Most of my friends still, to this day, envy my travel exploits. I get it—I have had the fortune to see many places in the world, thanks to my job and using millions of frequent flyer miles over the years. But, because I am not typically one to complain, I try not to tell stories unless they involve exotic beaches, historical wonders, spectacular views and food that will curl your toes. I never mention the times I have slept on a cot in an airport, or the time I was stood up in Vietnam and spent a week there on my own. I failed to mention the story about being in Moscow and, while sitting on a bench alone watching the changing of the guard ceremony at the Kremlin, a huge man in a trench coat and a huge mustache sat on my bench, not at the other end but right beside me, saying nothing. I admit I have read too many spy novels but I also admit that this 6’10” tall giant was petrified. I am literally sitting in the Toronto Pearson Airport Terminal 1 typing this blog after having been rebooked because I "couldn't possibly have made my connection", which I did. My bag didn't so they put me on a later flight. 6 hours later. Yay..... I typically never bother bringing up flight delays or cancellations or having a nice cushy upgrade only to get diverted to a different flight in a middle seat in coach, next to two guys my size. Yes friends, traveling can be so glamorous.
For me, the worst parts of travel are the hiccups over which we have no control. The airplane maintenance problem or bad weather are inevitable but other things can be affected and can make a trip much more tolerable. Here are a few things I have learned and observed over the years and a few tips to surviving the pain and agony of business travel.
Teeth grow hair on long overnight flights!
Always pack a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste in your carry-on. It is worth the effort to put that little travel size tube in your approved plastic bag for inspection. There is no scientific evidence to support this, but upon waking after a long flight your mouth will feel like you have eaten the back end of a horse. Even if you are upgraded and have enjoyed the nice lie-flat seat and the pretty little travel kits they give you. Do not be fooled! These toiletry kits say they contain a toothbrush, but in reality they contain not a toothbrush but a wire bristle brush and the most horrible tasting “toothpaste” known to mankind. Take your own for sure. You're welcome.
If you can possibly upgrade to business or first class, DO IT. Trust me on this one. Even if you are not a 6'10" giant of a man like me, economy for more than a couple of hours sucks. Legroom is golden after a two or three hours on a cramped airplane. Upgrading on domestic flights means free booze and that can sometimes make all the difference in attitude upon arrival. Upgraded international flights often come with access to the arrivals lounge and a shower after a long flight is heaven. You usually arrive very early in the morning so you can't check into your hotel anyway. Start the trip off clean and hit the sights upon arrival without offending the noses of your fellow sightseers. Eau de Plane is definately not the latest "in" fragrance anywhere.
Follow the carry-on rules!
Don't be one of those overhead bin hogs that packs 2 weeks of clothes into an over-the-limit sized bag that you have to use brute force or worse yet, ask for help, to get it up and in. It's only $25 people! Check that bag! Carry on a small bag that will fit under the seat in front of you.
The boarding process goes much quicker and there is room for everyone's bags this way. I've been on countless flights that pushed back late because they ran out of space to store carry on bags and the last 20 or so passengers were forced to check them anyway. Flight attendants are in a much better mood when they don't have to play baggage handlers as well.
If you have 3 carry-on bags when the limit is 2 don't act surprised and indignant when the gate agent clocks you on it. Consolidate into 2 and be glad they didn't make you check that third bag! As if you didn't know you were trying to circumvent the rules!
Manners on board matter!
Why do manners and being polite disappear when people board a flight? The little things can matter so much during a frustrating time. Take your backpack off when walking down the aisle to your seat. You may not know it but you are whacking people in the face with it every time you turn just a little bit. When you reach your window seat and your aisle seat mate is already there simply say excuse me, I'm in the window. Pointing at your empty seat and staring at the person to get them to let you in is rude and not going to win you any favors with the people behind you waiting for the aisle guy to notice you pointing and scowling.
If your children are on-board don't allow them to kick the seat in front of them. Please! And when you get up from your seat, grabbing on the seat in front with no regard for the fact that you have just disturbed a person sitting in said seat is beyond inconsiderate.
Heavy perfumes and scents can be as offensive as body odor if used on a plane as if you were headed to the club. Stinky food too. Save your kimchi burger with onions and hot sauce for another time.
Bathroom hygiene seems to be non-existent on airplanes and in airports. I'm not sure how the ladies do, but most men in airport bathrooms do not wash their hands after they pee. Anonymity is no excuse to spread germs guys! And I won't even talk about the cleanliness of the on-board lavatories. Do you pee on the floor and all over the seat at home? Then why, every time, is that the condition of EVERY airplane lav I've ever been on? There are paper towels to clean up after yourself, but I guess that is just too much trouble. Let's just skip the "#2" version of this diatribe. Even I have limits.
There is always the chance that you will meet your soulmate on an airplane, but chances are you will be sitting next to the King or Queen of the Land of Irritation. Headphones almost always bring peace and quiet. If you forget a pair, you can always feign deafness, but that's a hard one to pull off. Or, when you get the question "so...what do you do" you can make up a job that will stop the conversation in its tracks. Usually. I've used lawyer, actuary (what is more boring?) and even shoe salesman. Telling your seat mate that you've always had an affinity for feet will do the trick for sure. Trust me when I say that some people just will not stop talking. And those people rarely speak of interesting engaging things that you will want to hear about. If you ever use the shoe salesman ruse and there is increases interest, you may be in trouble. Use that one at your own risk!
I started this blog on a maintenance delay on a trip to Canada. I got in at 1:22 in the morning, 7 hours late. I'm now on my way back from the trip, in Chicago waiting to board my last leg home. Guess what? There is a maintenance delay and the repairmen are trying to fix the cargo hold. So far the posted delay is 1 hour. People are fuming and one guy even cursed out the gate agent. F- word and all. Traveling for work is the most glamour-filled job ever! I'll now go back to people watching and making up stories about their lives. That's always something to pass the time! (The lady sitting next to me is TOTALLY having an affair with a Russian spy)!