Vicky Jo & Robin
to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before an international departure, just in case there are
lines or unexpected delays at Security. Bring a crossword puzzle or something to
read to while away the time.
Caps typically offer curbside luggage service only for
domestic travel, so you may not get an opportunity to utilize them. (If
you can use them, remember that Sky Caps are not airport employees; they survive by tips. The recommendation is to
remit $1 per bag that they handle for you.) For international travel, you
usually must drag your luggage to the check-in counter inside the terminal.
permitted 2 suitcases per person as
"checked" baggage. Make sure it's sturdy: Baggage handlers practically have a competition
amongst themselves to see who can break the most baggage -- they hurl it
long distances onto hard surfaces whenever they can! So make sure that you
wrap anything fragile in clothing to buffer it.
sure your baggage has a tag with your name and phone number on it.
Since tags can easily come off, we have a name sticker attached to the
surface of our bags as well, usually beneath a handle or clasp where it can't rub
off easily. If your house is going to be unoccupied while you're away,
make sure that your baggage tag does not have your home address on it.
Many burglars frequent airports and note addresses so they know which houses to
rob! We use either our P.O. box address or Robin's work address.
your bags unlocked, and be prepared to open them on request.
(And when you arrive at your destination, it's possible you will
discover that your bag was searched without your prior knowledge
-- they usually leave a note thankyouverymuch.)
U.S. travelers may wish to wear a U.S. flag as a pin or scarf as a sign of
patriotism -- everyone will understand.
a sticky on your ticket with your frequent flier number on it to make sure your
flight is credited to your account when you check in. If you don't collect
frequent flier miles, sign up and take the miles anyway. You can't give
them to anyone, but you can donate them to charity, so set yourself up to do a good deed later.
airlines all publish their luggage restrictions, usually on the ticket itself. Be
careful you don't exceed the carry-on allowance, otherwise you may have to
forfeit a piece during boarding or be charged for overweight items.
International travelers are limited to 70 pounds per bag and domestic is limited
to 50. They are very restrictive about this, and will weigh the bags and
penalize you if they go over. If you are using Skycaps, you can sometimes
get them to "fudge" if you wave around a $5 tip when they go to weigh
your bag, but don't bank on it. Try to
check your luggage all the way through to your final destination so you don't
have to worry about it when changing planes. When a domestic flight
connects to an international flight (or vice versa), you may still have to
collect your luggage and wheel it physically through Customs, but if the tags
show your final destination, they will be collected after Customs and sent on
for you with no extra check-in required.
not pack items that buzz in your checked luggage like, for instance, rechargeable electric
shavers or other items of this nature. Pack them in your carry-on
instead, unless you can remove the power supply. On one flight we took, we
were warned that these items sometimes begin operating during the flight,
which upsets the crew terribly.
be required to show your ticket & ID at several checkpoints, so keep it to hand (but
not so at hand that you lay it down and forget it). An easily accessible
outer pocket is a good stash location. Better still, invest in one of
these nifty travel
wallets. When you're juggling hand language, it's a joy
to have this dangling around your neck for all the security checks
you'll pass through. We tuck a pen inside, for signing the
various documents you will encounter. I was lucky to find ours for
$5 each in a New Jersey airline terminal, but Solutions carries the
same thing, and I've seen a variation at J.C. Penney and elsewhere.
that waiting in line at the Security checkpoint could take up to an hour.
Make sure you know where the nearest washroom is!
prepared to remove your shoes
at the Security checkpoint if asked to do so. They may also search your
hand luggage painstakingly, wand search you, and pat you down. Don't
worry, you are not suspect. This is typical Security these days. Be
patient, keep your sense of humor, and DO NOT MAKE JOKES about being a hijacker
or carrying a bomb, as this is ILLEGAL, and there is zero tolerance for
violations right now.
you check in at the gate to await your flight, it is unwise to exit past any
security checkpoint for any reason unless absolutely necessary. The staff won't
warn you, but the last time VJ tried this in England, it resulted in a new walk
through a special metal detector, search, a shoe removal & sniffing, and a
full patdown search before she was allowed to rejoin Robin in her seat.
