November, December and January are a brutal time to travel. From Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way to New Years Day, airports are packed with infrequent flyers. This is great because it means people are going to spend time with their families and loved ones. What isn't so great are the lines these crowds create.
As someone who flies 75,000-100,000 miles every year for business, I have had to become at expert at “frequent flyer survival skills.” Below are the three most important steps a traveler can take to set themselves up for an efficient, enjoyable and low-stress experience.
1. Do your homework
Read the TSA’s guidelines for what is and is not allowed in carry-on luggage before you start packing. Yes, this sounds annoying (government websites are not known for their riveting prose), but you will be glad you did! Reading through the guidelines provided by TSA will only take you about 10-20 minutes (less if you know what you want to pack), but it will save you hours of headaches. It could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of your travels by helping you avoid the cost of last minute checked-bags or shipping prohibited items home. Click here to read the TSA’s latest guidelines for carry-on baggage. Set an annual reminder in your calendar to revisit the TSA guidelines every year to make sure you stay current on any changes that have been put in place since your last trip.
Doing your homework also means reading and knowing the guidelines set by your airline for things like checked bags. The weight and dimensional limitations of your airline, fare code and elite status benefits (if any) are particularly important. For instance, the weight of your luggage itself can be a big deal. This is especially applicable for individuals flying to a training class, or traveling with lots of gifts during the Christmas season. Luggage and Pelican Cases can take up more than 20% of your weight allowance by themselves, making meeting TSA regulations on firearms transport particularly challenging. The same rule goes for checked bags carrying clothes and regular travel items. The devil often is in the suitcase itself.
2. Prepare as you pack
Smart travel is all about preparation and sequencing. The sequence of steps required to execute a successful trip (business or pleasure) are exactly the same every single time. This makes preparing for trips easy and the payoff exceptionally high.
For your carry-on luggage, pack in preparation for security. Put your relevant identification documents and your phone (with your boarding pass on it) in easy to access pants or shorts pockets. These are really the only two things you will need to get through security and board your plane. Pack everything else -- your wallet, EDC Coin Purse, flashlight, pen, etc. -- in your carry-on bag ahead of time. This will prevent you from having to scramble at the last minute just before the security conveyor belt.
Keep an easy to access, dedicated, exterior pocket in your carry-on bag empty while you are packing. As soon as the TSA agent verifies your boarding pass and identification, put your ID and your phone in this dedicated pocket. You will be amazed at how this little step makes going through security so much easier.
3. Visualize and execute
Successful athletes visualize themselves succeeding on the field before the game. Fast, efficient and stress-free travel is much the same. Visualize yourself doing all of the steps outlined above before you get to the airport. You don’t need to spend a lot of time doing this, but a little visualization effort will go a long way in helping you execute smoothly as you will be prepared every step of the way.
Hopefully these tips from personal experiences will help you travel safer and smoother, but we’d love to hear from you about your travel tricks. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and if we incorporate your gouge into a future IceAge Insights blog article, we’ll slide you a $15 Gift Card good site-wide!