Dave spoke on CBC Radio this morning about making Spring Break Travels easier and we realized that a lot of people have questions about how to make their time at the airport more relaxing, speedier and easier. Travel can be stressful, but if you are prepared to follow our air travel tips, you can not only make your travels easier, you can have fun at the airport and relax the minute you leave home.
11 Air Travel Tips for Happy Flying
Let's face it. In today's world, air travel is not fun. Remember the days when you used to love being at the airport or on the plane just as much as the trip itself? Well, they are long gone my friend, with confusing security checks that seem to change rules from airport to airport to seats getting smaller with each trip, flying can sometimes be a downright miserable experience. But we're here to help!
1. Arrive Early
This may sound routine, but we hear of so many travellers arriving at the last minute at the airport. At one time, Dave and I waited 45 minutes for our parking lot shuttle to bring us to the airport. There wasn't another way out and no taxis swing by this area, so we had no other choice but to stand and wait. As seasoned travellers who rack up nearly 100,000 air miles each year, we still arrive early to our flights. I've talked to other full time travellers who feel the same way. They (and we) say, why take the risk? Arrive early and relax.
See: What's Your Travel Style, Complement it at Toronto Pearson
2. Use Valet Parking Service
We usually book our parking online through ParknFly and did you know that for only $20 more (online only) you can upgrade to valet parking? Valet parking gets priority and there are more shuttles for this. You never have to wait more than eight minutes. It doesn't matter anyway because you are waiting indoors! If it's the middle of winter and you are flying somewhere warm, you don't have to bring your heavy winter coats, leave them in the car, hop on the heated shuttle and be taken door to door. When you fly home, give them a call from the airport and they'll have your car warmed up, scraped off and waiting for you when you get back. We even get our car detailed at ParknFly. Plus when you book online there are deep discounts for long-term parking!
3. Check in Online
We always check in online. That saves you tons of time of having to stand in line to check in at the teller. Most airlines now have a luggage drop off only section for those who have already checked in online. You have done all the paperwork and all you have to do is drop off your bags.
4. Carry on Only
Or better yet, travel with carry on only bags. If you are flying south, you don't need a lot of clothing. Pack a few sarongs, shorts, non wrinkle pants, and for a ladies a cute strappy dress or two and you are good to go. Most hotels supply shampoo, conditioner and soap and the small tubes of toothpaste are all you need for a week. Besides, you can always buy what you need at the gift shop.
Think about what you can and can't bring on the plane with you. If you aren't sure, don't bring it! We've left behind some a nice mini screwdriver (I'm talking an inch long tops!) because we forgot it was in Dave's camera bag. If you have a pointy object, liquids larger than 100ml or aerosol cans, they are taken away at security and thrown away. Start packing in advance and then go through your luggage once or twice before you leave and scale down. We have a lot of mix and match clothing that we can turn into several outfits with only 3 to 5 pieces.
Don't be that guy in front of George Clooney in Up in the Air, be George Clooney!
When you get to security, have everything you need to show in a plastic bag. We also carry our computers a separate canvas shopping bag when checking in and when going through security, it's easy access and takes the weight out of your carryon. We wear slip on shoes with clean and nice socks. There's nothing more embarrassing than holy socks at security! And men, don't wear a belt.
We always have everything put away before we get to security except our passport and boarding pass. We never carry anything in our pockets. Think of the word KISS…Keep it simple stupid.
Note: Make sure your electronics are charged, with new security measures, you may be asked to turn on your computer, iPad or cell phone. If you can't turn it on, it's not coming with you!
7. Load Videos, Books or Music onto your phone or iPad
We always have TV series, movies and books loaded on our iPads. You can never count on the entertainment system working on the flight. Trust me it's happened to us several times a year. We've sat in our seats, turn on our entertainment system and nothing happens. The airline always offers us a coupon to redeem miles for the inconvenience but that never works either. Luckily we have our must see flick on the iPad and we enjoy our flight either way. It passes the time in the airport too.
8. Bring snacks
Flights are cutting down on giving passengers food and drink, so we always have a stash of food. Our go-to flying snack is a bagel with cream cheese and some crackers. It fills you up quickly and does the trick. It saves you having to buy food on the plane if they don't offer it, and it helps out with the pitiful quantity of food they do give you if you get a meal.
This is also a good tip for kids, trust me I know. Dave's a big kid and he gets grumpy when he's hungry, if I give him a treat, he's instantly happy.
We use American Express Platinum to get into lounges all over the world regardless of what airline we're flying. In Toronto they have American Express lounges that cardmembers can enter for free, but get this! Non Cardmembers can enter too for a fee. $40 gets you lounge access with food and drinks covered including alcoholic beverages. Just look for the Plaza Premium Lounge.
We see this at all airports. It's different credit cards at each airport around the world, but there's usually always one lounge that offers people entry for a fee. We say, if you travel a lot, get that card that offers the Priority Pass, we have access to 600 lounges across the globe.
