I love flying, I really do. But I also know that I am the exception. And after my most recent trip, I now understand where everyone else is coming from. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that I experienced the most disastrous air travel in the history of Kristin since 1997.
Especially in the winter months, there are plenty of things that can go wrong when you fly—being stranded in the terminal, being stranded on the runway, and being stranded at 30,000 feet with no food and a screaming toddler, to name a few.
But, while you can’t prevent things from going awry, you can be prepared to handle whatever comes your way. Here’s my road (er, air)-tested method for staying stocked, satiated, and sane, even in the worst case scenarios.
1. Plan Conservatively
Physics may dictate the ability of the plane to fly, but Murphy’s Law runs the rest of the travel show—if it can go wrong, it will. Despite your best intentions, your plane will get a hole in the tire and make you land late, you’ll miss your bus, have to grab an expensive cab, only to hop on the next bus out, which of course is a non-express with no internet or power outlets. (Not that that’s happened to me recently.)
Translation: Don’t hedge your bets. Don’t book short layovers, don’t plan to land an hour before your job interview, and don’t assume that flights out of ORD or JFK will be on time in February. You can’t control everything, but you can play it safe.
2. Carry On What You Can
One of my number one rules for flying is to carry on my luggage. If I can’t carry it on, I don’t need it. I realize that this isn’t always practical, but no matter what, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by packing the essentials in your carry-on. This means all identification, an outfit or two, and toiletries. Remember: the only bags that are guaranteed not to get lost are the ones that never leave your hands.
The terminal is full of businesses ready to cash in wearied travelers, and the sky full of airlines eager to do the same. So, unless you want to get punched in the pocketbook or risk not getting the one last turkey sandwich on the plane, pack some healthy, filling snacks—almonds, dried fruit, trail mix—to tide you over.
To stay hydrated, buy the largest bottled spring water possible once you’re inside the security gate (or bring an empty bottle to fill up at the fountain after security), so you don’t have to rely on $5 a pop Evians or the flight attendant to provide you with a steady stream of drinks.
4. Stay Connected
Fully charge all your gadgets before you depart. You don’t know how long you might need them to stay juiced, and technological amenities like outlets, Wi-Fi, and pay phones may be few and far between (especially if all the other stranded travelers are trying to use them). Also come prepared with any files you absolutely need downloaded onto your hard drive, or better yet, a flash drive—not sitting at the top of your email.
Hint: If you need a Wi-Fi signal and the airport doesn’t have it (or doesn’t have a free one), many cafes, restaurants, and coffee stops are likely to—Starbucks and Au Bon Pain are two that commonly have access. Ask an airport employee for the best place to connect.
On my last trip, I was thwarted from work thanks to a lack of available outlets and a dead computer battery (clearly, I did not take my own advice). But I’ve learned that the best thing you can do if you’re delayed from working, getting off the ground, or going anywhere anytime soon is to take a deep breath and use the down time to relax.
Hit your local bookstore and stock up on all the things you’ve been wanting to read. Or, pick up an eye mask and set of foam earplugs so you can shut out the screaming kids (unless they’re your own, in which case, you have to deal) and get some shut-eye on the plane.
After my most recent trip, I realize why flying was so fun as a child. Kids get to experience all the wonder and excitement without any of the hassles and worries that their parents have to manage. However, you can still retain some semblance of that enjoyment if you follow my cardinal principles of flying. And yes, next time, I will too.
Tell us! What are your flight horror stories? How do you prepare yourself for the worst while traveling?