I try my best to keep it simple, especially when traveling for business. This blog is focused on the airport experience, so here are a few pointers to make the overall experience more enjoyable. My 10 commandments of easy travel, in no particular order :
1: Don’t check a bag.
Seriously, do everything you can to avoid checking a bag, especially if you have to pay! I boycott airlines that charge for carry-on bags- I see you Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier and the dreaded Basic Economy fares! You want me to pay up to $75 to carry my own bag? Nope! Also, go for a carry-on with a hard shelled case that will fit into the overhead bins, they hold up better and don’t harbor odors like fabric ones can- be careful with expanding bags though, a last minute checked bag is never fun. Famous last words “But it fit on my last flight” or “I fly with this bag all the time”….just don’t, your flight crew and TSA will look at you like a crazy person. If you are down to the wire and have no choice, it’s always best to gate check, as you won’t be charged the $25 checked bag fee.
2: Earn that status, honey!
Being loyal to one airline can pay off in dividends. Free premium seats, upgrades, higher mileage earning bonuses, lounge access and the free checked bags (if you must) go a long way. That said, you have to fly a LOT to earn status. If you fly less than 25,000 miles per year, it’s still worthwhile to stick with one or two airlines. Pair that loyalty up with a airline branded credit card and treat yourself to an award ticket or fancy upgrade down the line.
3. Carry-on essentials.
For the bag that fits COMFORTABLY under your seat: headphones (Bose noise cancelling on the high end, iPhone/high-quality earbuds otherwise), a comfy neck pillow, gum/breath mints, a USB/Phone/Mophie style charger, tablet, lip balm, last but not least-a water spray (less than 3.4oz) for long flights- a few sprays to your face and believe me it will bring you back to life!. Tip: many airlines now stream free entertainment, it’s best to watch on a tablet, but a smartphone works too. Shout out to American for their amazing selection of movies- I can always count on catching the latest movies that didn’t quite draw me to the theater- their new release game is on point!
4. Plan layovers & airport choices.
If you must stop for a connecting flight, plan to stop in an airport that has a nice selection of amenities/restaurants/lounges. Delays are always possible, so plan to make the most out of a potentially inconvenient situation. Bonus: if your home city offers multiple airports, choose your favorite! I always go for a nice stroll through the airport, it keeps the blood flowing, helps burn some calories and makes the time fly by. Also a great way to find some E.T.A. gems 🙂
5. Do your research.
Take just 5 minutes on travel sites (I.e. Yelp, Trip Advisor, Flyertalk) or your new favorite Eattheairport.com and you’ll be prepared to navigate the airport like a local. You guys, this can be 5 minutes on your taxi to the gate on a longer than expected layover too. No more shitty airport food!
6. Plan your meals ahead.
If you’re watching what you eat, travel is the ultimate saboteur. First plan- H20! Bring a bottle of water, either from an airport concession ($$$) or bring a bottle that can be refilled from public fountains in the terminal. Pack healthy snacks or know what your airline offers for sale, honestly if you’re watching what you’re eating, it’s best to take charge in this one and pack a lunch 😉 If you’re looking at short flights, skip the on board calorie fest of bland food and splurge on a better meal on the ground. One last rule of thumb- whenever possible, eat local! You may just be passing through, but it’s always great to experience the flavors of any destination. Another key point- stay away from smelly food. That delicious garlicky pasta, fried fish/chicken, meatball sub, hoagie loaded with onions, stir-fry, etc. is all good on the ground, but for all that is good and holy, do not bring it on board! Your travel karma will thank you 😜
7. Have at least one kick-ass Travel Rewards credit card.
My favorite is the American Express Platinum Card. The annual fee comes with a bit of sticker shock ($550), but the benefits pay for the fee if you play them right. Free access to the Centurion Lounge at select airports and Priority Pass Lounges worldwide (1,000+) make it worth it for me- excellent food and drinks in a comfortable setting? Best of all, it’s fo’ freeee! Done deal. Some Centurion Lounges even offer Spa Services! Add to that a $200 yearly Uber Credit, 5x AMEX points on eligible hotel/airline purchases, a never ending portal to shopping/services discounts among many more benefits and it doesn’t get any better. If you’re not looking to commit to a card with a high annual fee, I strongly recommend signing up for your preferred Airline’s Branded Credit Card. These cards typically have lower annual fees (usually around $99), but include extras like free checked bags, priority boarding and most importantly sign-up bonuses that can be very lucrative- in the neighborhood of 50,000 miles for cards like the AAdvantage Master Card, enough for 2 domestic coach tickets and almost enough for a round-trip to Europe!
8. Keep it cute.
It’s easy to overeat/drink when in transit. Trust me when I say that I love a glass or several (let’s be real) of red wine, especially when on the road! It’s important to be aware of sodium-heavy food and excess alcohol consumption, they can worsen the effects of jet lag, not to mention leave you looking haggard and plump upon arrival.
9. TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry.
If you have plans to travel internationally in the next 5 years, go for Global entry, as it’s only $15 more and also gives you TSA Pre-Check. A must for frequent flyers. TSA Pre-check is $85, Global Entry is $100. Both last for 5 years. Skip the lines and keep your shoes on!
10. Be Nice.
Hey- you’re crossing the globe at an incredible speed. Things are bound to go wrong, but they mostly go off without a hitch. Don’t let an hour weather delay ruin your day. However, when things go wrong work smarter, not harder- avoid the gate agent/customer service counter. Call the airline directly or tweet them- trust me on this one! Remember to be friendly to your servers/bartenders when you sit down for a break too, they can be a nice break in the middle of a travel nightmare. Be nice, you’ll get further.