Olympia – Jan/Feb 2018
Seaside – Jan/Feb/March 2018

Survive Air Travel

Cockpit of large airlinerFlying these days is anything but fun. Security checkpoints, long delays, crowded cabins, no on-board meals or overpriced meals all make the experience stressful. Here are a few tips from our veteran flier and RFT Editor, Bobbie Hasselbring.


Red Sandles

Wear comfortable shoes. When it comes to flying, forget fashion and opt for comfort for footwear. Women, in particular, are guilty of wearing heels or uncomfortable sandals that make long treks through airports downright painful. Even flip flops, despite how comfortable they appear, aren’t the best idea because they make running for a flight nearly impossible. And remember, in U.S. terminals, you’ll be removing your shoes so try to go with shoes that you can take off and slip back on quickly.

Lighten up. This maybe the number one survival rule most travelers break. You can save lots of money ($25-35/bag) and avoid lost baggage and long waits at baggage terminals if you pack fewer items and carry on your bags. Most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one “personal item.” If you pack smart (you really won’t need all those clothes!), you can bring everything on board with you and not kill yourself in the airport with too much stuff.

Roll it. Your travel life will be better if you go with a roll-aboard bag. No matter how small your bag, if it’s not roll-able, schlepping it through the airport can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain. I currently use a relatively small High Sierra AT505 Carry-on Wheeled Back Pack that enables me to roll through airports with ease. It’s also equipped with backpack straps so, when the going gets rough on dirt tracks or over cobblestones, I can heft it onto my back (see our full review of this bag in Real Cool Travel Gear).

Women checking in at American Airlines

A good day pack can make it easy to get through airports in comfort.

Back pack it. After years of hauling a shoulder side bag as my second bag, I finally came to the conclusion that there’s nothing like a good day pack for convenience, comfort, and all around versatility. I am using LL Bean’s Ridge Runner Day Pack that has tons of zippered pockets, water bottle holders, comfy wide shoulder straps, and both breastbone and hip straps that enable me to carry lots of stuff in comfort (see our review of this day pack in Real Cool Travel Gear).

Water up. I always carry at least one large water bottle, sometimes two, on flights and make a point to drink as much water as I can when I fly. Air conditioning in airports and on planes can dry out nasal passages and make you more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. On the advice of another veteran travel writer, I also use nasal saline spray to keep my nose moist.

Blue Rolling suite case

Try a bit of prevention. In addition to water, I take Airborne, the herbal fizzy concoction designed to prevent colds. While studies have poo pooed the effectiveness of this product, my personal experience shows that it works for me. As soon as I feel a bit stuffy, I take Airborne every few hours and it works like magic.

On longer flights across time zones, I also use No Jet Lag. This is a homeopathic remedy that you take every hour or two while you’re flying. It doesn’t eliminate jet lag, but it keeps that crushing fatigue at bay and helps the body adjust to other time zones more quickly.

Bring food. I’m amazed at the number of travelers who don’t bring food. The days of airline meals are done (except for some of the longest international flights) and your options are over-priced and often unhealthy airport or airline food. And
sometimes those options aren’t available. Once, my late-night flight to Florida was canceled due to mechanical problems and no restaurants were open at the airport. Other passengers jealously eyed my salami and cheese. I take items that transport easily like bagels and cream cheese, sliced apples, nuts, and granola bars.

Cheese before a flight

Look for alternative gates. At some airports, the security gates for certain departure gates are mega-crowded and, sometimes, you can go through a different, less crowded security screening and then loop back to your plane’s gate. For instance, at the Portland, Oregon Airport, the security screening at the C terminal is often crazy busy. But if you walk the opposite direction down the D terminal, you can pass through the less crowded security point and easily walk through a connecting hallway to the C terminal.

Keep your cool. As I write this, I’ve been at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, since 8:30 a.m. and it’s now nearly 3 p.m. Our plane developed a mechanical problem and they deplaned us and have been pushing up our departure time ever since. Most of the people have maintained a cheerful attitude. A few are crabby or even downright hostile. The reality is, there’s nothing you can do about delays or cancellations. The airlines don’t want problems; it costs them money. And, when problems occur, they do their best to get passengers on their way. Allowing yourself to get angry won’t do a bit of good. Instead, try to occupy your time productively – read, work on your computer, talk with other passengers, take a walk around the airport and stretch your legs. Stay cool. You’ll feel better for it and so will everyone around you.

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Bobbie Hasselbring

RFT founder and the website's former editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. She's been an award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook.