Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Want Stress Free Air Travel? I'll Give You Stress Free Air Travel

Advice like this is all the rage on the Internet:

What I learned not to travel with

Rolly luggage (sure it looks fancy, but avoid anything with wheels. You will just end up carrying more stuff you don’t need, and it will make traveling very unpleasant. I recommend to never check anything in when traveling. It will cause you a lot of headaches (checking luggage fee, lines at airport, and risk of losing your luggage– which has happened numerous occasions to me in the past)

In other words: checked baggage is for chumps.

Yes, checking a bag will often cost you some cash. And if the flight is short enough, it could be a significant percentage of the cost of the flight. So there are times when Shira and I go out of our way to travel carry-on only. But I'll tell you, that's not the stress free way to travel.

Here's the approach I've learned to be the most stress free:

  • Pack a very small carry on bag. The actual bag doesn't matter, but the size does. It needs to easily fit under the seat in front of you. This sling bag works well, as does the daypack from the REI Stratocruiser luggage. But really, any small backpack or messenger bag will work.
  • In the carry on bag goes the following: my Go Bag goodies, any fragile items (read: laptop, camera and/or lenses) and a lightweight long sleeve shirt (it can be 110°F outside, and it will still be frigid on the plane). If I have any medication I need to bring with me, that goes in the carry on, too.
  • Right before I check our bags, I take a couple of photos of them (to help in describing a lost bag)
  • Check my luggage, knowing that I may never see the bags again. And most importantly, be OK with that. Yes, it'll mean that we might have to improvise for a few days when we land, but I'll just count that as the first adventure in our trip.

Not only does this arrangement make getting around in the airport easier (no bag, wheely or not, to drag around), and security less of a hassle, but it means you don't have to fight for overhead space when boarding. When you fly carry-on only and plan to use an overhead bin, you don't know until you are essentially on the plane and seated whether your bag will be flying with you or whether you'll need to check it.

To me, that fight for overhead space is far more stressful than waiting to drop off or pickup luggage. And having less to carry around in the airport and on the plane is just a nice bonus.

So that works for me. What works for you?

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