Up Your Plane Game

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Air travel isn’t always the best is it?  (Especially recently given the rash of stories about mechanical failures, fumes, and aromatic passengers.)  That said, it’s still oftentimes quicker than getting behind the wheel or your car, hopping a bus or the train.

Want to make your journey smoother, both for yourself and your fellow travelers?  Read on.

Arrive Timely.  We’ve all seen them, right?  Those folks that arrive with maybe 20 minutes to spare to make their flight.  Don’t be that person.  Give yourself enough time to clear security as calmly as possible, get to your gate, get a bottle of water and visit the restrooms at least once.  It’s advisable to arrive at the airport for a domestic flight 90 minutes before your departure if you have luggage to check and 60 minutes if you’re not checking luggage and you’ve already checked in online.  Flying internationally?  Give yourself a two-hour window

Check In Online.  It’s hard to imagine that anyone isn’t checking in online if you can but the lines I’ve seen at the airport tell me some people aren’t.  Come on, folks!  Use your mobile phone, iPad, computer.  Anything to speed up the process at the airport.

Be Security Savvy.  Surely everyone has had to go through a security line at the airport.  While the procedures may be a bit different at each airport, they’re relatively similar.  And most have signs telling you what to expect.  Be ready before it’s your turn.  If the shoes must come off, have them ready to slip off, or take them off immediately before you grab your bin.  Have your quart bag of liquids easily accessible.  Don’t wear anything that will set the detector off or raise red flags.  And once you’re through the detector, grab your bag and step out of the way.

Dress Smartly.  We don’t need to go back to the days of dressing up to travel (and thank goodness for that) but wearing actual pajamas to the airport to get on a plane is ridiculous if you’re over the age of five.  Wear clothing that is loose and not constricting (without being sloppy-baggy) and won’t excessively wrinkle.  Layering is a smart move, since the temperature onboard can vary from freezing to stuffy, depending on what time you fly.  Wear shoes that will be comfy in case you need to walk from concourse to concourse with your bag(s) and easy enough to slip off when going through security.  High, teetering heels may look sexy and sleek at home but a broken ankle is anything but.

Drink Up.  Water, that is.  Flying is dehydrating.  Bring a bottle you can fill up at the airport and drink away.  I always drink tons of water before I leave for the airport and once I get there.  Sure, it means a handful of bathroom trips but it’s better than suffering a headache or feeling queasy. Alcohol is also dehydrating so if you choose to indulge in the airport or on your flight, be mindful of how much you drink.

Don’t Crowd the Gate.  This one, I’ve never understood.  Why do so many people gather around the gate before their zone is called?  Doing so makes it more difficult for those whose zones have been called to get to the gate and even blocks the walkway for travelers heading to other gates.  Unless you’re flying Southwest, you have an assigned seat.  So remain seated in the waiting area, or stand to the side, and wait for your zone to be called.

Scents and Sensibility.  Being on a flight – – especially an international one – – with the lovely recycled air is not the reason to douse yourself with your favorite cologne or perfume.  It’s also not the time to skip that shower or deodorant or grab that aromatic Indian food on your way to board the plane.  Be considerate of your fellow companions, who may not want to breathe in copious amounts of curry or Chanel No. 5 as they cross the Atlantic.   If you absolutely must have that Indian meal before you go, arrive at the airport in plenty of time to sit and dine.

Keep Your Germs to Yourself.  No one can help being ill and sometimes we simply must travel while under the weather.  If that’s you, the best thing you can do is don one of those surgical masks.  No, they aren’t the most attractive nor comfortable things but it’s the best way to keep your temporary neighbors from coming down with what you have.  Sanitizing your hands often will also do wonders.

Overhead = Over Your Head.  I know, I know.  Officially, overheard bins are not assigned.  Basically first come, first served.  But come on . . . if you’re sitting in the back of the plane, why would you dump your carry-on in a compartment at the front?  (Rhetorical question.  I know why.  You’re lazy.)  Don’t do it.  It’s unfair to the people sitting in those seats who will have nowhere to store their bag, except in the back, by you, when they board.  It won’t kill you to tote your bag to your seat and place it over your head.

Take a Seat.  Did you know that your flight crew doesn’t begin to get paid until the plane leaves the gate?  It’s true.  So get to your seat as quickly as possible.  Don’t hold those up behind you by putting things into and pulling items out of your overhead bag (see below) or debating with your traveling companion about who is going to sit in the middle.  If you are traveling with small children, it may be easier to carry them onboard.  Once seated, go ahead and fasten your seatbelt.  Make sure the seatbelt is fastened over your jacket or blanket, so the flight attendant can see it.  Anything to get the show on the road.

What You Need.  Ever been on a plane and either been seated next to or seen a person who is constantly up and down, getting things out of a bag in the overhead bin or putting something back?  Yep, me too.  Props to the person for at least putting the bag over their own seat but let’s be honest.  It’s annoying.  If you need crackers, your iPad, peppermints, your glasses, etc. during the flight, remove them from your overhead bag before you get on the plane and keep them with you at your seat.  Your seatmates will thank you.  Especially if you’re in a middle or window seat.

Watch Out For the Tray Table.  You may have heard . . . the tray table is the germiest, grossest part of the plane.  It’s been reported that everything from people’s feet (ugh) to dirty diapers (when the tray table is being used as a changing table inflight) are placed on that table and that can be before your meal is served there.  Lovely, right?  Pack some antibacterial wipes in your carry-on and wipe that sucker down before you take off.  Even if you don’t plan on eating, you will probably place your beverage or a book there.  Wipe away.

No Babysitters on Board.  This may be news to some parents who travel but guess what?  Being on a plane does not mean you have a certain number of hours to ignore your children because they can’t go anywhere.  Nope.  Sorry.  The plane is not a playground.  Don’t let your little darlings run up and down the aisles; play on the floor, while requesting the person in the seat in front of them not recline so the kid(s) can have more space; kick the seat(s) in front of them; repeatedly slam the tray table up and down; and/or tell the kid(s) to scream all they want because they will be ignored (at least by the parent.)  And yes, I’ve had all the above happen.

Mind Your Real Estate.  Being in economy, you’re in tight quarters until you reach your destination.  It doesn’t mean you have to be BFFs with your seatmates but a certain level of courtesy is always appreciated.  Sometimes the arm rests have to be shared, especially for the person in the middle seat.  Leg room can be challenging, especially if you are tall and/or have a bulkier bag you have placed under the seat in front of you – – but your neighbor’s leg room is still his or hers.  If you have to get up during the flight, be conscious of the fact that the seat in front you, which you may be gripping to assist in balance or to get up, is also someone’s headrest.  I’ve been woken up by the person behind me who felt it unnecessary to use their legs to get up when there was a perfectly good, although occupied, seat in front of them to use their body weight on.

Touch, Not Poke.  That seatback screen in front of you?  It’s a touch screen.  Touch.  Not jab or poke.  It’s also located directly on someone else’s back.  Enough said.

Spring Forward or Fall Back.  Is there a time difference at your destination?  Set your watch forward or back, as appropriate.  When I traveled to Paris, I calculated the time different and set my watch forward as we were taking off. It helped me to start getting on Parisian time before we had left the ground and know exactly how much longer before we landed.

Don’t Be a Litterbug.  This one will likely be greatly appreciated by your flight crew, who may only have a half hour or less to “flip” the plane before the next passengers begin boarding.  The flight attendants come around with bags and bins multiple times during flights in order to collect your trash. If you miss that, carry your trash off with you and dispose of it in the airport.

What do you think?  Did I miss anything that you find helpful while traveling?

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