People often ask me how I travel so much for work and my answers always the same, I love my job and that makes it easy, and for me there’s nothing in the world better than the experiences gained from traveling. I’ve been traveling since before I was old enough to walk, but it wasn’t until a few years ago when I traveled to 45 states and 9 countries with three suitcases that I learned the importance and ease of proper travel techniques. This article was written for travel newbies, who like myself a couple years ago, over-packed, stood in long lines and suffered the uncomfortable middle row seat.
First thing first, do your due diligence. It is important to choose one airline that is right for you. Mostly because you don’t want to throw your money at airlines without receiving the benefits they offer. I’ve chosen an airline that flies both domestically and internationally because I want the option to gain miles and receive perks on international travel. Others may prefer alternative options such as more legroom and/or no baggage or change fees. There’s no denying the comfort of Virgin America or convince of Southwest’s change fee program (in my opinion), however, everyone likes what they like. Look into your top 3 choices and narrow it down to one. Once you do you can begin gaining miles and points to redeem perks with your chosen airline. I was able to fly first class free of charge with a complimentary upgrade for having status on my preferred airline (Delta) the last 8 out of 10 flights. For me it is worth the difference in airfare I pay to travel with them year-around to gain these perks. Every airline offers their own great incentive program: shop around for your needs and signup with the one that suits you best.
Download the app for the airline you have chosen on your smartphone. This is the fastest way to check-in. It also allows you to change or upgrade your seat/flight at anytime. If you don’t have the seat you desire keep logging in and try to secure that desired seat if it becomes available. Often times they do! Once you check-in via the app make sure to download your boarding pass to passbook/fifthpocket, etc. (or online for you old school folks that don’t use smartphones) so you do not have to print your boarding pass at the airport.
I encourage you to register for TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Signing up together is beneficial because you get the best bang for your buck, but if you are not traveling internationally frequently the extra cash (I believe it was $15) may not be worth it for you. For less than $100 for 3 years of faster lines, no hassle removing shoes, laptops and electronic devices you have a better chance of allowing yourself less time to get to the airport and more time to relax at the gate (though I always err on the side of caution).
Purchase a suitcase with 4 recessed dual wheels. How many times have you been running through an airport and couldn’t get your bag to follow behind in the midst of all the other airport goers? You end up dropping the handle and losing your bag or frustrated having to pull it behind you. Trust me you will thank me later for spending the money now.
Pack light. There’s always an exception, i.e., Fashion week, traveling for consecutive months at a time, the holidays, etc., but as a rule of thumb pack light. Traveling with too much weight is not only hard to navigate through airports, cities and hotels, but it’s bad for your body and cost you money per bag and per weight limit.
Now that you know how to travel light pack the appropriate suitcase to bring your luggage on the plane as a carry-on. This makes it easy to avoid check-in and having to pay baggage fees which can take hours (especially if it’s a holiday). My suitcase is small enough to carry-on. In almost all cases I travel with one carry-on suitcase plus a backpack if I am traveling for a month or less. Make sure to pack your in-flight accessories in your backpack so you don’t have to dig through your suitcase in the small overhead compartment. Once you’ve learned to pack everything in your carry-on suitcase you’ll realize how much time you wasted packing things you never used in the first place. With a smaller bag you are forced to plan ahead of time and pack only the necessities. If I can do it, you CAN DO IT! Plus, on the upside you’ll never have to worry about the airline losing your luggage because it’ll be with you, and you won’t have to waste time at the baggage claim.
ALWAYS bring two forms of identification (preferably the second being a passport and always make a copy of your passport if traveling internationally) in the unlikely event an emergency should occur. You never want to be stuck anywhere, and it also allows you the opportunity to travel spontaneously and venture outside of your country like I have been known to do.
Since you no longer have to worry about the stress of checking in and getting to your gate on time for your departure it is important to stop at the first newsstand/kiosk you see and grab water. I’ve been known to pass up these stands/shops and get all the way to my gate with no time to spare and no vendors nearby. Yes, there could be a vendor on the way but all airport water is the same and you never know if there will be another stand. It is so important to HYDRATE especially when spending a full day traveling in different altitudes and climate changes. The dry air and sodium from in-flight food will dehydrate you.
SHARE these tips with friends. It wasn’t until I traveled with my friend, Bonnie, that I really understood how being the one that’s unprepared can inconvenience others trips. After our Euro vacay and my three suitcase situation she swore not to travel with me until I learned proper travel etiquette. Be kind and make sure you expedite your travel so you don’t hold others up and can enjoy a fun, stress-free trip.
Last but not least, send mom a postcard! I Know I do 🙂