Let’s Fly: Planning and Packing


Hello fellow air travelers! I hope some of my tricks and tips from last week’s article regarding booking your tickets have given you some food for thought! This week’s piece broaches the subject of planning and packing!  During my time as a flight attendant for over a quarter of a century—wow, I do feel old after that statement—I have seen it all in terms of luggage! Figuring out what to do with a 13-inch old box tv that doesn’t fit into the overhead bin or closet is no easy task. Not to mention trying to fit lamps with shades, large paintings, loved one’s large urns, huge team trophies, and of course air travel could never be complete without a 5-gallon glass fish tank. 

Whoever came up with the term “bring everything but the kitchen sink” was right! We love to travel with our own belongings, gifts, or travel treasures!  So, today we are going to talk about what to pack and how to make it easier to travel!

Let’s start with the business traveler. If you are traveling for business never, ever check your bag! Only bring one roller suitcase that fits into the overhead bin and a personal computer bag or small duffel bag. Most hotels have dry cleaning, laundry, and irons available, and this helps for extended business travel. I can’t count the number of business passengers who have checked a bag and have an important business meeting the next day. Their flight is delayed, has a mechanical issue, or is cancelled and they’re unable to get their suitcase. What’s in their suitcase? You guessed it, their meeting clothes. Talk about stress! Last week, we talked about getting a milage card and this is another reason to have one because with it you can access priority boarding. First passengers on means bags on! It’s also so much easier to switch flights or change destinations at the last minute if your bags are with you! So, although baggage service for all airlines has improved, I would never depend on it!

Just take a look at your crews! Your crews have designated luggage space on the aircraft because the airlines know that baggage checking for crews will never work. Oh! Here’s a behind-the-scenes bit of information . . . crews on all major airline carriers have an overhead bin toward the back of the airplane that has a lock on it. Why a lock? Through the decades passengers have had sticky fingers and have stolen enough of the crew members’ personal items that the airlines have had to install locks on the bins. Passengers always come on our airplanes and try and open our locked bin. They even come to us and tell us it’s broken, which isn’t true, it’s just locked! Next time you fly, take a look toward the back of the overhead bins and see if you can find the lock!

Next, let’s talk about the family vacation! If you don’t need to bring a car seat, then don’t!  Most kids want to lay down next to a family member and it’s just one extra item you don’t have to worry about. Most rental car companies provide car seats for a small rental fee if you need one at your final destination. I will tell moms with infants to never leave home without your breast-feeding pillow. It is so much more comfortable for you and your baby to have a comfortable pillow to rest your baby on and keep your arms comfortable too! Even if you are a dad, always bring that pillow and add a soft blanket too, you’ll both be more comfortable!

When traveling with young kids, go to the dollar store and stock up on fun stuff. It will be the best $10 you’ve spent! Every hour the kids are well behaved, they get a new toy to play with and it keeps them busy and focused while keeping parents less stressed. The best part is that if you lose a toy, no worries because it was just temporary! I also recommend traveling with snacks like goldfish or pretzels, an extra set of clothing, including for yourself, along with Tylenol, Benadryl, and Neosporin, plus band aids.  There is nothing worse than a night flight and a baby with an unexpected fever!  

One last bit of advice for traveling with children on vacation. At times, you’re going to have to check luggage, and this is how I travel with my kids. If I’m heading to Hawaii, I pack a large suitcase with food like crackers, goldfish, oatmeal, peanut butter, and jelly, etc. On vacation, you now have snacks and are saving money! By the end of your vacation, you’ll have an empty suitcase to fill up with all of your souvenirs and dirty laundry!

Now, let’s talk about traveling with your pets!  If you happen to have a large dog who is too big to travel in the cabin and you must check them via baggage, here are some helpful hints.  Take the brightest printing paper you can find and attach sheets on the top of the carrier (please make sure you’re not blocking the air holes) and on both the left side and right side. Now write in bold large letters that fill the entire page, “Hi, my name is [insert your dog’s name] and I am traveling on [insert flight number] from [insert location to location], please take good care of me!  Thank you!” If you have two pets, change your note to say, “Hi, my name is [name] and I am traveling with my sister/brother [name], please keep us together” and finish by attaching the flight number and location. You’ll find the ramp crews at all airlines are extremely caring and will try to call your fur baby by name and make sure that if you have two, they are together and on the right flight!

Lastly, here are a few extra tricks and tips on packing.  Try rolling your clothes, they tend to fit better, and you can fit more! Never keep all of your credit cards and cash in one wallet. Place at least one credit card and some cash somewhere else in your bags, along with a photocopy of your driver’s license and passport.  If you lose your wallet, then you’ll at least not be stranded and have some cash or a credit card available to you. Always hang onto your checked baggage claim slip. This allows you to track your baggage and file a claim if the airline loses your bags. Some people even purchase GPS luggage trackers on Amazon for around $35 to keep track of their checked bags. My last tip regarding lost baggage is that if your airline loses your bag and then finds it, it’s their responsibility to bring it to you! Yes, it is! You just need to ask for it to be delivered to the address you are staying at, and they will do it! The airlines even have certified people whose job is just to drive lost bags from the airport to wherever you are staying. The only time the representative may give you a hassle is in a weather situation but even then, be nice but push a little and enjoy your stay until your bag arrives!

I hope you found this week’s article full of some interesting tricks and tips to make traveling with your baggage and family a tad bit easier! Oh boy, next week’s article I’ll talk about how not to lose your pets on the airplane, how not to get yourself locked in the bathroom and break the door trying to get out, and lastly how not to end up naked and looking for your bed while on a redeye! Signing off from this “senior mama” until next week! Fly on!

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