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My travel tips for flying the friendly skies

For some of you, you’re probably seasoned veterans when it comes to making your air travel enjoyable.  I took my first flight just over 20 years ago and now into my thirties, I’m guessing I’ve flown at least 50 times since.  I still get a kick out of air travel; so much weight hoisted into the air sustained for hours on end.  Modern air travel is a far cry from the days of Kitty Hawk.  Flying is a special engineering and scientific feat if you think about it…

I don’t travel often for work, maybe only a couple times a year but I’ve flown enough to know what works and what doesn’t.   With all the restrictions that come with flying, coupled with the fact that airline companies are increasingly looking for profits and margins for shareholders, I suspect many of you have some airline travel practices to make flying the skies, well, friendly :)   This post offers a few of my own tips.  To readers, I encourage you to share yours as well!   (I was inspired to write this post a few weeks ago on a flight coming back to Ottawa, after some travel for work to and from Sudbury, Ontario and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.)

1. Select a good airline

Sounds simple enough but if you’re going to book a discount airline then expect discount service.  Not all airlines are created equal. Thankfully, I think we have some great carriers in Canada.  Domestically, I’ve found Porter to be superior, with WestJet and Air Canada tied for second.  Recently, I enjoyed complimentary beer and snacks on my Porter flight to and from Sudbury, ON.   Not all airlines offer that nor this service with a broad smile.  Porter has dedicated lounges in most Canadian airports and offers complimentary wi-fi service, coffee, juices, water, snacks and newspapers prior to boarding.  If you haven’t flown Porter in Canada yet, I encourage you to check them out.  If you’re not in Canada, they don’t offer service where you are or you’re looking to travel abroad, check out this website that ranks airline carriers from around the world.   My wife and I used this site when trying to
figure out which airline would offer us good service domestically in Argentina.  We eventually chose LAN and loved it.

2. Arrive to the airport early

Another simple but easily understated good rule of thumb.  Running late for a flight, trying to scurry yourself through baggage check-in then security will only make you, airport staff and other travellers around you anxious.  Flying for many causes enough folks stress (maybe it causes you stress as well?) so don’t add any more challenges to the equation than need be.  Instead, plan ahead.  Arrive at least one hour in advance of domestic flights and for the most part, at least two hours in advance of international flights.  On travel day, always double-check your departure time.  Always factor in some buffer time to travel to the airport, getting around traffic or construction issues.  Some planning on your part is the prudent play here.

3. Travel light 

If you can, avoid checked luggage.   A few weeks ago for my recent one-night, two-day trips to Sudbury and Charlottetown I had nothing more than a small carry-on bag and my laptop case with my machine and notes inside it.  The reality is, while most airline carriers probably try to handle baggage with care checked bags can get damaged, delayed, lost or stolen.  Not checking bags at all avoids this issue altogether, just be mindful of carry-on size and weight limitations.  If you must check bags, keep those as small and light as possible.  Last year when my wife and I went to New York City for a long weekend vacation (on Aeroplan points thanks very much) although we checked one medium-sized bag we also made sure to save lots of room in this bag for NYC clothes purchases.  (Trust me this extra luggage room came in handy on the way home :).   If you’re travelling for longer than a week, consider packing only a few clothes and take advantage of local dry cleaners or laundromats.  My last tip on luggage, ensure to pack some essential toiletries, one fresh set of clothes and all your important travel documents in your carry-on bag(s).  That way, if checked luggage does go AWOL you can at least survive on those essentials for a bit.

4. Get a seat upfront 

On every flight I’ve ever been on, the in-flight service starts at the front.  So, whatever snacks, meals or beverages your carrier offers, you’re almost assured to get the best of what they’ve got if you’re close to the front of the plane.

So, that’s basically it, some straightforward airline advice that will hopefully make your flight amongst the skies a little more friendly.

Any feedback on these tips for me?  How about a few tips of your own? 

I look forward to your comments!

