My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018, Part 5: Travel Stuff

I love a vacation or getaway, so nothing makes me happier than a travel-inspired gift, whether it’s something I can use while I travel or something that reminds me of travel. So today…GIFTS FOR TRAVEL AND AVIATION ENTHUSIASTS.

Away Luggage. It’s sleek. It’s durable. Away Carry-ons have an ejectable battery option. And best of all…it’s guaranteed for life. Away Luggage comes in 12 colors, and each piece is on durable wheels that rotate 360 degrees for ease of movement. Plus, if you travel with multiple Away Luggage pieces, they nest inside each other, so after you unpack, they take up less room in your hotel room. Starting at $225 for the carry-on, these are a great gift for travelers. You can also have it personalized by the manufacturer. Check out their whole website, as they also offer totes and backpacks made of water-resistant nylon. Shop here.

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Away Carry-on, $225

W&P Design Carry On Cocktail Kits. These carryon cocktail kits are small, but they contain everything you need to mix cocktails in flight, except the alcohol, which you can get from your friendly flight attendant, or purchase miniatures in advance. W&P offers kits for an Old Fashioned, a Bloody Mary, a Margarita, and more. At only $24, they make great gifts that will actually be used by the family member or friend who travels regularly! Or purchase the Travel Pack, which includes a small travel-size bag packed with three cocktail kits at $90. Don’t need the kit? Maybe your traveler would like five of the cocktail kits, called The Frequent Flyer, at $100. See slideshow below. Get them here.

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Seat For 1. This bag from Uncommon Goods gets a thumbs up from me, surprisingly. When I first saw it, I thought it was crazy, but after checking it out, it sounds awesome! The bag weights 2.6 pounds, and it’s small enough to carry on, but strong enough to hold an adult sitting atop it. In fact, it will withstand up to 330 pounds! Anyone who has ever had to stand at a boarding gate where there were no empty seats will appreciate this wonder! No more seats? Create your own with this bag! Priced at $65, it’s a great gift for a traveler. Get it from uncommongoods.com here.

Airportag.com I wrote about this one for home gifts, as well, but it’s worth mentioning again. This is one of those websites I could peruse all day. It bills itself as the “best aviation and travel gift shop.” It’s a great one, with airline and airport themed apparel and accessories…even featuring defunct airlines. Great for the aviation enthusiasts in your life, there are lots of customizable products. Personalized boarding pass-style pillows, mugs, shirts, comforters, totes, luggage tags, and many more…they have it all for the folks who love planes and trains. And the popular airport code apparel? They have that too! Prices start at under $5 for stickers. The airport codes duffle shown below is $64.90, while the airline “crew” luggage tag is $14.90, and the tote, bottom right, is $24.90. Shop airportag.com here.

O2 cool 5″ fan. Looking at this 5″ fan, you think there’s no way it helps anyone anywhere. Well, I think your traveling family member or friend will be surprised. I purchased one of these when I was in Vermont a couple of years ago, because I needed a fan on my face in the hotel room. It was the only one I could find in the local store, and I thought I would end up throwing it away. I didn’t throw it away. In fact, I used it for the rest of that trip and gave some to family members who also enjoy fans while they’re sleeping. It’s small enough and light enough to pack in a suitcase without adding weight or bulk. Priced at just $14.99, it’s a great buy at Amazon here.

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Amazon Fire Stick TV Bundle with Echo Dot (2nd gen). This is a great gift for the traveling friend or family member who loves streaming TV shows or movies. They can plug it into any TV’s HDMI port, connect to Wi-Fi, and continue streaming hit TV shows and movies…picking up where they left off at home. Pair it with the 2nd generation Echo Dot, making it even easier to use. Priced at $39.98 for the Fire Stick and Echo Dot, it’s a great deal from Amazon. Get it here.

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Mark and Graham Personalized Luggage Tags. Mark and Graham does these right. Made of quality leather in bright colors to help travelers locate their bags on the luggage carousel, these make great gifts. Priced at $55, you can get them here.

