"" Writer's Wanderings: Flying? Avoid That Dreaded Six-Lettered Word: STRESS

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Flying? Avoid That Dreaded Six-Lettered Word: STRESS

We all love vacations, time away from home exploring, relaxing, seeing new things and meeting new people. But most of us just don't like the getting there and most often it involves a plane which means checking in, going through security and trying to find room for your carry-ons.

Checking in can be done from home most of the time and if it's your return trip, often it can be done on your smart phone with wifi access. Otherwise, you can go to a kiosk at the counter for your airline and swipe a credit card, driver's license, passport, or just enter your reservation number and print your boarding pass right there. There is always someone handy to help you through the process.

Bags? Here's where a little preplanning can save you anxiety and money. Many airlines have no fee or charge a smaller fee for the first bag. After that it goes up, sometimes a lot. If you are going to be gone for more than a week, plan to have a laundry day. Many hotels and motels and even some B and Bs offer laundry facilities. Cruising? Often a ship will have a self laundry or you can send clothes out to be cleaned. The cost probably won't be any more than an extra bag and in most cases, less.

For your carry on, use a soft sided bag or backpack. It is easier to squeeze into an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. If you absolutely must have two carry-ons, be sure to put all your personal items (electronics, medications, etc.) in one of them as you will most likely be asked to check the other at the gate. There is no charge for that but it can be a bit unnerving and inconvenient.

The best policy is to only carry on one bag that you can comfortably fit under the seat in front of you in case you find yourself in a crowded plane or one of those smaller commuter flights for one leg of your trip.

Remember that TSA policies are always changing and often are different in different countries. Most standard policies ask that you keep the liquids to the 3-1-1 rule: Containers with no more than 3 ounces each all put into a 1 quart ziploc bag and only 1 bag per person. Don't buy that bottle of water until you get through security. Or you could take an empty bottle through and fill it at a water fountain. Shoes on or off? Depends upon where you are. Keep an eye on those ahead of you or ask the TSA agent. Unless you have the right computer bag, your computer needs to come out and into a tray of its own. Tablets and eReaders not so much. Coats and outer sweaters or jackets will need to come off too. I just don't wear them to travel in any more or I take them off and stuff them in my backpack until I'm through security.

Grab a sandwich or snacks inside the airport before boarding unless you want to pay for airplane food or you're flying first class. Drinks are still free although we did run into a charge for coffee once. That didn't last long.

If you are uncertain about procedure or what is allowed, ask questions. It saves time. And if you find yourself stuck in an airport with a huge chunk of time between flights, you might want to ask at one of the airline lounges if you can buy a day pass. Chairs are comfy. There's usually snacks and TV and Wifi and a lot less noise.

Flight canceled? Get out that smart phone and call the airline while you walk to the ticket counter to rebook. Sometimes you can get it done faster that way especially if there are a hundred others in the same boat, er, plane as you.

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