Most days I work from home but lately I have a lot of travel coming up. A *lot* of travel. And outside of airline delays (and terrorists), there’s nothing worse than dealing with a clueless traveler.
These are the people who cause massive delays in lines. They’re the ones who make the flight miserable. They’re the ones you want to introduce to your alter-ego Mr. Stabby McStabStab. And most horrifyingly, they’re sometimes YOU (but no one has ever told you).
So in the spirit of making the skies a little friendlier, I’m going to offer some simple, tactical tips on how to be a better traveler and reduce your risk of someone tipping TSA off that you need a cavity search because you were muttering something about “bomb in my pants.”
Feel free to pass this along to all the traveling rookies in your company. They were college kids a few weeks ago and they don’t know any better yet. Let’s see if together we can’t lick this travel stupidity epidemic.
Here’s everything you ever needed to know about traveling like a pro:
Humor: You’d better have a sense of humor when traveling. If not, you’ll get homicidal. The best laughs I can think of are over on FreakJet.com (airport people watching at its best). Nothing but the best pics of hilarious stuff you’ll see in the airport (full disclosure: I’m one of the founders of FreakJet and have an economic interest in its success. That said – it’s freakin’ hysterical).
Packing: If you have to sit on the bag, you have too much crap in it. Leave something home. You’re coming back and wherever you’re going I’ll bet they have stores there. When you overpack your “carry-on” you decrease the chance it will actually fit in the overhead (see below points on use of the overhead).
Arrival at the airport: Get there EARLY. I’ve begun saying “no” to the people who ask to cut in front of me in the security line because their flight is leaving soon. Wake up earlier. I did. You can too. Now, if you’re late because of a car accident or because your connection arrived late, that’s cool. If you’re late because you can’t plan, I have no sympathy. News flash: airports are more crowded and security is slower. Arrive earlier. Have a drink at the gate or something. Unless you can prove to me that a stampede of mastodons attacked your car en route to the airport, you’re not cutting me in line.
Security (part 1): When you get in line GET YOUR ID AND BOARDING PASS OUT. It’s not a shock that TSA will ask for it. When you get up to the TSA agent after standing in line for 20 minutes then you take 2 minutes rooting through your bags/wallet for your ID, it makes my head explode (and more importantly slows up the line). Doing this is the equivalent of standing in line at McDonald’s for 20 minutes then when it’s your turn you begin reading the menu to figure out what you want. Be prepared with your papers please.
Security (part 2): THEY’RE METAL DETECTORS PEOPLE! Please don’t be the guy who goes through, sets it off, then remembers he has 863 keys and a steel ingot in his pocket. Empty your pockets. This shouldn’t be a surprise. This guidance also applies to all your gallons of toiletries. The guidelines are simple. Follow them. Otherwise we get to sit there patiently thinking of various ways to disembowel you while you go through the metal detector 6 or 7 times.
Security (part 3): Once you’ve successfully navigated the x-ray and metal detector, it is not time to repack all your things perfectly nor should you be primping your clothes to look just so WHILE YOU’RE STILL IN LINE AT THE X-RAY CONVEYOR BELT. Grab your junk, move along, and commence repacking operations in the always-empty Jamba Juice lounge on the other side of security. While you’re repacking, stuff is piling up on the x-ray belt and we’re all waiting for you to get out of the way.
Boarding (part 1): Zone 4 means Zone 4, not “Zone 1 because no one can see the Zone 4 on your boarding pass.” Board when called. Simple concept. Even Southwest figured out they had to give us cattle numbers to maintain some semblance of order upon boarding. It’s like grade school folks – no cuts. No backsies, no erasies, stamped it to infinity plus one.
Boarding (part 2): If the overhead is closed IT’S FULL. DON’T open it to see if you can fit your oversized bag in it. You’re slowing things down. If it doesn’t fit you must check it (said in my best Johnnie Cochran voice). Also, put it in the overhead over YOUR seat. None of this “chuck it in the first overhead I see then saunter back to my seat in row 735” stuff. If you’re in the back, bring your bag with you. They have overheads back there too. When you put it in the overheads in the front row, you cause a chaotic mash of bag shuffling, gate checking, and general orneriness.
Boarding (part 3): SIT DOWN. If you’re having trouble handling your grande iced no foam double whip half cream half milk double pretentiousness triple snotty latte, your 6 magazines, your iPad, and your iPod maybe you need to rethink your whole carry-on strategy. Sit down. Please. Let everyone else board so we can get where we need to go. Related: 1 carry-on and 1 personal item mean just that. It doesn’t mean 1 oversized bag + 1 purse + 1 fanny pack + 1 souvenir too big to ship + 1 laptop case. I’ve stopped blaming the airlines for our late departures and now lay the blame where it belongs – on the people who can’t get seated so we can take off.
In flight: If you strike up a conversation, bully for you. If you are instead greeted with monosyllabic replies and furtive attempts by your conversation partner to extricate their attention back into their book, take the hint. They don’t want to talk to you. And if you do find a chat partner, please keep it below 974 decibels. Some of us are trying to sleep on this 6 hour flight. Also, if you insist on bringing your own food aboard, please rethink the tuna sandwich with garlic, onions, and a side of prune juice. Please.
Baggage claim: Grab it and get out of the way. No prolonged inspections. No repacking in the baggage claim area. Grab it and leave. ’nuff said.
Car rental: Betcha $50 they’re gonna ask to see your license. If you’re the person who was in front of me this morning who had to get out of the car, open the trunk, rummage through luggage to find his wallet in order to present his license, you really need to reevaluate your cognitive skills. Please be ready with license in hand.
Look, I know it’s about the journey and not the destination but I’m sure the author of that quote wasn’t referring to air travel. I’d actually like to enjoy the journey as I’m sure you would too. If we all simply think a little more about what’s coming next in the airport, the world will be a better place and the journeys that much more enjoyable.