Travel is stressful. As a seasoned traveller myself, I have made many mistakes and experienced much stress and have therefore accumulated a bit of airport travel-savvy that I’d like to share with you. Follow these steps, relax, and enjoy your travels!
1. Pack light:
I cannot stress this enough. I have now travelled to and from the UK twice with 2 suitcases. It’s the worst. Adding on the usual $100 fee for an extra checked bag (depending on the airline and whether or not you have a first class ticket – which I’ve never had the privilege of), plus the terrible experience of lugging two bags through a busy airport – I assure you, IT’S NOT WORTH IT!!!
When I start packing, I want nothing more than to cover all possible bases. Like this:
“What if I get hungry, or thirsty, or bored, or need to wrap something, or lonely… what if there are no chairs, or stairs?”
Pack what you think you need and then HALF IT.
Bring versatile things. One pair of jeans, plain t-shirts, shoes that can be worn casually or in a dressier setting, one purse (that is also preferably part of your carry-on), one jacket, and ladies should bring one or two dresses that can be beach or party appropriate!
This of course all depends on the duration and destination of your trip, but the general idea applies to all… PACK LIGHT.
2. How to pack:
I use an excellent method of packing that makes the most out of limited space. It’s not exactly a secret, but it was passed down from my grandmother to my mother to myself. Instead of folding your clothes or laying them flat, roll them. Roll them as tightly as you can.
This method is proven (by me) to fit about 75% more stuff in a suitcase than folding. The downside of this is that you inevitably end up with more weight. This is where you have to make a decision about what is more important. Do you really need an extra 2 pairs of boots and your cat? Even better, use this method to bring the same amount of stuff but in a smaller suitcase!
As for your carry-on luggage, I would highly recommend that you choose a backpack. This saves you from the difficulty of maneuvering both your checked suitcase and a rolling carry-on: it can be tricky! There are certainly specific things you will need in case the airline loses your checked bag (see tip #4), but I have always found my travels more enjoyable when I only pack my carry-on to a maximum of 75% full. That extra 25% is to be filled with snacks for the flight once you’ve passed security! That way, the food doesn’t contribute to your total weight (well, not your luggage weight), and you can rest assured knowing you have something more delicious in your future than airplane food.
Another good thing is to put all your liquids and gels under 100mL that you are carrying on into a small re-sealable plastic bag at home, so you don’t have to root around in your bag to do this at the airport.
**If you know for sure your bag is overweight and you want to avoid paying the overweight fee, there’s something you can do to shave off a few pounds. I don’t recommend this, but it did get me out of paying overweight fees on my recent return to Canada.
Here it goes: In your carry on, pack a collapsible or reusable bag, like mine from Longchamp.
On the day of travel, wear as much stuff as possible. I wore my heaviest boots, leggings under a floor length skirt, t-shirt, cardigan, jean jacket and two more jackets (I zipped the outer one so it just looked like I was wearing one bulky jacket). Once you’ve checked your bag, proceed directly to security. When you remove your jackets (as you must these days to go through security), do it so they stay within each other and do so early in the line-up, so the security staff don’t notice your multiple jackets. This way, they look like one big jacket when you plop them in one of those plastic bins.
Once through security, grab your stuff, walk out of sight, get your collapsible bag out of your carry-on and shed your excess layers. Yes, you will have one extra carry-on bag now, and you still have to be careful not to attract notice from the airline workers when you are boarding (they can make you check you extra bag, and you’ll have to pay for it) but as long as you keep your cool and don’t appear to struggle, you’ll be fine! Remember, this is unfair advantage and should only be used in weight emergencies.
3. Don’t be ignorant about your luggage weight and size:
Nothing annoys me (and airline staff!) more than people who argue about their luggage. It wastes time and is futile. Look up on your airline’s website what your luggage allowances are for your specific ticket. Measure and weigh your bags before leaving home so you know what to expect at check-in. If your bags are overweight it’s your own fault. Don’t argue, just pay the fee and be wiser next time!
4. Keep ALL important belongings in your carry on bag:
Everything of value you should carry on your person at all times while travelling. Of course, there are the obvious things like your passport, travel documents and money. You should also carry with you any documents that you will need once you reach your destination (hotel details, addresses, booking numbers, concert tickets, future travel documents, any important medication WITH your prescription if possible). If your airline loses your bag, you will still be able to have a semblance of a vacation. To read about my recent experienced with lost luggage, click here.
5. Ladies, use a cross-body purse:
For safety and security, travel with a purse that zips closed and has a cross-body strap. My travel purse also has a flap over the zip. This ensures minimal risk of pick-pocketing or purse-snatching! Wear it your whole vacation for maximum security!
6. It’s better to be 4 hours early than 5 minutes late:
This is pretty self-explanatory. Your tardiness delays everyone on the plane. It can cause people to miss connections, delay other take-offs and landings at the airport. I was late once, and received the most awful glares from the other plane passengers. When the airport says, for example, be 3 hours early for international flights (again, usually found on their website), they mean it – this isn’t to annoy you, it’s a necessity. Also, when you do arrive the recommended 3 hours early, check-in and security lines are usually shorter and less stressful (no need to clock-watch!), which means more time to relax after security!
7. Drugs, drugs, drugs:
I get very travelsick. I cannot travel without the help of some sort of anti-nausea medication. Gravol in Canada works for many people (not me, unfortunately), Dramamine from the USA (like a dream), and Travel Calm and Joy Rides in the UK (work the best for me). The best part is that these often make you so drowsy, you sleep for most of your flight.
8. Travel with a buddy:
I always find that when I’m travelling with someone, the stress level goes way down. You can bounce things off one another, entertain one another, and help carry each other’s bags.
9. Travel in the off season when possible:
Rates are lower, airports are less crowded. Awesome.
10. Don’t stress, just accept the situation:
I used to stress about travelling a lot. I especially dreaded the 8 to 10 hours of flight time I typically would have to endure (flying from British Columbia to the UK).
This doesn’t sound particularly ground-breaking, but to be perfectly honest I just started to accept it. I accepted that the flight was going to feel like my whole life, like forever. Once I resigned myself to this fact, they weren’t so bad. Also, no clock-watching!
What travel tips do YOU have? Which of these tips will help you in your future travels?