Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Simple Airline Travel

Yesterday I flew home from my week-long vacation in Houston. Because I live 2,400 miles away from my family, I fly to visit them two to three times a year. I also travel for work once or twice a year, and I take an international vacation every year or two. After having this travel pattern for several years, I have established a few practices that have simplified airline traveling immensely.

I never, ever check a bag. I have a small suitcase with wheels that fits in the overhead bin that I use for all domestic flights. If it doesn't fit in there, then I'm trying to take too much. I also bring along a duffel bag that I bought at REI that crushes down into a small zipper pocket. If I return from a trip with several additional items (such as Christmas gifts) I use this for overflow and place it under the seat in front of me. For international travel, I take a backpack. My longest international trip was four weeks long visiting six countries in both hot and cold weather. I took nothing but a simple backpack. How nice it was to hop on a train or subway with everything I owned. I followed packing tips found on Rick Steves website. Before I carried everything on the plane, I would wait up to an hour in baggage claim. What a waste of time!

I never sit in rows 1 - 19. Because I don't want to be caught without overhead bin space on a plane, it's important to board early. Most airlines board from the back of the plane. Recently some airlines have started boarding window seats first, so be aware of changes.

I always check in online. Printing a boarding pass before arriving at an airport eliminates the need to wait in line at the airport. There are even lines at the self check-in kiosks as they have grown in popularity.

I always book a direct flight. My days of saving $50 on a connecting flight are over. The simplicity and time savings of one direct flight to your destination is well worth the extra money for me.

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