I write to you from Ohio on my wonderfully relaxing Thanksgiving break. My fiancé and I have spent the weekend eating amazing home cooking and watching football. Things worked out for him (LSU), but not so well for me (Ohio State). We'll soon be traveling back to New Orleans among lots of other people coming and going for the holidays.
And this is just the beginning. Christmas and New Years are right around the corner, so this means loads of traveling for me since my family is out of town. Here are some of the things I've learned about flying that I always try to remember and which make traveling a much more pleasant experience.
* Carry on only. I will not pay extra to check bags, unless I'm going away for several weeks. If it's only a long weekend there is absolutely no reason to pack several overstuffed bags (unless you're a Real Housewife of whereever, or a cast member of Jersey Shore and you need at least one suitcase just for bronzer). Also, don't try to bring Mary Poppins' bag as your extra little carry-on to go under your seat. I've seen people try to stuff 200-pound duffel bags under there. It's ridiculous. Your feet have to go somewhere.
* Just leave liquids at home. I once got some awesome Lancome moisturizer for Christmas and mistakenly had the audacity to want to bring it home with me. The evil TSA monsters took it. It was probably at least $100 worth of anti-wrinkle goodness. Even thinking about it right now makes me so angry I'm turning magenta. Ever since then I don't even chance it. I leave the shampoo and conditioner at home (usually hotels have those tiny bottles), and when I'm in Ohio, I always stay with my parents (who have plenty of hair-care products and tooth paste). I'm not picky about that stuff, especially if it's only for a few days.
* Downsize. I've gotten into the habit of packing all the clothes I think I need and then putting at least a few things back in my closet. I do this because I noticed that when I went on trips, I only actually wore about a third of the stuff I packed. While packing I tend to think to myself, "Well, this would look cute with this, and if we happen to go dancing I could wear this … and then if we go to a fancy dinner I could wear this…" but then, of course, we don't go dancing or to a fancy dinner, and I end up with a heavy bag full of clothes that I don't wear. And if you really need to, there's nothing wrong with wearing something twice. And as we all know, jeans never really get dirty so you can wear those as many times as you want.
* Leave fancy gadgets at home. I once had my luggage thoroughly searched because one particular TSA agent had never heard of a graphics tablet. I guess he thought my handy graphic design drawing tool was a special device for communicating with undesirables. He asked me very detailed questions about my profession (graphic designer), and then asked me if I was on any medication (not sure what graphic design has to do with being on meds, but whatever). I was already late for my plane because some lovely Delta workers had told me the wrong gate number and concourse, so I had to run from one end of Louis Armstrong to the other. And go through security a second time. I very nearly told the TSA dude that while I wasn't on any medication at the moment, after this experience with down-right rudeness and incompetence, I was going to need to start traveling with valium to keep my brain from exploding all over the place. But instead I bit my tongue and silently vowed to just never bring cool gadgets with me again on small trips.
* Always wear a good "flying outfit". Flying ain't what it used to be; no one is going to bump you up to first class because you're wearing a spiffy suit or cute dress anymore. You gotta pay outright for those upgrades. So why be uncomfortable? I always wear flip-flops because they're easy to get on and off through security… comfortable pants that don't require a belt (because they'll make you take it off), a comfy t-shirt and a hoodie. You want to dress in layers so you can take off your jacket if it's a little hot, or zip it up when you get up in the air and the plane is freezing.
* Don't dawdle. I always make sure to be among the first people on the plane in my "zone." It's a good way to make sure my luggage gets on the plane… because if all the overhead space is gone they will check your bag and you have about a 17% chance that it will get on the plane properly and land with you at your intended destination. It's also a good way to make sure you have a seat. Case in point: On the way to Ohio the other day for our connecting flight out of Atlanta, I made sure that my fiancé and I were the first people on our plane in "zone 4". As we made our way to the back of the plane we discovered that our seat numbers didn't actually exist. Instead of 32-Aand -B there was a flight attendant galley. Delta had booked at least a dozen tickets on that plane for seats that simply were not there. But since we were already on the plane and had claimed two unused seats, we got to go to our destination on time. I'm not sure what happened to the poor people who didn't fit on the plane (Delta probably put them on the next flight with some empty apologies and extra cookies) and I felt very bad for them, but you snooze, you lose.
* Try to have fun. Flying does kinda suck these days, from the intrusive TSA agents to the meager choice of cookies or peanuts or pretzels as a snack, and I'm sure that any day now the airlines are going to announce that they're even going to start charging for those. But there are some things I like to do to make flying more enjoyable. Airports are great for people watching, which is always amusing. It's also a good excuse to buy a tabloid magazine and read about Hollywood's breakups, baby bumps, made-up scandals and contrived photo ops. Although these days every magazine seems to be about the Kaptivating Kardashian Klan of Krazyness and I'm just so tired of seeing them everywhere. It's also a good time to do some reading, especially during a lay over. I have a copy of The Hunger Games that I'm going to read so I'll be up to speed on the "next big blockbuster saga."
So those are my general flying rules for myself. Ohio has been great but I am about ready to get back to New Orleans. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and safe travels. I'd love to hear any of your traveling tips or crazy TSA stories in the comments… and bring on the Christmas season! (or did that start the day after Halloween?)