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Travel Diffuser Aromatherapy Kit. We love diffusers in our house. Sometimes, I walk into my daughter’s room and am surprised to find it smells like a posh spa, because she is using her diffuser with a lavender oil or some other great essential oil. Priced at just $30, the kit includes the small diffuser plus three essential oils: lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint.  Lavender is relaxing, while the others rejuvenate and refresh. I have my own essential oils from DoTerra I can use, as well, making it even more useful. Purchase the kit here.

Longchamp bags. When I travel, I often make purchases, and they don’t always fit into my luggage. A few years ago, a friend gave me a Longchamp Le Pliage bag, telling me she would fold it and put it in her luggage when she traveled. When it was time to go home, if she had made purchases, she could fit them in the bag and check it or carry it onto the plane with her. Made of durable nylon with leather accents, the bags fold flat and come in different colors and sizes. My favorites for travel are the Le Pliage Expandable Tote at $195 and the Le Pliage 21-inch Expandable Travel Bag, priced at $255. See them all at Nordstrom here.

Vintage Airline Gifts. OK, so it isn’t actually vintage, but a lot of the logos are at rebubble.com. I love apparel featuring defunct air carriers, and both of these sites offer plenty of options. Maybe you know someone who worked for one of the carriers, or you have a friend who is an aviation enthusiast. Or maybe your family member would love some airline-themed personalized stationery. The possibilities are endless.  Search for an airline name (National, Eastern, Pan Am, Continental, Mohawk, TWA, Braniff) and see the possibilities. Shop redbubble.com here.

Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Machine. I’ve had one of these for years, because sleep is important. I’m a light sleeper, so when I’m in a hotel, I hear the air conditioner turn on and off. I hear slamming doors. I hear people walking past my room. And sometimes, I hear traffic. I learned a long time ago that white noise is my friend. I purchased the Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Machine, and I carry it every time I travel. If you have a friend or family member who travels but complains about noise in hotels, this could be the ticket! Get it at Amazon for $44.95 here.

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LUSH Solid Shampoo/Conditioner with Tins. For travelers, it really stinks to arrive somewhere and discover your liquid shampoo or conditioner has leaked. Pressurized cabins can do a number on bottles of haircare products. When I was perusing the Lush website recently, I discovered they have solid shampoos and conditioners! No more messy leaks! And they’re priced right and smell great! Each item is priced under $15 for just under 2 ounces, and they come in a variety of scents. Make sure you pick up a tin for each product. Each tin is priced at $3.95. Shop Lush here.

Beautural Steamer for Clothes. I don’t always have time for the hotel to press my clothes when I’m traveling, so I love having a good portable steamer. With almost 600 reviews, this portable steamer is the highest-rated one on Amazon. It heats in 30 seconds and operates at 1200 watts, and it’s perfect for home or travel. Package includes a lint brush, fabric brush, and creaser. Your traveling friend will thank you. Purchase for $34.99 with free shipping here.

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Travel Listography. If you’re not familiar with Listography, you’re missing out. Listography Journals have been around a while. This particular one offers the traveler the opportunity to list travel-related things: places to travel, animals I’ve seen in the wild, people I’ve met along the way, etc. It makes a great gift for the traveler who loves to keep track of what he/she has done and keep a bucket list too. Purchase for $10.32 from Amazon here.

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And there you have it…a list of gifts for the traveler or aviation enthusiast in your life! Happy shopping!

NEXT TIME: Stocking Stuffers!

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Wear Your Shiny Shoes

Last year, I purchased two pairs of shiny shoes. They were on sale, and I needed a little retail therapy. When I say shiny shoes, I don’t mean patent leather…I mean really shiny, as in glitter. One pair is gold, and the other is silver.

When I first got them, I thought I needed to save them for evening outings. Shiny = evening or special occasion. Nope. Nope. Nope. Shiny is not just for evening anymore!

