Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pre-Turkey Travel Advice

So, everyone ready for the biggest travel day of the year? No? Tough! OK, it's almost 9am on the day before Thanksgiving, but here are some travel tips that may help you stay sane.

  • Check in online. If you're reading this blog, you probably already know how to do this, but just on the off chance -- Go to your airline's web site (like or and look for a link that says "Check in online". You will need a printer. You can print your boarding pass in the comfort of your home. THIS WILL SAVE YOU TIME AT THE AIRPORT.
  • If possible, don't check bags. Obviously, checking bags runs the risk of them being lost; also, you'll wait 10-60 minutes for them to come out at your destination.
  • Follow the TSA guidelines about liquids and gels. Its ridiculous, and it's silly, and it doesn't make me feel a whit safer, but PLEASE, IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, READ THE TSA GUIDELINES FOR LIQUIDS AND GELS. I can't stress this enough. The breakdown is simple:
    • You can't carry any containers of liquid over 3 oz. in size through security.
    • You can buy liquids (like a bottle of water or a cup of coffee) once you're through security.
    • All of your small containers of liquid must be in a 1-quart ziploc bag.
    • You can put any size container you want in your checked bag
I really can't stress this enough. Don't be the person who holds up a 1-hour security line because you forgot and stuffed your shampoo in your carryon. And DEFINITELY don't be the person who screams at the TSA that you *need* your expensive shampoo. If you're at the point of going through the security checkpoint and you have something that can't come with, your options are:
  1. Check another bag (and go through the line again)
  2. Say goodbye to your bottle of shampoo/scotch/lotion/whatever.
  3. Cry, scream, yell, moan .... and then choose option 1 or 2 (though if you pitch a large enough fit, you can be arrested, too).
  • Get to the airport early. It's better to spend an hour twiddling your thumbs at your departure gate than be in the security line with 12 minutes before your flight leaves, ready to sprint for it. Security screening is like quicksand- the harder you struggle, the worse it will be. Go through relaxed, and you have no problems. Also, and this may sound strange, but... Get to the airport on time, EVEN IF YOUR FLIGHT IS GOING TO BE LATE. If you have a 5pm flight, and it's delayed to 6:30, they MAY be able to leave at 6pm. Or 5:30. Trust me, it happens. Never rely on a flight being as late as they say. Also, if you're checking bags, you have to arrive at the counter 45 minutes before the ORIGINAL check-in time, regardless of when the flight really leaves.
  • Be prepared for the worst. Check out my guide on what to do if your flight is cancelled. Have a well-charged cell phone and the phone numbers of the people you'll be meeting. Understand that flights will be cancelled or delayed. It happens all the time. Don't stress about it. Stressing about it won't make the plane take off faster.
  • Bring this stuff with you: Consider this list. You don't *have* to bring all of this, but it helps:
    • Earplugs. $1 at the drugstore is cheap insurance against screaming babies, noisy jets, etc.
    • A pen and scratch paper.
    • A charged cellphone and cell phone charger.
    • I like to bring my laptop. But I'm used to bringing it everywhere. If you bring yours, make sure it's in a padded case, and you bring your charger.
    • A list of phone numbers, including the airline, rental car company, and hotel I'm using; also, any contacts at my destination.
    • A printout of any maps I might need to get from the airport to my destination
    • A printout of every travel confirmation I have
    • Advil and immodium
    • A light snack or three
    • Digital camera and charger
  • Finally, here's how to get through security quickly:
  1. As you approach the security line you should have no metal (keys, coins, cellphone, etc) in your pockets. Of course, if you're wearing a jacket, it comes off, so it's OK to stick these things in a jacket pocket.
  2. Have your license/passport and boarding pass out and ready. Nobody likes waiting behind a hapless traveler as they dig through their pockets for a license.
  3. Once you get through the initial screening (they'll ask for license & boarding pass), keep your boarding pass out and available; most airports want to see it as you walk through the metal detector.
  4. As you approach the metal detector (with a minute or two to go), start preparing to go through. Untie your shoes. Take off your coat and drape it over your arm. Take your laptop out of its bag.
  5. When you get to security, put your stuff in the bins as follows:
    • Laptop goes in a separate bin
    • Don't overstuff the bins
    • Shoes don't go in a bin. If you put them in a bin, the TSA takes them out and puts them on the belt. If you're concerned about your fancy shoes going on the belt, wear different shoes.
    • Coat comes off and goes in a bin

OK, that's about it for now. Everyone have a safe and happy holiday!

1 comment:

Emily said...

Quicksand. Oh, true.

Great post, thanks!