By Lisa Black
Late November and December are the nation’s busiest travel periods. Here are some life hacks to smooth your journey:
Dress for comfort. You’ll be seated for hours, so that means soft shirts and stretchy pants—yoga pants and leggings or your nicest set of workout clothes. But you want to feel good about yourself—this will do wonders for your overall mood—so pick something you think you look good in. If you’re perfectly comfortable walking around in public in pajama pants and the sweatshirt you paint rooms in, go for it. But if looking a little more fashionable will upgrade how you feel about yourself, pair a cute soft top with cute stretchy pants.
Go early. No one likes getting up in the wee hours or hanging around an overbright, cacophonous airport, but it’s a better alternative than having to sweat out every red light or long wait for the metal detector.
Expect packed flights, long lines, and delays. Lowered expectations will soften the blow of snags in your travel plans and keep your mood on an even keel—which will allow you to refrain from telling the parents of the screeching toddler that they are allowed to tell their kid to cease and desist, that it’s really not considered child abuse to teach their offspring to show some consideration for their fellow humans–in fact, it’s their &$*#! job. Let the little tyke howl and just be glad he’s not on your flight.
Layer clothing. A/C or lack of same on planes can be unpredictable. And if you have long hair, you might want to pin it up, at least until you take your seat. As you are hitching bag straps on and off your shoulder, and donning and shedding coats if there’s a cold climate involved, you’ll rip out less of those locks if they’re out of the way.
For the love of all that is holy, pack light. Especially in whatever you’re going to carry onto the plane. Change purses, switch to a travel wallet—you probably won’t need your Big Lots discount card or the seventeen business cards for power-washing services that have accumulated as if multiplying on their own. Underclothes, synthetic T shirts and socks are easily washed in the shower with you, blotted with towels and hung from hangers to dry overnight. Airlines love to pack planes to the gills so you may hear ‘all the overhead bins are full so we’re gate-checking carry-ons’; they mean those skirting-the-edge-of-maximum-size roller bags. Backpacks or shoulder bags? If they think you can cram it under the seat without much trouble, they won’t bother you. Of course, since your gate will inevitably be the furthest from the security checkpoint, you will have to tote that wheel-less barge—which points me back to my opening statement.
Note that while you cannot take a bottle of water through a TSA checkpoint, you can take an empty water bottle. Fill it up at the water fountain and you can avoid the shops, where the amount paid for one 16.9 ounce bottle of water would buy a case of them at Wal-Mart.
Most airlines offer free entertainment these days. Download the app for viewing on your own mobile device, or take along wired earbuds, and you won’t have to wait for the steward to make their way back from First Class. Always take your own device’s earbuds as well; your iTunes will help to drown out the screeching child who was on your flight after all.
Snacks are not just for kids. These can fall into three categories: 1) Food, because your flight times might not allow for regular meals and/or diet restrictions. And because the ‘healthy’ options at Hudson Booksellers are even more overpriced than the ‘not healthy’ stuff like Fritos. Granola bars, homemade oatmeal cookies, beef jerky are convenient and easy to pack. 2) Comfort—a normally not-on-the-diet-plan favorite treat can be justified as a bribe to deal with the stress of travel. After all, the plane might crash—do you really want your last meal to be a dry salad? Get that burger with fries. Or, if pressed for time, Fritos. 3) Inner ear depressurization. If you don’t care for gum, anything that causes chewing/swallowing action can help with take-off and landing. Goldfish crackers, M&Ms, Good & Plentys. Transfer items like this from the box or bag into a zip-top baggie for easy open and close action.
Giving gifts? Ship them to some kindly relative’s house. The box that held a case of copy paper at your office will cost $25-30 to ship, which is still less than checking an additional bag. You know those long tubes of wrapping paper? Easily cut in half with the average hacksaw! Pop that in the box with tags and tape, fill any additional space with extra clothes, and when all the gifts have been exchanged, ship the new booty back. There’s always a UPS, FedEx or post office somewhere around.
Traveling with children? Sorry. That’s a whole ‘nother blog.
What about you, readers? What are your favorite travel hacks?