Air Travel: 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Summer Flights Easy


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Summer time air travel can be stressful, but there are practical and simple things you can do to make your trip easier. Here are my top 3 simple ways to make your summer air travel as efficient and low stress as possible.

1. Information: install the smart phone apps for the travel services that apply to your trip (airline, hotel, rental car) and take a few minutes before your trip to set them up with “push” notifications so you will automatically be notified of gate changes, delays and even rebooking. If you’re notified of a delay by the airline, having a hotel, rental car or resort app installed will put you in touch with those important services quickly and easily. Your pharmacy’s smart phone prescription app can speed you through the refill process in a distant city, or transfer prescriptions in many cases.

 

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Many airline apps let you rebook instantly, avoiding long waits in a customer service line, and can outline your options quickly without you having to navigate a website. Best of all, you can beat the rush when re-booking is necessary. On some airlines–American Airlines is one–you can use the airline’s app and website in flight through the on-board WIFI for free.

On taxi in, when you’re cleared to use your cell phone, you will be notified–if you authorized “push” notifications–of your next gate accurately if you’re connecting, or your baggage claim if your travel is complete. The gate agents pull that info 10-15 minutes before your gate arrival, and we print it out in flight 30-40 minutes prior to landing. But your “push” notifications will be more timely and accurate than the other two sources.

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You can delete any travel apps you don’t need later, but while you’re on the move, there’s no quicker or more accurate way to get the answers you need to your immediate travel needs. Install the apps, know how they work, and use them to stay ahead of the crowd–especially in case of cancellations, delays or gate changes.

2. Survival gear. First, count on none of your basic needs being met: food, water, shelter. Provide all three yourself. First, food: if you can’t buy something in the terminal to take along–and often you can’t–better have whatever compact, long shelf life calories source you can pack: power bars, granola bars–whatever you prefer that will stave off hunger.

Ditto for water: you “can” get water on board, but the question is when, and sometimes, how–are you in the back and they’re starting the beverage service from the front? Or vice versa? Or is it too turbulent to safely move about the cabin for passengers or crew? Just have a liter of bottled water handy per person, then don’t worry about it.

Finally, “shelter:” dress for the trip, not the destination. That resort-wear will not keep you warm in a chilly cabin, particularly on long flights. And here’s a crew secret: your flight attendants are active, working, and blanketed in layers of polyester. Who do you think calls us to ask for changes in the cabin temp? If they’re melting under the uniform layers, you’re going to wish you weren’t in shorts and a tank top, because we’re more likely to hear “cool it down” than “warm it up” from our working crew in back.

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3. Consolidate: all vitals and valuables in one hand-carried, locked bag. Medication, documents and here’s the big one–valuables, like your watch, wallet and any jewelry MUST go into this one locked bag BEFORE security. Why would you ever–and I see this all the time–put your wallet, watch, cell phone and other valuables into an open container on an unmonitored conveyer belt? Why not consolidate them all and then after you’ve successfully passed through security screening, retrieve your items from your locked bag?

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And locked is the key: if you’re pulled aside for additional screening, do you want all of your valuables laying out in the open, outside your reach and often, out of your sight? Even if that one locked bag requires extra screening, the lock ensures it will only be searched in your presence.

The final part of “consolidate” applies to your personal belongings: do NOT disperse your items all over your seat area. It’s a sure way to leave an item on a plane, a fact that is borne out by the number of passports, wallets, personal entertainment devices, tablets, keys and phones that turn up on overnight cleaning of aircraft. If you leave valuables, much less valuable documents like a passport, in the seat back pocket or anywhere else, you’ll likely never see them again. And speaking of “seeing” them, the normal climbs, descents, banking and on landing, braking will cause whatever loose items you may leave or drop on the floor to end up rows away. Even if you check your immediate area before deplaning, some items might have vanished. So don’t scatter your belongings about! Return items to your hand carried bag immediately after use or when not in use.

