I Am A Perfect Social Media Mom

Last week, a friend mentioned in her blog how she hates perfect social media moms…you know, the ones who can do every Pinterest project perfectly while holding triplets on both hips and working a glamorous job?

Well, I’m not that person. I’m a stay-at-home mom who totally flies by the seat of her pants. I don’t have a glamorous job, and I don’t want one. I only have one child, and as easy as that may sound, she’s a teenager, so no matter what, it’s not easy. I don’t have a perfect, color-coded closet. In fact, I can barely see the floor of my closet after getting dressed to go somewhere, because I try on different outfits and drop them in the floor when I move to the next one. I’m terrible at Pinterest projects. I cook sometimes, but my family doesn’t eat it. Sometimes, I have a perfect manicure and pedicure, but most of the time, I’m hoping no one looks at my hands and feet. I love a good tan, but I’ve resorted to sunless tanning, because it’s cheap, easy, and it doesn’t require me to sweat. I still spend a lot of time outdoors, tending my garden, but I choose to be out there before 10am and in the evenings. Since I mentioned my garden, I should tell you it’s not worthy of photos this year. The tomatoes might have southern blight or black speck disease or black spot disease…they aren’t producing like they should. The first few I picked were fantastic, but now, they’ve just stopped growing new fruit. The tomatoes are “organic,” but if they don’t produce, my family won’t get any organic foods this summer. And I’m not even sure I know what GMO means. My suitcases from my recent road trip are still not completely unpacked. In fact, my carry-on bag from my trip to LA in June still isn’t unpacked. But I’m not putting pictures of that on social media!

But am I a perfect social media mom? Sure I am, but it’s not because I’m perfect. It’s because I’m not perfect. That’s what makes me a perfect social media mom. Sure, I try to post flattering pictures of myself and family, but sometimes, I just have to post pics of bad hair days or no makeup or terrible outfits that I thought looked great when I put them on, but noticed later they were major fails. And if I do manage to post a great picture with people in it, it’s probably the only one out of 75 that I took that was presentable. Or maybe I didn’t realize I had black beans in my teeth, or a terrible panty line, or muffin top.

Here’s what everyone needs to know. Our imperfections make us perfect. Should we make an attempt at putting our best foot forward? Of course. It’s human nature. But when you see a picture of me with ill-fitting sunglasses or a bad angle, it’s because there is something about that picture I wanted to save. In fact, there is a picture of me on Facebook and Instagram right now with a friend from 4th grade. It’s a terrible picture of me, but it’s the only picture we took. So you can see me standing funny with my pants doing something weird…plus, I look really tall next to my friend, because I had on wedges and she didn’t. But the imperfections make it perfect, because I loved spending time with my childhood friend.

So get out there and be the perfectly imperfect social media mom, and enjoy every minute. One day, our kids will be grown, and we will enjoy the memories we have saved for ourselves through social media.

You can find solace in knowing that even the perfect social media moms aren’t perfect. They’re just posting their most perfect pictures. So don’t have FOMO (fear of missing out), and don’t have Facebook Envy. Your life is perfect just as it is…because it’s yours.

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I Arrived, But My Luggage Didn’t

One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

Lots of folks will be flying out for Spring Break soon! Students are parents are looking forward to lots of fun. But it’s not fun to arrive without luggage.

On New Year’s Day, my teenage daughter and I traveled to Los Angeles to meet some friends from Ohio. We live in a city that is a hub for American Airlines, so we are fortunate to have lots of nonstop choices. One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

American Airlines handles lots of bags successfully every single day. I’ve flown American Airlines countless times over the past 18 years, and I’d never had an issue till this LA trip. I love American Airlines, so I’m not bashing them. I’m simply telling a story in hopes that someone will learn something.

Upon arrival in LA, my daughter and I walked down to the luggage carousel to retrieve our checked bags. We had just reached the carousel when I received a message from American Airlines, telling me one of the two bags we had checked was delayed. I told my daughter, and she looked terrified, saying, “I hope it’s not mine!” Because we took an early flight out of Charlotte, she wore more casual clothes than I did. I don’t dress up when I fly, but I don’t dress down either.

