Welcome to my new series, "Traveling Well". During this series, I’ll share some of the tips, tricks, and techniques that I’ve discovered that make my life so much easier when on the road.
I should note that I refuse to travel by airplane anymore as a result of the TSA. In short, I feel that the TSA does not utilize legitimate security practices but instead practices Security Theatre. But, in a quest to travel well, here a few tips gleaned carefully from the four flights I have made.
Buy a pack and stow it whenever you fly. Chewing gum is the easiest way to keep your ears popping to adjust to the pressure changes. My first flight was made without gum. Second flight was with gum from the airport. I bought gum at walmart before my third and fourth flight and stashed it where I could get to it easily. I can’t stress the importance of this tip. Its why babies cry during a flight – the pressure changes hurts their ear drums and they don’t know how to release the pressure. Babies don’t develop the ability to swallow about 6 months.
Shoes, Socks, and the TSA
I’ve read countless article talking about how nasty the TSA terminals are and how you should wear socks through the gate.
Those nasty germs they’re so worried about? They’re on your shoes which get put in the bins. The same bins that you place your backpack and your laptop in.
Yep. They’re is a serious logic flaw in how wearing socks will insulate you against those germs.
And that nasty you don’t want on your feet so you saved yourself by wearing socks? Now, when you put your socks on, you’ve transferred the germs to a warm, moist, dark environment that you’ll never wash. Its the inside of your shoes. Now, everytime you put those shoes on, you can relive the fun of flying!
So, if you want my advice, tuck your socks inside your shoes as you go through the body scan. Put them back on when you reach the other side. At least those germs will be contained inside your socks. (Or lay out a clean pair on top of your bag to change into on the other side of the gate and baggie the old ones.)
I guess you could have skipped this part, but, oh well.
Fluids and Baggage
- This was a tip until I didn’t learn until my flight out to California. While you’re not allowed to take fluids through a TSA checkpoint, empty (or borosilicate glass) bottles are considered acceptable by the TSA. Exploit this. Instead of buying overpriced water once you’ve passed into the DMZ, just take an empty bottle and fill it at the drinking station that most airports have as a manner of convenience.
- If you’re the kind of person that checks a bag (I am, have to bring my knives somehow) make sure you pack a change of clothes in your carry on. What if the airline loses the baggage that has all your clothes in it? All you need is a fresh pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Its a small amount space in your carry on for a day to recover from lost baggage.
- Traveling with a dopp kitt and liquids and such may seem challenging, but it isn’t. All that is required is that your 3 oz containers fit in a 1 quart zip lock baggie. I have 5 3 oz containers in my baggie. I keep my dopp kitt in my carry on for the same reason as keeping a change of clothes in my carry-on. How easy is it through the gate? Zipper one on my bag (which I have to open anyway) opens to my dopp kitt. Zipper two opens dopp kitt (left open as well), and then I remove the 1 qt baggie and set aside in the tray. Boom. Shame on my for the small bottle of purrel that I left clipped to my bag.
- Another tip for baggage is, pack for accessibility. This is one I learned on my flight to California. I had crammed my Goruck GR1 to capacity. I realized after flying that there were only a few things I wanted on my flight: my netbook, tablet, headphones, and my ActiviTEA. Because I had stuffed my GR1 with thought to placement and capacity instead of accessibility it made it very hard to get to what I wanted without creating a jumble in my GR1. That jumble also made it very hard to get it closed when it was time to disembark. Next time, I’ll tuck the netbook and such into my messenger bag and pack that as well as my goruck.
- Well versed travelers know that on checked baggage, you never leave the strap on. Another bit that I learned from experience that I wished I had known first. I traveled with my duffle and the carry strap was ripped off. Fortunately it was the stitching that failed, and after a little repair at home everything was back to fighting form.
Clothing for Comfort, Not for Business
Flying is an interesting experience. You’re hustled into a shiny aluminum tube and shot hundreds of miles per hour across the US in said tube. As you can easily imagine, there’s not alot of space. I find window seats the roomiest, though there are those that disagree (or course). And be prepared to sit for the duration of the flight. Pacing the isle is not an accepted activity.
When I made my first flight at night, I made a mistake in assuming that the cabin would be heated. Nope. And I had stowed my hoodie in such a way so that I couldn’t get at it. That was a cold flight to Vegas. On my return trip (flown in the morning), I wore my hoodie. Thankfully, the plane wasn’t packed and I was able to remove it because flying at day is significantly warmer.
The lesson is that flying at night is cold while flying at day is hot. Makes sense – being high in the sky, you have less atmosphere to keep the heat down during the day. And, at the night, less atmosphere to keep the heat in. With that in mind, dress in layers. You want to be able to remove them in the cramped confines of the cabin, so I suggest a tshirt during the day and a long sleeve at night, with layers that split down the middle – jean jackets or similar so that you can easily adapt to your environment.
Bonus Tip: Craft Beer
Getting beer home was another fun experiment from my final flight. Of course, this had to be checked baggage. How I managed it was to purchase an aluminum tool case from Harbor Freight, place the beer inside, and then utilize enough of my t-shirts to pack them tightly. To keep the latches closed but allow the TSA to pop the box open without trashing the case, I took and wrapped around the case with electrician’s tape making sure that each latch was covered and kept closed by the tape. Simple, effective. It survived the baggage handlers with no problems, and the tape wasn’t removed upon arrival (but your milage may vary on that!)
So those are the few tips I have for you on flying. While I don’t mind the actual flying (in fact, I find take-off exhilarating), I can’t stand the TSA’s incompetence. While I may not have the money to fight the TSA, the air lines do. And when we make the airlines loose money because of the TSA, they will take up our cause.