I’m not the world’s most well-traveled twenty-something, but thanks to work I have had the opportunity to travel to many U.S. cities in the last two years.
While I used to be a huge baby about flying, I’ve come a long way – taking somewhere around 40 flights since October 2013. I’m here to tell you that flying, traveling and trip planning don’t have to be super stressful. Sure, you need to put some thought and work into it – but you’re off to explore a new place! Leave the anxiety behind with these tips I’ve learned.
1) Finding Flights
For me, the number one website for researching flights is KAYAK.com. I’m a wizard at navigating the site, if I do say so myself.
You can pick everything - travel dates, time of day you prefer to fly, nonstop, airline, etc. And the best part is once the results populate, you can further whittle down your choices by listing them in order based on price, total travel time, earliest arrival to latest arrival, earliest departure to latest departure, etc.
They also have a great feature called KAYAK Explore which I just discovered through a sponsored Buzzfeed post and fully intend to take advantage of the next time I have some vacation days to burn (…I can dream of that day…)
KAYAK Explore allows you to find the perfect trip based on things like price (most important, sadly), type of weather, and type of activities you are looking for! Are you looking to hit the slopes or the pool this winter? KAYAK Explore will help you figure out how you can get where you want to go for the best deal. And then, they’ll tell you whether you should book now, or wait for prices to go down.
I swear I don’t work for KAYAK, I just think they’re a really great website.
2) Trip Planning and Organization
Another great planning tool I’ve discovered is the app and website Trello – which has revolutionized the way I keep myself organized.
Think of it as a “Get Shit Done” Pinterest. It’s made up of boards which you create different lists for. Each list contains different cards with descriptions, links, pictures, checklists – I’m pretty awful at explaining it, but I’ve already found tons of uses for it. One of those uses is vacation planning!
On my “Austin” Board I created the following lists:
To Do Before Trip
Breakfasts and Brunches
Restaurants – Lunch/Dinner
Each of these lists is made up of different cards that can be opened up for additional information.
So, for example, on my “To Do Before Trip” list I created the following cards:
Within the “Carry-On Bag” card I created two checklists –
Comfort (containing the items pillow & compression socks)
I can check these items off as I pack, and Trello will mark them as done.
You can also set deadlines for yourself and view everything on a calendar.
Another great thing about Trello is that you can allow others to have access to your boards and lists to collaborate on the planning!
AIRPORT MUST HAVES
There are a few things that you must remember before heading to the airport. Those things are:
1) Boarding Pass
I find that printing my boarding pass ahead of time or even waiting until I get to the airport to check-in and print my boarding pass gives me more peace of mind than relying on a texted or emailed or other form of mobile boarding pass.
The check-in process will vary depending on the airline you’re flying – for example, you’ll definitely want to check-in prior to arrival at the airport if you’re flying Southwest, because that’s how you’re assigned a boarding zone/seat. For flights where you have already been assigned a seat, it’s not as important.
2) ID or Passport
If you’re travelling internationally, you better have that passport! Otherwise, a state-issued driver’s license or ID will suffice. Though New Yorkers – we may soon have to pay for an updated license that’s fit for flying!
1) Checked Baggage and Carry-Ons
Traveling for work, I have the luxury of not really caring too much about checked-baggage fees. But when I’m traveling for pleasure – you better believe I’m trying my hardest not to pay anything extra!
Depending on the length of your trip, try your best to pack in a carry-on compliant sized bag (which, annoyingly, varies based on the airline). To be safe – 22 x 14 x 9. Also keep in mind that you can take advantage of your “personal item” as well – this can be a fairly large backpack or duffel that can fit in the space underneath the seat in front of you. That + a carry-on in the overhead bin may be plenty of room for your trip!
If you’re traveling with friends, significant others or family, you could also split the cost of one checked bag, plus some carry-on’s. Do some maneuvering and t-shirt rolling to spend as little as possible on baggage fees.
And whatever you do – don’t let that checked bag weigh over 50 pounds! Then, you’re really screwed.
My biggest qualm about not checking a bag is the “no liquids more than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters” rule. My liquid foundation and BB creams aren’t cheap – and I’ve heard stories about women’s entire make-up bags being trashed. So keep that in mind if you’re trying to fit everything into a carry-on! Same goes for expensive hair products, face-washes, etc.
1a) Gate Checking
Another thing I’ve learned is that if you get to your gate and they are offering you to gate check your bag – DO IT! This means that you don’t have to deal with lifting that super heavy rolling suitcase that you’ve managed to stuff EVERYTHING IN over your head into a minute little spot that you’ve managed to find 20 rows away from where you’re actually sitting. It means they will take it for you and it will be waiting for you right outside the door when you get off the plane. It’s the best.
Yes, security lines suck – but I have come up with a few ways to make them less awful.
- Once you enter the line and show your boarding pass/ID you can put it away. You’re not going to need it again once your get to the scanners and you don’t want it out and about as your juggle your bags and sneakers and scarves etc. etc.
- You’re going to have to take your shoes off. Know this going into it – and don’t wear a pair of lace-up-your-entire-calf Spartan sandals.
- If you’re traveling with a laptop, it goes in its OWN BIN. Nothing else in with it. Nada. Just the laptop. Not the laptop and it’s case. Just. The. Laptop.
- Take everything out of your pockets and if you’re wearing a big baggy sweatshirt or jacket they will have you take it off.
- Your 20 Alex and Ani bangle bracelets and watch can stay on your wrist.
- Your backpack doesn’t need to go in a plastic bin.
- Wait until you send your belongings off the conveyor belt and into the scanner before stepping into the X-Ray machine.
- Don’t freak out if they ask you to step aside for a pat down or to swipe your hands.
Airport food is super hit or miss, not to mention overpriced, so I like to travel with snacks. A homemade sandwich in a Ziploc bag, prepackaged bags of chips, fruits, veggies – all totally fine.
Sadly, it took about 5 confiscated Greek yogurts for me to remember that they won’t make it through security.
And sorry, you’re going to have to buy the $5 water bottle – no liquids allowed. Although you can travel with an empty reusable water bottle and fill 'er up at a water fountain once you get to your gate.
A few other things worth mentioning –
- Neck pillows are amazing.
- Shockingly, most airports actually have pretty great signage that will help you get where you need to go if you just stay calm and look around.
- Dress in layers because the plane will likely be sweltering at some point in your journey and freezing at another.
- Turn off the air nozzle when you get to your seat. You know that guy sitting 4 rows back who is coughing up a lung? That air nozzle is basically blowing his germs right into your face.
- Along those lines – I SWEAR by Emergen-C and Airborne. Take it a week before you fly and during your trip to keep your immune system happy.
- Chew gum during takeoffs and landings if your ears bother you with the change in air pressure.
- If you’re flying Delta – always ask for the cookies. If you ask for two, they’ll oblige.
- SkyMall never gets old.
That’s all I’ve got for now :)