Over the past few years, air travel, especially in coach, has become a little less glamorous, and a bit more stressful.
Here are 10 tips to bring you to new heights the next time you fly.
1. Pay attention to the plane you will be in, and always ask for pre-reserved seating.
Stay away from seats that do not recline and those near the galley or lavatories, to cut down on unwanted noise and smells.
2. Next, learn about the airports that you will be departing from and arriving at. Most airports have their own web sites, such as Vancouver www.yvr.ca which contains an airport layout map showing all the terminals and airline gates, directions to and from the airport, terminal services, airline lounges and restaurants. If you are changing planes it is important to know the terminal and gate of arrival and departure and the amount of time to get from one to the other, even if both flights are on the same airline. At Chicago's O'Hare it could take as long as 20-30 minutes to get from one American gate to another. Even longer if you stop to cruise hot boys along the way.
3. Avoid packing expensive or important items into the bags you check in at the airport, especially things like medication. Baggage theft is on the rise because luggage can no longer be locked. Because of new security measures, many different hands handle our bags, and when something goes missing, it is difficult if not impossible to say who is to blame.
4. On a related matter, remember that carry-on bags are hand-checked more than ever these days, and what may seem like perfect item to add some spunk to your romantic weekend get-away could be the topic of conversation at your bag inspectors dinner table that night. We've all heard the story about the bag that created suspicion by vibrating, only to reveal upon inspection that a large vibrator had clicked on.
5. Make sure you place one spare outfit in your carry-on bag, so that if your baggage doesn't make it to your final destination, you have at least one set of clean clothes to wear to the mall for your spontaneous clothing shopping spree.
6. Find out if there is an onboard movie and if a meal is being served. It is a good idea to come prepared with food, books, and magazines regardless, in case you experience an unavoidable long delay. Nothing leads to stress faster than hunger! Plus, many airlines are not offering meals in coach on flights within the United States. Entertainment and meal information can be found on almost every airline website or by calling the airline on their toll free number.
7. If you are having trouble finding affordable airfare to your desired destination, you might be able to fly into a neighboring city at a much lower rate. Remember to allow for other costs when you consider this option, such as shuttle, taxi, rental car, gas, etc. This might also take a little more travel time. You might also consider calling the airline and asking for suggestions on a lower fare. It may require time and date specific travel. Don't be discouraged if your initial search does not give you the fare you want. Be flexible.
8. If you are fortunate enough to be traveling in first or business class, avail yourself of the airline lounges. If an airline has its own lounge, such as the American Airways lounge at O'Hare International Airport, take advantage of it if possible. If they do not, they will share a lounge with other airlines that you in most cases will also be able to use. The airline lounge can be very important to you, especially if you have a long layover. Many airlines have an arrival lounge with showers and even a spa such as the Molton Brown Spa at British Airway's Heathrow lounge. If you are not in first or business class, find out if the lounge allows you to pay for a one day membership. Johannesburg International lets you use the lounge for $30.00 per day. This can be a lifesaver on a six or eight hour layover.
9. Bring your work on board! You'll be surprised how much you can get done when phones are not ringing and you have not office to be barged into. More and more airlines such as Lufthansa and Japan Airlines are even equipping their planes with Internet access. Pricing varies, but for $10 to $30 you can have an office in the sky with unbeatable views! Within the next year or two, this may become a common and inexpensive feature of all Airlines. And Just when you thought airline travel was a bummer!
10. Dress well while traveling, in comfortable clothes that are not prone to wrinkling. Be as courteous as you can to gate agents and flight attendance. You never know when they may need to bump someone up to first class. Chances are, they will bump up the charming sharp-dressed man before the rude curmudgeon of the same status!
Bryan Herb works for Zoom Vacations, a gay and lesbian vacation design company based out of Chicago, IL. Zoom Vacations has become a very positive force in the travel industry, and is literally changing the shape of what one can expect, achieve, and receive on a vacation. Visit them on the web at www.zoomvacations.com, or call 1 866 966-6822. You may also catch other travel advice from Bryan on his hit show, "Vacations Challenge" found on the Travel Channel.