Lately, travel hasn’t been easy.
Crowds, delays, staffing challenges, weather; it can all throw a wrench into your long-planned dream trip – or even a quick trip you’ve taken many times before.
That said, there are tips for smart travel that may be more important than ever; ways to ensure that – should things go sideways – you’ll come through with your sanity, property and hopefully the serenity you’re looking for from a getaway.
Here are my “Must Do” Travel Tips for the current travel climate.
Protect your luggage
It’s easy to declare “never check luggage and you’ll always know where it is!” but life is not that simple. Some trips require more than you can pack into a carry on; sometimes even when you carry on, you end up being forced to check your bag.
Best bet? While many airline apps do a good job of keeping you somewhat informed of your current luggage location, they’re semi-vague (“Your luggage has arrived at your first stop and will be transferred,” For instance).
How to know exactly where it is at all times? Just get smart, like I finally have, and toss an Apple AirTag (https://www.apple.com/airtag) in any and all checked bags.
With an AirTag in action, you can see every movement of your bag in real time. As you walk to a connecting gate, you can actually see your luggage moving on your AirTag as you go along. And should your bag go wayward, you’ll know immediately where it is – a huge help.
A friend on a recent trip had his luggage disappear on a connecting flight and ended up stuck in the Canadian Rockies with no winter gear. Ends up it was sitting in the arrival airport the entire time, lost in a corner. AirTag would have solved that.
They’re easy to use (connect in the Find My part of your Apple device), their batteries last a full year and they’re waterproof. I’ll never travel without them again (and by the way, toss one in your carry on as well, just in case you forget something).
Pad your trip
If you’re going someplace that requires a rock solid arrival day and time (say, a cruise or another adventure that leaves from your flight destination), pad your trip by 24 hours. While it means an additional hotel night, it could also be the difference between making your big trip or not. I look at this as a chance for a mini-destination within a destination.
I’m traveling in late February with an exact arrival need via Vancouver. Rather than get there within a few hours (fingers crossed), I’m arriving a day early and exploring the city. Should I be late from a cancelation, I only miss that, not the start of my important trip. And if I get there on time? An added experience is a good thing.
Dress smart on the plane
In the new era of travel challenges, it’s a good idea to think ahead when you dress for the flight. (Sidenote: remember when flying was glamorous and you dressed up? Times have changed). Think destination, but stopovers too.
If you’re heading from a warm destination to a cold, err on the side of cold. If the opposite, stick with your cold weather clothes but layer or pack one warm weather change of clothing in your carry on. With this, should your luggage be lost or you get stuck someplace, you’ll have both a warm weather and cold weather option. Trust me, the guy I saw in Canada last week stuck in shorts and a T-shirt for days wishes he had.
Don’t assume food and drink on board is a sure thing
While some flights do offer meals for sale (and of course, we’re talking those of us not in first class here), many do not—and sometimes even if they’ve advertised they do, they may just have a small bag of pretzels and some water or – should the flight be a rocky one – not allow flight attendants to serve.
If for some reason you need food and drink on board, bring it yourself to be sure. Carry an empty water bottle through security and then fill it. Make a PB and J at home (but not tuna; no one likes a tuna fish eater on a flight) or purchase a meal at the terminal before boarding. That way, you’re sure to have what you want or need on your flight.
Download the airline AP and join their frequent flyer program
Even if you never use that airline again, the app is almost always your best way to get in touch with customer service (should you need to rebook a flight or have another issue), keep track of flight updates and in some cases, even make purchases on board.
On a recent United Airlines Flight the only option for purchasing things like wifi and snacks was to use the app. Many give discounts for those who have joined as well. Download it and get familiar with it at home before you travel.
Carry on all necessities
Medications, devices, chargers for them and other things you absolutely need should always be carried on (and if you are asked to check a bag gate side, be sure to take those things out of your carry on before they whisk it away. You don’t want to have to spend a day, night or longer without your insulin, other meds or a way to charge your phone.
Don’t let all this planning deter you: Flying still transports you to the places that you dream of visiting. And once you’re there, with smart planning, it all ends well.