Seconds to Sanity series
By Holly Nagel
Travel Tips: At the Airport & Boarding
Hint: If you’re driving yourself, or travelling alone, it never hurts to have a map of your airport and your airline terminal, with gates marked. Often these are available online and easy to download.
1) Flight status. Find the wall of monitors that have the status and gates of all flights and find yours. Make sure you know how to get to it. It will often display which terminal and gate number/letter. Even after having flown as many times as I have, I still get lost at my own O’Hare International Airport. I really do.
2) Check in with your airline. This means check any luggage you may have, get your boarding passes and then go through security. Currently, some airlines have a wonderful curbside check in. Also the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a TSAPrecheck program for eligible travelers which can greatly reduce your check in and getting through security time. (Getting through security can be a challenge and I covered it in greater detail in part 1 of this series.)
3) Your gate. After you’ve collected your array of personal belongings and put your shoes back on, find your gate. If you have moments to spare, this is a great time to fill your water bottle, get your snacks (if you didn’t pack any) and definitely use the restroom. I know some travelers (myself included!) that will forgo all food and fluids so as to not have to use the airplane’s lav. Unless you’re in the first class or business section, the more frequent travelers and those that are tall with long legs, like my husband, usually prefer an aisle seat or bulkhead, since the idea of being trapped at the window is no longer a novelty.
4) Prepare to board. Have your boarding pass available and wait for the announcement the flight is ready to board. I usually do this by sitting in the boarding area for my flight just people watching. Inevitably, there’s a maniacal child. There are many more if you’re going to travel to, say, Orlando. Sometimes there’s a maniacal adult. Often I’m seated directly near them once on the plane. Don’t make eye contact. Look busy. Testing my patience? Karma? Unjust airplane gods? Fortunately, I have my earplugs or earphones and will often use them. I suggest you do the same…even if they’re not attached to anything. No, this doesn’t help with my seatback being kicked or the apple juice I end up wearing on my sleeve, but it helps.
5) Find your seat. As you walk the isle and approach your seating section, decide whether you’re stowing in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Personally, I opt for under the seat, that way I have access to my reading material, snacks, water etc. If you must stow in the overhead, my suggestion is you try to scope out the availability of one as you walk down the aisle. If you see none available over your seat area, opt for one ahead of your seat (not behind), just for the fact that when it’s time to deplane you’ll have to get through the throng of passengers already standing in the aisle waiting to deplane. (It’s not easy since everyone will be in a hurry and won’t want to extend a kindness in any way.)
When seated, take care to not put your seat back fast and jerky. The person behind you has knees. And may have their tray down with things on it. Tip: want more legroom? Sit at the bulkhead or in an emergency aisle. You’ll have to be able to operate the window or door in case of an emergency, usually you won’t have a tray table and you’ll have to store in the overhead, but the leg room is glorious.
Other Important Points:
SMELLS: Please please please…I know I speak for nearly all air travelers here…Please do not do anything or bring anything that will have you or the space around you smelling bad, or overpowering.
Strong perfume and aftershave, bad. Strong (preferrably unfragrant) deodorant you didn’t forget to put on, good.
Pulling out spicy, odiferous food, bad. Pulling out gum, fruit or nuts, good.
Packing collected dead sea life, like starfish, in carryon, bad. Packing collected and wrapped sea shells in carryon, good.
You get the idea.
If a passenger is smelly to the point of gagability, and it’s not due to illness or disability, some airlines do (and have) forced the smelly culprit to deplane. Either way, let a flight attendant know. Sometimes you may be able to get another seat. Some frequent air travellers I know carry a tiny jar of Vick’s Vapo Rub. If someone gets too smelly, they’d dab a bit under their nose. Lesser of two evils, methinks.
SAFETY: (uh-hum…I’m clearing my throat and standing on my soapbox now)
Yes, I realize you may have done this all before, but it always bears repeating.
SEATBELTS: First, if you’re a big person and need a seatbelt extender, please ask for one. Better to be safe AND comfortable rather than cinched in to despair. Second, keep your seatbelts on when instructed to do so, even when the plane is approaching the gate. I’ve seen adults and children topple swift and hard when planes have had to break suddenly because they thought they could grab their stuff from an overhead or simply just stand in the aisle. Even if you’re in your seat without the seatbelt on and the plane stopped suddenly, that seat back in front of you is harder than you think and will definitely leave a mark, or more like a lump, on your forehead.
The AISLE: keep the aisle around you and your seat clear. This is so you won’t trip. And though you may think you’ll remember where your purse straps and junk are, your neighbor may not, and may trip. Also, if there’s any emergency all passengers will want to deplane fast and not want to get tangled in your mess.
Bob Voyage! I wish I was air travelling for the very first time and could enjoy it all with fresh, new eyes. Some of my family and friends have not air travelled that often and it’s always a delight to travel with them. Now my eyes are old and I’m crabby. I hope you have a wonderful flight. Just don’t sit next to me.