Summer is here and along with it, the unprecedented demand that experts have been predicting for months. Knowing that, it makes sense to be prepared for any situation that could arise to make sure that you have the best, smoothest travel experience possible. RELATED: 10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know
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So, if you are traveling this year, then here are 10 things you should assume about every flight you take and tips to help you be prepared in case any of these situations happen.
1. Assume your flight will be delayed
The airlines have been padding their schedules for a while so flights usually don’t take as long as they say they do. But how many times have you landed early or late and you sit on the tarmac because your gate has not been vacated? It’s really frustrating, especially if you’re making a connection. In the past, an hour was generally enough time for a layover but not any more. And if you’re traveling internationally, you better add an extra hour to get through security, customs and immigration. For domestic connections, plan at least two hours; for international, I recommend three hours.
2. Assume your bag is going to get lost
I’ve always recommended traveling with just carry-on bags only since there are so many benefits, like not having to show up to the airport early, wait in long check-in lines, worry about your bag going missing or having contents stolen, being able to hop on an earlier flight if there’s availability and being able to take public transportation. Not to mention, you save money for not checking a bag and most of all, you won’t to wait around for what feels like an eternity at baggage claim. Just last week, on my Los Angeles to Toronto flight, our priority tagged bags on Air Canada took 90 minutes to come out and the agent said we were lucky. Sometimes it takes four hours, which is unacceptable but that’s another story about what’s going on at Toronto Pearson, which you can read here. Throw an Apple AirTag or Samsung SmartTag into your luggage so you can track it if it does indeed get lost.
3. Assume there’s no food
The airlines have been cutting costs for years, if not decades. One way airlines saved money was by doing away with free food. But even if you’re lucky to have a flight with free food, or even buy-on-board options, be prepared for them to sell out or the caterers not have enough time to even board the food. I always have snacks in my carry-on bag just in case any of this happens or if we’re delayed and I don’t want to be at the mercy of the flight attendants. I generally keep a stash of Luna bars in my bag for emergencies.
4. Assume the in-flight entertainment system is down
Another cost cutting measure airlines have implemented is doing away with in-flight entertainment systems. They’re expensive and heavy and we all know that more weight burns more fuel. Even if your airplane does have an in-flight entertainment system, assume it’s going to be broken and with flights going out 100% full, it’s not easy to just switch to an empty seat. That’s why you should always bring your own device pre-loaded with shows and movies to watch.
5. Assume the outlet at your seat isn’t working
On a note related to in-flight entertainment systems being down: Don’t count on your seat to have a working electrical outlet. My flight the other day from Toronto to New York on American Airlines had an outlet but it wasn’t working. I asked the flight attendant if there was a switch she could flip and she said no, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. It was only an hour flight so it wasn’t a big deal and besides, I always travel with a portable charger in my carry-on. In fact, this is the number one gadget flight attendants travel with because they know that phones are a lifeline when you’re traveling.
6. Assume your tray table is going to be filthy
Even before the pandemic, I always traveled with disinfectant wipes like these ones because I’m a germaphobe. People used to look at me like I was crazy as I wiped down my seat, seatbelt, tray table, in-flight entertainment system, window shade and the overhead locker handle. Fortunately, the pandemic has made this practice normal. Always carry wipes because chances are your tray table and everything else is going to be dirty and full of nasty bacteria.
7. Assume there will be a crying baby (or a chatty seatmate)
I just wrote a post about a Southwest Airlines passenger absolutely losing it over a baby crying for just 45 minutes. As I wrote in the post, this guy was a rookie because on every flight you take, you have to assume there will be a screaming baby. Come prepared with earplugs, noise-canceling headphones and music downloaded. You’ll also want these if you have a chatty seatmate and you don’t feel like talking. Wearing headphones when you sit down always gets the point across that you’re not in the mood for talking. But for the record, I’ve met some of the nicest people by chatting with my seatmate. You just have to know how to read the room.
8. Assume someone is going to spill a drink on you
My wife and I learned this lesson the hard way. But after our son threw up all over my wife just after takeoff on a two-hour flight, we learned to always pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. The worst part for us, besides not having a change of clothes, was that our flight was diverted due to bad weather so our flight time doubled. And as bad as it is to have a baby throw up on you, do you remember when a drunk passenger threw up all over his seatmates in first class on an American Airlines flight? Trust me: Always pack a change of clothes in your carry-on.
9. Assume it will be freezing
In addition to bringing a change of clothes, you’ll want to bring a sweater, socks and even a small blanket since most planes are freezing. According to one flight attendant, airplane cabins are kept cold because it keeps germs at bay, and it reduces the chances of airsickness. So even if I’m flying 30 minutes from Maui to Honolulu or Moorea to Bora Bora, I always bring a sweatshirt. Even if it’s 90 degrees outside. In fact, I even keep a winter hat in my carryon since some cabins can get that cold. My wife always packs two of these travel blankets in our carry-on bags for the kids. They’re lightweight and come in a case to make it easy to pack them away.
10. Assume your seatmate is going to keep the reading light on or window shade up
If you want to sleep on the plane then be sure to have earplugs and a good eye mask (here are the best sleep masks for travelers). Even on night flights, your seatmate might have insomnia or be on a different time zone than you and will want to read or look out the window. Having sunlight or an overhead light shining in your eye makes getting shut-eye extremely difficult so travel prepared with a sleep mask. PLUS: Check out these 10 tips for getting better sleep on a plane.
Any or all of these situations can happen when you’re traveling and being prepared is the first step to ensuring you have a better, smoother and more enjoyable flight experience.
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