After I’d had the shiny shoes for a while, I decided they would look cute with jeans, so I started wearing them in the daytime with my regular old jeans, on regular old days.

The first time I wore them with jeans during the day, I wore the gold ones. I walked into a local restaurant and a lady standing nearby said, “Oh! I love the shoes! Is it your birthday?” What?!? It wasn’t my birthday. It was just a regular lunch outing with a friend. I know you want to know how I responded.

“No, it’s not my birthday, but I’m sure it’s someone’s birthday somewhere!” I didn’t say it like a smarty pants. I said it sincerely, with a big smile on my face, and she laughed and nodded approval.

And that’s the truth. I wear my shiny shoes in celebration of regular days that are someone’s birthday somewhere. I wear my shiny shoes to celebrate the fact that I woke up that day. I wear my shiny shoes, because they make me happy. Sometimes, I wear them if I’m feeling down, so I can look at my feet and smile.

Once, as I was going through the TSA Pre-Check line at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, a sweet TSA agent approached me, and I asked her if I was next. She said, “Yes, you are! In fact, girl, you are wearing your pre-check shoes! I love them!” I told her the shoes make me feel a little happier, and she replied that I had just made her day with my shoes!

I also wear my shiny shoes because they are comfortable. They are a mid-heel loafer-style shoe, so they give me the three-inch heel I need with the comfort of a loafer. Frankly, I think they look good with almost anything…except shorts and t-shirts. I’ve worn them with dresses, jeans and sweaters, and I’ve even run about a mile in them to meet a car that was waiting to take me from the Forum in Inglewood, California, to meet a friend for dinner in Marina Del Rey. And she loved the shoes too.

The moral of the story is…wear what makes you feel good. You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to wear your shiny shoes or your fancy dress! Make every day a celebration!

I’m planning to meet a friend later in the week, and I’ll be wearing my shiny shoes and ordering champagne at lunch.

Celebrate life! Wear your shiny shoes!

***Shiny shoes make great holiday gifts! NORDSTROM has a great selection of “shiny shoes” for women in a wide range of prices. Check out these shoes they offer:

Sam Edelman Lior Loafer, on sale for $83.96 (regularly $199.95)63505028-5321-477f-bfc3-5e687ef130f3.jpeg Click here.

 

 

 

Keds for Kate Spade, various styles, $90. Click here.

 

J Crew Maya Ankle Bootie, $178. Click here.9975f061-d710-4cc7-8ac9-d2991a1f3975

 

UGG Classic Glitter Patchwork Bootie, $189. Click here.

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P448 John Sneaker for Women, $235-$280, various colors. Click here.

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Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, Midstar Glitter Sneaker, $550. Click here.

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Accentuate The Positive

No matter where you live, people complain about where they live. Maybe they’ve spent their whole lives there, so they’re bored. Maybe they just moved there and think the place they lived before was better.

Here’s the funny thing, though: complaining doesn’t help. No matter the situation or place, pointing out the negative in life makes everything worse. Constructive criticism = yes. Complaining = no.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who moved to Charlotte from a large city in another state last summer, and I asked her how she liked it. Rarely do I hear someone say they don’t like Charlotte. In fact, a pilot on a recent flight out of Miami, before takeoff, said, “We are going to Charlotte. If you don’t want to go there, well, you’ve probably never been there.” It’s a lovely city…not too big, not too small.

When I asked my friend how she liked our fair city, she responded, “It’s fine, but I can’t believe schools close when there’s hardly any snow! What is wrong with you people?” Really? Frankly, complaining about snow days in Charlotte is not very original, so you get zero points for creativity. As always, I explained that, because we don’t get much snow, cities in the south don’t spend money on a lot of snow-clearing road equipment, so some roads can be icy for days. Plus, some people in the south have never driven in snow or ice, adding another level of danger. Blah…blah…blah…I’ve said it all before.

