Trust me---this will change your life. Pack one for your return trip and use it (I got this awesome tip from a flight attendant).
  • Figure out the best long wearing makeup routine for you. This will be the subject of Part 3, which should post next week (with a video).
    Apply these products, pack them in a separate pouch and then put the pouch in your travel bag.

At the Airport
  • First and foremost, give yourself plenty of time before your flight. Depending in your airport that will mean arriving 1 1/2 to 2 hours prior to your flight’s departure.
  • If you’re driving, write down the parking space (and the floor of the garage) on the parking ticket. Put said ticket in your wallet in a place where you won’t miss it. DO NOT leave it in the car. You will thank me when you arrive back home at 2 in the morning, have forgotten where you parked and then notice the ticket exactly where you left it. (Been there, done that as well)
  • If you’ve got back problems (or are just trying to preserve your back due to injury or you’ve noticed that traveling is taking its toll on your body), check your main bag. Being part of a frequent flyer program usually means you get at least one bag free or pay a reduced fee. Heck, even if you do have to pay to check a bag, the $25 it usually costs is worth it in the long run.
  • When you check your bag, place the bag check receipt (the thing with the bar code) somewhere in your carryon or purse where you can find it. You may need it later (let’s hope not but it’s likely that at some point in your travel life, your bag will need to be tracked).
  • When you get to Security and have successfully made it past the “greeter,” quickly grab two bins, placing your laptop in one and your shoes, sweater/jacket, belt jewelry, and your plastic bag with liquids and gels in the second one. Take everything out of your pockets and place items into the second bin. Quickly place your carry ons onto the belt and stay with them until they are on the automated part of the machine and you see them “go.” Then walk into the reader, put your hands above your head and then go out the other end after the machine has “read” you. Don’t wait around for directions. Just get in and go.
  • Once you’ve been cleared, go to the conveyor belt and pick up all of your items and take them to a bench. Don’t try to re pack and re dress at the conveyor belt. You’ll hold everyone up.
  • After security, either go to the gift shop and purchase a bottle of water and snacks or fill the disposable water bottle that you packed by finding a water fountain. Don’t get on the plane without water (or something to drink). You never know when either 1. the flight is so short that there will be no beverage service; 2. there is too much turbulence for a beverage service or 3. Beverage service can’t happen because the vendor couldn’t re-stock the galley (yes this has happened to me).
  • Find out what size plane you’re on by asking the gate agent. If you’re on a plane with small overhead bins, get a bag tag so that your bag can be checked at the gate (and then you’ll pick it up on the jetway when you land). Believe the gate agent that your bag will not fit (unless you’ve been on this size plane many times before with the exact bag you’re carrying and you know it fits) and gate check it. Do not wait to get on the plane, find out it doesn’t fit and then hold everyone up. You will hate it if people do this on one of your flights (and they will). Karma is a bitch.
On the Plane
  • Get on quickly, store your bags and sit down. If you’re on the aisle, don’t buckle your seatbelt until everyone is in your row or the door closes.
  • Now that the rules have changed, you can use small electronics during takeoff, landing and below 10,000 feet. Make sure you have those readily available at your seat.
  • If it’s a long flight and there’s food on board (usually that you purchase), have your credit card handy. I usually don’t purchase any of the pre-made snack boxes because they are generally full of salt, fat and processed foods. This is where your already purchased or brought from home snacks come in. Sometimes, though, they have a decent selection of healthier food (like fruit and cheese plates, wraps, etc) that are worth checking out.
  • Drink water as much as possible.You’ll feel better if you do.
  • Moisturize your facial skin with whatever moisturizer you packed in your carryon.  Apply lip balm to your lips. If your hands and cuticles are dry, apply the lip balm to your cuticles or apply a super moisturizing hand cream.
  • Have a book, magazine or the electronic reader at your disposal, particularly if you’ve got a really chatty (or unpleasant) seatmate and you don’t feel like talking. I’m a talker but pulling a book out is the universal symbol of “I’ve got better things to do than talk to you” and is usually respected.