Water is a tricky one. You know you can't bring any water bottles with you through security but what about empty bottles? We've seen people have to leave behind their Nalgenes and thermoses, so we never bother. If you want to bring something to fill your own water bottle, use a collapsable water bottle or we bite the bullet and buy water at the airport. Flight attendants are supposed to bring you all the water you need, but believe me it never happens. I'm always parched on the plane and they never come around enough. You can go back and ask for some though, so don't be afraid to get what you want.
We always carry small bills of US Dollars and Euros with us. It's great for tolls if we are driving across the border, but we also have it to tip our valet or porters when we arrive at the hotel. When we arrive at our we go to the ATM in the airport and get out a couple hundred dollars in the local currency. We don't buy currency in Canada, we just get it when we arrive. With chip cards, we can use our credit cards all over the world.
There are plenty of ways to make your travels easier, just remember, this a vacation so have fun. Give yourself the time you need so you don't feel pressure at the airport. Terminals are getting better each day with free wifi, lounge access, and even massages. So start vacation early and make your time at the airport a part of your trip!
Must Have Travel Gear for your Flight
GoToob Bottles: I am surprised at the amount of people that still carry liquids larger than 100 ml, but it happens nearly every time we fly. I have to admit, I haven't found 100ml bottles that work well or are reusable until we found the GoToob Bottles. The multipack contains three bottles perfect for shampoo, conditioner and sunscreen. I like the no-drip, leak proof valves and large opening making it easy to fill. I didn't bother to use the integrated label feature as it's very small to read, I just go by the colour of the bottle instead. Keep these bottles separate in a plastic bag and you'll whiz through security.
Trackable Luggage Tags: Have you ever lost your luggage never to be found again? I'm not going to lie, most airlines are not that helpful these days when it comes to helping you locate your valuables. I've watched many a friend get nowhere fast as they have online discussions with airlines asking them for help finding their bags. To make sure we have an extra leg up in case we lose our bags, we registered our trackable luggage tag's serial number online giving us extra security when it comes to our travels.
Luggage Hugger: Okay, how many of you have a black generic suitcase? Be honest. We're guilty of it too, but with the luggage hugger, we can now locate our bag easily. We thought we were safe with a duffel bag, but sure enough when flying to Maui a couple of months ago, somebody grabbed our duffel bag thinking it was theirs. Lucky we were there to correct the mistake. Now, that we have the luggage holder, our bags stand out when they fall onto the conveyor belt.
Luggage Handle Wraps:We've been using luggage handle wraps for years and this is the next best thing to the luggage hugger. As a matter a fact, we use both the hugger and the handle wraps because you can never be too safe. We even put the handle wraps on our carryon bags because sometimes we have to stow them when boarding a small plane. Do you know how many small black carry on rollers there are out there? Our handle wraps set them apart.
40 Blinks Eye Mask:When flying, I always wear an eye mask. I can sleep anywhere and there's something about air travel that knocks me right out. A good eye mask is a must. I've been woken up by someone opening up their blind and unexpectedly blasting me with sunlight. I only made that mistake once. The minute I'm tired, I put on my mask. The difference between 40 Blinks and other eye masks is that it is contoured out of molded foam so it doesn't put pressure on your eye lids. It blocks the same light with twice the comfort.
EarPlanes:As much as we hate to travel with a cold it is bound to happen. We find that our allergies are acting up more and more as we get older as well. Have you ever flown with an earache? It is completely unbearable. I keep a pair handy to relieve pressure in the ears for take off and landings. You may not always be affected by pressure, but when you are, you'll be glad you have your EarPlanes.
Fun Read: Air Travel is so Annoying
No Jet Lag Pills:The more we travel, the more we seem to suffer from jet lag. We do everything right. We usually avoid alcohol, we drink plenty of water and we avoid caffeine, but we still suffer. No Jet Lag pills have natural remedies such as Arnica Montana and Chamomilla to help ease the symptoms. We used them on our flight to Austin Texas and while it was only a two-hour time change, I felt great. Normally I even suffer through daylight savings and it's only an hour's difference. So this must have done something. Plus it tastes good too.
Compression Socks : I never took Deep Vein Thrombosis seriously until a friends sister got it after a flight. Compression socks help with circulation and leg exhaustion. Compression socks have come a long way. I tried them once a few years ago and they felt like they were squeezing my legs, my latest pair are so cushiony and cozy. The merino wool keeps odour away and they feel comfortable on a flight.
Acorn Via Cap-Toe Ballet Flats: Speaking of feet. I know that nobody likes to look at people's bare feet when travelling. I was guilty of this in my backpacking days. I used to always travel in flipflops. Now, I care about the people around me and slip into my ballet flats on the flight. They are comfortable and stylish and I've even worn them out of the airport too. Why didn't I start wearing ballet flats in my travels earlier?