Life Lessons & How Tos Travel

Best Tips on Flying: Before, During and After Your Flight

Best Tips on Flying

My license is in a flip-down wallet flap, so I can show the license and boarding pass with one hand, keep the other on my rolling bag. I never take my license out of the wallet, because it will surely get lost.

When it’s time to unload, I grab one tub for the laptop computer and another for shoes, coat, keys, and other stuff. I empty pens, keys, and change from my pockets into a shoe — easy to dump the change into a hand on the other end, rather than trying to pick it out of a plastic bin.

I send my rolling bag and briefcase through the X-ray screener first, followed by laptop and shoes. That way I can repack easily on the other side — laptop goes back into outside pocket of rolling bag; shoes and change get taken care of after I’ve handled the laptop. You don’t want the laptop to walk off without you.

Frequent traveler John Lopinto, an electronics-manufacturing company president who lives in Medford, N.Y., goes even further and suggests getting yourself ready for security screening by putting metal objects in see-through sandwich bags. “It’s amazing how many people just stroll up to the security checkpoint at the airport like they were walking into Macy’s and then are shocked and indignant when they get pulled aside for a secondary check,” he says.

Dealing With Airline Snafus

What if my Flight is Canceled?

Know your rights. If it’s the airline’s fault, you are entitled to quick rebooking or overnight accommodation, including meals. Check Rule 240 of the airline’s “Contract of Carriage,” available on each airline’s Web site or at ticket counters. However, if the delay is the result of the weather, you’re likely on your own.

If your flight does get canceled, never stand in line waiting for help. Get on the phone with the airline quick — there may be only a few seats available on the last flight out. If you’re stuck, don’t wait for the airline to find you a hotel. Get to it yourself.

And don’t be afraid to buy another ticket on another airline, if the price is reasonable. Sometimes that’s even cheaper than paying for another hotel and more meals. If your original flight gets canceled, the airline will refund that or give you a credit to use later.

In the Air

10 Little-Known Tricks for Perfect Sleep on a Flight


What Else to Carry

Carrying water is a smart thing, especially for long trips, since beverage cart service can be a long time coming (and never drink airplane tap water). Road warriors suggest carrying antibacterial soaps and lotions you can use without water to fight travel germs.

To beat boredom, some swear by DVD players; others like a good book. Your airport may let you both rent players and buy books with resale deals at your destination. Just make sure you have a way of sustaining yourself for many hours since even short flights can turn into long ordeals. The same goes for food.

When to Go to The Bathroom

This is key. You want to make sure you make your pit stop on the plane, not once you’ve landed. Rushing from the plane to a bathroom can slow you up and put you behind 10 other people in the taxi line. And don’t wait until the end of a movie to make your move. When the credits roll, there’s a mad scramble.

After Landing

If you can, make use of airport shower facilities if arriving from overnight flights. It’s a great way to shake jet lag, and even if you aren’t an elite-level customer, sometimes a good travel agent can get you access to the showers, even if you’re traveling in coach and not a member of the airline’s club.

An alternative, if you or your company can afford it, is to reserve a hotel for the previous night prior to your arrival overseas. That way you can get right into a room when you land early in the morning, rather than waiting for the normal check-in time.

If your bags don’t make it with you, don’t leave the airline’s “lost baggage” desk without first getting a local phone number for the airline’s baggage office. They’re a better bet than an 800 number.

How to Call Home

This is perhaps the most important Middle Seat travel tip. Woe is the traveler who calls home and expounds on the wonderful meal in the exciting city you just had with a dozen fascinating people — while your spouse was changing diapers and stirring macaroni and cheese.

I made this mistake once, calling home years ago from a dinner with a bunch of journalists covering a big story. We had enjoyed some fabulous wine and great food. My wife, on the other hand, had two babies throwing up hourly.

Rare is the travel story with a happy ending. But here’s one: Ms. Hughes, the traveler who faced the choice of going through security in her unmentionables or undergoing a security groping, e-mailed the TSA to protest its policy as unkind to women. She got results.

A TSA official called her and said that based in part on her e-mail, the agency revised its policy. The new rule: A woman doesn’t have to remove a jacket if it’s her “outermost garment.” The TSA also said that it has tried to educate its screeners that a woman’s business suit is different from a man’s, and even that it is harassment for a male screener to ask a female to remove her outermost garment.

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