My good friend Gagan at Of Peacocks and Paisleys suggested that those of us who travel frequently should swap and share tips. This seems like a great idea, especially at the time of year when many of us are taking to the skies to be with loved ones.
While I’m certainly not a constant traveler, I do make the 5000 mile trip from San Francisco to London regularly enough to have developed my own little quirks and habits. Here are my suggestions for minimizing the hassle factor.
1. Designate a travel drawer somewhere in your home. Naturally, your passport, foreign currency, and other useful bits will live here. But mine also holds comfort items that I like to have with me when I travel, including a self-made amenity kit with my favorite products, socks and a ready-to-go clear plastic bag with my carry-on mini liquids. Even if your airline gives out a few goodies, I much prefer to bring my own as you never know when essential items will disappear due to cost-cutting measures. And if there’s a good book you’ve been meaning to read but never quite get to, pop it in your travel drawer and it will be right under your nose when the time comes to pack a bag.
2. If at all possible, reserve your seat when you book your flight. This is much more feasible if you’re making a long trip than a short hop, but some airlines allow you to pick your spot when you buy your ticket, rather than waiting for the 24 hour check-in window. Watch out for those like British Airways, which cheerfully charge you extra to reserve a specific seat, alluding to the sinister alternative of “take your chances at check-in”‘.
3. My favorite spot is at the back of the plane. Huh? Doesn’t everyone strive to be as far forward as possible? I know my choice means I will be 5-10 minutes longer disembarking at our destination (but in comparison to a 10-hour flight, that’s small change). The reason I am always over-the-moon to snag seat 61K, or equivalent, is that most Boeing 747s are arranged with a 3-4-3 seat configuration. To snuggle and sleep undisturbed in a window seat, that means two strangers for me to climb over when I need to answer a call of nature.
However, as the plane narrows at the back, the seat pattern becomes 2-4-2. Aha! Not only does that mean only one pair of strange knees in my way, but I also get a generous amount of space beside my seat, to park my stuff. Frankly, I think these are the best seats in economy class. If you’re traveling as a pair, they’re even better.
4. Liquids are not allowed through security with you, but an empty water bottle is. As soon as I’m beyond the delights of X-ray, I make a beeline for the nearest water fountain to fill up, for free. My water bottle is usually hanging from a carbiner clip, so I can attach it to the seat in front of me and not be scrabbling around in my bag somewhere over Greenland.
My other 6 tips focus on getting some rest on the plane, and tackling jet-lag when you arrive. I’m so good at sleeping on board, I have managed to be asleep before take-off and to miss in-flight meals. Check back later this week if you want to know how.
What are your favorite flying strategies? Let me know and I’ll be sure to link back to you in Part 2.