Me with my new best friend in South Africa, July 2007
Having just returned from an International trip everything is fresh in my mind and I really think there are things I have learned on this and previous trips that should be passed on to help others. Let’s face it the airline industry is in a mess. The high cost of jet fuel, and other factors, are causing many canceled flights, airlines are merging, going bankrupt, charging for luggage, fuel etc., it’s a mess! I do not see things getting better in the near future. Therefore here are my tips for surviving flying anywhere these days:
Reservations should always be made early. The sooner your flight is booked the less you pay as prices keep going up. If booking a flight for a group tour or painting trip that might later be canceled if there is not enough sign-ups, pay for a ticket that allows cancellation or get trip insurance that covers canceled flight. AIG Insurance is the one I use.
Due to delays and canceled flights occurring so often, layovers should be no less than 2 hours, especially at large international airports. It is better to chill-out and read a book for a couple of extra hours, than miss your connecting flight or have to run with your carry-on through the airport.
Frequent Flyer Flights should be booked as early as 11 months ahead if trying to book frequent flyer seats for international flights. If you can’t get the flights you want, put a “hold” on the next best thing, and call back everyday to see if the one you want opens up before you have to accept the hold seat. Calling very late at night usually works best.
Travel agents can save you tons of time and some money (larger agencies have deals with airlines), and should know what they are doing. A good agent is worth a $35. booking fee.
Always have a Plan B and Plan C itinerary with you. If any flight is canceled you can easily demand the next best flight because you know what it is, so you are ahead of everyone else scrambling to get a replacement flight.
The web site http://www.kayak.com has all flights on all but a few tiny airlines going to almost all destinations world wide on it. You don’t buy tickets here; you just use it to search for best flight and best itineraries, and for Plan B and Plan C ideas. You can click on “details” and print out the complete itinerary. Each listing shows what web site to go to buy the ticket and what it cost, supposedly including airport fees and taxes. But watch out, when Sylvia and I booked our flights to Europe for this September’s painting trip we discovered Virgin Atlantic prices did not include fees and taxes making it higher than flights listed from other airlines that did include these costs.
Read the fine print before clicking “buy” if buying your own tickets on line.
Due to crossing many time zones on overseas flights you sometimes land the next day or arrive home on the same day you left, so watch that you are booking the correct departure and arrival dates.
Packing for your trip:
Learn to be self-sufficient and pack what you can handle by yourself. Personally if I can’t carry my entire luggage myself, up a flight of stairs, it does not go. You cannot count on pushcarts, red caps, valets or strong men or women to always be there to help you, especially if you are taking trains in Europe. Buy the “clothes washing kit” that includes a twisty clothesline that does not require clothespins to hang thing up, drain stopper and Woolite packets sold in travel stores and catalogs and wash your clothes in the sink.
I just came back from an 18-day painting trip riding many trains by myself, up and down long flights of stairs in train stations and carried my own luggage the whole trip. I took
A small backpack (my personal carry-on item)
A roller bag suitcase 22” x 9” 14” legal as a carry-on.
A tiny “checked luggage” bag that is a small canvas overnight bag that has a slot that fits over the handle of my carryon 22” roller bag. Due to the restrictions on liquids and gels, I place my Cheap Joes 9” x 12” palette filled with paints in this bag along with and liquids or gels in my cosmetic bag, it has extra zippers on each side that work for shoes. Most security folks might consider my palette filled with paints violates that liquid gel rule and confiscate it, so not wanting to take a chance, I pack it in this little bag and check it through. I could just check my 22” roller bag, but then if it gets lost I have lost everything in it too, so with the tiny bag less gets lost.
Surviving the flights:
Pack your sense of humor, and your Zen attitude, and never ever loose it.
Carry your own food on board, no liquids or gels (unless you buy it at the airport after you go through security). Beware not all airports have places to buy food beyond security so bring granola bars, trail mix, apples, jerky, whatever with you. Bottled water is offered a lot on flights and can usually be purchased beyond security.
Know your airline passenger rights, (or pretend to) and be ready to spout them in legal sounding terminology if you have to convince an airline employee to put you on another flight or whatever.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. I wear a short sleeve top and carry a long sleeve top to adjust for a/c and shoes that expand if my feet swell.
Carry hand sanitizer packets (not considered liquid or gel if in a tiny one use packet) and use them often!
Get up and walk around the airplane when you are not sleeping. My rule, at least once and hour I walk and stretch.
On overseas flights you can go to the galley at the back of the airplane and get water, soda or juice whenever you want. If it is not out for the taking, ask a flight attendant.
May you travel safe with as few hassles as possible and stay curious about this incredible world we inhabit.