A Wing and a Prayer: 5 Tips to Ease Your Air Travel Experience

December 30, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

Flying the friendly skies these days can be a fickle undertaking. Constantly evolving regulations, precautions and procedures combined with ever-growing crowds and luggage overload can catch even the seasoned traveler off-guard. Even if you think you’ve encountered every possible glitch, mishap, obstacle or stressful traveling setback, just turn a corner and say hello to the next inconvenience. Factor in the holidays, and travel can become downright exhausting.

Recently, patronizing 3 different airlines, I had taken 6 flights in 6 weeks, navigating through 6 different U.S. airports. Along this odyssey, I learned some valuable travel lessons….some the hard way, and others via the delights of dumb luck and right timing. Let me share some of my experiences with you in the form of useful airline travel advice. You can actively decrease the variables which lead to an unpleasant journey by keeping these tips in plane sight.

Yeah, It’s a Liquid

By now, we’ve all learned the 3-oz rule for bringing liquids and gels through security. Still, once in a while, I’m surprised by what is considered to be a liquid. In a recent attempt to eat healthfully while traveling, I packed some celery and carrot sticks, plus a 6-oz sealed container of baba ganoush from Whole Foods Market in my carry-on. The veggies got through, but the beautiful baba ganoush, deemed a liquid by one suspicious agent, was confiscated. In a related FYI, the former inconvenience of the drinking-water ban has been remedied at many modern airport terminals; look for the bottle refill stations, often next to the water fountains, which provide unlimited free tap water, post-security. And link here to discover how important it is to stay hydrated during air travel (at the rate of 8-oz per hour!).

Size Matters

When packing your luggage, keep in mind that different airlines have different dimensional standards for carry-on bags. A bag that easily met the dimensional protocol on my trip out west last week was disqualified on my trip home, and needed to be checked. A good rule is to stick with the standard 22 x 14 x 9-inch rolling suitcase, which has never failed to meet carry-on specs. Whereas a folded garment bag might amount to the same volume as the suitcase, it’s the shape that will do you in.

The Lonely Ride

Often, long-distance trips will require you to use different airlines to fulfill connecting flights, particularly if you are redeeming your air miles. This can lead to an unexpected quagmire in regard to seating choices. Remember: If you book through an airline in partnership with another airline, you will likely have to visit the other airline’s website to choose your seats on their plane. Failure to do this legwork can result in the disappointing scenario that I experienced last week, when I had to sit four rows away from my spouse for a 5-hour flight.

More on Seating

Sometimes your seat choices can seem better on paper than in practice. Before you commit to that economy-class seat, consider these factors: You might think that sitting in the row immediately behind the first-class barrier is a score because you can be among the first to exit the plane. However, this row offers the least leg room, and no option to store your carry-on bag beneath the seat in front of you. Likewise, if you book a seat in front of an emergency exit row, remember that your seat doesn’t lean back.

Back on the Ground

I am a strong advocate of the brand-new Uber mobile application for arranging car service. If you haven’t acquired it yet, do not delay. You can avoid the absurd taxi line at the airport with one tap of your smart phone once you arrive at the gate. The drivers are friendly, the cars are clean, and the rides are more affordable than you might imagine. Plus, there is no in-car financial transaction. You’ll be charged electronically after you’ve been dropped off, tip included. Available in 120 cities in North America. Sign up for Uber here.

Please share your air travel tips with me. I know you have some!