Remember when air travel was thrilling? The sound of grand engines humming as you, the jet-setter, stepped aboard. Mouthwatering (all right, somewhat tasty, but at least “free”) meals. The chance to read and relax for hours, uninterrupted by incessant sensory stimulation. Arriving at your destination to find your luggage patiently waiting for you, having been lovingly handled since you parted ways? Remember all that?
Me either. But I’ve found some ways to pump up the pleasure of travel. Here are five of my top tips:
Don’t check luggage. Yes, it’s possible. I used one carry-on and a handbag for three weeks when we traveled to Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, literally via plane, train, and automobile. There are endless YouTube videos out there telling you how to do it. I even made my own, once, much to the amusement of family and friends. It’s no secret anymore, so find a way.
Eat a healthy meal or snack prior to boarding. Any food distributed on the plane, purchased or not, will most likely not be free of ingredients better left in the lab. If that’s important to you, arm yourself before flight time with suitable sustenance.
This brings me to a quick aside. Not that all this is organic, but check out these photos from one of the Delta Sky Clubs I just paid a visit to when I traveled from home in Portugal to the U. S. If you’re not a member or don’t have access to a club with a specific credit card, you might want to think about purchasing a one-time pass to the club on whatever airline you’re flying, or to a generic lounge, if you have a long travel day ahead of you. It can make a huge difference to your state of mind both as you journey and when you arrive at your final destination.
Bring your own headset and eye shades. The airlines mean well, but those headsets are generally not the most comfortable and you often have to pay for them. Also, unless you’re in Business or better (or flying internationally), you won’t be handed eye shades. Serious ear and eye gear are essential these days, between movies, laptop screens, and other intrusions into your very limited space. Speaking of which…
Take possession of your seat. This means everything from ensuring a seatmate’s foot doesn’t stray over to the floor in front of you to gently reclining your seat as much as want. Having said that, on a recent flight a border skirmish almost escalated to a fist fight between two passengers sitting way too close for comfort to me, over the seat back issue. Patience is stretched thin in these close quarters, so be as considerate as possible for everyone’s sake.
Taking possession also means turning on your overhead light if you want to. Lately I’ve noticed that as soon as possible after takeoff, no matter what time of day it is, window shades are snapped shut and passengers have their eyes glued to every sort of screen, from built-ins on the seats to computers to phones and who knows what else. If it’s noon and you don’t want to pretend it’s midnight and mess up your melatonin, assert yourself. Nicely.
Bring an e-reader. I resisted this for years, thinking it was chic to tote a three-inch thick novel with me. How literate, how erudite I was! Nope. I invariably did the puzzle in the in-flight magazine, snooped to see what the person next to me was watching, dozed off, and battled a band of escaped toddlers racing through the aisles as I tried to keep my circulation going. Leave the latest five-pound New York Times best-seller on your night stand at home and stick with a Kindle or other device. You will definitely thank me.
Any favorite tricks of the travel trade you want to share? Put them in the comment section below. And Boa viagem!