Different regions have different strengths. Southerners might not drive in snow, but we can drive in torrential rains! Before living in Charlotte, I lived in Mobile, Alabama, a city on the Gulf Coast where we had afternoon thunderstorms almost every day during summer. Guess who had trouble driving in it? People from other parts of the country. You won’t see someone from Mobile turning on their hazard lights and slowing to a dangerous crawl on the interstate in a rainstorm..but that’s another discussion for another day.

Sooooo…instead of pointing out the obvious to that friend who was complaining about snow days in Charlotte, I asked, “What do you LIKE about Charlotte?” After all, she chose to live here. Folks can get defensive about their cities.

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I could sit around thinking of bad things to say about Charlotte, but I can immediately  give people a laundry list of great things about this city: great climate, friendly people,  an awesome amusement park, an airline hub, miles of scenic greenways for biking/walking, green spaces everywhere, plays/musicals/shows, museums, sporting events, good shopping, churches on “every corner,” a fantastic Jewish Community Center, great employment opportunities, colleges and universities in the area…the list goes on and on.

Every place has strong points. In a small town, it might be the sense of community or safety. In a bigger city, it might be great restaurants, cultural events, or sporting events…or maybe the city, like Mobile, is near the beach.

When my daughter was younger, I would pick her up from school and say, “Tell me two great things that happened today.” It forced her to find two positives. It’s easy to complain, but it’s more fun to find something good. It started the ride home on a good note.

So, if you’ve moved to a new city or town and can’t find something nice to say, well, don’t say anything at all. You probably haven’t been looking for good things. Search for good things about it. But if you’ve searched and still can’t find anything nice to say, it’s likely not the place that’s the problem.

Next time it snows in Charlotte, I’m going to pray schools are closed, so we can drink hot chocolate and eat grilled cheese sandwiches after we go sledding in two inches of snow till it melts. And next time there’s a rainstorm (with no lightning), I’m going outside and splash through some puddles.

Accentuate the positive, folks!

***This made me think of my Mother telling me one time, “If you think everybody else is crazy, chances are you’re the crazy one.” But that’s for another day…***

For information on events and things to do in Charlotte, click here. Charlotte’s got a lot!

My Teen, How Have I Embarrassed Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know the struggle is real. Everything we do embarrasses them. Really…everything.

My daughter and I recently made a quick weekend trip by plane, which means we encountered a lot of people along the way…plenty of opportunity for her to be embarrassed by the way I sneeze, the way I talk, the way I breathe. Ahhh…the joys of motherhood.

In everyday life, I embarrass my 14-yr-old daughter on a regular basis. I’m a talker. I talk to everyone around me all the time, and often, I make new friends along the way. There is nothing I love more than meeting new people and learning their stories. It’s amazing what we can learn about the world when we meet people from other places…and I don’t just mean other countries. I mean it’s fun to meet people from all over the United States. We all have different traditions and cultures, and I love learning all about new people.

Everything about that last paragraph embarrasses my daughter. For example, if I’m standing in the security line at the airport, and the lady in front of me has on a sweater that looks like she might have knitted it, I ask her about it. “I love your sweater! Did you make it?” And the conversation goes from there. I can almost feel my daughter’s embarrassment as soon as I ask the question. Yes, this actually has happened. Or this: I met someone who told me she lives in Revere, Massachusetts. I knew right away that I had been through Revere, and here’s what I remembered about it: the Necco Candy factory. My daughter rolled her eyes.

Generally speaking, I’m a happy person. I like to greet people warmly when I arrive somewhere. And this is painful to my daughter.

As we started to board the flight, the gate agent scanned my boarding pass. I said, “Thank you! Have a great day!” I got the eye roll from my daughter in the jetway. As we boarded the plane, I greeted the flight attendants with a happy, “Good morning!” I heard my daughter audibly sigh. Maybe it was a groan…either way, I heard her expression of displeasure. We got to our seats, and I asked her, “What’s wrong with being nice to people?” “Nothing, but you don’t have to speak to EVERYbody!” And I don’t, but if I have a face-to-face encounter, I try to be polite.

