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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8 Responses to Tips for the frequent flyer.

  1. Lorraine says:

    I carry my periodicals that I need to catch up on, rip out anything outstanding, remove the address label and throw them away as I finish them…leaving room if I pick something up on the other end. Wear easy to remove shoes, avoid jewelry and belts…and for the comfort of others, ALWAYS wear deodorant!

    • peter says:

      Hmmm…. Good pointers. So removing your wedding ring doesn’t present problems? Good idea on the periodicals. I always wear sandals regardless of the time of year. As for a belt? That could be a dangerous proposition for me. As for deodorant, not using that assures me the privacy I relish on a long flight!

  2. The travelling light has to be a guy thing – did all your five women do likewise so you didn’t have to wait for checked luggage at the other end? Shall I guess … you just told each one to buy what they needed/liked at the other end and you’d pick up the tab!

    • peter says:

      You know the answer to that? One of the travelers sometimes wore two different outfits in one day, and never the same one twice while I’ll wear a pair of jeans for 10 days straight and never think anything of it! Ha!

  3. Brendy says:

    No deodorant and 10 day old jeans?? It’s a wonder you don’t get the whole plane to yourself!

  4. Bryan says:

    a. Have tried a bunch of stuff. Like a travel vest (Tilley if you are Canadian) with lots of pockets inside and out. I use the same one for each item so that I can check quickly if everything is there. Your point about putting wallets and so forth in a safe place even during scanning is a good point.
    b. I am learning that part of traveling is having enough to enjoy the experience. Part of that involves taking a few minutes to grab your suitcase and put it on a cart. I count that as part of my ‘cost of travel’. My ‘job’ that day includes picking up the suitcase. You can always people watch as you wait and that is a lot of fun as well.
    c. Despite years of travel, I enjoy the thrill of an airplane every time. Those of us lucky enough to travel must remember that it is a privilege and not a burden. The people I work with have never been 100 km away … let alone on a plane.
    d. I prefer the carry on with wheels. I have done the shoulder bag long enough. But … that is personal preference. Mine is small enough to go under the seat if need be.
    e. I like to use an old suitcase and I put duct tape x’s on it. The duct tape helps immensely going through customs in other countries. People have the feeling that new luggage means better pickings. (My family isn’t as keen on the duct tape but do use it on handles and so forth to mark their luggage.)
    f. For long trips, I buy second hand books that are ‘good reads’. When I am done, I just leave them on the plane or wherever I finish.
    g. Depending on your activities, clothing will vary. If I travel in Africa or Central America, I need a couple pairs of semi-dress pants and dress shirts that do look ‘newly’ laundered. This is simply seen as courtesy to the people I am dealing with. So … different cultures will affect the jeans bit.
    h. Good point about soap for shaving.
    i. If you are traveling with others, take along a small game – Cribbage, Pigs, Yahtzee … they help pass the time when you are feeling impatient.
    j. I make a laminated copy of my passport and use that for traveling in-country. Very often, it works at banks as well. Losing a passport is a REAL pain.
    k. You completely forgot about where to carry your bird guides and binoculars Peter :)).

  5. peter says:

    Wow!! You’ve travelled a lot, Bryan! You’ve got some great ideas here. Enough for another stand-alone blog!! I like that duct-tape suggestion! Good one.

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