While I do like to think of myself as a rather flexible person (in terms of accommodating and compromising in regard to the needs/preferences of others), there are a few things I am very particular and detail-oriented about, one of them being travel preparation.
Nora and I three years ago checking in at SFO, Helsinki-bound via London
I have been traveling ever since I was under two months old- frequently and to twenty-two countries and hundreds of cities; I take pride in the fact that my wallet contains four times as many mileage membership cards than credit cards (though all my credit cards ARE mileage affiliated), that I am well experienced with which terminals at Heathrow have a Chanel boutique and which Emirates lounge at DXB has the best breakfast buffet, and that I have logged several hundred thousand miles of air travel over the past twenty-one years.
Note: I only have a wheelie carry-on here because this was a San Francisco-Portland flight in which I only brought home a carry-on baggage for the weekend.
When I travel, especially internationally, I tend to follow what I like to call an “efficiency protocol,” to ensure that I have the most comfortable, stress-free, and enjoyable experience getting from Point A to Point B- alors, I hope I can help you out as well, and help make travel a less torturous ordeal:
1. HOW TO DRESS:
When traveling, you WANT to be comfortable- however not sloppy, therefore sweats, tracksuits (especially in tacky 2001 era Juicy Couture velour), cargo pants, wrinkle-free tack-a-licious garb purchased from a Lands End catalogue, and running shoes are STRICTLY verboten (forbidden.) There is a way to dress stylish YET comfortable, and that really is the route you should be taking. I tend to gravitate toward some sort of leggings (usually black ones made of a nice material which does not attract lint is best- mine are by Trouve available at Nordstrom), and some sort of oversize tunic/top made of a comfortable, airy material…whatever it is make sure it covers your legging-ified derriere- also more fitted longer tops work well if paired with a long cardigan. And ALWAYS have a classy shawl/pashmina to go along- instant class (and an instant blanket). As for footwear, I personally like a “gourmet” pair of flipflops (Tory Burch, Coach, Dior, etc) or flats- something EASY to slip on and off when going through security or the lavs; keep a spare pair of socks in your tote, and keep jewelry to a bare minimum (Pearls and a subtle necklace should do)- and make-up as little as possible (avoid mascara, eyeliner or anything smudge-tastic).
2. THE ZIPLOC:
Always, always pre-put all your itty liquid containers in a ziploc prior to security and keep it handy in an outside pocket! This will save you, the TSA, and the hoards of less experienced travelers behind you a lot of sanity. As for what liquids to tote in le petit zip- I advise:
- Miniature hand lotion- your skin WILL get painfully dry
- Miniature face lotion (such as Cetaphil)
- Miniature hand sanitizer
- Perfume sample (I have an itty bitty Chanel Coco Mademoiselle)
3. THE CARRY-ON:
If you can avoid it, I do not recommend taking a wheelie-carry-on because if you are like me, short and lacking tremendous muscle strength- it WILL be a pain in the ass lugging that thing into the overhead compartment. That being said, I recommend some sort of a larger tote bag with a mid to high degree of chic(I use my Burberry one, but Longchamp makes IDEAL travel bags- just make sure whatever you decide on matches decently with the rest of your outfit) with a zip-up top or some other stylish/chic oversize bag containing multiple pockets/compartments. In your carry-on, you should have:
- The Liquids Zippy
- Wallet/phone/charger/Passport/copy of itinerary/boarding passes
- Smaller size designer purse with all your jewelry inside (NEVER check in valuables)
- Shawl (if you aren’t wearing it)
- One piece of reading material
- Pen, small notepad or such
- small zippy with q-tips, cotton balls, and antibacterial wipes for your hands/sketchy surfaces, mini Advil, small baby powder (to put on greasy hair roots/prevent itchiness)
- If space: spare top
- If you have a laptop, make sure you’re ready to whip that bad boy out at security
4. PRE-TRAVEL REGIME:
ALWAYS shower/blow-dry/style your hair at most 12 hours prior to departure- the last thing you want is to be itchy or gross feeling on the plane, sleep decently because who knows when you will next (that means no drinking heavily the night prior to a trip and no all-nighters), make sure your nails are well-groomed and free of hangnails (especially if you’re wearing flipflops), save getting dressed for RIGHT before you leave for the airport (you’re going to be wearing those clothes A LONG TIME so don’t make it any longer than necessary), eat something light and avoid anything with too much sodium, grease, or grime, drink a lot of water the day prior and if you drink coffee make sure you leave at least a three hour window prior to departing for the airport (because who knows when that damned seatbelt sign will be switched off).
