Travel Tips: How To Pack and Fly Like a Pro

3 years ago

After I wrote about our travel snacks and how airline travel has changed, it made me think about how I prepare for my trips. I mostly fly for work trips. If my husband and I are traveling for pleasure, we drive unless we have the opportunity to turn a work trip into a vacation like we did in San Francisco. While I was sitting at dinner tonight, I thought about the tips I use to keep myself sane while traveling on airlines.

Image: mcfarlandmo via Flickr

  • Pack Accordingly. If you are traveling for 3 days or less, take a carry-on suitcase. If you are given a boarding section of 4 or 5, be prepared to have to check that suitcase. If you are traveling for more than 3 days, take a suitcase you can check. Take a few extra pairs of undies and a few extra shirts. You don't want to have to buy something unexpectedly while you're away. You also don't want to have to pay for hotel dry cleaning. It's a rip-off. One more thing, if you're going to a town that is known for having different temperatures than your town, pack accordingly. Example: If you are going to San Francisco in the summer, take a jacket, a scarf and a hat. You might just will need it. You also don't want to walk around screaming "I'm A Tourist!" in your I Heart "Town I Am Currently In" sweatshirt. :)
  • Weigh your bag before you leave home. Get a suitcase scale and store it in your suitcase. It’s light enough that you can take it with you on your trips, so you can weigh your bag when you’re in your hotel room, as well. I have this one and it works great.
American Weight Digital Luggage Scale
  • Get to the airport early. I cannot stress this enough. Over and over I hear people complaining that they had to run for their flight or got scolded by the folks at check-in that they wouldn't have time to catch their flight. Yes, airline travel is a hassle today but it's the way things are and it's not changing. You need time to check-in. You need a lot of time to get through security. You need time to get to your gate. Every airport is different and every airline is different. Sometimes you will get through check-in, security and get to your gate in a half hour. Sometimes, it can take over an hour and a half to get to your gate. Give yourself two hours if you are flying at prime time - think rush hour on the weekdays. Always give yourself 2 hours if you are flying out of a large airport. Give yourself an hour and a half if you are flying at any other time.
  • Please, be prepared. Walk into the airport with your suitcase and carry-on ready to go. Make sure your ID is easily accessible and be prepared to enter your flight number or slide your credit card into the machine where you will be checking in. A lot of airports are moving away from using employees and towards using machines for checking people in.
  • Take out your ID to check into the flight. KEEP your ID out until you are putting your luggage onto the security belt. At that point, put it away somewhere safe.
  • Some airports ask you to carry your boarding pass with you as you go through the security scanner. Some airport officials will look at you weird if you try to carry it through with you. I have no suggestions here. Just do your best by keeping your ears and eyes open and paying attention to what other people are doing.
  • Take your laptop, iPad and/or Android Tablet out of your bag and put it in a bin. Do not put anything on top of it. Take off your belt, your jacket, your sweater and your shoes. Put them in a bin. Do not put your purse or your laptop bag or your overnight bag in a bin. Don't worry about pulling out that baggie of liquids. They don't push it anymore and I have never been asked to remove it from my bag. 
  • If you are going through a security line with one of those full body scanners, clear your pockets of EV.ER.Y.THING. You cannot leave a receipt, a penny or a rubber hair tie in your pocket or you will fail the scan and have to be patted down. Do everything you can to avoid being patted down.
  • After you are through security, check the monitors to make sure your gate assignment is still correct.
  • Get to your gate and check your flight status. Relax. You made it. Now pray your flight isn't delayed because your pilot's alarm clock didn't go off. :)

Do you have suggestions I might have missed? I don't have much experience with international travel, are there more tips if you're flying overseas?

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