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7 Essential Travel Tips for Everyone

Wingshot Showing Mountains
Whether for business or pleasure, you won’t find it hard to get travel tips from others. But, often the really important “in-transit” knowledge is skipped because we’re resigned to it being painful. I’ve probably travelled more than a million miles to some amazing places in all kinds of vehicles, and no matter how or where I go, I’ve learned there are always some basic things that would improve a trip. I want to share these 7 tips with you. These are distilled from a wealth of mistakes and a desire to learn and be better. 

1. Travel Lighter

Such a cliche, but the travel industry shifting to make this an imperative. If you travel, you should take the bare minimum. Consider buying things you need when you get there. Make do with less. If you find yourself on a short flight, the airline may force you to relinquish your bag and pick it up later, a delay you don’t want. Airlines will now charge you extra for anything more than a carry-on and a personal bag, and there’s even a class that doesn’t allow use of the overhead bins.

Your carry-on should be something like a duffle bag or weekend bag. Use a flexible bag such as a leather duffle bag so it will fit into overhead compartments easier (and mold to difficult or full areas). As airlines are becoming more strict, the flexible bag will fit into smaller spaces. The bag should also have a shoulder strap so you can zip through certain situations (washrooms for men, or buying food quickly) without dropping your bag.

The personal bag is best as a small shoulder-strap sort of bag if you don’t need the space. Most airlines also allow you to take a camera bag or similar. For those that need more space, I love the Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag for this. It can carry much more than just a camera and straps around your shoulder perfectly.

Resist the urge to use roller carry-on bags or too-large personal bags. The airlines know all the tricks, and they’ll make you pay (in time and money). Also, consider investing in a pocket tape measure and a travel-sized scale. Be sure to check your bags with the airlines’ allowance rules before leaving home and take them with you if you plan to buy things at your destination.

2. Be Inconspicuous

Sometimes I imagine I’m traveling like a movie star (albeit, the world’s least famous). They’re aware that being noticed causes delays, if not full-blown problems. If you’ve ever seen a celebrity traveling (I have seen many), you’ll see the art of laying low in practice. If you see a group of people forming, avoid it and hang back. If you disagree with someone, let it go quickly. If you think someone might be adversely affected by your actions, don’t do it. If an airline worker is checking bags for size, shift your bags to the opposite side of your body and talk up the person.

I can’t count how many travellers seem to operate in their own personal bubbles and resist the very strict flow and multi-layered processes in front of them. This leads to “But why?” or “I asked for this?” or “You’re not helping me!”. Traveling well requires that you learn to bend to the system’s will. If a TSA agent wants to scan you twice for no reason, accept it and move on. If your flight attendant is getting your order wrong, help him/her get it right until they give it you, then accept it. You are not a civil rights lawyer, so shut up and keep moving.

Be unnoticeable and unremarkable and your travel experience will improve greatly.

3. Ask for It

It’s so simple that it may be too simple. If you want something, just ask for it. Ask for it nicely with a smile. Look the person in the eye. If you don’t get it, accept the outcome (that’s why you ask). No matter if you want an exit row seat, more snacks, or the chance to move to another seat on the plane – ask and you may receive. Say nothing, and you get nothing.

4. Join Trusted Traveller Programs

Those who travel enough know the value of these programs pay dividends in time. Airports/Borders all over the U.S. and Canada offer a way to bypass the regular security lines and processes if they know you can be trusted. Programs such as NEXUS [US , Canada] and Global Entry, and TSA Precheck can save you an hour or even more of waiting in lines.

5. Face the Turbulence

Rough air or turbulence is a fact of flying, and can be a scary experience for many. Though there is nothing you can do to avoid this, I find that Gravol is great for reducing the bad physical effects of plane or boat motion. Take one before your next trip (depending on the length of your flight) and you’ll just need to work on the mental challenges.

Speaking of the mental challenges associated with rough air. Some ways to better handle turbulence in the moment include distracting yourself with other things like a book. I find that it also helps to look outside the nearest window for physical objects like the wing or the ground to center you. In other cases, leaning forward and simply tapping your toes can help get your mind off the the jarring experience.

6. Don’t Talk More Than Necessary

Most of us like to talk, or are unfamiliar with just saying the minimum. For that reason, I’m sure that TSA and customs agents use this to uncover potentially problem travellers. When you speak to anyone on a trip, simply answer questions and say no more. Don’t add extra “Uhmm” or “Ahhs”. Don’t offer the entire day’s history. If you can distill an answer to “yes” or “no”, say that only.

Of course, if you’re making friends, talk to them, but not if it delays others. Be aware of your surroundings.

7. Respect Others

You’ll notice a thread through much of this article and it’s the importance of respect for others. This is the most powerful thing you control about the experience. That tall person that you slammed your reclining seat into may be the person who let’s you cut in line because you’re late for a connection? Look back to see who’s behind you and act accordingly. When exiting the plane, look your pilot in the eye and thank him or her.

I have experienced cases where being good to someone on a flight now leads to meeting the same person later and they do something nice fo rme. You don’t have to call it karma, just coincidence. You just dont know, so be good to everyone.

When you learn to travel with less baggage (literally and figuratively), the experience improves many fold. If you have any other great suggestions you think I might have missed, please let me know. I wish you safe, happy, productive and powerful travel experiences all over the world!

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