  • Don’t infringe on your seat mate’s space, either by invading his/her seat space or the storage area under the seat in front.
  • If your airline offers WIFI, go ahead and pay for its use. This is another “you’ll thank me” moment. It’s worth the money, particularly if you’re behind on email, projects, etc.
  • If you need to move someone’s bag around in the overhead bin, please ask them if it’s OK and NEVER move a bag to another bin without finding its owner and getting permission. Not doing so is rude and can cause problems (I’ve seen people almost come to blows over this).
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At Your Destination
  • Rental cars—if you’re getting one, sign up for the free “clubs” that the rental car companies have---Hertz Gold, National’s Emerald Club, etc. You can accumulate points but the best part is that you go right to your car (or pick which ever one you want) without having to go inside, register, etc. This saves time.
  • If your trip involves a lot of driving, take the “gas option” as it’s usually less expensive than the gas stations surrounding the airport AND not having to fill the tank when you’re in a hurry to get to the airport is a big plus!
  • Tip everyone who does something for you (Sky Cap, shuttle driver, concierge at hotel, bellman, room attendant, etc). Not only is it a nice thing to do, they will remember you and you’ll get better service. A couple of dollars goes a long way.
  • As part of the point above, if you see someone getting verbally abusive with a service person, do what you can to diffuse the situation. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the issue isn’t the “fault” of the service person but rather a policy of the company they work for or a situation beyond their control (like a flight delay or a weather problem, etc). Also, some people are just jerks and need to be taken down a notch (whatever you do or say, though, please do it carefully!).
  • Stay away from the mini bar. It’s always overpriced (and seriously so). If you can, go to a grocery store or even the hotel gift shop for snacks.
  • If you’re not getting a rental car, are in a major city and have a smart phone, sign up for Uber (get the app in the app store. Click here to read more about it). This app lets you connect with a driver at the touch of a button. It’s not only cool but it works great! This is my latest find and it’s so awesome!
  • In your hotel room, NEVER put your bags or clothes on any upholstered furniture including the bed, chair or couch. This is due to the prevalence of bedbugs. No matter how “good” a hotel you book into, they have all experienced a bed bug infestation at one time or another. I always place my bag on the baggage rack (it’s usually found in the closet) far away from the bed.
  • Before unpacking, inspect the bed (or both beds if there is more than one). Take the bedding apart around the headboard and look for any signs of bedbugs. What you’re looking for is either live bugs (they’re really small) or their remnants, which will be tiny red or brown spots. If you see anything like that, do not unpack and do not pass go. Call the front desk and tell them you want another room. Twice I have stayed in rooms that had bedbugs and it is VERY unpleasant to wake up the next morning covered in itchy sores. Not something you forget!
  • Once you’ve determined that the bed is OK, unpack immediately, hanging clothing in the closet and placing items in the dresser.
  • As you wear your clothes, place dirty clothes in a separate drawer of the dresser, in a plastic bag or in your suitcase. When re-pack to go home, I will either place the plastic bag with dirty clothes in my suitcase or if I don’t have a plastic bag (you can usually find them in the closet of the hotel room), I put my dirty clothes in the suitcase first and then place some sort of barrier (could be multiple small bags or a sweater) between the clean and dirty clothes so I’ll know what’s what when I get home. It makes it that much easier to unpack and do laundry once home.
  • Try to carve out some time for yourself, even if you’re traveling on business. Don’t underestimate the impact that traveling across time zones can have on your body, your mind and your spirit!
  • Above all, have the mindset that “things happen” and don’t get worked up if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. Seasoned travelers know that no trip is ever perfect and it’s more about how your handle yourself or a situation than whether it’s done exactly on schedule or how it “should” be. Life is not fair and neither is travel!
Do you have any favorite travel tips? Please share!!