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Top Travel Tips – Part 2

December 13, 2011

I can’t believe this is our second full day here already. I don’t want time to go by too quickly. We have had a wonderful time hanging out with my brother and sister-in-law who have been awesome hosts, and I got to see my friend Jenna last night for dinner which was soooo nice! Thanks for coming to see us Jen!

Tonight I will get to see some of my best friends (and former roommates) from my time at university, which I am really looking forward to. And tomorrow or the next day we will head to my parents’ house to have some time with them. 🙂

In the meantime, I will leave you with the second half of my top travel tips. Click here for Part 1.

Step 5: Time to fly!

People have very different preferences about how early to arrive at the airport. However, if you are the slightest bit of a nervous traveller, I would recommend leaving plenty of time!! I used to like to leave a very moderate amount of time to arrive at the airport before my flight. I wasn’t reckless by any means, but I didn’t want to have too much extra time if I could help it. However, a couple of strange experiences taking a wrong turn on the way to the airport or finding myself at the back of a line which seemed to go on into eternity and worrying that I wasn’t going to make it onto my flight have changed my mind. I now like to leave plenty of time. The airport isn’t my favourite place to hang out and I would definitely prefer a bit of extra sleep to hanging out at the airport, but I would rather have some extra time at the airport than have my heart racing and my palms sweaty and a knot in the pit of my stomach worrying about whether or not I will catch my flight! So my advice is, arrive early…but this is obviously up to you.

I have learned to double check my travel documents over and over. I set my passport, any boarding passes, travel insurance certificate, etc. out the night before, and then I check that I have them again in the morning, and check again when I get into the car and again when I get the airport. I consider myself to be a very organised person and I rarely forget anything which is really important, but I once arrived at the airport to fly home for Christmas without my passport. I can’t describe the panic I felt, or the relief I felt when my very kind house-mate left work to retrieve it and bring it to me. Therefore, I think it is definitely worth checking important documents as many times as you can.

When you arrive at the airport, you have to just follow the procedures – check in and/or drop off baggage, then go through security. However, if you aren’t happy with the seats you found online, ask at the check-in desk or at your gate, as they can often change the seats for you, possibly even to exit rows with extra leg room if they are available. Don’t forget to put all containers with liquids (over the allowed quantities) into your checked baggage before you check it in. And I would recommend always double checking where your luggage is checked through to, just in case the desk agent has made a mistake or you are supposed to collect it somewhere along the way that you weren’t aware of. Then make sure you have your passport and boarding pass ready to show at the security check point, and be ready to take off your coat, shoes/boots, and belt, empty your pockets, and take out your laptop and bag of liquids if you have one.

When you get to your gate at the airport, there is often a mad dash to get to the front of the line and get on the plane. There is actually a reason for this. Even if you have assigned seats, the overhead bins fill up very quickly, and if you are one of the last people to board, it may be difficult to find room for your bags. So although I hate to buy into the rush that takes place, I think it is worth trying to sit in a part of the gate area where you can quickly get into the line when your row is called to board the plane.

On the flight, I try to try to get as comfortable as I can right away when I board. I put my main bag overhead, put my little bag at my feet, and put my small travel pack in the seat pocket in front of me. I am also slightly paranoid about making sure to keep passports safe (okay, more Ben, but it has rubbed off on me too). Therefore, I put my purse with the passports in the seat pocket in front of me as well. That way if we both fall asleep, my knee is still wedging them in.

This is a new tip from today, but when you get on the flight it may be worth just double checking that your seatbelt is intact before the aircraft doors shut. I am sure the chances of this are slim to none, but when we sat down today, Ben realised that he only had one side of his seatbelt. After we had both checked and checked, we asked a flight attendant about it and after she looked for it, she realised that half of the seatbelt was actually missing. She had to call someone within the airport to come out and attach another half of the seatbelt, and if we hadn’t realised what had happened until after the airplane doors were closed, I am not sure what would have happened, especially since the flight was completely full! I bet we will never have this happen again, but I will still always check.

The food that  served on flights is generally very salty so I try to drink plenty of water to try to counter-act it.

If you are hungry, there is often extra food, so if you ask (nicely), you may be able to get a second serving of the snack/meal they are bringing around.

With my special dairy-free meal, I always try to double check that it is actually dairy-free. This time, everything with ingredients listed was dairy-free, but every other time, I have been given a butter spread which includes whey (a milk product), and the last thing I want on a long flight is an upset stomach. The meals have never upset my stomach, so they must be dairy-free, but I think someone has just been a bit confused about the butter spread in the past.

