As a child my family traveled a lot -- my step-dad worked for a major airline, so we could fly for next to nothing, and we did. As an adult I do a decent amount of travel -- most of it is by car/debate van, but often also by air. Since hubby leaves for Red state on Saturday, I'll be doing even more travel than in previous years.
I really enjoy travelling, although I sometimes don't enjoy the people I meet. I also love to watch "Airline" -- and some recent episodes have prompted me to write a post some travel hints and tips....
1) Alcohol -- a major problem for some people. I know y'all may like to drink, but being drunk in the airport will keep you off of a flight more reliably than not having a ticket. If they can smell the booze, you won't get on. I'm amazed when I watch "Airline" and nearly every episode has some bozo who is too drunk to fly and Southwest denies bording. Good for them!
2) Firearms -- no, they won't let you on with that gun/knife/big scissors in your bag. Don't be a twerp and fight with the Homeland Security people.... Also won't let your 90 year-old oxygen dependent grandma on the plane, as her oxygen becomes dangerous under pressure. Don't blame the airline for ruining your vacation... you were the person who didn't plan.
3) Porn -- Read a pal's blog tale of second-hand porn on an airplane -- in short, looking at porn in public isn't cool. In the car, having it on the DVD player installed to hang between the front seats isn't cool either --- other cars can see you watch "Girls Gone Wild", especially at night, during a traffic jam.
4) Drugs ---- illegal, don't be an idiot and try to take them with you past security. Legal, KEEP THEM WITH YOU at all times. If your life depends on the medicine and you can't buy it at Wallgreens without a prescription, then keep it handy. Airlines do things like lose and destroy bags all the time. People get delayed and their bags sometimes go without them. If you are going to die without your pill, keep a few days in your pocket or something.
5) Kids -- amuse and control them, please. You should have a new thing for them to do for every 30 mintues of flight time. Don't assume they'll go to sleep, unless you plan to drug them. At a minimum, try to keep them from kicking the back of my seat on a cross-country flight.... If I hear you say once in a while "say, Devil Child, you shouldn't do that irritating behavior" then I actually will be less irritated. Also, if your kid is 3 feet tall, the don't need to recline the seat all the way. That cuts into my personal space and they don't need it to be comfortable. If your child is under the age of 2 and you expect them to fly for free, have a copy of their birth certificate handy to prove their age. Don't fight with the counter person who doesn't know your monster kid is 23 months old.... she wasn't there for the birth, you shouldn't expect a kid who looks like a kindergartner to pass for 2 just because you are still carrying the baby weight.
6) Be early --- Airports have long lines, the traffic and parking are often bad and security can be a nightmare. Make sure you are early enough to go home if you were a dork-ass and left your wallet on the counter. Make sure you are early enough so that if you need to change terminials because the airline moved to the carter termial, you won't miss your flight. Make sure you leave early enough so that if you get a flat tire you can still make your flight. All of these have happened to me -- and more. Being early has helped me make more flights than I can remember. I've never actually missed a flight (knock on wood) and l fly pretty often.
7) Know the baggage rules -- Leave the kitchen sink at home, or -- if you have to bring it with you, check it. Trying to wrestle the largest allowed suitcase into an overhead is a pain in the butt, for both you and me while I stand there waiting for you to do it. They also don't fit into some overheads -- so figure out how to cope. Also, a big suitcase that is full might push the weight limits. Pack a lightweight duffle bag in case that happens to you -- don't pay the airline the $50.00 it wants for a bag that is 5 pounds over the limit -- take some stuff out and check a second bag..
8) Know where you are going, be flexible and polite to airline staff -- I can't tell you how many times I've been re-routed etc. I've always actually arrived where I was going, sometimes later than expected. I've also been upgraded and given good seats because I was nice to the people working the counter. When there is weather in the hub city, the person working the counter is having a bad day. A nice smile and a very polite request for a change will get you TONS of good will. Of course everyone in line NEEDS to get there NOW, otherwise they wouldn't have bought the ticket -- so, if you can be nice and sweet, make an actually funny joke or show that you know the airline employees are people too, you'll get what you want much more efficiently than the blow-hard in front of you.
9) Things are different -- Where you are going, things will be different, strange or otherwise not like home. Do some research and plan accordingly. Things like food, weather and accents are obvious, things like rental car company requirements and other things are not. Make sure you know what you'll need to show them when you rent a car. Some states won't rent a big van to a school (accidents or something) others require you to be over a certain age etc... Some places won't take a debit card to secure a vehicle, although they'll let you pay with one when you return it. Also, when renting a car, make sure you know where to return it --- many places hide their rental car return lots around the airport and there may not be signs. They may not be open either early or late when you need to return the car -- that is why you need to find this stuff out before you go.
10) Have a contingency plan -- Don't take the last possible flight home from Vegas before your midnight shift at the plant. Travel is unpredictable and flights are often over-booked, delayed by mechanicals or weather. Sometimes you have to spend the night someplace before you can get home. Don't cut it so close that you'll get fired if you don't make that flight. Your failure to plan isn't the airline employee's fault, don't expect them to show much sympathy. Make sure you have some extra money or a credit card for exactly these kinds of emergencies... sometimes the airline will put you up, other times they won't. If you don't want to spend the night in the terminal, have the money to spend on an extra night in a hotel. If you don't have this, either don't complain or you can't afford to travel by air.
PS -- f-ing pay attention --if your flight is delayed, they may call your flight at any time. Don't go to the bar -- don't go do your Christmas shopping in the airport stores and don't go out for a smoke. If your flight is on-time, they will start boarding about 20-30 minutes before the scheduled time, watch for movement toward your gate. Listen for them to call your flight and get in line. If the rest of the people on your flight get on the plane and leave without you, it isn't the fault of the people working the desk.