Air Travel has become a royal pain over the past decade. Security checks are tight, everybody's in a bad mood and the lines are growing to the point where arriving 3 hours early barely give you enough time to check in and board your plane on time.
Remember when you were a kid and going to the airport created a sense of awe and wonder? Remember that excitement when you put your face up against the window to watch the planes take off. You couldn't wait to get onboard yourself and get ready for take off.
Traveling was fun, It was easy.
We brought whatever we wanted on the plane, joked with the security guys, and went through customs in a snap. Now we dread going to the airport.
It is a part of our job description as travel bloggers that we hate. If we could travel without having to step foot in an airport our lives would be much easier. However, we are always traveling and therefore always end up on a plane.
With all the times we have stood in line, we've learned a thing or two to make traveling by plane run smoother and we thought we'd share a few tidbits with you.
For more fun airport reading check out Five Things You Shouldn't Do in an Airport
Airport Travel Tips
1. The Internet is Your Friend – Use internet check in and print out your boarding pass. You can even use smart phone check in now and have your boarding pass on your phone. This saves a lot of time having to stand in line.
2. Where you sit is Important – Get a seat near the front of the plane, you will be thankful when you land because you will be one of the first to go through customs. This comes especially handy when flying through the States and coming in on a flight from Asia. Many people traveling to the US from Asian countries need a lot of paperwork to be allowed entry. You can stand for hours waiting for people to be fingerprinted, eye scanned and double checked. We've even seen translators be called over while we waited in line. Get to the front of the plane to avoid all this.
3. Know the Rules – Check your luggage allowance. Different airlines have different baggage allowance and you will pay some hefty fees for going over. For most of the United States, they make you pay for baggage – period. Or, many airlines only allow 1 checked bag and you have to pay for the 2nd. Make sure you are aware of what you can bring to save big money.
4. Be Unique – Buy luggage that is distinguishable. I cannot tell you how many black suitcases we see at the airport. It's an easy way to make your luggage go missing by having someone whose not paying attention walk away with your bags! We normally carry backpacks so we usually don't have this problem as not many travellers use them. This is a great way to stand out, but if you want rolling luggage, at least make sure to buy a colour that stands out.
5. Avoid Waiting for Luggage, Period – If its a short trip use carry-on only. That way you don't have to wait for luggage to come off the conveyor belt once you have landed. You can get off the plane, go through immigration and be on your merry way. We all know that's like standing behind the hoards of people elbowing your way to the front to try to spot your bag.
Going Through Security
Many people that are well travelled know this, but you'd be surprised at how many people really don't know the first things about the rules of what you can and can't bring on in your carry on. If you don't travel regularly, it is difficult to keep up with the ever changing rules. But there are a few things you can do to make life easier no matter what changes have recently occurred.
- Have your liquids separated in a clear plastic bag and make sure they are in small bottles not exceeding 100 ml. You will thank yourself for having every bit of liquid in its place. I'm talking everything. Contact lenses, eye drops, nasal spray, toothpaste. Whatever you think will be classified as liquid probably is so make life easier and put it aside.
- Put your laptop in the tray separate from everything else. It's just easier to spread everything out into different trays. Use as many as you need, they won't mind. That way you won't have the hassel of being corrected or trying to figure out the protocal of what goes where in each different airport.
- Wear easy to slip off shoes. Sometimes you will be asked to take your shoes off, sometimes you won't. Going through the US you always will so you might as well be prepared to take your shoes off quickly.
- Take off all belts, jackets and everything out of your pockets. You're just going to have to go through security again and again taking off layer after layer, so you might as well strip down to the bare minimum to get through quickly.
Waiting for your Flight
Go to the lounge. Many airports now offer access to the lounges for a fee. We find them to be cheaper than going for dinner and a couple of drinks while waiting for our flight. The air transat lounge in Pearson Airport in Toronto offers access for $25 per person. You can enjoy beer and wine, buffet dinner, soft drinks and juices and snacks and sweets in a quiet environment with television and wifi.
Have your passport open to your photo along with your boarding pass when boarding. It really slows down the line when people are fishing for their passports and having to find the page.
Sit near the desk to hear announcements so that you can get on as soon as they call your rows. You want to board as soon as possible because overhead space is limited and you may find your bag somewhere near the back of the plane and nowhere near where you are sitting.
On The Plane
Keep Important items with you not stowed overhead – Have a small bag for all your must need items ready to toss under your seat while you put the rest of your carry on luggage overhead. I keep as small stash of Advil, immodium, zantac, eye drops, nasal spray, chapstick, pens, wallet, passports and boarding pass, iPods, headphones, eye mask, inflateable pillow and anything else I may need during the flight in a separate bag so that it is easy access and I am not holding up the line rummaging through my stowaway luggage what I need while people wait. That way I never have to go into my carry on bag until I get to my hotel at my destination.
Entertainment – Download movies onto your iPod, iPad or computer. A personal device is better than a computer because the batteries last longer, but it is good to have a stash of movies in case your personal entertainment system doesn't work at the seat. This has happened to us on more than one occasion.
Blocking Noise – Bring your own headphones. You may have to pay for headphones to watch any entertainment on the plane and even when you do get them for free, they aren't very good quality. A good set of earbuds drowns out the noise and you can continue to wear them during take-off and landing. Headphones are required to be taken off at these times.
Masking odours – We bring with us for several reasons. One to help with a headache, but two most importantly to drown out terrible smells. Have you ever had that person with the bad B.O. beside you make things worse by taking off their shoes? You could try complaining, I've heard of people getting kicked off their flight for smelling bad. Or you could mask their odours by putting a small dab of tiger balm under your nose. A little peppermint oil works well for this as well.
Dress in Layers – Bring something warm to wear. Dress in layers. Many times when travelling we are switching back and forth from hot to cold. Have a comfortable sweater that you can take off when it gets hot.
Comfort – Have a blow up neck pillow and eye mask. I keep my noise resistant headphones in that act as earplugs when I am sleeping, keep my neck from aching and have my eyes covered to block out the light to give me a good nap during the flight so that I feel refreshed.
Moisturize – Chapstick and nasal spray – I don't know about you, but I completely dry out during a flight. I have a small amount of moisturizer, nasal mist to keep my nasal passages from drying out and chapstick handy. It helps to feel refreshed during the flight.
Adding to Moisturize… – Avoid too much alcohol or caffeine. We now don't drink at all when flying. We feel so much better when we stick to just water and juice when flying. We don't even have tea or coffee after dinner is served and we feel so much better. Whenever the flight attended walks by offering water, take it.
Be Prepared – Keep a pen, your passport and boarding pass handy under your seat and not in the overhead compartment so that you can fill out your landing card easily. I can't tell you how many times we have to lend our pen to people.
So, there you have it. These are the things that we have started to do to make air travel easier and more comfortable. It is still not our favourite part of our travels, but by making a few changes to make the experience more pleasurable, we no longer dread flying as much as we used to.
Do you have any tips for people that you have found making your flights more of an enjoyable experience? We'd love to hear them.