After landing, we went to the rental car counter. When we got there, the agent was friendly. We chatted about the city we were visiting. My daughter walked away. It wasn’t a long conversation. He asked me if I had ever visited before, and we talked about some of our favorite restaurants there. The daughter didn’t like it.

Next, we got to the row of rental cars, and it was time to pick one. I had rented a midsize SUV, and I wanted to take a look at various ones to see which would be best for us. I put down my bag at the end of the row and asked her to stand with it while I looked. It embarrassed her. “Mom, other people just get in a car.” I know that isn’t true, but I didn’t argue. I just gave her “the look” and walked down the row looking at cars. I picked one, and she couldn’t get in fast enough. No 14-yr-old wants to be seen with her mother in public.

At our destination, we checked into our hotel and went out to dinner at a local restaurant. While we waited for a table, I was seated next to a gentleman who told me he had worked there as a teenager. He also had two handsome teenage sons, so while it was embarrassing to my daughter that I was having a conversation with a stranger, she didn’t mind chatting with his sons.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The next day, we attended a luncheon. We knew some of the people, but not many. I never want to be a burden on my hosts, and I’m not a person who needs to be babysat, so I approached a couple of different people and struck up a conversation. This embarrassed her, of course. I explained to her that we could sit huddled in a corner together, or we could meet some new people. Eye roll. She finally saw some teens she knew and ditched me. Whew! I was free to talk without ridicule.

We made it back to the airport after the luncheon, and I managed to refrain from embarrassing her at that point.

She’s a good sport, though. It’s not the kind of embarrassment that makes her angry. Truth be told, she usually looks back on it and laughs. She has a good sense of humor. She often tells me I’m like the mom on Good Luck, Charlie, a former Disney Channel show on which the mom, Amy Duncan, is a little bit crazy (hmmm), kind of a mess (hmmm), and accidentally embarrasses her children…except when she intentionally embarrasses them as a creative form of punishment. In one episode, the teenage daughter, Teddy, tricks her mom into letting her go to a midnight movie with her friend, Ivy, who also tricks her mom. When the moms find out they’ve been had, they go to the  theatre and get revenge by embarrassing their daughters in front of the crowd waiting to get in. They dress like crazy teenagers and talk on the bullhorn about their girls while calling themselves the “cool moms,” and they dance…yes, dance. I’m so glad my daughter has seen this episode, because it…could…happen.

Honestly, though, embarrassing my daughter is not my goal. I do what I can, within reason, NOT to embarrass her. She knows as long as she behaves nicely and doesn’t betray my trust, I won’t TRY to embarrass her. I think moms are naturally embarrassing to teens, though. We just aren’t cool. And if we try to be cool, we’re even less cool and more embarrassing. I’m not cool, and I’m over 50, so I just act the way I act. But I remember 14. It’s a difficult age. I remember when my parents embarrassed me just by dropping me off somewhere. It’s a natural part of growing up. I’d be more concerned if she wanted to be with me all the time. This whole embarrassment thing is about becoming more independent…growing up.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s a good thing I embarrass her…like when we’re waiting for a table at a restaurant and I start talking to the parents of a couple of cute teenage boys, who in turn start talking to her.

THEN it’s good to have an embarrassing mother!

Fear of Flying? Take Control

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If you’re afraid of flying, you’re not alone. I’m not one of those people, but I know a lot of them. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that empowerment is the key. People are afraid to fly, because they feel a loss of control. They know commercial air travel is safer than driving to the airport, but they are driving themselves to the airport. On the plane, they are handing over control to a stranger.

We can talk till we’re blue in the face about how much safer air travel is than driving, but that doesn’t help those people who are afraid. This is one of those situations in which knowledge is power. People can feel more confident about flying if they have a plan.