While my daughter waited at the carousel for one bag, I got in line at the baggage counter. The line was short…only one person ahead of me. When it was my turn, I told the agent one of our bags had been delayed, and we would need to have it delivered to our hotel. I wasn’t frantic. I wasn’t angry. The info I was getting from American Airlines said it would arrive on the next flight. While I was talking to the American Airlines agent, my daughter approached with her bag. She was smiling, knowing she would be able to change as soon as we got to the hotel. Whew!

Could I have been angry? Maybe. Should I have been angry? No. Was I worried? No. Was I panicked about our dinner plans for the evening? No.

I’ve only had my bag delayed one other time…on a different airline. And I learned some valuable lessons from that first experience. I’m going to share those lessons, so maybe no one else will panic when their bags don’t arrive.

  1. Don’t dress down when flying. This doesn’t mean you need to dress up. Wear something you will be OK wearing for the first full day of your stay, in case your bag is delayed. On the January trip, I wore something on the flight I could wear anywhere we went that day…even to dinner. My shoes were cute and comfortable, so I was fine in those for the day and night as well. On that particular day, I had opted for mostly black…pretty safe for most places.
  2. Don’t put valuables in checked bags. Jewelry and expensive shoes/accessories do not belong in your checked baggage. On our trip, I was wearing the most expensive shoes and jewelry I was taking for the trip, so I didn’t have to worry about never seeing them again. I had a few more pieces of jewelry and another nice pair of shoes with me, but they were in my carry-on. Never check anything that’s irreplaceable.
  3. Carry medications/change of clothes/makeup in your carry-on. I have some necessary restless leg medications that I cannot live without. Well, I could live without them, but I wouldn’t sleep. I always put them in my carry-on. Same for makeup. Yes, I can live without it, but I don’t want to. And frankly, makeup is expensive and difficult to replace on the fly. I also like to have a lightweight change of clothes in my carry-on. And if you’re going to a sunny destination, stick a swimsuit in your bag, so you can hit the pool/beach till your bag arrives. Toothbrush/toothpaste/hairbrush…all in my carry-on. Follow TSA regulations for liquids/gels.
  4. Take a photo of your bag with your smart phone. Take a photo of your checked bags, so if one is lost, you can show it to the baggage agent. In LA, the baggage agent was thrilled when I was able to show that to her, making her job easier.
  5. Make sure you have your name/number on your bag. The tag should list your last name and cell phone number. I also put a sticker inside my bag with my name and number on it. That way, if the bag is misplaced, someone can call me if they find it.
  6. When checking your bag, make sure the airline tag shows your name and destination. This sounds silly, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. If the wrong tag gets put on your bag, you might never see it again.
  7. Take a photo of your bag claim check. I’m the queen of misplacing things, so I always take a photo of my claim check, thinking I’m more likely to lose that than I am to lose my phone.
  8. Download the airline app before you travel. Because I use the American Airlines app, I was informed via message through the app that my bag had been delayed.  It makes it a lot easier to keep track of where your bag is.
  9. As soon as you realize your bag is delayed, report to the baggage counter. In our case, because there were two of us, my daughter could wait for one bag while I spoke with the agent. Make sure the agent has the correct delivery information. Before walking away, I asked her to read my hotel’s name/address/telephone number and my number back to me. And I got her name and direct phone number, as well.
  10. When you arrive, inform the hotel you are expecting a delayed bag. When we were checking in at our hotel, I told the bellman and the front desk agent we would be receiving a delayed bag later. They assured me they would accept the delivery and take it to my room as soon as it arrived.

On our trip, just as promised, American Airlines delivered my bags later that day. In fact, it arrived earlier than promised. I was prepared to wear the outfit I had on to dinner that night, but when the bellman brought my bag to the room, I was thrilled. But if the bag hadn’t arrived till later, I would have been fine too, because I had planned ahead.

Happy Travels!

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My Favorite Holiday Gifts, Part 6: Stocking Stuffers

Every year, I end up dashing around at the last minute to come up with good stocking stuffers. You can’t just have empty stockings hanging by the chimney on Christmas morning! So, this year, I’m planning ahead. I’m listing something fun for everyone here. Aren’t Christmas stocking supposed to be fun?! Without further ado, here are my favorite STOCKING STUFFERS:

Festive Cracker Set from L’Occitane. Holiday crackers have been around for a long time, but these festive crackers from L’Occitane are special, because they contain fabulous L’Occitane beauty products. Each set contains four crackers, each containing beauty products of a different scent: Sweet Cherry Blossom; Delicious Almond; Fragrant Lavender; and Nourishing Shea Butter. They can be used as stocking stuffers as a set, or break it up and put one cracker in each stocking. Priced at $34 for the set, order from L’Occitane here.

