Tips for the frequent flyer.

View of Hong Kong looking south from
Kowloon across the Victoria Harbor.

Having just returned from a ten-day trip to China, I felt it timely to post a blog on how to travel efficiently.

The number one rule of thumb is to build redundancies into your plans.  Whatever can go wrong will.  Healthy paranoia is your best asset.  Be a great horned owl. Have eyes in the back of your head.

1. Double check the expiration dates on your passport and visa a month before you leave.  There is nothing mores frustrating than getting to your gate, have your papers checked by the gate attendant only to be informed you can’t board after months of planning.

Make copies of your passport and visa.  If you happen to lose them, at least you’ve got a head start getting them replaced.

2. I always carry my wallet and my passport in the right front pocket of my jeans. Never anywhere else.  Habits are reassuring.  In heavy pedestrian traffic, I generally walk with my hand in that pocket.  Nothing like the comfort of your wallet and passport at your finger tips.  Pickpockets are everywhere, and falling asleep on the train isn’t safe either.  There is a skilled set of pickpockets that don’t bother to reach into your pocket.  They quietly slash your pocket with a razor-sharp blade, and you wake up later with nothing but a hole in your empty pocket.

I see tourists with passports dangling from a lanyard around their necks and I want to scream.

3. Disgorging pedestrians at the top of an escalator where the crowd at the top is too dense to disperse the crowd is one of the most dangerous places to be trapped.  I once had a camera removed from my hip holster when caught in this predicament.  I realized it 20 seconds later, but what are you going to do when you are surrounded by 2000 people crunched shoulder to shoulder?  I now carry my camera in my shoulder case.

4. I no longer check luggage.  I travel light; very light.  You save the additional fees.  Nor do you have to worry about lost luggage, or waiting for your luggage to arrive 45 minutes after you left the plane.

5.  I don’t travel with a small suitcase with wheels.  I own one of the smallest on the market, but I still had to frequently check it at the gate.  Planes were not designed for all the cargo that now go into the overhead bins.  Boeing will have to address this in future designs.  There is nothing more frustrating than to disembark and queue up behind 75 other passengers waiting for your bag.  You may as well have checked your luggage and pick it up at the carousel.

6.  I travel with a multi-compartment, canvas bag with a comfortable shoulder strap.  If the overhead bins are full, I still have the option of sliding it under the seat in front of me.

7.  With all due respect to my many friends that own bookstores, I travel without any books.  I have over 100 books downloaded on my Kindle app on my MacBook.  I generally treat myself with one new book before I depart on a 15 hour intercontinental flight.

8.  My “toys” are limited to my laptop, iPhone, a set of noise canceling headphones, and a camera.  My newest addition is a small battery charger, which keeps my toys functional for the entire trip.  There is nothing worse than landing somewhere on the Pacific Rim and not being able to make contact with your party while waiting to disembark because your cell phone is dead.

9.  The most frequent item left behind in a hotel room is a charger.  Losing one overseas is sometimes impossible to replace.

10.  Always carry a multi-function electrical adapter that will function anywhere in the world.  Electrical outlets vary all over the world.

11.  Other than a comb, two disposable razors (I’ve long since thrown away that expensive, much hyped four-blade Gillette), toothbrush, 3-ounce tube of toothpaste, and ear plugs, my shaving kit is empty.  If you shower frequently, deodorants are unnecessary and air conditioning is ubiquitous.  The only difference between shampoo and a bar of soap is viscosity.  My hair doesn’t know the difference.  Same with shaving.  A lathered soap bar does the same thing as any shaving foam.

12. Never take a gypsy cab, regardless of how sharp the vehicle or how professional the driver may appear.  He doesn’t have a cab license that you can write down in case you accidentally leave something behind, and there is no guarantee he will even take you where you want to go.

13.  Never get out of a cab without looking twice at the seat where you were sitting.

14. Never drink hotel water.

15. For health reasons  I no longer go through the scanner when going through security.  I ask for a pat down.  It’s not that bad.  They assure you they only use the back of their hand.  Never mutter the word contraband to a TSA agent after you’ve cleared security.  It is a trigger word that could shut down the entire airport.  I know.

16.  Before checking all your gear through security, stuff your wallet and cell phone into a zippered compartment of your bag.  Never leave it lie loose in a tray.  Sticky fingers are everywhere.  Carry your passport and your boarding pass in your right hand.

17.  Eat a good meal before boarding.  The smell of airplane food is enough to make one nauseous.

18.  The very rear end of these new transcontinental jets have a lovely 12-foot long, counter height stainless steel counter, great for standing up while you work.  Stand, exercise, and walk at every opportunity.

What has been your experience?  What could you add to this list?


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