7 Pieces of Advice from a Veteran Traveler to a Newbie

If you haven’t traveled in a while and will fly at Thanksgiving (or Christmas or anytime), this is a useful list of dos and don’ts. But even frequent flyers should take a look since we all forget things and who knows? You might even learn something new.

1. No Points for Procrastination

Maybe the last time you flew, security lines were nearly deserted. Do not count on that happening again!  Getting to the airport early is crucial during holidays to get through lines that can last 20 or 30 minutes. So, arrive early;  joining the TSA PreCheck program will help thanks to its dedicated PreCheck lanes.

You’ll want to get to the gate extra-early because planes sometimes leave ahead of schedule. Once the aircraft door is shut – even though there’s another five minutes until scheduled departure time – that door may stay shut and you will be looking for another way to get to your destination.

2. Don’t Try to Look Too Rugged

If you usually pack a no-wheels carry-on like a duffel bag or backpack, you’re probably in pretty good shape. But so was a friend who of mine who recently took connecting flights from California to South Carolina while hand-carrying an overstuffed gym-type bag plus a heavy laptop satchel. Neither bag had shoulder straps or wheels, and three days after her trip she said her arms were still killing her.

So don’t be a hero, use a carry-on with wheels.  Cautionary note: Know your favorite airline’s size allowance before you go shopping. As you measure bags, be sure to include the wheels.

3. Wear Comfortable Shoes 

If you have ever trudged the endless corridors of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport – making your way from one terminal to another without benefit of moving sidewalks – you know you need comfortable shoes. This is the time to toss vanity out the window and put on those sneakers.  Our thanks to Capt. Obvious for this tip.

4. Don’t Make Bomb Jokes

Bomb jokes – or jokes about guns or weapons or terror or anything of that nature. Explanations that you were just kidding don’t work on airline crew members and law enforcement officials who tend to have zero sense of humor about such matters. Penalties can range from jail to missing a flight, and plenty of people have had to pay fines. Last April, a man aboard Singapore Airlines-owned discount carrier Scoot joked about a bomb in his carry-on; he was yanked from the plane and ordered to pay a fine of $3,200. 

5. Pay Attention, Part I

Sometimes, flying is so fatiguing that we can fail to pay attention to important stuff. Case in point: A young couple I know, traveling with their young children, sat in the gate area early one morning when they drifted off amid the din of boarding announcements. When they came to, the plane had gone! It sure would have been nice if a fellow passenger had thought to give them a nudge during boarding but no one bothered and they weren’t able to find space on another flight until the next day. Don’t let this happen to you!

6. Pay Attention, Part II

This will probably never, ever, be necessary but do it anyway: Pay attention to the flight attendant’s safety drill. Sure, you know how to put the oxygen mask on, but do count the rows from your seat to the exits. Just in case.

7. Smile

I personally hate it when people say, “You should smile more!” but several flight attendants have told me they wish passengers would smile at them more often, especially during boarding. (I’ve also heard passengers say flight attendants don’t smile at them.)

What the heck, give it a try. You never know if a smile prompts a crew member to offer you the whole can of soda – or even a spur-of-the-moment upgrade. Or, it may get you nothing, but smiling doesn’t cost a thing and according to some studies it may help you feel happier. Trust me, a little happiness will coming in handy if you haven’t flown in a while.

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