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Sports or Concert Tickets. These always go over well in my household. We tend to prefer sporting events over concerts, but we’ve given each other some great concert tickets over the years: The Eagles, Sade, and more. And when our daughter was younger, she loved getting tickets to see Big Time Rush and Taylor Swift in her stocking. There are some great concerts coming up over the next year: Pink, JoJo Siwa, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, George Strait, and more.  For sports in Charlotte, we’re fortunate to have the Hornets, the Checkers, the Panthers, and the Knights, plus some college sports too! For sporting event and concert ticket information, go to Ticketmaster.com here, or VIPNation.com here.

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Scratch Off Cards. Some of you will think I’m crazy, but Santa puts Scratch Off Cards from the North Carolina Education Lottery in our stockings every year! The most any of us has ever won on one card is $100, but hey, that’s something! One year, when I was buying them, the guy helping me told me his aunt won $40,000 on a Scratch Off on Christmas one year. I don’t sound so crazy now, do I? Prices start at $1 for NC Scratch Offs, and I usually buy about $100 worth to split among our stockings. Get them at Harris Teeter or anywhere they sell NC Lottery Tickets. If you live in another state, perhaps your state has a lottery with scratch-offs, or maybe a neighboring state. I know my friends in Baldwin and Mobile Counties in Alabama have been known to drive to the Florida line for lottery tickets…and others to the north have gone to Georgia. To see the different types of Scratch Offs, go to the North Carolina Education Lottery Page here.

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Foot Massage Roller. Anyone who spends much time on their feet can use a foot massage. This foot massage roller is perfect for do-it-yourself foot massages. Just put it on the floor, and roll it with your foot for instant relief. After walking around lacrosse or soccer fields during a weekend tournament, this will do the trick! And my daughter uses it after playing in those tournaments. Is your spouse a doctor or nurse? They’re on their feet all day…they’d love this. Have a friend or family member who travels a lot? It’s great after trekking through airports or after long flights. Weighing under 6.5 ounces, it’s light enough to carry in luggage without adding bulk. Purchase from Amazon for $18.99 here.

 

Little Stinker Bag of Reindeer Farts Cotton Candy. If you have little boys in your house, you know they love potty humor. Heck, even big boys love potty humor. What’s funnier than a bag of reindeer farts? Well, obviously, they’re not really reindeer farts, but they’ll get a lot of laughs on Christmas morning. Priced at $9.95 for three ounces (cotton candy is light) from Amazon. Purchase here.

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Firebox Head Case. Some folks will think this is absolutely crazy, but when my friend, Mary Ann, told me about it via Facebook, I was all over it! Nothing says “that’s my bag!” like your own giant face on your suitcase. I don’t have my own yet, but I will have one soon! When it comes off the luggage carousel on my first trip after Christmas, I will recognize it immediately…and everyone else will know it’s mine! I think this is a great stocking stuffer for anyone who likes a good, crazy gift. My teenager daughter would be mortified, but I know my crazy sister-in-law will love it! It’s a fabric case cover that fits over your bag. It comes in three different sizes, and the handles are still easily accessible. Purchase at firebox.com here. 

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Lypsyl Lip Balms. My daughter and her friends recently brought these fabulous lip balms to my attention. Available at Walgreen’s, Walmart, and Amazon.com, they are made of Swedish Beeswax Lip Balm. According to the teenage girls who hang out at my house, they are the best lip balms on the market. Guess what will be in the my daughter’s Christmas stocking this year? But Lypsyl’s not just for women. They are offered in the original formula and in Yummy Sticks too. Purchase at your local Walgreen’s or Walmart, or purchase on Amazon.com here.LypSyl_2018_lineshot

Kendra Scott Moody Mood Necklace. I mentioned these in the Christmas accessories post, but they are worth another mention. Doesn’t every woman love to find a little jewelry in her Christmas stocking? This is fun, because it will remind some of the old mood rings of the 70s. Aside from that, they’re just pretty! Priced at $75, the mood necklaces come in silver, gold, and rose gold. Kendra Scott also offers mood rings for the same price. Purchase here.