I’m not going to get into the detailed engineering of jet engines. You don’t need to know a lot about the thrust of jet engines, but here’s the basic info:  Jet engines suck in air through a fan in the front. The high speed blades in a compressor raise the air pressure, and gas is added. As the mixture expands, it shoots out the back of the engine, causing the jet to thrust forward. Simple. What you really need to know is how you can take control of your own situation, so I’m going to tell you. I wrote a blog recently about making air travel easier. For the most part, it was about eliminating stressors leading up to the flight.If you start with eliminating the stressors of the airport, it’s easier to stay calm. You can see my previous piece, Making Air Travel Easier, by clicking here.

Now I’m going to tell you some things that might help eliminate some of the fear of actual flying.

AIRLINE TRAVEL IS SAFER THAN EVER USA Today ran an article in April, after a Southwest emergency, with this headline:

Airlines, including Southwest, are so safe it’s hard to rank them by safety

Wow. That should make us all feel a little better. You can read the article here.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER This is the absolute truth. Since you won’t be flying the aircraft, you don’t need to know how to fly it. The knowledge you need is how to react in an emergency and some calming techniques. In an emergency, we want to be able to get out of the aircraft quickly. I was a flight attendant for a while after I graduated from college. I know it is highly unlikely you will ever have to evacuate an aircraft. Here’s something else I know: accidents are survivable, especially if you have information that will help you get out.

  • When I board an aircraft, the first thing I do is look for the nearest exits…which may be behind me.
  • Count the number of rows between yourself and the two nearest exits. If something happens, and it’s dark, you need find your way out by touch. Even if you are unable to see, you can touch seatbacks and count your way to the exit.
  • Pay attention to the safety demo/video and review the safety card before takeoff. It will make you feel better to see how the exits work. Often, that information is included in the safety card in your seat back pocket. You can see American Airlines’ safety video here. A Delta video is here, and United’s is here. I love the United video. Keep in mind these are samples; different aircraft have different procedures…pay attention.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and natural fabrics. Synthetic fabrics tend to be more flammable, so wear natural fabrics like cotton. Also, wear shoes in which you can move quickly.
  • Fasten your seatbelt low and tight around your hips, decreasing the likelihood you will be injured in an emergency.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor for takeoff and landing, decreasing the risk of back injury or leg injury in an emergency.
  • Make sure all bags in your row are completely underneath the seats. You don’t want to trip over something if you need to get out quickly.
  • When I travel with my daughter, I tell her, “If there is an unlikely emergency, do exactly what I tell you without hesitation. If I can’t get out, you go without me.”
  • In the unlikely event of an emergency, leave all your belongings behind! The more things people try to carry, the more difficult it is to get people out.
  • If you must take anti-anxiety medication (or have a cocktail) when you fly, take the lowest dosage possible for relief. Less medication/alcohol means you can react more quickly if necessary.
  • If you still can’t relax, try soft music (even classical?) on some earbuds, or watch a lighthearted movie. Play solitaire. Read a book or magazine. But don’t wear earbuds during takeoff and landing; you want to hear any instructions if needed.
  • My trick for calming myself in other situations is to stop and use my senses: think of something I can hear; think of something I can see; think of something I can touch; think of something I can smell. Putting myself through that thought process can take my mind off the situation.
  • Another calming trick is to find something to count. Count passengers. Purchase boxes of candies in the airport, and count the candies in each box…slowly. Counting is a good way of forcing yourself to think about something else besides your anxiety trigger.
  • If you are traveling with children, remember your children pick up on your body language. If you’re anxious, they become anxious. Try to calm yourself.

