I travel on airplanes frequently. I have to. I work on them. After having flown over two and a half decades, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips on how to make life in the boarding lounge and on airplanes a bit easier. Here we are in the height of the summer travel season. May these suggestions help ease the way:

Heels are a “No-Go”

Lets talk talk about footwear. I see women every day hobbling through terminals attempting to walk and sometimes even run from gate one to gate fifty in ridiculously high-heeled shoes. Don’t do it. If you are being met by your husband or other significant other, or are traveling on business, wear some comfortable shoes and stash the heels in your carry-on bag to change into at the other end. Your feet will thank you.

Water-Water Everywhere…

Airline customers can no longer carry liquids through the TSA security checkpoints. Any liquids will be confiscated. Simply carry an empty water bottle with you and fill it up at a drinking fountain once you clear security unless you want to shell out a load of money for a bottle of water.

Bully For Snacks

Ever since the time when most carriers ceased catering meals on short-haul flights, there has been an explosion of food vendors in terminals. But once again you are going to be reaching into that wallet for a big chuck of change for even a candy bar. Think ahead and bring some from home. Even just a candy bar might help you out in a jam.

My friend Susan is a university psychology professor and at one time was doing the speech circuit, frequently traveling through time zones and on overnight flights. She told me she had put on weight since she had begun perpetually traveling and did I have any idea what was going on. My best guess was that she was eating “defensively,” meaning she was eating even when she wasn’t hungry because she was unconsciously concerned about when food would be once again available to her. She smiled, and said, “And I’m the psychology professor? Why didn’t I think of that!”

I told her to begin carrying some nuts, candy, beef jerky and other portable odds and ends and stick them in the far reaches of her carry on bag. Just knowing that they were there would probably give her the reassurance that she wasn’t going to starve and she would no longer worry if room service was going to be available when she arrived at her hotel.

When I saw her a few months later, that excess weight was gone. Susan said the snacks were still in her bag. Just having them there made her feel better and she quit treating her meals like it was going to be her last one.

I’m a bit more of a gastronome myself and have been seen boarding flights with ceviche, a beautiful salad nicoise I made at home, even sesame noodles. I purchased a tiffin which makes carrying food slop-free and fresh. After spending a good chunk of my life on airplanes, I’m kind of over the airline food. So looking forward to a good meal makes my job easier and keeps me healthier. And if you have children, having snacks with you is crucial. Nancy, a flight attendant friend with a son used to bring goldfish, peanut butter crackers, mixed nuts, Cheerios, and granola bars. Now that he is older they bring bagels with cream cheese and peanut butter sandwiches. A grilled cheese sandwich works pretty well even though it isn’t hot.

Where are Your Snacks and Activities?

Traveling with kids on a long flight can be challenging. Back in the days before iPads and even game boys, I used to see coloring and puzzle books, even kids doing homework. Now with the abundance of apps available, it appears to be a bit less painful for parents as well as the other passengers and crew members. Inflight online service isn’t available on every flight, so ensure that any apps, games, books, magazines or other activities are downloaded before you depart. And please mute any sounds the device makes or use a headset.

Layering for Comfort

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to call the flight deck and tell them it was either too hot or way too cold in the cabin. Some newer-model aircraft allow for the flight attendants to control the temperature in the cabin which makes those frequent calls to the pilots unnecessary. However, anytime you put a couple of hundred people all in one place, someone is not going to be happy with the temperature.

I cringe on flights from the Caribbean when I see hoards of sunburnt travelers boarding flights in flip flops, shorts and a bikini top because I know that within minutes after takeoff, they are probably going to be freezing until we can get the temperature regulated.

Layering your clothes will give you options and flexibility. Begin with a short-sleeved shirt and have a light long-sleeved shirt as well as a sweater or pashima in your bag to put on should you get chilled. If you end up sitting near an exit, your feet are probably going to get cold, so closed toed shoes with socks are the best option as well as the safest one. If you want to bring a small blanket, have at it. Blankets aren’t available on many flights in coach so bring your own with you if you think you’ll be more comfortable.

The Problem With Pens

I don’t have a problem with pens because I always carry about a dozen with me when I  travel. Almost every time I enter a foreign country or return to the United States, I have paperwork to fill out. Immigration forms in some of the larger airports in the United States have been eliminated and your passport will suffice, but unless you have a Global Entry card, you must still fill out a customs form. For this, you need a pen. I know of no airline that supplies pens for passengers, so having a pen handy will make life easier for you. Flight Attendants dislike lending out their pens because so many, and in my case it’s been hundreds, are not returned to us. Passengers simply pocket them and walk off the plane. We also aren’t fond of lending out any of our personal belongings, sharing our food nor are we required to.

These are just a few things to think about and and keep in mind when traveling throughout the world. These tips just might make your journey a little easier in the future. I’ll be sharing more in upcoming posts.

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