Never flown before? Flying for the first time? Flown many times?…,every journey is unique, filled with anxiety and the desire for it to be better than the last. Sometimes this anxiety is so strong that it ends up ruining even what was promising to be a great journey.
So let’s delve into what it takes to make a journey, and by this I mean one that involves flying, more exciting and fulfilling. Murphy’s law states that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong“, and yes, I have been left by a flight even after reaching the airport four hours early, slept in the airport even when entitled to bed and breakfast in a hotel outside the airport, forgotten belongings in a hotel room even after packing well in time…and a lot more. May be all this is not the worst that could happen, but could be bad enough to ruin all the joy that comes with travelling.
I have been fortunate to have travelled quite a bit and yet even on my last journey, I made some mistakes, yes, some that I have made before and thought I had gotten over them. But becausetime heals all things, I soon forgot and there I was in the same predicament. I began thinking of how I could prevent them from happening again. As I talked to a friend who was at the same event, I realized it had happened to him too…hmm, so that’s just two of us, how about the others we never got to know about?
So while I was waiting for my flight, I begun meditating on this, and did a quick search online and found this amazing travel guide on Mozilla’s wiki  and this great post by Christian Heilmann on how to save money when you travel . They have a lot of amazing insights that would save you a ton of stress and loads of money so I will not duplicate what is already there but will build on it sharing some personal experiences.
Use the screens in the airport to manage time
On this fateful day, I reached the airport at 10am for a flight at 2pm. I was wearing a watch, that had lost time…practically an hour and a half behind. I never looked at the screens because I kept looking at my watch. You know what happened? I missed that flight. Nugget “Whatever you do, always keep your eyes on the screens in the airport, they always have the correct time and you will never go wrong on that”
Be conscious of time zones
On my very first flight, travelling to Ghana, my itinerary stated that I would leave at 9am and arrive at 2 pm, approximately five hours. Little did I know that in the plane, the departure time is local but the arrival time is the time at the destination and for me it was five hours ahead. I kept looking at the clock, 2 pm came and passed, and we were less than half way through the journey, you can be sure what was running through my mind by the third hour. Nugget “Be conscious of the time zone of your destination to avoid any mistakes.”
Avoid the closets or use them explicitly
On two occasions, I have forgotten my belongings in a closet when I travelled…disapointing, isn’t it? You could have every explanation and judgment for this but the reality is, it happens. Thinking about it though, as the idiom puts it, “Out of sight, out of mind”. Anything out of your sight naturally has a pretty good chance of being forgotten. Nugget “Try not to put your belongings in the closet when you travel, but if you must, then put everything there, just so you naturally will go back there. Also pack in the night or hours before your travel to reduce chances of forgetting”. On this fateful day, while still packing, 12 floors up, the alarm went off and you cannot imagine the panic; I ended up with quite a number of clothes left behind.
Read through and understand your itinerary
Many a time, when we are so busy or excited and distracted by other things that we never get to look at our itinerary which actually contains invaluable information. Airlines like Emirates have offers that they never explicitly mention to you for example, dubai connect and state in the terms that you should request for it at least 24hours before your flight, implying that finding out on your way to the airport may not save you. Nugget “When you choose an airline, read through their website for useful information, and make sure you know all the information stated on your itinerary, read it early enough (the moment you get it) and make sure you act accordingly.”
Carry everything you need
You do not know what it will cost to buy that umbrella, power adapter, toothpaste, winter coat…name it. Sometimes its ten times the price you would have paid where you are coming from and you only need it for a few days. In essence, it’s not worth the cost but now you need it so bad that you end up spending on it or suffering without it. Sometimes, you just can’t find it in the neighborhood where you are. Nugget “if you can’t do without it, carry it, don’t plan to buy it”
Use your coat and carryon to free you
So at every airport, there is a number of checkpoints. Sometimes enough to get you to forget a few things or drop them. I know that I will remove my watch, belt, shoes, keys, coins and anything metallic. Don’t leave them in your pockets as they just add to the delay. Nugget “keep them in your coat and carry on and wear shoes that don’t have shoe laces” You will be glad you did. Put them back on after the check at the last stop to your destination.
Use public means or negotiate with a cab driver before you use it
Christian Heilmann mentioned this one. I remember this cab guy in San Francisco, he was of Indian origin and I sat in his cab. As he drove, we talked and I asked him if he could offer me a discount and his response, “…after the meter starts counting, you cannot negotiate…”. Negotiating before will allow him to make some decisions like not to use the meter and offer you a discount.
Ask when not sure
I love technology, Google maps is great, GPS is awesome and paper maps rock, but don’t forget, even with these, you sometimes just can’t help getting lost and that’s just direction. A lot more things will be unclear…like whether the TV is free or not (some channels are paid for), the phone, the mini bar…and more and using these without asking can cost you a fortune. It may be a queue in the airport, don’t just follow people, ask…and remember to be polite and smile, be courteous and you will get all the answers you need.
Carry some money in the currency of your destination
Even if you do not envisage spending it, remember it may come in handy. When your late for the train and need to take a cab or find no one at the airport and need to make a phone call. Credit and debit cards are great, but may disappoint so ensure that you have some cash at hand.
That said, travelling can be fun and is fun, just have the knowledge and be keen to apply it and your flights will always be memorable.
Am eager to hear your thoughts and experiences so please leave a comment.
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