Monday, January 3, 2011

Travelling South during the Winter Months

Winter travel is always more challenging than travel during the warmer months. There are several challenges which many of us face while traveling now and I would like to make a few observations gleaned from our recent trip to New Orleans.

Booking tickets can be a challenge. Although the online booking agencies try their hardest to make it as easy as possible, when travelling together with friends make sure to book all tickets at the same time and for the same price. Otherwise, your seat selections can be compromised. Normally this can be rectified at the gate, but in the case of full flights, there is no guarantee of this. Curb side check in agents cannot assist you in rebooking seat assignments. It is by far the fastest way to check in however and in our case only cost us $2 per bag extra. Once through security, proceed right to the gate and ask an agent to help you. They are very pleasant and happy to assist. Remember that the exit rows can be requested and usually proved a bit more leg room, although sometimes the seat backs do not recline. I find that a pleasant non-demanding tone and a warm friendly smile go a long way in getting what you want as they make the airline employees feel valued.

Packing for a trip to a warm climate has its challenges at this time of year because even some of the warmest climates can have cold snaps. This usually entails packing more than you really need so that you don’t get ‘caught in the cold’. Carry on luggage presents its own set of protocol which many people feel they can ignore. You would think that a lot of people had never flown anywhere before and do not understand that there really is a limit to the overhead space allotted to each passenger. Try to be courteous to those around you and use your own space, not the space of three people. When moving through the aisles, which get narrower which each aircraft redesign, be mindful of people you are passing especially if you need to turn sideways. You may have forgotten you have two feet of back pack ready to unwittingly whack someone in the head. Even if you are travelling somewhere with guaranteed warm weather, such as the Caribbean, you will need to have a heavy winter jacket and sweater with you boarding the plane. Remember just how much space those take up and plan accordingly. You can cram a certain amount under the seat in front of you but on long flights that can really restrict you ability to flex your legs.

Clearing security is a post 9/11 necessary evil. I don’t the universal law that covers this, but if you leave yourself plenty of time for this, there will likely be a short line or no line at all. If you are short on time, the line will long and you may well miss your flight. Be sure to know the rules before you arrive at the airport. This will save you time and a lot of aggravation. Having a short temper with a security guard will do you no favors. They have relaxed the ridiculous 3 ounces of shampoo and other liquids rule, but you still cannot have your favorite cork screw or Swiss Army knife. You still need to remove your shoes – so wear a type which slips off and on easily. Although you don’t need to turn your laptop on, you still must remove it from its carrying case. Your pockets must be emptied and your jacket must be removed. All of these steps time, and when done quickly and efficiently will help insure that you have a stress free experience and that those around you will as will. Practicing this shows that you have respect for other passengers.

Eating on planes today almost certainly requires bringing on your own food. Be courteous and resist smelly fried foods. Some people have queasy stomachs when flying and you are doing them no favors. No one in fact appreciates their space being invaded. It is not any different than wearing overpowering cologne. Many people have allergies to scents and to food. Think about how other people may feel about your disrespectful behavior.

Finally, be sure to check for flight delays and cancellations as close to when you are leaving your house as possible. This holiday season saw more than its fair share of travel interruptions which can result in unwanted overnight stays in the airport terminal where food can run short and patience can run out. Keeping your calm will be a great benefit to yourself and to those around you. Remember that you’re all in the same situation.

Travelling during the winter months has its challenges. As at all times, your pleasure will be greatly enhanced by being respectful of all travelers.