Filed in: Lessons Learned, Travel

13 Responses to "My travel tips for flying the friendly skies"

  1. I was still laughing halfway through reading this post….after seeing that photo!

    I must be a knucklehead, not recognizing that the people up front get served their meals first.

    Other readers, is that always the case? I’ve a really frequent flyer, but I don’t notice the details. And if I can eat first, I want to! Mark, you could be making my next flight far better with that tip!

    • My Own Advisor says:

      @Andrew,

      Ha, glad you liked the photo! That’s always been my experience, at least in economy. Almost every time I sit in the middle of the plane, and definitely towards the back, the cart goes by me and heads towards the front. Up front, served first. Let me know how your next flight goes Andrew, when you get your food hot next time! ;)

  2. 101 Centavos says:

    On overseas trips of more than a week, I check my luggage, but carry a change of underclothes, shirt and socks in my carry on. In case the luggage gets delayed, at least I can live for another day… ;-)

    • My Own Advisor says:

      @101 Centavos,

      Smart move – having a change of clothes in your carry on. We do the same on long voyages because you just never know.

  3. LOL!! I almost had an aneurysm after laughing so hard at that pic. Too funny.

    I tend to go for a seat in the emergency exits, especially if I’m flying in a dash-8 because there seems to be more leg room.

    I’m also somewhat uncomfortable in the air because I don’t feel in control of the situation whatsoever. Even though it’s statistically more likely that I have an accident in a vehicle, I am more reassured in a vehicle than say 25,000 feet in the air.

    @Andrew: I’ve been on flights and seated at the front of the plane and the flight attendant would roll the cart all the way down the end of the plane and work backwards, which can be frustrating I suppose. I tend to gravitate towards more leg room & mid-way down the plane.

    I love West Jet flights because I get to watch a movie and the flight seems to go by much quicker. I have never flown Porter, but like Mark mentions, I have heard a lot of good things.

    Nice post.

    • My Own Advisor says:

      @The Wealthy Canadian,

      Good point, more leg room. Those Dash-8s are tiny. Ever flown Bearskin? That’s tiny! You sound the same as me, not being in control makes me a lil’ nervous at 37,000 – like we were over South America last year. I’ve only flown WestJet a few times, but I did enjoy it. You’ll like Porter. Thanks for checking in and good luck on the (new) blog, I’ll do my best to stop by and see how things are going. You have a great design!

  4. Hey Man,

    Putting your kid at the front of the plane isn’t meant to be taken literally! When the stewardess asked “Does the Captain want him to see the front?” he meant inside the plane ;) LOL

    Great tips man, this will be great advice for my flight to Chicago in September :) Maybe I should change my seats and move them closer to the front!

    Cheers
    The Dividend Ninja

    • My Own Advisor says:

      @Dividend Ninja,

      Oh, sitting up front doesn’t mean THAT far in front??? :) Glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. Tip #3 is very important. However I had so much gear on my last trip I had no choice but to check in one piece of luggage. Well, that one piece of luggage never arrived. After about a month I assumed it was lost forever. But 53 days later my luggage arrived. Now I have two of everything since I replaced it all a month after after I got back. :)

    • My Own Advisor says:

      @Kanwal,

      53 days? Ouch. Sorry to hear that. Thanks for offering your own experience and relevance to #3!

  6. Elemag says:

    I must admit that my family and I have never had any unpleasant experiences like having our luggage lost, long delays, canceled flights etc. However, there is always time for firsts, right? So, on each bag that is getting checked in, we put our own tags with our names, home address and flight destination. Also, prior to leaving for the airport, we check the latest info regarding our flight (especially in the winter).

    Finally, I always drink tomato juice before and during the flight, because it contains lots of lycopene. This powerful carotenoid makes your blood platelets less sticky, thus reducing the chance of formation of blood clots in your legs. Important stuff, especially as we grow older!

    • My Own Advisor says:

      @Elemag,

      You’re lucky then! My wife and I had our luggage delayed 2 days in Jamaica before our wedding. That was a little stressful ;) Smart move about the tomato juice!

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