Air travel made easy and comfortable
Ever wondered how to make your air travel more effortless and more comfortable, even in economy tickets? This is the advices of a frequent traveller regarding air travel, airports and customs, airline emals, packing, preparing and everything else related to travelling in a comfortable and affordable way.
- So you have your tickets booked... and what now?
- At home
- Security Check
- Boarding the plane...
- Carry-on items that will help you... a lot!
- In-flight meals.
- Going through customs...
- The end... or not quite...
So you have your tickets booked... and what now?
Most of us have been here. Trips booked and a feeling of helplessness about packing and going through the process of flying.
I've felt that, but with time and with a lot of travelling both on vacations and business I came to follow these basic guidelines to help me survive in my daily routine.
Hope you can enjoy them and make good use of this information.
First you should look at the weather on your destination. Good places to do this are at yahoo weather, www.wunderground.com or www.weather.co.uk. These sites can give you an idea of the current weather and for the next few days to come. One thing you should look for is the weather history. This way you know what to expect with a certain degree of certainty.
So now you know you should pack flip-flops instead of those wooly socks, but what exactly?
First of all, remember that toiletries exist pretty much anywhere. So, packing that big shampoo and shower gel is definitely not a good idea. If you think you can't live without them then take the smallest you can find. Although, if you're going to a modern destination chances are that the same product will cost less there.
It might be worth to take some underwear with your carry-on bag in case your bag gets to the destination after you.
Next on the list is the suitcase. Think with me, how many of you have ever sold a used suitcase, duffel bag or backpack? Not many I believe and most certainly on a garage sale or something similar. So, why not get the brightest suitcase you can get and write your name and telephone on it with capital letters?
Nowadays luggage is seldom lost permanently, but I'm quite sure that if yours has a number (with international dialing code in it) it will never be lost for good. Unless of course in the advent of theft.
Another consequence of this is that you'll immediately recognize your bag on the conveyor belt once it comes out.
You wake up, get dressed. And this is the first important point for comfortable travel. What to wear?
Unless you're going on a short flight to do business on the destination, my advice is to drop the suit. By the time you arrive, the jacket will have more creases than a tree bark. And you really don't want to put it in the overhead compartment as most people will stuff everything in there with little or no respect for your belongings and, if you hang it in the seat, you're space will be reduced (and you risk spilling coffee or some kind of sauce in it).
So, dress comfortably! Trainers, Jeans... whatever you feel comfortable with. Especially if it’s a long flight.
While we're on the clothing detail, try to dress something with large or long pockets so you can have your passport and boarding passes within easy access. Otherwise you'll end up opening and closing your backpack a lot of times.
Then, you finally arrive at your airport and another nightmare begins... Check-in. unless you're flying business or are a frequent traveler with a gold card, chances are that you do have to stand in line and wait. But, if you see that the priority check-in gate is empty, take a deep breath get your ticket and head over to it like if you're entitled to be there. 9 out of 10 times, this works and you manage to check-in early. Believe me that all it takes is a smile and conviction once you arrive there.
Knowing what you can or cannot carry is important. If you're carrying a laptop with you, be sure to have it stored in an accessible compartment because you will have to get it out. Another thing worth having easily accessible is the toiletries. My personal advice regarding these is to pack none. Get some when you arrive at your destination. Chances are that the hotel/hostel you're staying in has them for free.
Once you get there, look at the lines to go through security and look for the line with people in suits. Chances are that they travel a lot more and in consequence go through this point faster, lines that have people with kids are slow and some with old people too. Be aware though that this is a generalization based on my own experience.
Then just as you thought you could move on, the metal detector rings and you have to get scanned by a guard. Now, if you don't want to go through the metal detectors over and over, then follow these guidelines:
- use tennis shoes, these are not considered a threat since they're almost entirely made of plastic.
- Put all your belongings in the jacket pocket. Mobile phone, wallet, money clip, keys, loose change and don't forget your watch!
Yes... that simple. One last advice though is to, once you arrive at the security gate never ever say the word BOMB!
Boarding the plane...
My personal opinion is that you should board it as soon as possible. Yes, you can say that it is pointless to be standing in line to board the plane, but once you're on the plane you'll wish you could walk a bit more than that aisle. Take your time. Stand there and try to be the first to board. The reason for this is that nowadays everyone takes way more overhead luggage than they should. And by boarding first you get to put your belongings right above your head all together instead of leaving your bag way down the aisle, your jacket in the front while you'll be seating in the mid-section. ;)
Carry-on items that will help you... a lot!
If you're on a long journey and are travelling economy, then you should be carrying with you:
- Comfortable and easy to take off shoes. Spending 12 hours with your shoes on isn't a pleasurable experience. Also, be aware that your feet are likely to swell up meaning that those tight shoes are going to feel even tighter during and at least a couple of hours after the flight.
- U shaped pillow. Forget the pillow provided by the airline. If you manage to fall asleep inside the airplane, than one of these will be bliss as they'll support your head in a comfortable way allowing you some good hours of rest.
- Ear plugs/noise cancelling headset. No matter where you stay, the airplane is always noisy! This is especially annoying next to the turbines (the airplane's mid-section). So if you're serious about sleeping onboard or even just reading, then take a pair of these. Some airlines do give them, but some don't. In case you have a noise cancelling headset, you can just turn the noise cancelling on and leave it like that. It will make a huge difference.
- Books, magazines, iPod, PSP, etc... I'd say a good percentage of the airplanes are now equipped with a fairly good on-demand video and audio system with plenty of options to entertain yourself, but if this isn't the case, then those 12 hours will most likely feel like 24. So go ahead and take a book, a notebook to write, a portable media player... anything to pass the time.
Airplane food is not the best thing in the world... but it's what you got. It is normally very safe to eat it but you might want to think about some things first. If you know a certain food can cause your stomach to be upset, or if you get gases with some type of food. Avoid it altogether inside an airplane. Not only because you're stuck with tens of people but because the pressure is a little higher inside the plane causing your stomach to be under pressure.
Unless you plan to get yourself passed out, don't drink too much. Being drunk (or hung over) inside an airplane is not a nice experience. You can drink. A beer won't do you harm, unless it gives you gases, or a whisky will help you relax a bit. Just don't overdo it.
Once you land, set your watch to the current time and as soon as possible get up to take your stuff out of the overhead compartment. This is especially important if you're carrying something fragile with you and want to make sure that all the tumblin' and rumblin' of people hurrying to get to their connecting flights doesn't break it.
Going through customs...
While some places are tight with customs, others are a bit more relaxed. If you show a cooperative attitude towards the officers, you'll most likely be allowed to go through without much annoyance. Be sure to know the limit of foreign goods you can bring beforehand. You can get this information in the airport at the customs counter. Be sure to register any valuable item that is not considered personal with you there. The customs office can give you information regarding what is considered a personal item and therefore not taxable.
A laptop computer is something personal, so if you buy one outside your country, even though it is above the limit of imported value you can carry, it is personal and you can't be taxed for it. Same applies with jewelry, cameras, mobile phones, etc, etc... Just be sure not to show the receipt, box or tell the customs agent that you bought it abroad.
The end... or not quite...
And that’s it! Hope you start enjoying your plane trips a bit more with these simple and well-proven tips.
Next I'll try to focus on the entire flight booking process. :)