A few travel trips – especially for flying

Some dos and don’ts to make travel a bit easier

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Ever travel and marvel at what other people were thinking as they prepared for their trip? Do you wonder what you should be wearing, or worry about finding yourself uncomfortable – either too hot, cold or too crunched up in your airline seat?

Travel, by whatever means, is difficult enough – the word “travel” after all is derived from the word “travail” which, according to Merriam-Webster, means “work especially of a painful or laborious nature”.

I love travel – or at least I love visiting new places. I actually hate travel – the act of traveling. I like being in other places, I just don’t like getting there. At least sometimes. An hour or two, or even three or four is okay, but ten or more hours at a stretch quickly becomes an ordeal.

Add in a few hours of waiting at some sterile airport or transit station or a mechanical problem, or loss of baggage, or a sick child or even just the stuffy, dehydrated, claustrophobic, crowded sense of confinement and you have the makings of a miserable experience.

Some travelers seem determined to make an already difficult experience much worse – either for themselves or for everyone around them.

It’s pretty basic social etiquette – if you are uncomfortable, you are pretty likely to take it out on those around you – and when it comes to travel for most of us, there will be plenty of people around you almost all the time.

Here are a few of my travel guidelines gleaned from  observation and hard experience. A few basic principles are, keep it simple and be considerate of others.

If you are going to fly, you can be assured that your seat will be confining enough; dress accordingly. Save your fashion statements for later, long distance flights in particular are acts of endurance.

Wear clothes you can curl up in, maybe even sleep in. I try to avoid anything with buttons or zippers – any simple pull-over will do. Yes, a T-shirt or sweatshirt will immediately identify you as an American (or at least as a traveller) but you can change later.

And if you think confinement and discomfort is a problem, it can get worse, much worse. Tight clothing, especially socks, can cut off your circulation and turn discomfort into a health issue. Besides wearing loose and comfortable clothing, be sure to get up and walk around on long flights.

Sometimes waiting is the most time-consuming aspect of travel. Photo: Morf Morford
Sometimes waiting is the most time-consuming aspect of travel. Photo: Morf Morford

Dehydration and confinement will be your constant companions on long flights, but keep you eyes out for the opposite of dehydration – and yet another variation on confinement – the airplane bathroom.

Again, the guiding principle is “keep it simple”. Complicated clothes or one piece jumpsuits in the tiny, tubular bathroom will not be your friend.

For women, pack those high heels. Not only will they not be comfortable, they won’t be much help in the (unlikely) case of an emergency.

Also for women, avoid skimpy outfits. Nope, it’s not out of modesty. Airplane air is notoriously cool. It is pressurized, recycled and gushing out of thousands of carefully hidden vents. If at all possible, wear light layers. Even if you are on your way to (or from) a toasty-warm place, the flight is likely to be on the chilly side.

One more thought on inhabiting confined spaces with lots of people – be considerate of scents. Save the perfume or cologne for your night on the town. Even one person with strong scents can be suffocating on a plane – and that is assuming no one has sensitivities to scents.

A couple more that will make your travel experiences a bit more pleasant.

If you get thirsty in flight (and who doesn’t?) bring a water bottle (empty) with you to fill up while you are waiting for your flight. I’d suggest one you are not attached to – you are more likely to lose it and some over-diligent TSA just might not let you take it with you – but it is usually the liquid, not the container they are looking at.

If you have the choice between eye glasses or contact lenses, go for the glasses. The dry, pressurized air will impact your eyes more than anywhere else on your body. Plus, you might catch a short nap in-flight. Either way, your eyes will thank you if you stick to glasses.

One more thing, airlines often over-book flights. This gives travelers two golden opportunities. The coach seats are often the first ones taken. You might notice, as the crew readies for take off, that they scan the coach section.

If that section is over-booked (as it often is) they will look for coach passengers they can discreetly move up to business – or even first class. The only obligation are that you are willing and look the part. If you look like you belong in first class, you are more likely to end up there. You can always change clothes once the plane takes off.

And if your flight is over-booked, and your schedule allows, take the opportunity to be “bumped” to an alternate flight.

Some people I know have deliberately booked earlier flights to allow for being bumped – sometimes, besides an additional ticket, they have received cash or other awards.

No matter what you do, or where you go, Bon Voyage!