On trans-Atlantic, flights, I think that all airlines still serve complimentary soft drinks and beer and wine. At least for me, it is important to be careful with what I drink. I know that alcohol and sugar on flights are generally not good for you and make you feel worse, but it is quite nice to have a glass of wine or beer and relax on a long flight. However, at least on our flights, the wine is served in a cup bigger than a coke can, and filled to the point of nearly spilling over.  Since I don’t drink much at all, I need to remember to ask for just a half glass if I am going to have wine because it is not very fun to have an extremely full glass of wine sitting on a wobbly tray over your lap and feel like you have to drink it just to get rid of it. In addition, the flight attendants normally come around with more drinks soon after the first round so if you want a top-up, you can always get one.

You can also get more to drink than the small glasses they pour for you. On most airlines, if you ask for the can (or sometimes the bottle in the case of water), they will give it to you. In addition, I always ask for water in addition to whatever else I am drinking. My drinks of choice are a can of cran-raspberry juice (or sometimes a half glass of wine) and a glass of water, followed by water the rest of the trip. In addition, the flight attendants will probably come through the cabin throughout the flight with water, and it is worth taking water as often as possible to avoid getting dehydrated. I don’t always feel like drinking anything right when they come around, but since I don’t have full control over when I will be offered water, it works best to just take a cup whenever it is available.

This obviously leads to the topic of using the restrooms. My best advice is use the bathroom as soon as you need to go. You never know when there will be some turbulence and the seatbelt sign will come back on or when you will be blocked by food carts in the aisles or the person between you and the aisle will fall asleep. I have been desperate a few too many times, so I don’t wait anymore!

At some point during the flight if you are traveling from one country/region to another, the flight attendants should come around and offer landing cards and/or other documents which you need to fill out. If not, I would recommend asking whether you need to fill something out and whether they have the forms available for you. If you are required to fill out a form and you don’t get one on the flight, it means you have to find and fill out a form when you get to the customs/passport control area, and you may end up at the back of the line to go through customs.

I am not sure if this is an issue every time you enter a new country/region, but at least going into the US, you have to throw away any remaining unsealed food items, whether you packed them yourself or they were given to you on the flight. Normally, if there are some crackers or pretzels, or something which we don’t want to eat right when they come around, I keep them in case we want them later in the journey, for example if there is an extra apple I just pop it into my bag in case I get hungry later in the flight. One time I did exactly this, and when I arrived in the US, a dog at the baggage collection area smelled it. I then had to go through all sorts of extra security and checks (and so did Ben) before we could go out to see my family. I obviously didn’t mean to bring a food item into the US, but I just didn’t think about it when I put it into my bag and then I forgot about it. In addition, it didn’t even occur to me that it would be a problem since it came from the flight. However, no matter where it comes from, I now throw away any open food items before I land. Sealed items like granola bars are okay.

If you have a connecting flight, always check the time on the clocks at the airport. I once re-set the time on my watch during a lay-over in Philadelphia so that I wouldn’t get confused, but then I was working on my computer (and the time wasn’t updated) and I nearly missed my flight. So now I always follow the airport clocks rather than re-setting any of my own time devices.

Step 6: You’ve made it!

Jet-lag can make the first several days of your trip, or potentially an entire short trip, miserable. It is really difficult, but when I arrive, I think it helps to re-set my watch, phone, computer, etc. to local time, and try to have some food, lots of water, and stay up until a somewhat normal time (local time) no matter how horrible I feel. If I wake up during the night, I try to stay in bed and get some more sleep, and have an alarm set for a somewhat normal time in the morning – and get up when the alarm goes off.

The day after I arrive, I try to get back to a normal schedule in terms of eating as well as sleeping, and get some exercise and sunshine if possible. Staying busy will also help you stay awake.

So far we are doing fairly well with the jet-lag this trip. I was definitely tired early last night, but we stayed up until about 11:30 (I’m sure it was the great company!) and I slept until about 6am. I didn’t sleep as well as I normally do, but I am happy to be mostly back on schedule.

I hope everyone is having a good Tuesday and staying warm. 🙂

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 4:21 pm

    another good tips. thanks!

  2. December 14, 2011 1:18 am

    great tips, once again! Jet-lag can be tough but I try and do the same thing as you!

    • December 14, 2011 2:06 pm

      Sounds good. 🙂 Does it work for you or do you have any other tips? Luckily I seem to have adjusted to the jet lag really well this time but now I’ve developed a cold! I’ll have to figure out how to avoid that next time.


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