Spring and summer is infamous for wedding season, and many people take their family vacations around this time also. With wedding and traveling season approaching, I wanted to share some tips for flying the skies. The idea of traveling is exciting, fun, and thrilling, with your destination in your every thought-counting down the days before you leave; but let’s face it, the actual act of traveling kind of stinks. It all starts with getting to the airport extremely early, standing in long security and gate lines, buying overpriced food and snacks, and then the dreaded flight. You’re sitting next to a complete stranger, pushed up against each other tired, uncomfortable, and eager to get to your destination.
Packing is one of the most important parts of traveling, and I am going to help you become a more efficient packer! I have been flying ever since I was a little girl. I have been all over the country, and all over the world, and now, I travel 3-4 times a year back home to New York. Over the years I have learned how to pack for my trips.
Packing the right essentials is the first step of having a positive traveling experience. Packing ahead of time is the best advice I can give when flying. I was not always a great packer, but I have learned how to force myself to pack the right way. I know now that I need to pick out outfits one at a time to ensure that I will not over pack, and I have things that match and actually go together. I’m sure that we have all arrived to our great vacation destination, only to realize nothing we brought matches — so annoying! A rule of thumb is to pack three tops for every bottom, and if you stick with a color scheme it makes it easier to pack outfits. The same applies to shoes; you need to stick with a color scheme. You typically need three to four pairs of shoes: sneakers, flats or a causal shoe, and a dress shoe. Sometimes I pack, and then go back in my suitcase the next day and unpack things I know I won’t wear.
Another great rule of thumb is to roll up your clothes to save space, which can really make a difference, and I always pack a plastic bag for dirty clothes. I have great plastic, spill proof bags for all of my toiletries and medicines. When traveling international, it is a good idea to have a paper copy of your passport, photo ID, license, insurance, and even a credit card. Keep these in a safe place, such as the safe in your hotel room, or ask the front desk for some type of secure lock for a drawer.
I also always pack my own snacks. Food and snacks at airports are outrageous! There is no need to buy everything there; pack a few little bags of peanuts, pretzels, chips, or any favorite small snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Don’t forget your neck pillow. My neck pillow makes my flight much more enjoyable. You can buy them anywhere. They are extremely comfortable, and small, plus they support your neck and back, and can even be used to lean against the window or as a little lap pillow for reading. Packing something in your carry on to keep you occupied is always a good idea. I usually bring my iPad, and most people have some type of electric device to read, listen to music, or watch movies.
Knowing your airline’s travel requirements, luggage and carry on restrictions, and liquid regulations is very important. Most airlines allow one checked bag for free, or for a fee of $25-$35. They all have weight limits of around 40-50 pounds, and size limits of around 60” (length+width+height). You can have one personal item such as a purse, laptop or briefcase, and one carry-on item.Carry-on bag guidelines are usually around 40”(length+width+height). A lot of people just travel with their carry-on bags now since there is a fee to check bags. I must admit, I am guilty of bringing only a large “carry-on” bag and then hoping they will offer to check it to my final destination at the gate for free, if there is a full flight. It’s a little trick I learned, but if anyone asks — you didn’t hear it from me! The TSA 3-1-1 liquids’ rule pertaining to carry-on luggage states liquids must be 3.4 ounces or less, must be in 1 quart-sized, clear plastic, zip top bag and 1 bag per passenger. Remember, if you are staying in a hotel they will most likely have an iron, hair dryer and main essentials; and if you are going to visit family or friends, just use their items! You can even ask someone to run to the store and grab your toiletries for you. I have a little section in my apartment of my mother’s favorite bathroom things for when she comes to visit me and it sure makes her feel special!
Just think before you pack, and don’t be that guy who holds up the security line because you tried to carry on your full size bottle of shampoo and conditioner. However, make sure you keep any necessary things in your carry on such as medicine, diapers, inhalers, etc. My jewelry bag ALWAYS comes with me in my carry-on bag so there is no possibility of anything being stolen. This is a good tip for anything you are worried about airline employees handling — better safe than sorry! Another helpful tip is to weigh your suitcase before to leave your apartment, that way you aren’t stuck frantically removing clothes from your luggage into your carry-on at the desk, or paying extra fees for over sized luggage. My grandmother bought me one of these luggage scales (below) for Christmas a few years ago, and I love it!
Checking in and paying for checked luggage ahead of time from home is a huge time saver. You can check in 24 hours before your flight, pay for any checked luggage (if applicable), and print your boarding passes. Some people prefer to just have their boarding pass electronically from their phone, this works great too. A very important tip is to check your flight status before you leave for the airport. Trust me, I have showed up for flights that were cancelled before and it is not fun! Typically, you want to arrive to the airport two hours before your scheduled departure time. However, there are instances where you should arrive earlier or even later. If you are nervous about traveling, or don’t travel that often, it can’t hurt to get there even earlier just so you can take your time and not feel rushed and stressed out, especially if the airport is unfamiliar or a particularly large or busy airport. Personally, I don’t usually arrive two hours before because I know my local airport and travel frequently. Finding the correct gate is also important. Your gate number should be on your boarding pass, but gates can change frequently, so always double check on the main screen of flights. Go to your gate immediately to find it, make sure everything is still on schedule, and then you can relax, go grab a drink or snack and sit back, and wait until your boarding time. Enjoy your travels!