Face it–air travel is stressful as it is, but a lot of stress can be alleviated by these three steps. Information is king when you’re departing, trying to connect, or are changing plans on the fly due to delays or cancellations. Get the apps, set them up, and use them. Stay hydrated, fed, and warm to ease the physical stress. And finally, move smart: consolidate your valuables and do not let your personal items become strewn about your seating or waiting areas on board or in the terminal. Inflight forces will help them slide away, or if you leave them inadvertently, chances are slim that you’ll ever recover those items.

Follow these simple steps–and have a good flight and a great vacation.

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12 Responses to “Air Travel: 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Summer Flights Easy”

  1. Randy Sohn Says:

    Reading (reeding) it just made me totally sure of one thing – “it’s GOOD to be retired!”

    • Yeah Randy, the Spring Break loads never slack off, we go right into summer with the airport looking like The Fall of Saigon with cancellations or god forbid, a thunderstorm within 300 miles. It’s a non-stop beating from March till at least September.

  2. Cedarglen Says:

    Excellent advice, Chris, especially point number two. A forth point, perhaps one that your boss would not like to see, is to simply stay home or close to home! Sorry, but after too many years of mandatory travel and plenty of recreational travel (when I had enough ‘status’ to make it reasonably comfortable), I’m quite happy to avoid that slog when I can avoid it. I do not mind the butt-in-seat time for an appropriate reward and I certainly have faith in you and your colleagues, but negotiating the maze to get the cheeks into the seat is too often simply not worth the trouble. A great post, -C.

    • Your fourth point? I’m with you 100%–I hate flying for vacation, for all the reasons you mentioned; and for me, the road trip is my ultimate vaycay: come and go as you please, when you want to, no security hassles, delays, cancellations. Did mega-drives the last 2 summers, so I got overruled this year. But I’m already planning next year’s drive: Colorado, Utah, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, North Rim, Sedona …

      Can’t do that by air. Of course, can’t drive to Europe. I’ll get dragged back there again too.

  3. […] crew, jethead blog, summer air travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

  4. Great tips for travelling these days. I sure miss the old days without the TSA and all of the fear of flying that has seized the airline travel business. Today my wife and I like to break up these long flights by taking a short break somewhere along the route to rest up before going on, especially when we go to Australia or Asia.

  5. Lego Spaceman Says:

    I followed this three step plan last year to take 4 kids aged 6, 4, 2, and 2 on vacation last year. It worked like a charm.

    It basically comes down to the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.

    Be ready for the itinerary to change without notice. When it does change, have snacks on hand to keep the wild animals slightly distracted while you sort out how to handle the change. And keeping track of less stuff is always easier.

  6. As cabin service personnel we do find a ton of items left behind on RON aircraft, last night it was a set of keys and an iPhone and we simply turn them in to the ops with the ship and seat number who then pass it along to the lost and found clerk in the baggage service office. One biggest piece of advice I can give pax is to not store anything in the seat pocket because even though planes get cleaned during the day if its a very quick turn and we literally only have two minutes to spend it may be easy to miss because we only pick up visible trash (we get caught in the middle between gate agents trying to shoo us off the plane and flight attendants who want every crumb vacuumed, unlike flight crews who can easily justify a delay we face heavy penalties for delays so we are more than happy to oblige with a gate agent’s request to get off.)

  7. I think the best thing you can do to keep yourself sane when flying during busy times is to just relax and remember that the ability to travel thousands of miles in hours is still an amazing feat of man and we are lucky to have the convenience.

    The thing that changed air travel completely for me was having status with a particular airline. The ability to be upgraded to more comfortable accommodations, cut lines and make quick and free changes in case of IRROPS is almost priceless.

    Obviously this is not easy for leisure travelers to get (and most airlines are making it even harder), there are many resources out there to help (flyertalk, different points blogs etc). Also using miles to pay for seats you would never be able to afford!

  8. I usually think about all the friends jobless and I consider myself happy! What a feeling each morning during the sunrise at FL390!

    • The post topic is ways to make air travel more efficient. Point taken that you like the buttcrack-of-dawn flights during which you must fly ungodly hours if you’re seeing the sunrise at cruise altitude, but I’m not sure where that fits in with making travel more comfortable and convenient.

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