Sheesh! (If you really do have to exit and return through Security,
make sure you take your boarding pass and identification with you -- another
reason to wear a travel wallet.)
travelers are usually permitted to wait in the airline's luxury lounge if there's a
considerable time delay between flights, or if your initial check-in was
completed quickly. Ask the flight attendant or the
ground staff as you alight from your flight or as you check in. These lounges are much nicer
than waiting in the general area outside the gate, providing comfortable chairs,
complimentary drinks and snacks, and reading materials. The lounge staff will
announce boarding for you in plenty of time and even arrange assistance with
bags and/or transport to the gate.
changing terminals in the U.S. (Chicago, New York, etc.), approach the attendants and request
assistance if you need it. They have chauffeur-driven electric golf carts and/or porters
whose job it is to assist older people in traveling from one plane to another.
You may be required to claim your luggage
at some airports and transport it yourself to the next departure point, but the airlines
provide porters to help with this. If you must change terminals (I hope
you don't!), you may be required to show your luggage claim checks as proof of
shopping is no big thrill -- don't let anyone convince you to buy liquor and
perfume you don't need, whether on the flight or in the boarding areas.
You can usually find equivalent bargains in regular
stores in the U.S. and Europe. (If you do buy something expensive while
you are visiting some European countries, you may apply for a tax refund at the airport before you leave.)
may need to grab something to eat before you board the plane --
many flights have eliminated food service altogether.
Fortunately, most airport restaurants cater for this and will
quickly pack something "to go."
is free on international flights, but don't drink too much or you'll have a
hangover when you land. And it will be a real bad one -- the reduced air
pressure and dry air conditioning causes dehydration anyway, and alcohol
dehydrates you so drink
water -- lots of it! Take at least 1 litre/liter/quart of spring water
with you and accept every glass of water offered by the flight attendants.
there's airplane air. It's bad. Beyond the threat of
SARS, it's possible to catch other viruses from your fellow
passengers -- but worse even than that is the fact that planes
have been frequently criticized for not circulating the air
properly or not maintaining healthy standards of filtering.
To combat all of these issues, Robin's company has provided him
with a personal
air supply. From the device's literature:
[gizmo] creates a toxic particle exclusion zone in front of the
mouth, nose and eyes. The unit substantially repels these
charged particles, including bacteria, viral microdroplets,
dust, smoke, pollens, allergens or anything that is light enough
in the air away from the breathing zone. Considerable testing
also indicates that the ionic space charge is a lethal
many types of germs, so those that are not repelled may be
killed before entering the breathing zone."
and I have worn them on a few flights and are pleased thus far
with their effectiveness. We don't experience the grogginess
or get sick upon landing right away the way we did before we
started using them. And last we looked we have been SARS-free,
despite our recent trip to Toronto.
and blankets are provided on the plane. You can request extras
from the flight attendants, but be sure you have one of each first thing when
you board. It's a pain to try getting one when everybody's settling in to
sleep. If you have lower back pain, try putting an
extra pillow behind the small of your back. We recommend bringing an
inflatable neck pillow (to stop your head
from falling forward or sideways while you sleep). Robin and I use a
pillow we adore from Magellan's that cradles the entire neck and makes us
we've sustained neck injuries. But you won't laugh at how it looks after you've
slept with one once. When sitting on a cramped plane and there's nowhere
to lean your head, this cushion will cradle your head no matter which direction
it might loll. Take care not to inflate any cushion until the plane is at
cruising altitude; otherwise the decrease in air pressure will cause it to burst
along the seams.
If you want to
sleep more comfortably, and the plane is not filled to capacity, try this:
find a row of 3 or 4 seats that are unoccupied during boarding and
"camp" there with extra clothing occupying the extra seats. If
people board later who genuinely have been allocated those seats, simply apologize and
quickly find another set. Once the doors are closed, the seats are yours!
