10 Tips for Traveling Well: Air Travel

This past trip to Austin reminded me of all the little things I try to do to streamline the airport experience, so I thought I'd share some of my personal tips for air travel!

Pretty much every airline gives you the option to print your boarding pass at home now (and I think some let you show your boarding pass on your smart phone...), which means you can totally bypass standing in line to get your boarding pass! I like to arrive at the airport as late as possible so I'm not waiting around for hours for my plane, and skipping the lines to get your boarding pass is one way to shave down that time!

Nothing is more frustrating than having to wrestle with your shoes when you're trying to get through security, or to have to go through the metal detector 3 times because you're wearing metal accessories. Make sure to plan ahead and wear shoes that are easy to slip off and on again, and avoid wearing metal belts or accessories.

I almost always will only pack a carry-on. I like being able to have all my stuff in my sight at all times, and it makes getting to and from the airport way easier (no waiting in line to check bags, or waiting for bags to arrive at the baggage claim). Plus, your bag will never get lost when you carry it on. I've gone on two week trips with only a carry-on, so it's totally doable to pack a carry-on for longer trips! Here are some tips for packing just a carry-on:

-Plan remix-able outfits. Pack things that go well with each other and can be worn in multiple ways. For shorter trips with various events (like the TxSC conference, or NYFW) I like to plan my outfits beforehand and then draw them out so I don't even have to think about putting outfits together during the trip, they're already planned!

-Use space well. Fill your shoes with socks or other accessories. Pack big, bulky things and then fit the smaller or thinner fabrics around them as filler. In my bag to TxSC this past month I had 2 pairs of chunky heels, 2 pairs of flats, 2 hats, my flat iron and blowdryer all in my carry-on, along with all the clothes I had to wear. Also, roll up your clothes instead of folding them, to make them smaller. You can also invest in those vacuum bags which make your clothes super small! Most hotels have an iron, so you can get rid of any wrinkles when you arrive.

-Wear bulky items on to the plane. Instead of packing a big coat, or a hat, or that pair of cute boots you just have to have on the trip, wear it onto the plane. Even if I know a big coat will be too hot on the plane, I'll wear it on the day-of anyway and just take it off when I get on the plane. That way you can still have your coat, but you don't have to try and fit it in your carry-on when it'll probably take up half of your whole bag!

Before you even arrive at the security area, prep for going through security. You don't necessarily have to do this if there's a huge security line (since you'll have plenty of prep time while you're waiting), but if it looks like it'll be pretty quick getting to security:
-have your boarding pass and ID out to give to the TSA agent.
-take out laptop while you're still in line, so you don't have to fumble around for it as everyone is rushing to put their stuff in bins.
-have your bag of liquids easily accessible.

As soon as I'm past the TSA agent I'll usually try to grab some bins and start putting my shoes, jacket, laptop, and liquids in them. I'll even do this if I'm not to the security table yet and just prep on the ground, so when I get to the table I can just put my bins and bags up there, all ready to go!

Make sure you know where you're going! If you're going to arrive or have a layover at an airport you're unfamiliar with, have a map of the airport with you. If you have to take the subway in the city you're visiting, print google maps of the routes you need to take to get from the airport to your hotel, from your hotel to locations you want to visit, etc. I used to print these out and keep them in a file, or I'd write down the directions in a journal. Nowadays most everyone has a phone which has map functions, so that also works!

Once you've made it through security, quickly grab all your stuff from the conveyer belt after wards and head to a less chaotic and congested area to re-pack all your stuff and put your shoes/coat/accessories back on. I find that people usually try to do this right after their stuff comes through the x-ray machine and it creates a bottle neck and a bunch of chaos, so I just grab my shoes, bags, and everything from my bins and move to an area away from it all to repack. There you can take as much time as you'd like to repack and get everything re-situated without feeling frantic.
Remember that most airlines allow you a "small personal item" as well as a carry-on bag which can be a laptop bag, purse, etc. This bag needs to be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you, so you can have another pretty large bag as long as it can do that! I use that second bag for my laptop, camera and oftentimes more clothes, snacks or just stuff that won't fit in my carry-on. And since I will want to have smaller purse when I get to my destination, I usually pack my daily purse in my carry one or personal item.

If you don't have a checked bag to claim, have the person picking you up get you at the departures/drop off area. It's less crowded than the arrivals/pick up area and you'll be easier to find because pretty much everyone else is getting out of their cars and going into the airport. You'll be one of the few people standing on the curb waiting to be picked up.
Have your computer, phone, ipad and any other electronics you want on the plane fully charged. Especially make sure your phone is charged, as you'll likely want to be able to call someone once you land. I always make sure my phone is easily accessible so that once the plane lands I can turn it on and call the person coming to pick me up to let them know we've landed. Or, if you have any delays, you'll want your phone charged to let people know you'll be late. It's also nice to have your laptop/ipad charged up so you can do work/watch movies on the plane, as most planes don't have any sort of plug-in for chargers.

The food and snacks at airports and aboard planes is marked up quite a bit, so if you have a longer flight where you'll want more than the complimentary tiny bag of snacks and a drink, bring your own food with you. You won't be able to bring any liquids through security, so if you want something to drink on the plane, you'll have to buy that at the airport (or, as a commenter suggested, bring an empty waterbottle through security and then fill it on the other side!). Bring a snack like trail mix, or something that can be easily shoved into a carry-on.

Do you have any tips from your own air travel experience?