5. COMMON SENSE:
Don’t EVER leave your bags unattended or even with a stranger- bottom line: You don’t know them. If traveling alone always keep a small, stylish wristlet on you at all times containing your wallet, passport, tickets- and take it with you to the lavs! Don’t use red-alert keywords (terrorism, bombs, blow-up, I hate America, you get the picture…even as a joke)- this particularly goes if you, like me, are brown. Even when the TSA is pissing you off and you’re getting treated like chewed out paan by flight attendants, pretend you’re an actor and be SUPER SACCHARINELY SWEET. Passive-aggression at it’s finest…when traveling save your assholery for after arriving at your destination and having a massive bitch-fest to your Twitter followers. Drinking alcohol and coffee is generally a bad idea if more than one drink of either- you’re already painfully dehydrated up there at 30,000 feet so don’t further aggravate that.
Pack a snack. Recommendations: an apple, 100-calorie packs of raw almonds/nuts/trail mix, Kashi/Luna/Cliff/Lara bars, little hummus sandwiches- just make sure whatever it is, it’s low in sodium. As for airplane eating- I do eat airplane food, but I am particular- with meat, I would be careful- avoid beef, seafood, eggs because they tend to be gross and sketchy, but chicken should be alright- treat everything with caution, if it looks/smells suspect just have the plain roll and count down the hours till your destination. Airplane food tends to be ridiculously high in sodium and other nastiness so if you have access to better food (either self-brought or airport purchased), go with that- lots of veggies, fruits, good fats, and lean protein are always fabulous options.
In terms of check-in, unless you do online check in make sure to be at the airport AT LEAST two hours prior to departure for international flights (especially if flying economy). If going somewhere which does not require a visa, I highly recommend doing online check-in 24 hours prior to departure and waiting in the significantly shorter baggage drop queue. In terms of airport stopovers, transits can be fun, no really! First of all, when planning a multi-segment journey, here are some tips on which airports are fun to hang out at and which ones you should avoid:
- SFO (San Francisco Int’l)– relatively calm, healthy food available for purchase, clean
- PDX (Portland)–not that anyone would ever have a connection there, but convenient, stress-free, very short lines, friendly TSA peeps
- ZRH (Zurich)–It’s Switzerland, ’nuff said
- MUC (Munich)–WAY better than Frankfurt, modern, chic, efficient, and full of decent duty free shops
- HEL (Helsinki)–Stress-free, short lines, visually appealing
- ARN (Stockholm Arlanda)–Always convenient, lines never seem too long, it’s Sweden…
- DXB (Dubai)–More like a shopping mall than an airport…
- SIN (Singapore)–Beautiful and tranquil and SPOTLESS (Singapore…duh)
- ORD (Chicago O’Hare)–Transfers are a pain in the ass, some of the terminals SEVERELY lack food/shopping options
- JFK (New York)– Ugh, just don’t
- LAX (Los Angeles)
- IAD (Washington Dulles)
- CDG (Paris)– Paris really deserves a better airport…
- LHR (London Heathrow)– Amazing shopping, but WAY too hectic and too many terminals (and dreadfully LONG walks to gates)
If you’re flying business or first class, I recommend a brief duty free shopping jaunt, then proceeding to the lounge for the remainder of your transit time- for the rest of the citizens of the world- do some duty free, then find a nice cafe or such to sit down at, suck wi-fi from, and leisurely pass your hours as you have fruity smoothies or a bloody mary.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Lounge at SFO
Try to book with airlines whom you have mileage membership with, if that isn’t possible START a mileage account with them. Believe me, it’s free AND worth it- I’ve used my miles for everything from business/first class upgrades to free five star suites in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Abu Dhabi. PS United SUCKS because they make it near impossible to get an upgrade without paying another fee on top of the upgrade- I recommend Lufthansa/Swiss/Austrian Miles & More, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, and British Airways/OneWorld.
9. ON BOARD:
If flying Economy, always book an aisle seat- especially if you are claustrophobic/have a wasabi pea-sized bladder- otherwise book a window because there will be enough leg room to pass by your seat mate as they snooze in their Benadryl (or champagne)-induced slumber. Watch a few movies you’re secretly embarrassed to Netflix/rent, write down some thoughts, fill out your customs form PRIOR to landing, read the in-flight magazine and any other reading material you brought along, make lists, take a nap, listen to some nostalgic favorites on your ipod, daydream about something, and go ahead and have a glass of Dom Perignon and caviar if you are fortunate enough to be in Emirates first class. Drink lots of water and make sure to go brush your teeth and splash your face at some point during the flight. Be posh, classy, and stylish- don’t be fussy or rude to flight attendants, communicate through your body language/mannerisms to your fellow travel-ees that you are indeed a very experienced, savvy, and stylish traveler. The airspace is your second home.