I read this out Outblush and I couldn’t have written this any better. I’ve added bits and pieces after each section. Read and enjoy!
1. Buy wisely: Be a savvy consumer when it comes to flying the not-so-friendly skies. Tuesdays are the cheapest day to buy – the airlines and discount sites publish new deals on Monday and re-publish ever lower prices on Tuesday in an effort to beat out competitors. You might also want to try saving a search in sites like Kayak.com or Farecast and just wait for the lowest price to come to you.
*I use Kayak religiously. I like how I can control my search parameters (multiple airports, airlines, alliances, price, and layover time) and how easy it is to send the flights I like to organizers or friends.
2. Try to get a on a flight that leaves in the morning or afternoon: We know those last flight of the day tickets are appealing because you can leave right after exams or squeeze in one more full day of work, but with winter weather and over-booked flights conspiring against you there’s a good chance of delays and cancellations.
*Try not to go through Chicago in the winter. It’s an amateur mistake. If you absolutely must, try to find some lindy hopping friends that you can crash with.
3.Travel light: Avoid checking your bag if you can. Leave you bumble and bumble behind and ship your gifts. Not only does it save time, but if your flight is canceled and they have to redirect your luggage it’s a good bet you’ll spend your first day home arguing with a surly baggage attendant.
* Due to our tour/performance schedule, the members of The Killer Dillers travel with an excessive amount of luggage (excessive for a weekend, but not for 3 months). Unfortunately we cannot carry-on our luggage, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! I strongly believed that if you are checking your luggage, you’re bringing too much stuff. I still stand by that statement, but I now understand why it can happen. Let’s see you travel with top hats, roller skate, canes, feather fans, banana skirt, and aviator outfits and still have space for your regular clothes for the weekend!
4. Check-in and print out your boarding pass before you leave: Again, anything you can do to avoid lines or waiting is good. Everything takes more time during this time of year: security lines are longer, weekend traffic is even worse than average, there are about three times as many people to run between if you’re dashing to make your flight.
*On top of that, see if you can travel with someone who has status. At least you’ll have a shot at being bumped to the front of the (shorter) line.
5. Don’t follow the crowd: If your flight is canceled make sure you listen to the announcement carefully – there’s often a precious tidbit of information that most panicked travelers ignore – like an alternate flight you might be able make or a request that you rebook at the airline’s main check-in desk instead of the kiosk within the terminal.
*I totally lucked out by following this advice. I was traveling to Italy and flew into Bologna instead of Genova. Luckily (or unfortunately for many) there was a historically large storm that came through Germany and our flight was canceled. Over the loud speaker we were told where to go to rebook our flights. I was one of the first in line because I followed the directions. Needless to say, not everyone got where when wanted to go when they wanted to get there.
6. Smile and play nice: Having a flight canceled after waiting through hours of delays is heart wrenching and infuriating. You are not alone in your fury, but you can stand out and get home sooner by staying calm and charming your way onto a new flight. Airport employees get yelled at, abused, and threatened about a hundred times a day. Don’t underestimate the power of their special airline industry computers; they can work wonders if you ask nicely.
*Be nice. Remember, you don’t want to be yelled at when you’re at work either. You can’t more flies with honey than you do vinegar. Most likely there is someone who can help you, so why not be nice to them?
7. Just in case undies: Even the most cunning and organized traveler can’t win every time. Freezing rain in Chicago could mean flight delays all over the country. If you had to check your bag make sure you have a fresh pair of clothes and the essential toiletries. Being able to put on clean knickers and brush your teeth after spending the night using your laptop as a pillow will make you want to punch everyone in an airline uniform a lot less.
*If you’re going to teach at a dance event, bring a pair of dance shoes with you! Don’t chance it (like so many of us have done), because that one time you don’t, you’ll be stuck dancing in your snow boots like a tool. Learn from other people’s mistakes!!
8. Pack a snack: Not only is airport food expensive, but a lot of restaurants and shops close around 9 p.m. You do not want to be stuck in travel purgatory hungry, and by that we mean a dangerous state in which you are both hungry and angry at the same time. A bag of trail mix and a few granola bars are always good to have on hand.
*I travel with oatmeal at the very least. It’s relatively easy to find hot water (for free) from any of the coffee shops and because it comes in a cup, you already have something to make your oatmeal in. Rather genius if I do say so myself. Nuts are also good.
9. Baby wipes, Purell, Airborne: The travel trifecta of illness protection. There’s a reason why the expression “this place smells as fresh as LaGuardia” doesn’t exist. Airports are veritable petri dishes during the holidays so do your best to fortify yourself against the onslaught of germ stranger-danger.
*I’ll add mouth wash and or toothpaste. It never hurts to have fresh breath!
10. Be safe, Be smart: Scoundrels of all varieties lurk in airports – a $120 ticket is a small price to pay for a half dozen iPods, wallets galore, and perhaps a MacBook or two. Use your good sense, keep your stuff zipped up, and be prepared to pitch the mother of all hissy fits if someone gets all up in your business.
*I am fortunately enough that I have not had my stuff stolen, so I presume this is good advice. In general, be smart about what you’re doing and where you are going, and try try try to not look like a tourist. You make for such easy pickings!
Last bit of information that is invaluable as an international instructor (and probably traveler). Have an address and phone number of who is coming for you. I repeat: have an address and phone number of the person or hotel you are staying with. England in particular will put you through the ringer if you don’t have this. Going through customs is a serious deal, even if you are used to breezing through them. You only need to be caught once to get flagged, so always have that information on hand.