Six tips to surviving the sometimes friendly skies

Posted: April 1, 2009 by Nathan Kam in On The Job, Random Raves & Rants, Travel
Tags: , , ,
Photo courtesy of caribb (via Flickr)

Photo courtesy of caribb (via Flickr).

Traveling just isn’t the same these days and I’m somewhat glad I don’t have to do it for work that much anymore. I used to take six to eight trips a year to the mainland, but that’s dwindled down to one to two which I’m greatful. But the month of March was a particularly busy one requiring me to travel to San Francisco and Miami on business within a week of each other. These two trips would be my first across the pond in nearly a year and reminded me of how the travel landscape has changed.

It’s really a jungle out there when it comes to traveling, so I thought I’d share six survival tips to make the experience a bit more positive. These are observations based on my recent travels and probably nothing new to people who fly frequently. But nevertheless, if it helps just one person travel a little bit easier, it’s mission accomplished. Here we go…

  • Travel with a credit card. This may sound obvious, but I saw my fair share of people checking in at Honolulu International Airport who didn’t have one. Why have a credit card? For one, it’s easier to check in at the ticket counter since you just need to swipe your card instead of punching in your ticket confirmation number. Two, most airlines charge a first checked bag fee which needs to be settled at checkin. Again, this is something that can easily be handled with the swipe of a credit card. And last but not least, more and more airlines are going to a “cashless environment” with their in-flight service, so if you want to buy a snack, sandwich, or alcohol, you’ll need a credit card.
  • Bring your own food. I flew a total of six legs on my recent travels to the mainland. Three of those legs didn’t have food by the time the food carts got to my row. The lesson here? Don’t count on the airline to feed you or have enough food on board to feed you. Purchase something from the concession stand before boarding the plane (yes, even if it means buying a Burger King meal at the airport for $30). It may be worth the investment in the long run.
  • Sit towards the front of the plane. Now here’s something I never thought of before…sit as close to the front of the plane as you can! Why? If you’re hoping to be able to grab a bite to eat on your flight, you best chance of getting what you want is to sit as close to first class as possible. Most airlines start their in-flight service from the front and work their way back. I made the mistake of sitting in row 30 and beyond when I traveled last. That meant no sandwiches, no wraps, no salad, no nothing by the time they got to my row. I could have gotten a chocolate chip cookie for $3, but I passed. Needless to say, my surrounding flightmates weren’t too happy either.
  • Bring things to keep you occupied/entertained. I flew United Airlines and American Airlines on my trip to San Francisco and Miami, respectively, and it seems “mechanical problems” is the hottest trend for airlines these days. Of the six legs I flew, four (or was it five?) of them were delayed for “mechanical problems.” No joke! Now I’m all for safe flying, but don’t these airlines take care of these planes? I digress…the point here being to bring things (books, games, work, etc.) that can keep you occupied to pass the time spent waiting on delays. They are bound to happen.
  • Bring a pillow, blanket, and/or jacket. Airlines don’t always have pillows and blankets available which could leave you with a sore neck and freezing in the cabin. My recommendation is to bring your own if space allows. I opt for a sweater or jacket to keep me warm and my own neck pillow to keep things comfortable. And we’ve all heard the stories about those airline pillows and blankets. Do you really want to use their stuff anyway?
  • Be patient! The one thing I kept reminding myself once I got to the airport was to BE PATIENT! Yes, the person who can’t get through security without trying three or four times irritates me. Yes, I can’t stand the person who brings the largest carry-on onto the plane and can’t get it into the overhead bin themselves. Yes, traveling may suck these days, but we’re all in it together. Airport stafft, flight attendants, and so on are doing their best given what’s available to them. It’s not their fault all the time! Consumers need to understand this is a new age of travel and just chill out sometimes.

So there it is. Six simple tips that could make traveling a more positive experience. What other tips would you share with fellow travelers? Thanks for reading and travel safe!

-NGK


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Comments
  1. Sandy says:

    The best thing to do is stop at 7-11 before going to the airport and pick up a whole bunch of spam musubis, especially if you have kids! It’s a whole different ball game when you travel with kids too! Believe me, we’ve been traveling to DK for the last 8 years with the kids and we know. My best advice is to charge everything you can to get mileage on an airlines; then use the mileage to upgrade to first class — yes with the kids!

  2. Nathan says:

    Shawn: I don’t blame you for taking that position. It’s sad that we’ve become jaded with the airlines and will take mediocre service as “good service.” What else we gonna do right?

    Judy: It took every ounce of patience in me to be patient on these last couple trips…but my cooler head prevailed. Others aren’t so understanding which just escalates the situation. There’s a way to let people have a piece of your mind without going bonkers. I like your approach!

  3. Judy says:

    Very good tips, especially the last one, being patient can really come in handy, even if you have a good reason to be upset. (sometimes it does feel better when you let people know how you feel) I always tell myself to stay calm, it makes you look better also you really can accomplish more with a calm attitude.

  4. Shawn says:

    Dude, you are way more patient than me! I’ve had some bad experiences lately with United lately that I haven’t forgiven them for yet. Good tips though. I travel now with no expectations of good service, food or anything so I won’t be disappointed. And if I do get good service, then I’m happy!

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