Tips for Air Travel: Getting started

airplane air bus

For years I was a tourist traveler. Making many BAD choices on luggage and packing. I had a BIG strong husband and strapping boys to haul everything.

But then a few years ago I was elected to a board that required frequent traveling, by myself. At the very first meeting, the then chairman gave us new board members some very good advice:

  • Get a good roller bag that works as a carry on. There may be times were it makes sense to “check it” but there are also times when you need to be able to take it on with you, especially if you are trying to go stand by, or if you think your connection is too close for those bags to get transferred and you need “clothes to where”. Often, I take my bag as carry on to my meeting but check it on the way home.
    1. Look for one with good rollers.roller bag with glider wheels There are a couple of kinds. The traditional tilt rollers where you tilt the bag when you are walking with it. My husband prefers this kind. I like the continuous roller kind. They glide on the surface. As a female, I think this is easier to maneuver at the airport. There is a downside to this bag, it is a little harder to “push” on carpet.
    2. Think about the color of your bag. Years ago, I bought a whole set of black luggage. I loved it, until I got to the airport and tried to decide which black bag was mine. I traveled with a friend of mine once and we stood watching bags go by for what seemed like an eternity. Until she remembered she remembered her husband suggested she buy a black bag instead of a colored bag.
    3. Which brings me to my next point. Mark your bags for easy recognition. You can buy fancy tags, but I like to go to a craft store like hobby lobby and get a roll of 1 1/2” wired ribbon. Cut pieces off and tie them around the handle of your bags. I also put a piece of it on my backpack or tote that I am using as carry on. roller bag with ribbonSo, if my bag gets lost, when I am describing it to the agent I can tell her/him the color and make of the bag, but also point to my ribbon and say it will have a piece of ribbon like this on it. I usually keep a piece of that ribbon in my carry-on bag or the pocket of my suitcase, in case I acquire another piece of “luggage” or one falls off.
    4. I would recommend that you buy a bag that has an expandable zipper. When I pack to go on your trip, everything MUST fit within the bag with out expanding the zipper. This gives me some extra “room” for the treasures that I might aquire while on my trip. And for some reason, things never fit back in as well as when I packed it. As to where or how much money you should spend on a bag here is my 2 cents worth. I have paid a lot of money for an expensive name brand suitcase. I have also bought “cheap” bags at big discount stores. Travel is hard on bags. My favorite place to buy bags now is the discount stores like Ross or TJ Maxx or Stein Mart. I may end up going to all 3 places to find a “set”. I buy the carry-on size as well as a bigger size if I am checking a bag. I like something other than black so there are less “similar bags” coming off the carousel. The last set we bought was Nautica. I have been pleased with it. I love the Blue and Yellow because it is the same color as the Swedish flag which is my heritage. We recently had a bag damaged on a flight, but because I didn’t pay a lot for it to start with, and I have had it for several years now, and it was midnight when we landed, I didn’t even bother to claim it. Gives me a good excuse to go shopping. 😊
  • Pick and airline that comes to your home airport. Get the credit card. Join the frequent flier program. You can still shop around for the cheapest flight. BUT if the cheapest flight on another carrier is not that much cheaper, trust me, it is worth paying a few bucks more and flying the other carrier. I noticed very quickly that if flights were being delayed or cancelled that the gate agents were frantically “re-booking” their premium customers as the problems unfolded. I can personally vouch for being upgraded for free because of my frequent flier status because they needed my seat in coach, even though I didn’t ask to be upgrade.

On a side note by using an airline credit card for your everyday charges, can really make miles add up quickly. A few years ago, we used mileage accumulated to take a family trip to Ireland. My husband and son flew business class and I got 3 free coach seats. The only seat I paid for was mine…so I could get mileage for both the ticket and then the air miles.

  • Lastly be nice to the gate agents. Even if you screwed up and got to the gate late or booked your return trip on the wrong date. (yes, I did that). Now, I can’t guarantee that they will help you 100% of the time. BUT I can tell you I’ve gotten things that I probably shouldn’t because I was overly nice or apologized to them for the snotty traveler in front of me. I am an American Airline elite member. Every year they send me a booklet of outstanding service cards to recognize when someone provides excellent service, carry them with you. Give them out. Let’s face it, they don’t control the weather, they don’t break planes, they aren’t the ones who cancel flights. No reason to take it out on them.


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