Up, Up and Away (or Tips for Smooth Travels)

We made it! We’re in Japan with all our luggage, checked into our hotel and neither one of us has cried or yelled the entire time. I think there’s a certain finesse when it comes to travelling, some people have it and some don’t. And if you’re one of those people who don’t and find travel to be extremely stressful, fear not and follow these tips for smooth sailings (or flyings).

Know Your Shit

Some of this may seem like common sense but I am amazed at the number of clueless travellers I’ve overheard who don’t know the answers to these basic questions. Who are you flying with? What time is your flight? What is your flight code? What airport are you flying into? And most importantly, where is your passport?

At one point or another you will need this information, whether it is for a human being or customs/immigrations forms. Your ticket or boarding pass will have this information, but to make it easier just try to remember.

And your passport, keep it handy at all times. You will need to produce it and telling the agent that it’s in your backpack is not helpful and will result in dirty looks from me, the agent and everyone around you who has someplace to be. You cannot get on an international flight without producing your passport. Period.

Pack Smart

I get that not everyone can travel carry-on only like some rockstars I know…

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So when you are packing keep in mind a few things. If you are checking bags then your carry-on should have the things that you will require during your flight and the bag should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. You don’t want to be that person who decides in the middle of the flight to open the overhead bins and have a bunch of bags come toppling out. I’ve seen it happen and inevitably, on every flight there are a bunch of people who jump to their feet as soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off because they desperately need their ______ (whatever). Keep your carry-on small and thoughtfully packed to avoid the embarrassment.

On a flight I like to bring a couple magazines, a book, headphones, chapstick, snacks (apple, almonds, crackers), toothbrush/toothpaste, gum, green tea bags and an empty water bottle (in addition to travel documents and an emergency change of clothes). Just because the flight attendants offer you watery tea and crappy coffee doesn’t mean you have to take it. I ask for hot water and dunk my own green tea bags (or fruity tea bags if I’m feeling fancy). It tastes just like home and I don’t get an upset stomache from the coffee. Liquid restrictions prevent you from bringing a full water bottle into the airport and excuse me, but I don’t feel like paying $6 for a bottle of water at the airport. Instead, I bring an empty water bottle and after take off I ask one of the attendants to fill it up for me. I find most flights to be super dry and the 3 tablespoons of water they offer you never quite quench my thirst. If I finish the bottle I just ask for a refill.

Speaking of liquid restrictions, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, containers of liquids, aerosols or gels in your carry-on must be 100 ml/100 grams (3.4 oz) or less. All containers must fit in1 clear, closed, resealable plastic bag no more than 1 litre (1 quart) in capacity. The approximate dimensions of a one litre/quart bag are 15.24 cm by 22.86 cm (6 in. by 9 in.) or 20 cm by 17.5 cm (8 in. by 7 in.). One bag per person. **taken from the CATSA website** I thought this was fairly common knowledge, but every time I get to the airport there is one person holding up the security line refusing to part with with her $100 bottle of shampoo (or some other large liquid container of something so precious she decides to put up a fight over). Listen lady, everyone here plays by the rules, regardless of whether you know the rules or not. Now chuck it and move on.

Be Nice

This should be fairly standard in every day life but is even more important when travelling. For your sake and the sake of people around you, be a nice person damn it! Be nice to the people waiting to board the aircraft, be nice to your seat row mates, be nice to the people you’re travelling with and for the the love of everything, be nice to the flight attendants! These are the people who hold your happiness in their hands for the next 3 – 14 hours (depending on your flight). They’ve heard it all, they’ve seen it all, they’ve dealt with it all. They have horror stories from all over the globe and you do not want to be the asshole they talk about at the hotel bar that night.

In my experience a smile goes a long way, cracking jokes can help (appropriate jokes) and offering to help someone struggling with their luggage gets a gold star. Think of the aircraft as a social experiment. You don’t want to be the case study where it all descends into anarchy and you end up eating each other. You want to be the shining beacon for civilization, where people come together to lift each other up and you all walk away better people at the end. Just be nice. Please?

Sometimes, if you’re nice, your seat mate will give you a present that she makes while you struggle to speak to her in Spanish, though she is Japanese and you only speak English and limited French.

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Drink Water and Move Around

Flights are dry and Deep Vein Thrombosis is a bitch. This is more than a tip, it’s an order. Drink lots of water, which will make you need to pee, which will make you get up, walk around and stretch. Walk up and down the aisles (but not during meal service), stretch your hips, legs, arms, neck and shoulders.

Bring a Pen

You’re going to need a pen to fill out the customs and immigration forms, as well as take notes and jot down ideas for when you get to your destination. Don’t be that guy asking everyone around you for a pen. Pens are like gold on flights, once it leaves your hands it’s never coming back so just bring your own.

Have a Plan

Alright, so you’ve followed all the tips and you’ve made it to your destination in one piece. Now what? How are you getting to your hotel? Taxi? Bus? Shuttle? Subway? Horse and Carriage? Some cities have more options than others and it’s always a good idea before hand toresearch what’s available to you. If you’re thinking about cost you’ll probably want public transit. If cost isn’t a concern and you just want the easiest route, look into getting a taxi.

A bit of research goes a long way and an informed traveller is a confident traveller. When you have a better handle on what’s going on around you there’s less of a chance of feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

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