to tell you how to do airports
Packing is where it all starts.
Well, booking the flight is where it starts, but let's not split hairs this quickly in. When you pack think one colour family. If you're going with black, avoid browns and blues in your outfits, or if you go with blues, follow that. For accessories, stay in one metal family. Make it a silver or gold trip - don't bring the kitchen sink for accessories. You won't wear most of them and you'll end up lugging it around or worrying about losing it. My aunt always says, it's when you're not wearing the jewelry when you lose it. Figure out everything you need, stack it up (I'm not a roller I can never get it tight enough) and then ask yourself if there is one thing that can be eliminated. The beauty of travel is that you learn to live with less, AND you want to return to the comforts of home. Leave home at home.
Security is slow, speed it up.
While waiting in the snake-like line, put all of the things in your pants pockets in your jacket pocket, or your carry on bag. Have all of your liquids and gels in an accessible pocket so it's easy to pop them in the provided bag (they don't provide them in the US so make sure to carry your own). Put your laptop in a sleeve in your bag, it makes slipping it in and out at security a breeze. It gets its own bin, so don't put anything else with it. Laptop flies solo through security. Every. Time. Got it?
Security is always a bottleneck. And it can be the most frustrating part of flying. Also, never get in line behind me because I have an insane ability to pick the absolute worst line. It will be moving crazy fast and then as soon as I get in, it will jam up. If you see me in a line, anywhere, not just at an airport, move along, I promise I will be there much longer than ever thought possible.
That said, I have some hints for how to get through security a bit quicker. There are some common sense things that some people need to hear. First of all, ladies, ditch all of the accessories. I was behind a woman that had a carry on bag, and then her tiny purse that was across her body, too many bangles, boots, a scarf, a flowing art-teacher-esque wrap - it took her 5 minutes to de-mummify herself.
Wear long sleeves, wear flats, put the scarf in your bag. Streamline. Wear the least amount of layers on a plane possible, while still maintaining comfort. Wear tighter clothes. Not only does the compression feel good for the flight but it helps with not getting screened at security. I don't know if this is 100% true, but so far, my independent study has proven that you are less likely to be patted down wearing tighter-fitting clothes. And try to avoid pants that require a belt, you'll just have to take it off and then get dressed again, it is a waste of time.
I will admit, on one occasion I know my family would have been embarrassed to be seen with me. I was tired, and done, I had been away for a week already so I said, forget fashion I am wearing my slippers. I wore them through security, on to the tarmac, on the flight home, in the airport, and for the drive home. I loved it. I won't do it often, because flying should still be a bit glamorous, not just another bus terminal.
The number of carry-ons that you are allowed is 2. I don't know how many people skirt the system by carrying 3-5 objects. 2, you are allowed 2. It takes less time and makes your seat mates much less resentful of your arm full of gifts. Bring 2. If you are carrying your luggage on, make your personal item a largish tote that you can fit a small purse, your books, your liquids and gels, and your laptop in. You just zip it up and put it away that way you don't look like you've just won the lottery at a garage sale.
Layovers don't have to suck.
Killing time in the airport is easy. Call a friend. I like to call my brother because time flies on the phone with him and a 2 hour layover is quickly spent laughing and catching up. Or go for a walk, you will spend the day sitting so it's a good time to get some movement. And if you have to do laps in a small airport it won't matter much because most of the people there will never see you again anyway. On that note, try your best to take the stairs, they are secretly faster than an escalator, and again, helps combat the feeling of "I sat all stinking day". I tend to buy books in airports. Usually the selection is strategically chosen for best sellers and quick reads. I can often power through a book in a layover and a decent flight.
Boarding and deplaning.
Wait until your zone is called to proceed forward. And don't rush to get there, there will be a line of people waiting to get on the plane on the gangway and then you'll just be that person that they mumble about directly behind you. No one is getting anywhere faster by you rushing into line.
Be a nice seat mate. Gauge if the person beside you feels like talking by saying something like, "are you heading home?" if they give you a short reply, they don't feel like talking. If they break into a long story, you have a chatty seat mate. If you are a person that is scared of starting a conversation on a flight because you are worried about how to end it, bring a book, or earphones. While they are finishing their sentence, you simply say, "well, have a great flight" lift your book as though to say, I'm done now and will be reading for the next two hours. Or you put one headphone in while they are finishing their sentence and you say, have a great flight, put in the other headphone and leave it there whether the music is on or not. Very effective. Or just sit and listen. In one trip I met a woman who had seen Bon Jovi 58 times and had friends all over the world because of the fan club, she showed me pictures - his teeth are really very white. And then a man who got a PhD in philosophy just for the fun of it. If you listen, people talk, and you get some great material for your blog.
Know your role. If you are a window seat person, pee before the flight, get your stuff that you might need out of your carry on out before the flight, be prepared that everyone may fall asleep and you will be trapped for the duration of the flight.
If you are the middle person be prepared to make yourself small, the window and aisle people are hogs, they don't mean to be, they just are. The arm rest is a highly contested area, if you are the middle seat you are entitled to one, not both, choose the smaller person to steal from. Or if you like to live dangerously, tuck your elbow behind their elbow and share the rest, you may touch and that can be awkward but once they are asleep the rest is all yours!
If you are an aisle person, you will have to get up, get over it. You will have to wait to board while the window person prepares themselves to avoid bothering you as much as possible. You are also responsible to get your seat mate's bags down for them from the overhead bin at the end of the flight. Try to remember the colour of their bag, or ask them. This will ensure that a) they speak fondly of you following the flight, b) that deplaning will not take forever and c) it allows you to speak to people again if you were ever the headphones or book worm, they will know you are not anti-social, just prefer quiet and that you are courteous.
If you are alone, do not put your feet up until all passengers are seated and the plane doors are closed. You don't want to be the jerk that thought you were flying solo and took up all the real estate only to find out mom and baby were late from their connecting flight. Oh, and if there is a baby beside you, be nice and do your best to just breathe. You stressing out only stresses out the parent/guardian, which in turn stresses out the baby - making the whole flight hell. Be helpful, be kind, you were once an infant and people put up with your wailing at some point. You will survive, the baby will fall asleep eventually (or it won't), deal with it.
Flight attendants and other helpful hints.
While in-flight, remember that the air flow valve just brings other's breath and farts that much faster to your seat *not at all clinically proven*. It's gross, avoid it at all costs. Drink plenty of water, but not so much that you have to pee. Avoid caffeine and drink tomato juice. It is clinically proven to taste better in the air. The salt content also helps to retain some of that water instead of having to pee every five seconds. The flight attendants, not stewards or stewardesses, flight attendants, are there for your safety first. They are not your personal lackeys, they are not glorified servers in the sky, they give you food and drink in order to keep up with the competition. Be extra nice to them, say hello as you board and every so often during the security announcements look up and make eye contact so they don't feel like they are talking to a plane full of jerks. Smile and thank them for the water/beverage/snack they are not at all obligated to give you and thank them again as you deplane.
We went to Maui for our anniversary this year and we ran into the flight attendant on a walk on the beach the next day. She is probably one of the nicest people you will meet while flying. Later this spring we went to Las Vegas for a friend's wedding and she was attending on the flight, we recognized her right away. We got to chatting, and she comped us some drinks and snacks. It never hurts to be extra lovely, recognize people, and say hi. It's a small world. Especially up in the air.