Minimize the turbulence, maximize fun on holiday trips
The holidays are a time of comfort and joy.
The fussiness of air travel has only increased over the years, as measures meant to keep us all safe also seem like they’re meant to inconvenience us as much as possible. And yet the winter months see a surge in the use of this mode of transport, since everyone wants to see their faraway families.
Here’s something I don’t always readily admit: I kind of love airports. Growing up in the Midwest meant airplane travel if my family wanted to go anywhere interesting, so I learned how to navigate everything from security lines to packed airplanes with screaming babies.
The way I see it, there’s well-coordinated choreography dictating how airports and airplane travel work. You just have to know the moves.
Plan ahead. Let this be the dictum guiding all holiday air travel. Pack your bags at least a day in advance so you don’t have to rush and worry if you’re bringing the right things. Almost all airlines allow you to check in for your flight online up to 24 hours before departure, so do it. It’s one less thing you’ll have to do at a busy airport. And plan on getting to the airport at least an hour early, even if you’re departing from smaller sites like in Lewiston or Pullman. There will still be more people there than usual, and it will take longer to do everything.
Make sure your frequently used essentials are easily accessible. Boarding pass, ID, your quart-sized baggie of liquids — these are all things you know you’ll need. And if you have one or more connecting flights, you may also want a copy of your itinerary on hand. Store these items in their own pocket in your carry-on bag, or wherever you can grab them in two seconds. It’s also required to place your electronics in their own basket when going through security lines, so don’t bury your laptop or tablet in your suitcase. No one likes the person who needs to unpack their whole lives at the metal detector.
Dress for comfort and ease. You know you’ll be standing in lines, taking your shoes off, and handling luggage. My go-to air travel uniform is leggings, an oversized sweater, and Uggs or some other slip-on boots that need to be worn with socks. I hate the feeling of my bare feet on the airport’s cold linoleum floors; it’s also gross. Airplanes tend to be chilly, so the warm base outfit keeps me from being miserable for the next four hours. If possible, avoid wearing the big poofy coat — its sheer size makes it clumsy and cumbersome. With other winter accessories, stuff gloves in coat pockets and hats and scarves inside the sleeves.
Avoid checking luggage. This might sound crazy, but I haven’t checked a bag more than once in the past decade. It’s partially because my family had a nightmarish experience of almost losing a bag in Europe, but it’s mostly because checking a bag is time-consuming and unnecessary. If you pack right, there’s no reason you can’t fit two weeks worth of stuff into a carry-on size bag. Roll your clothes up instead of folding them, and bring items you can mix and match and wear more than once. If you get to your destination and find yourself desperate for anything, you can almost certainly find a store that sells it. And it’ll still cost less than a fee to check a bag.
Invest in eyeshades and earplugs. Traveling is exhausting, and airplanes can actually be a good place to take a nap. The lights are always on and crying children are always somehow only a row away, but eyeshades and earplugs will, at the very least, mitigate the annoyance. If I know I want to sleep on the plane, I’ll also let my ears stay popped after take-off to help block out the noise. And I always carry Advil or Benadryl, just in case I need a little something extra.