Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to Travel Part One: Planes

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Most of you know that I’m a pretty avid traveller. After being born in England, growing up in New Jersey and California, and going to college in Scotland, along with lots of other trips along the way, I have definitely learned a thing or two about the ups and downs of travelling. I’m going to be doing a feature every week about travelling, because it’s all that’s on my mind right now! I hope this is helpful, and please do tell me if you have anything that you would like to see on this feature in the coming weeks!

This week I thought I would start out with the most obvious thing...flying. Because you’ve got to get where you gotta go, right? One caveat, as much as I love flying, it is not so good for the environment, so I always try to drive or take the train when instead of short haul domestic flights. However, there are times when it’s just necessary, so check out a program to offset your emissions like Native Energy, which is recommended by the Sierra Club.

Booking your flight:

Tickets: Check out a variety of sites before you book your flight so you can be sure that you’re getting the best deal. I like Kayak.com if I just feel like booking a vacation with no specific destination in mind. Orbitz.com and Expedia.com are good for checking exact dates and destinations. I always check individual airline websites as well because they often have deals that are not anywhere else on the web. My absolute favourite airline is Virgin, but I have also had good experiences with United, British Airways, Air France, and Delta. Some airlines (I’m not going to name any, but it is pretty easy to find out who they are) are notorious for having old, cramped planes and if you are going on a very long flight it would be worthwhile to do a quick search online about airlines you have not heard of or travelled with before, if they turn up with cheap tickets.

Miles: Another cost effective way of booking flights is with airmiles. All major airlines have airmile plans that you can use in conjunction with your credit card to gain points. Also, if you book a flight with your airmile credit card for that airline you often get triple or quadruple points. Anytime you take a flight be sure to get your airmile credits. They can really add up! I have booked many flights with miles, and often they are better because you can get upgraded easily if you fly with an airline often. I am definitely not advocating getting a credit card just to get more airmiles, it is just one way of doing it. You do not need to have a credit card to get airmiles, you can still earn them every time you fly.

Free Flights: The most cost effective way is...FREE! I am not an absolute aficionado on this method, but my mother and my sister swear by it, and they have flown all over the place on standby tickets. What you’re hoping for is that your airline is overbooked, and if it’s an international flight there is a very good chance that it will be. When you check in, tell the person that you are checking in with that you are willing to be bumped off onto the next flight if they have overbooked. They will give you a form to fill out. Then you head to the gate like any normal flight and play the waiting game. The airline will call you to the desk if they need your seat. Make sure that you are getting the right compensation. If you are being bumped off your flight you should get a free ticket as well as a ticket onto the next soonest flight. If you have to wait overnight until the next flight the airline will also give you a hotel. With your free ticket (score!) you can book any comparable (ie an international flight for an international bump, domestic for a domestic) flight on that airline, which is a pretty fantastic deal!

Checking In:

Check-In: I often check in on the airline’s website 24 hours ahead of time so that I don’t have to deal with too many hassles in the airport. Then when you arrive all you have to do is drop your bags. The earlier you check in the faster you will be able to board the plane.

Luggage: Make sure your bag is the correct weight by weighing it at home (a good way to do this is to stand on a scale holding your bag and then subtract your weight from whatever number you get) and checking it with checked luggage regulations.

Visas: If you are flying to a country where you need visas, make sure that you have that taken care of before you leave. One of my friends flew on a 17 hour flight to get to Brazil and was turned around as soon as he landed in the country because he did not have a correct visa. Do your research!

A note on luggage: it is always easiest to take carry-ons, but if you are not doing that make sure that all of your bags are marked with your destination information and phone number. It also helps to tie some brightly colored ribbons around your bags so they are easily recognizable. Another little tip that I discovered after always being over the weight limit is to carry a mini duffel in your big bag so that in a pinch you can stuff extra items in it. It’s also helpful for going on weekend trips if you are going away for a long time and don’t want to lug your big bag everywhere, or for bringing souvenirs home.

And a quick PS: NEVER be rude to the check-in staff if something goes wrong with your flight. I have seen it too many times and it breaks my heart because these people have absolutely nothing to do with it...they are just the messengers! Politeness can go a long way. If you are kind you are going to be the first one who gets put on the next flight, or booked a hotel room, or whose overweight luggage gets put through, etc. Trust me, I know!


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Security:

There is nothing worse than being held up by someone at security who has no idea what they are doing. Make sure you prepare yourself while you are in line so you can go straight through.

For your bag: you know the drill, take your laptop out and put it in an extra bin, put all of your liquids in a clear baggie, and drink your water before you go through.

For your person: Try to plan an easy outfit to go through security with. Don’t wear belts because they often set off alarms, the same goes for lots of jewellery. You will have to take off your shoes, so take that into consideration. However, don’t wear shoes with no socks because you will have to walk barefoot across the gross airport floor once you take them off. You will have to take off bulky coats and sweaters so do that ahead of time.

On the plane:

To bring in your carry on: Socks and a sweater to keep warm, a reusable water bottle to fill up at the water fountains before you get on the plane, lots of fruits and veggies to snack on, a book, and earphones for watching in-flight movies.

In-Flight: While on the flight it is best not to drink any caffeine or alcohol because it dehydrates you horribly. Also, lately I have been fasting on flights because I find that if I do that I don’t get a terrible stomach ache like I normally do when flying. After doing a little research online I also discovered that fasting during flights can also prevent jet lag because you can reset your body’s clock with food once you step off a flight. If you want to sleep during your flight take some Melatonin. It is a natural compound that mimics what your body releases before you fall asleep.

So...these are my top tips! I am sure a lot of it you have heard before but I hope they are helpful!


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Do you guys have any questions and/or advice that you always swear by?

(All images via weheartit)


8 comments:

Kelly said...

Great post! I am saving this for the next time I travel!

Jasmine said...

What wonderful tips! Checking in online is so handy! I love it! :) I have been having major wanderlust too! I so wish we could travel the world together!

nathalie said...

Frequent flyers miles for the win - thanks for this! I'll definitely keep this at hand. To save space in your carry-on if you wear contact lenses, fill up a case with liquid and keep it in your glasses case; in your suitcase, tape your shampoo and cream bottles shut and store them inside your shoes.

Michal said...

Great post! I fly a lot too and if I have time I try to wear a new piece of jewelry or belt or something and test it in security. If it beeps, I obviously don't wear it again, but because I did this, I have earrings and belts that I know I don't have to take off. (: I love the photos you used. x

andrea k (blonde bedhead) said...

This was incredibly helpful! I'm trying to do more traveling and the info on flights--so great! Thank you!

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

Yesss to melatonin! I travel all the time and though I've lost my bottle, I swear by that stuff for jet lag. Am currently pulling a travel-induced all-nighter. It's brutal!

Claggie said...

I love this post! So helpful. I want to go to Paris! my boyfriend is there right now. Let's get a plane and go to their show since you couldn't go in NYC! :)

upatreecupatea said...

Such great tips! I've found many of these to be true. I've done a lot of traveling around the pacific ocean and asia - always check the weight limits for baggage on your airline!

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