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Restaurant Gift Cards. This is almost too simple to mention. We all know about gift cards, and they make great stocking stuffers for just about everybody. For teenagers, there’s Starbucks, ChickFilA, Shake Shack, and more. For adults, you can go more upscale, or just something they like: Starbucks (again), Cafe Monte in Charlotte, Bricktop’s in Charlotte, or The Palm. Or maybe you know a hotel they frequent? Lots of hotels and spas offer gift cards, as well.

 

Dylan’s Candy Bar Hot Chocolate. Dylan’s Candy Bar has an assortment of hot chocolate mixes that are fun for the whole family. They offer several “mystery color” hot chocolates that turn red, pink, or green in your cup, making for an interesting hot cocoa experience. And they offer flavored hot chocolates as well: Fir Real (Double Chocolate Christmas Hot Chocolate), Just Hangin’ (Salted Caramel Christmas Hot Chocolate), and Sweet But Twisted (Peppermint Christmas Hot Chocolate). For any family member who has seen the movie or the musical, Mean Girls, they offer a hot chocolate called You Go Glen Coco pink hot chocolate mix. Purchase directly from Dylan’s Candy Bar here.

 

Claus Porto Musgo Real Soap-on-a-Rope. Soap-on-a-Rope has made a comeback in recent years. Because I love Claus Porto soaps, it’s the one I recommend for men. The Classic Scent is fantastic and fresh, but not flowery, and Claus Porto uses Shea butter in all their soaps, making them great for moisturizing too. Get this at Neiman Marcus for $28 here. OR get it in a set with cologne directly from Claus Porto for $90 here.

 

Lush Bubble Bar. Starting at $5.95, these beautifully-scented bubble bars create a relaxing bath experience. Some of them are even reusable. There are different shapes and scents, and who doesn’t love a bubble bath? Shop Lush Bubble Bars here.

 

L Erickson Grab and Go Pony Tube. Best ponytail holders ever! I discovered these several years ago when I was waiting to check out at Anthropologie in Los Angeles. You know how they have all sorts of little accessories near the checkout? Well, I grabbed one of these tubes, and I was so glad I did! My daughter and I both use them, and they hold our hair without damaging it. Anybody in your life who ever wears a ponytail will love these. Priced at $18 for the tube of 15 ponytail holders, they’re not cheap, but they are worth it. Get them at Amazon Prime here. Or from Nordstrom here.

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Bluetooth Beanie. Bluetooth Beanies are a hot item this Christmas, and they are the perfect size to shove down into the toe of a Christmas stocking. You know how you have to have something you can push in to the toe to support everything else in the stocking? Well, here it is! Bluetooth beanies are great for listening to music while attending sporting events, running, skiing, and more. Amazon offers lots of them, but here is one that gets great ratings…the Everplus beanie, starting at $14.95. Get it at Amazon here.

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Duluth Trading Larry Flashlight. I have one of these, and it comes in handy. Sure, we have flashlights on our phones, but they’re not like this. I’ve used this one at the beach while we looked for ghost crabs at night. I’ve used it while I walked the dogs at night. It gives off a lot of light, and it’s lightweight too. Makes a great stocking stuffer for any member of the family. Don’t all little kids love flashlights?!? Don’t teens and college students need flashlights? Priced at $14.95, it’s a great deal. Purchase from Duluth Trading Company here. 

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City Clues. One Christmas, we planned a trip to New York for our daughter, so we decided to fill her stocking with clues about the trip. Since she was 11 or 12 at the time, we went with clues a girl her age would associate with NYC. That meant her stocking contained a magnet from the Empire State Building, an 8″ replica of the Statue of Liberty, come candy from Dylan’s Candy Bar, some frozen hot chocolate mix from Serendipity, an Eloise doll (from Eloise at the Plaza), Yankees tickets, and tickets to see Matilda on Broadway. Oh, and an I Love NY t-shirt. She figured it out, and she was thrilled. Planning a big trip? Find some souvenirs online to put in your family member’s stocking.

 

 

And there you have it…stocking stuffers! Get busy shopping! Christmas is just over a month away, and you don’t want to miss out on the good stuff!

***Next time: TEENS AND COLLEGE STUDENTS!***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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.***