Then you can raise the seat arms and stretch out for sleeping. If you
aren't that lucky, you will learn how sleeping
on a plane can be astoundingly uncomfortable. If you have a window seat, pile pillows and blankets
against the wall and window and lean against them. Don't lean on the wall or
window without some padding as it gets very hard and cold! Be sure to fasten your
seatbelt outside the blanket, or a flight attendant will wake you
up to check it. Sleep with earplugs and a
face mask if possible.
your shoes and do occasional exercises while flying to ward against DVT. Walk* up and down the
aisles and do several "laps" of the plane each time you go to the
personal hygiene on long flights, consider packing a small toiletries bag with
toothbrush, toothpaste, talcum powder, underarm deodorant and moisturizer.
flight attendants are touchy now about people moving too quickly along the aisles,
and there are plainclothes guards aboard all flights. Even if you must use
the toilet urgently, try not to look grim and try not to
hurry, especially if the toilet is toward the front of the plane from where
you're sitting. (This applies to males more than females.)
will be required to fill out embarkation forms shortly before you arrive in a
foreign country or before you arrive in your homeland again. The airline
attendants will hand them out. The form will ask for your passport number
as well as your flight number, so keep your ticket stub and passport where you
can retrieve them after boarding. When you fill out the embarkation
papers, note that European date format is required: Day/Month/Year (NOT
Month/Day/Year as U.S. citizens are accustomed to). They will also ask for
your European residence address, for which you will write down the name and
address of your hotel.
some reason you are not issued an embarkation form, you may get one at
Immigration when you arrive there, but it's easier to fill it out in advance on
the plane. On your return home, it will ask you to itemize your
purchases. You don't need to be too literal about this: we usually
list a few tour books, t-shirts, and pieces of jewelry as souvenirs, round off
some figures, and leave it
at that. Unless you're smuggling, they usually won't demand to see
receipts and rip through your luggage to "catch" you.
the plane lands, you will be groggy and disoriented -- make sure to go
through the seat pocket in front of you and check for any small items that may
have drifted to the bottom. Most seat pockets have one pouch inside
another, so check both. Also, check the seats and floor thoroughly.
Earrings, pens, ticket stubs, coins, etc., are easy to lose! You will have
plenty of time to do this search -- don't make a mad rush for the door as there
will be plenty more waiting when you disembark (security lines, luggage,
Immigration, etc.). VJ often uses the airplane toilet at this time if the wait looks like a long one, rather than waiting until
she disembarks and the lavatories are crowded with other recently departed
may need to request the Immigration official stamp your passport, as they don't
always do this any more (and you know how badly you want that stamp after all
the trouble you went to in order to get that passport). They will ask your
purpose for visiting overseas, and the choices are usually "business"
should announce which turntable is disgorging your flight's luggage before you
disembark. If they don't, or you didn't hear it, monitors should be posted
in the baggage area to tell you which luggage claim number is yours.
Baggage carts are free at many international airports, which is terribly civilized, so
grab one right away.
If your luggage does not all arrive, proceed to the
baggage claim attendant for your airline and file a claim promptly. It
likely missed the last flight, so it should turn up quickly, and it's barcoded,
so it's probably not lost permanently. They will
graciously messenger it to your hotel, so have that address handy. Don't
worry too much about this -- baggage rarely goes astray, despite all the horror
stories you may hear.
word about jetlag: You may have trouble sleeping and eating at the correct local
time for a few days. The best way to overcome jetlag is to expose
yourself to bright light (preferably sunlight) at dawn each day. This
"resets" your body clock. If privacy allows, open the hotel room
blinds at dawn and stand or sit in the sunlight for at least 20 minutes the
first 2 mornings. Failing that, most hotel bathrooms have bright lights,
so turn them on and stay in there for 20 minutes. (You could lie in the
bath or read or shave or whatever to pass the time.) Avoid so-called
"anti-jetlag" drugs and potions -- they usually do more harm than
of walking, practice walking NOW to prepare for what will no doubt be a strenuous
trip. Increase the amount you do each day.