Here is some information about aircraft cabins you might find useful:

  • Often, the electronic pings you hear are simply passengers using their flight attendant call buttons, flight attendants trying to communicate about drink cart needs, etc.
  • Soon after takeoff, there is often a thud sound as the landing gear is raised back into the underbelly of the plane.
  • Many times, after takeoff, you will notice the aircraft seems to slow down a little. It might be due to noise ordinances over a city or another request by air traffic control. This is normal.
  • Often, when items shift in the galleys, you will hear them banging around.
  • Passengers sometimes slam doors when they go into the lavatories. You may be surprised by the sound. And sometimes you hear the flush.
  • If you have a drop of water fall on you, it is likely condensation from the air conditioner.
  • Sometimes, landings are just a little jarring, because the pilots are compensating for crosswinds on landing. No big deal.

Hopefully, this calms some of your fears. I feel better about situations in life if I have a plan for mishaps. When I drop my child somewhere, I tell her, “If there is a fire alarm or active shooter situation, get out of the building fast. Call me after you get to a safe place.” If I’m in the building too but not with her, she knows to get out first, then call me. And for years, we’ve reviewed the “stranger danger” plans.

Try to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to survive an emergency and some calming techniques, and you will likely feel better about flying altogether. Here are some books offered by Amazon you might find helpful as well: SOAR The Breakthrough Treatment For Fear of FlyingFear of Flying Workbook  and Scared Flightless.

I tend to feel better when I’m armed with knowledge. Knowledge is power.

Making Airline Travel Easier

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Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

Airlines have received a lot of press in the past year or two. From dragging passengers off the plane to perverts sitting next to unaccompanied minors…we’ve heard it all. The latest press is all about paying extra for good seats and having difficulty getting seats together without paying extra for them.

A lot of people travel more frequently than I do, but I used to work in the travel industry, and I fly pretty often. I’ve learned a few things along the way that can make your life easier when traveling by commercial airline.

TSA PRE-CHECK/GLOBAL ENTRY Travel a few times a year domestically? TSA Pre-Check is worth the money. Surely, you’ve stood in the regular line and watched people zip through the TSA Pre-Check line. For me, the biggest benefit, aside from expedited screening, is not taking off my shoes on that nasty airport floor, but there are others: you don’t have to remove your laptop or small liquids from your bag, and you don’t have to go through that body scanner. It costs $85 for five years of TSA Pre-Check. Apply online here. After applying online, schedule an appointment online and take documentation to a processing center to complete the process. When I went, I was there for less than 10 minutes. If you travel internationally more than once or twice a year, consider Global Entry, which is “a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports,” according to their website. It is $100; learn more by clicking here.

RESERVATIONS Two words: BOOK EARLY. It gives you the best possibility of getting a good fare and desirable seats and increases the chances of sitting with friends/family. Over the past few years, airlines have started charging extra for more desirable seats near the front of the cabin. I am most familiar with American Airlines, because they have a hub in Charlotte.

According to an interview (conducted in a Boeing 777) with American’s CEO in the Wall Street Journal, “American’s strategy now is to offer passengers more seating choices—a strategy seen clearly from Mr. Parker’s seat in the back of the reconfigured 777. Those interested in low fares sit in the back, where American has 146 basic coach seats. If you’re willing to pay more or have elite status, 66 coach seats provide extra legroom. You can pay several hundred dollars more and move up to premium economy: 24 seats that are 19 inches wide instead of 17 and have 38 inches row to row. Then there are 37 lie-flat business-class seats. Nearly half of the plane’s 273 seats offer extra room.” You can see the article here.

