September 11, 2008

Traveling tips, aka: Vacation blog, part 3

Over the last 5 years, I have done a significant amount of traveling – most of it by myself. While the exceptions have been wonderful (Yes, Trevor and I did fly together to our honeymoon – though not to the wedding…), I’ve also gotten into a bit of solo routine, and thought I might share some Helpful Tips.

#1 – Always check a bag. Yes, there are horror stories. We’ve all [unfortunately] seen “Meet the Parents.” But there are 2 reasons for this: First, when you check a bag, you don’t have to elbow your way into line to be among the first in your Group onto the plane to ensure you get a slice of overhead space. Your carry-on with all the in-flight essentials will fit easily under your seat, and you can remain off the plane on your feet (aka @ Starbucks or reading trashy magazines in the closest Hudson News) as long as possible. Second, chances are you’re going to have a layover. There is nothing worse than trying to fit into a bathroom stall with your suitcase. Trust me.
EXCEPTION: Never check a bag if your trip is shorter than 2 days, or if your trip marks some kind of traveling milestone, like the last time you’ll travel for business on that particular job. That guarantees that your bag will go missing A) Until your trip is over, or B) With all of your necessary supplies to complete that final business trip effectively. Also, never check a bag if you are my sister. That just guarantees something will go wrong – likely something that will involve driving back and forth between major metropolitan airports searching for your suitcase.
#2 – Be nice. Help people put their bags in the overhead, agree to switch seats if someone asks, and say thank you to the flight attendants. Don’t roll your eyes at the woman with the crying baby, man with a hacking cough, or grandma with a really upset cat underneath her seat – You will be one of them someday.

#3 – Skip the drink cart. Sure, it provides a nice distraction – and when else do you get to drink Cranberry Juice from a tiny, tiny can? But do you really want to be that person teetering down the aisle on the way to the bathroom, whacking people with their elbows as the plane hits some unexpected turbulence?
EXCEPTION: Nothing spells stress relief like a nice [alcoholic] drink, so if you’re headed home from a business trip or on your way to a celebration or long-awaited vacation, bust out your wallet and order yourself one. Let me recommend the wine – It comes in a miniature bottle, which is adorable; It’s better quality (and serves more) than the Heineken Light your airline is likely to offer; And, $6 for 2 glasses of wine is a better deal than you’ll get anywhere – even with feet firmly on the ground.
#4 – Be patient. This goes along with #2. Have you ever noticed how on traveling days, you always see the same people over and over again? Checking in, going through security, loading up at Starbucks, boarding the plane, deboarding and stopping at the bathroom, waiting for their luggage, waiting at the cab stand... Everyone’s on the same schedule - Save yourself some stress by being willing to take the hit of the 5 cumulative minutes you’ll lose by allowing a stroller-pusher cut in front of you at security or letting someone from 2 rows back rush to deboard in front of you.

#5 – BYO. Puzzle, that is. It’s never a good idea to rely on the airline magazine’s crossword or Sudoku. There’s an excellent chance that someone much smarter than you already filled out the crossword completely – or that someone much dumber than you half-completed all 3 Sudoku games with the wrong numbers.

And finally, not a tip, but an observation:

If you are flying on a red eye and really need to get some sleep, the movie will be something you really want to see. If you are flying, bored, in the middle of the day, it’s guaranteed to be something A) Horrible, B) You’ve seen multiple times, C) You would like to watch, but can't because the tape is broken. Then the flight attendants will choose something that fits criteria A or B.

Lesson concluded. Happy travels!