How to Fly While Retaining Sanity…

Since NavyGuy and I have been in separate states for much of the last three years, I’ve done a significant amount of air travel. As I’m packing and preparing for my battle with TSA flight tomorrow, I thought I would share a few of the tips and techniques I’ve honed to help make flying less like having a colonoscopy… sans anesthesia.

1. Ignore the adage about packing lightly. It’s boo hockey. Cram as much as you can lift into your carry-on bag(s). The charge for overweight checked bags is outrageous, and most airlines are now charging to check more than one piece of luggage. I will gladly keep more of my belongings in my own hot little hands – even if it means I have a slight backache from hauling heavy luggage around the terminal – rather than pay the airlines to check an additional bag, and risk they will lose it.

2. Along those same lines, anything you may need within the first 24 hours at your final destination should be packed in your carry-on luggage. For example, I always carry on a small bottle of contact lens solution (more on the liquid requirements later), and my glasses. If my flight gets canceled or pushed to the next day, I would be in a world of hurt sleeping in my contacts. Pills, paperwork, or any other items that you would like on a deserted island with you? Put it in the carry-on.

3. Liquids. Alright, people, basically – it’s a crapshoot. If it’s an expensive tube of lipstick that you don’t want to risk giving up – put it in your checked luggage. Seriously, they claim there are rules about these things (3 ounces, in a ziplock bag, blah blah blah), but I swear every TSA person and every airport and every security line has different rules. I’ve given up trying to keep it straight. Take small bottles of stuff, but don’t freak if they make you throw out your 3.5 ounce hand lotion.

4. One thing that most people don’t realize is that the liquid ban is just that – a ban on liquids. There’s no ban on water bottles… just a ban on the water in them. I refuse to cough up the four dollars that most of the fast food places charge for a bottled water once you’re past security, so a few years ago, I tried a pretty ingeniuous move. I packed an empty water bottle in my purse (you can use the cheap throwaway kind or a reusable one), and then filled it up at the bubbler once I was through the security line. Score! I had my water for the flight (because if you’re in a bad seat, you could wait until halfway through the flight before they come around for your drink order), and I didn’t have to pay out the nose for it. The one time I couldn’t find a drinking fountain by the gates, I bitched to high heaven simply used a bathroom faucet. Try this one.

5. There’s no rule that says you have to put your carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment directly above your seat. In fact, if you’re wise, you’ll put it in the compartment across the aisle from your seat. It’s much easier to stand up, reach across, and pull down your luggage that way, instead of trying to twist around and grab it from above your seat (plus then you can keep an eye on it). If that isn’t an option, then be sure to stash your bag closer to the front of the plane.

6. Whenever possible, sit in an aisle seat. The window’s fun if you haven’t flown before, but there’s more space, attention, and chances of making a quick exit if you have a connecting flight, when you’re sitting on the aisle.

The biggest secret to successful travel is your attitude. Be polite, but recognize that it’s a zero-sum game. You need to get to your destination with the least amount of pain involved. Remember…

“All Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.”
~General George S. Patton

Anyone else have any secrets to winning the battle of air travel?

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