The lowest/most restrictive fares they offer are called Basic Economy. They are in the back of the plane. There are several restrictions, but the biggest one, in my opinion, is that you cannot get seat assignments till check-in, and for me, that is a big red flag. I don’t have a problem with American offering Basic Economy, but there is no way I would knowingly go to the airport without an advance seat assignment.  If you do not have an advance seat assignment, there is a greater likelihood you will be stuck with the “leftover” seats or be bumped from the flight. However, according to a friend who is an industry insider, airlines aren’t overbooking like they used to, so the possibility of being bumped is much lower. (If you do get bumped, according to my insider, you can get “sweet” compensation in the way of vouchers that are good for two years…can be used for flights or upgrades.) Traveling as a family and want to be together? Book Main Cabin or better. Whatever you do, get advance seat assignements or pick a different flight. If you are unable to book seats together, try to book aisle seats and/or window seats for leverage. Aisle seats are prized, and if you offer someone a middle seat in exchange for an aisle seat, the answer will be, “No dice.” That being said, here is a trick to use if your child is seated next to a stranger: Walk the child to his/her seat. When buckling up your child, get the airsickness bag out of the seat back pocket. Open it. Hand it to your child, and say, “Honey, when you get sick, make sure you use this bag.” Do not whisper it. You want the person next to your child to hear. They will likely offer to trade seats! Whatever you do, do not ask your flight attendant to assist you in trading seats with someone. People booked early and likely paid more for their seats. Usually Main Cabin seats are about $20-$50 more (on American and United) than Basic Econ. If you can do Main Cabin, do it. With Main Cabin, you get advance seat assignment, overhead space (none with Basic Econ), and you can change your flights for a fee…not with Basic Economy. I prefer to think of that additional $20-$50 as the regular price and look at Basic Econ as the no frills, discount price. You can see a great skit from The Carol Burnett Show about a No Frills Airline here. It puts things in perspective with humor. Maybe airlines should show that skit on a monitor in the gate area.

UNACCOMPANIED MINORS  Need to send your child on a flight unaccompanied? Arrive at the airport at least two hours before the flight. I’d have to be there three hours before for peace of mind. You will have extra paperwork, and you will need the full name (as it appears on ID), address, and phone number of the adult meeting your child. (That person must have ID.) You will be required to get a gate pass and walk the child to the gate. Before saying goodbye, remind your child to know where exits are, pay attention to the emergency demo, and if he/she is uncomfortable with their seat mate, let the flight attendants know. You can see me discussing this with my friend, Maureen, on Been There Moms here. Also, plan to be at the airport for a while; you are required to stay in the gate area till the plane is off the ground…not when it leaves the gate. You must wait until the gate agent tells you the plane is in the air.

CHECK BAG RESTRICTIONS before you pack. You already know there is a weight restriction for a checked bag, but did you know there is also a size restriction? Check your airline’s website. You do not want to be told at the airport your bag is too heavy or too large. While you’re at it, check carry-on restrictions. In American’s Basic Econ, you only get to carry on one bag that will fit underneath the seat in front of you. For Main Cabin, you can have two…one under the seat and one overhead.  ***And while we’re talking luggage, take a picture of all checked bags before you check them. If they don’t arrive when you do, you will have a picture to show the baggage agent. Also, hang on to your claim checks till you have your bags in hand. If you’re like me, it might help to take a picture of your claim checks too.***

CHECK IN EARLY You’ve heard it a million times, but people don’t take it seriously. Arrive early! I check in online, but still, I prefer to get there two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Folks may call that extreme, but  I’ve never missed a flight or panicked at security, wondering if I would make the flight. Make it easy on yourself; arrive early. You never know how long the lines will be. Why risk the stress? Using Mobile Boarding Pass? Take a screen shot of it beforehand, so you can access it quickly. I always print mine. My husband and I saw a couple in Miami struggle for five minutes trying to pull up their boarding passes on their phones. Once you clear security, it’s time to go relax and wait. I have TSA Pre-check, but I still arrive extra early, giving me time to relax or check email before boarding.

RELAX AND ENJOY YOUR FLIGHT Once your group number has been called and you have boarded, relax. Enjoy the flight. Maybe you try to sleep or catch up on emails (if WiFi is offered). It might mean playing games on your phone or reading a book or magazine. Just relax and let the professionals do the work.

***Does the idea of being in the air cause you stress? It’s likely the loss of control causing you anxiety. Check back soon. I’ll write about ways to empower yourself inflight.***