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Before You Travel by Air


Air travel has gotten more challenging in the 2000's, and preparing for air travel is key. Getting ready will make the experience more pleasant -- be ready for air travel by packing for airport security, having the right travel documents like an itinerary and an eticket, getting the best airplane seat assignment, knowing how not to lose your luggage, and, of course, finding the best airfare deal. Let's walk through eight great tips.

1 - Find the Best Airfare

Trying to get the best airfare can be tension-inducing: have you really got the best airfare deal possible? Have you looked at every one of nine million sources? Forget all that -- find a good student airfare, compare it to regular airfares using an airfare aggregator, buy an Airtran student-only standby ticket in the US if that works, and go for it. If you're traveling in-country, learn about cheap Mexico airlines, cheap Asia air, or budget European airlines. And read up on some special holiday air travel ideas.

2 - Get an Eticket and Itinerary

After you find the best airfare, you'll probably buy an eticket -- this is one of a few travel documents (below) you'll need to get together before heading for the airport. When you buy a ticket online, you're usually buying an eticket. Airline and travel sites walk you through the process, and you'll end up with an eticket and an itinerary you can print out. Learn more about etickets and itineraries (and real paper tickets), making copies and who needs' em, and what parts of an eticket and which credit card you should bring to the airport, and we'll move on to other travel documents you will or may need.

3 - Get Travel Documents Together

You will always need identification at the airport, coming and going. You will almost always need a passport (learn about Mexico and Canada passport rules). You will probably need a travel visa (you may be given a blank form on the plane). You may need to show a work visa to enter a country for work. You will seldom need, but may want to carry, travel immunization records. You may want, but *may* not need if you are renting a car at an airport abroad, an international driver's license. Learn about all the travel documents you may want in the course of air travel (and make copies!).

4- Get the Best Seat Assignment

Getting a good seat on a short flight, like within Europe, isn't completely crucial. The right seat can make a long flight, like to Australia, mucho better, however. As soon as possible (like while buying your ticket), choose a seat you want, like an aisle so you can stretch, or a window so you can sleep with your head against a wall (yeah, really). Seatguru.com is a website providing seat maps and airplane diagrams which you can consult before asking for a seat assignment. Check it out.

5 - Understand Airport Rules

Airport rules have changed massively since your parents were in your first-time traveling shoes. Today, you'll have to take those shoes off to get through airport security; believe it or not, you could once arrive at the airport with seconds to spare and sprint onto a flight with just a ticket-holder thingy in hand, which might not even be checked. Man oh man, have airport rules changed. Read up on airport rules before you go -- like way before you go -- and avoid some pains in the neck or pocketbook, like missing flights.

6 - Packing for Airport Security

If you've read up on airport rules (above), you now know that the US, UK and Europe (et tu, EU?) have implemented super strict rules regarding what you may carry on to a plane and through airport security. Understand what that means for your packing process with *the* most current and correct information -- it won't be painless, but it's possible to pack for airport security, using the right bags and attitude, and still avoid checking a bag if you can. Why avoid that? Because checked bags can get lost, damaged, or ganked from -- and it now can cost $15 and up to check a bag, as well. Let's talk about luggage next.

7 - How Not to Lose Your Luggage

Want to bring tequila or local salsa home from Mexico? Bought a samurai sword somewhere? You'll have to transport it in a checked bag, which vastly increases the chance that you may lose a bag during air travel. Lost luggage happens, especially now that TSA rules practically dictate having to check bags for some travelers, but you can learn how to avoid losing your bags in transit and what to do if it happens to you. Look at tips on keeping your bags from traveling without you and what to do if an airline has lost your luggage. And do check with your airline before deciding to check a bag -- it probably costs money.

8 - Don't forget...

...a few basics that will make your life on a plane better.
  • Download language lessons for your iPod (more fun than it sounds).
  • Bring an inflatable neck pillow no matter what. Otherwise, your head will fall forward if you fall asleep in your plane seat and you'll do that unattractive drool thing on your shirtfront while developing the world's worst neck crick. Better to drool on the neck pillow.
  • Pack No-Jetlag pills -- they rule my transcontinental world.
  • And don't forget what you're doing: you're traveling. It's a great adventure -- have a great time.

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