As of late, my travel experience has consisted of picking up extra flying so I can save for my holiday expenditures this season. I don’t know if people no longer work (I’m jealous), simply work from “home,” or homeschool their kids, but there no longer seems to be a down travel season (much to the dismay of your flight crews traveling standby).
Because of the oversold flights and non frequent fliers, I’ve been observing so many first time traveler rookie errors. To help make your experience a more enjoyable one (and minimize the headaches your flight attendants will be getting this holiday season) here is a list of 8 travel tips you should follow to keep you a happy traveler and stay on your flight attendant’s good side (cocktails or extra snacks, anyone?).
1. Designate a Full Day to Your Travels
For many business travelers, it’s the norm to commute via plane rather than trains or automobiles. In those instances, if your flight is delayed you simply catch the next hourly one or forego the meeting all together (hurray for for you!). For the many other travelers who aren’t on their way to a business meeting, feel free to make those tentative lunch or dinner or party plans because you travels will most likely go off without a hitch, but, unfortunate events happen (just ask Lemony Snicket). Delays, maintenance, weather, crew rest. These are all situations which inevitably cause detours in your plans. If you aren’t traveling on a heavy business route, you could potentially be facing up to 8 hours wait time before the next flight (which means those dinner plans become a no go). You’ll save yourself a huge headache if you choose to designate your flying days solely to travel and choose to see an on time (even better, early arrival) as a happy treat to your new laid back travel attitude.
2. Oh, Northeast Delays
I consistently see passengers get angry over missed connections in airports like JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia, and Charlotte just to name a few. If you are unable to connect through a major hub not on the northeast and find yourself traveling through a northeast airport, prepare for delays and missed connections. Aim to try and leave yourself plenty of connect time. In this case, it’s better to plan for the worst from the get go. Due to the small air space shared by many airports, it’s not uncommon for one rain drop to muck up an entire day of flying. Long taxi times, departure and arrival delays, occupied gate space are just a few of the many problems you can face traveling through these cities. Look on the bright side. If you get stuck in New York you can sing Empire State of Mind right along with Alicia Keys while you enjoy the Big Apple.
3. Use the Terminal Bathrooms
Whenever possible use the bathroom before boarding. Obviously this can’t always happen if you’re running to catch a flight, but when you have time, make it a priority. Per the FAA, pilots are not legally allowed to taxi the aircraft unless everyone is seated with their seatbelt fastened. If your flight encounters a long take off line (think 20-25 in line), you’ll be waiting at least 30 minutes to use the lavatory. Or longer. After take off, it’s not unusual to encounter turbulence because of low cloud cover. The worst case scenario is you could be waiting to use the lav upwards an hour. Prepare for the worst, remember, so use the bathroom before boarding!
4. Don’t Rely on Inflight Wifi
We live in a really cool age of not only being able to travel from coast to coast (or to some parts of Europe) in six hours or less, but also having the option to stay in touch with friends, family, and coworkers while we fly thanks to inflight wifi. I strongly encourage anyone traveling on a long flight to bring a book, download a movie (or three), bring offline work, or just find something else entertaining to do. The majority of the time the inflight wifi doesn’t cause any problems (except for being uber slow every now and then), but on the off chance you have a long flight ahead of you and the wifi is inoperable, you’ll be incredibly happy you downloaded the entire Twilight series to your iPad.
5. Prepare for the Arctic
You’re traveling to Key West, Florida dressed in beachy attire, but your menopausal flight attendant having hot flashes missed the memo and has decided to keep the temperature at sub zero. Unfortunately, many airlines have either done away with blankets completely, only offer them for first class, or provide them for a fee. It’s better to simply be prepared. I’ve learned to stash a scarf, cardigan, and small travel blanket in my carry on for such emergencies. Because I can add or take away layers as needed, I find I’m almost always comfortable on flights.
6. Loud Passengers and Those Darn Reading Lights
Planes are noisy. Blame the passengers with no sense of volume who think they’ve booked a private jet, parents that were kind enough to bring movies for their children but forgot the headphones, or just older aircraft in general. Planes can get quite noisy, and if you’re someone who enjoys a little piece and quiet or would just like to nap on a plane, it always helps to remember earplugs or headphones in your bag. Usually when airlines offer such amenities it’s on red eye flights, not during the day.
It’s been my experience on night flights there is always one person who would rather work than score some zzz’s. Some people work best at night, and they’ll be using that reading light. You know, the one shining right in your eyes as your attempting beauty rest. That scarf you remembered to pack (see # 5) will work in a pinch, but an eye mask will do wonders, and it’s small enough to not take up precious carry on weight or space.
7. Food and Beverages
Comedian Brian Regan jokes about being in the back of an airplane and only being offered a fish head by the time the cart reaches those last rows. As they say it’s funny because it’s true (well, maybe not the fish head part), but the slim pickings are a real struggle. Airlines are making huge strides in offering healthy food options, but a passenger still shouldn’t rely on consuming a healthy dinner or even one at all on a longer flight. Often airlines are catered with limited fresh food choices. Now that regional airlines are flying longer haul flights, fresh food may not even be available. If you have a chance beforehand, it will cost you the same price to buy a nicer dinner in the airport.
By now you should be getting in the mindset of preparing for the worst (refer to #2), so you’ll plan accordingly and start bringing snacks and empty water bottles through security. Not only are empty water bottles TSA friendly, they can be filled on the other side of security saving you the hefty cost of generic water bottles (do I need to mention bringing and refilling your own bottle is also environmental friendly). Trail mix and other type snacks are great to have in case you encounter one of those long taxi lines or inclement weather causing you to hold inflight. You’ll be the envy of all those passengers with growling stomachs while you’re in a 30 minute holding pattern outside of your destination city.
8. Learn the art of complaining to your flight attendants
Yes, complaining is very much an art form. Flight attendants get all your woes, trust me. Chances are they share 90% of your complaints regarding airline travel today. We are equally as tired when delays happen, and sitting around in the airport when we could be heading towards our destination is no picnic in the park for us either. That same screaming baby in the gate house area you dread having on your flight? Your flight attendants are already taking bets in which part of the cabin the child will be sitting and screeching. The seats are uncomfortable, the wifi doesn’t work, and you’re stuck in a middle seat between two rather large men? Your flight attendant has been there (most likely on a coast to coast commute to and from work).
While we can certainly empathize with passengers, we unfortunately have very limited pull when it comes to customer complaints. Twitter has greatly increased the chances your complaint will be addressed, and airlines such as Delta, take pride in their follow up to customer complaints. Before complaining to your flight attendant, take a moment to breathe, and then start a conversation. Your flight attendant can certainly empathize with most of your frustrations, and may try to make your flight more enjoyable. A first class upgrade is unlikely, but the flight attendant will usually do anything within their power to make you more comfortable.
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