6 Airport Travel Tips

airport

Miami Intl. Airport

Today’s prompt of the Expat Blog Challenge begins, “I was at the airport, and…”.

I wish I had a funny or clever story to share. My airport experiences have all been very mundane. I think the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me was that the airline broke my suitcase once. The whole side was ripped off so I think it must have got caught in something. Thankfully, nothing inside was lost or damaged and the airline immediately replaced my suitcase with a larger one. I was disappointed though because I no longer had a matching set. Oh, and Angelina Jolie traveled on the same flight as me once. I saw her – really saw her, really looked at her – and didn’t recognize her. She was sitting in first class with a scarf wrapped around her head and shoulders and wearing big sunglasses. The flight attendant confirmed it was her when a more astute passenger near me inquired

I consider the fact that my airport experiences have been largely uneventful to be a great success. I’ve never lost luggage. I’ve never been pulled aside by security. I’ve never missed a flight or had any items confiscated. So, I’ll take this opportunity to share some airport travel tips.

1. Do some homework before you go. Before you even arrive at the airport you should know a few things: How many pieces of luggage can you take? What’s the largest size allowed? What’s the maximum amount of weight allowed? What items can you pack in a carry-on, must check-in, and leave altogether? You might also want to check the flight status, maps of the airport so you know where to go, and investigate parking if necessary. And you’ll need to think about your journey back. For example, if you’re packing 100 lbs on your way there, how much do you plan to pack on your return trip, when you’ve bought your souvenirs?

2. Pack cautiously. Again, make sure you know what’s okay to pack in your carry-on, what has to be checked in, and what you can’t take with you. Don’t wrap gifts and if you use bubble wrap for fragile items, don’t tape it. When I traveled through a slow Vermont airport, the security agent took out, unwrapped, and examined every single souvenir. It’s best for your items to be visible. Clear plastic and see-through mesh bags are good options. Include your contact information in case your bag goes missing. I include my first initial and last name, email, and phone numbers, as well as the dates and cities where I’ll be on tags that I attach to my suitcase and a piece of paper I leave inside it. Don’t pack stuff that you can easily obtain at your destination such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc. Liquids and gels are red flags for TSA. Weigh your bags at home before you go to the airport to avoid surprises.

3. Arrive at the airport early. Airlines say 60 minutes for domestic flights and 90 for international, but I always arrive about two hours early. Sometimes it means waiting around longer, but I’ve needed that extra time more than once due to long queues and terminal changes.

4. Avoid long check-in lines. Try checking in online, curbside, or at the self-service kiosks.

5. Put yourself together to get through security quickly. Have your ID and airline ticket handy at all times. Wear slip-on shoes. Take off all your accessories; I usually pack these in my purse and put on my earrings, ring, and watch after I’ve passed security. If possible, leave your sweater, scarf, and belt off too until after you get through security. Make sure your laptop is easily accessible. Carry a water bottle, but make sure it’s empty or it will be confiscated.

6. Have your wits about you. Try to keep a mental list of your items so you don’t leave anything behind. Don’t take your eyes off your purse and luggage. And be polite. I know the airport experience can be exasperating, but everyone’s exhausted and stressed, including the airline and security workers.

Yay! You made it. Now you can have a coffee, browse the bookstore, and chill out a bit before it’s time to board. Here are some other traveling tips:

Have you got the art of traveling down? What are your tips for smooth sailing?

The Passenger Beside You

travel

Image: Qantas.

Last week, Mamamia published a piece called The 7 people you NEVER want to sit next to on a plane.

Two of them resonated with me. The first is Chatty McChatterson.

You know the one. You start off with a cordial exchange: “So where are you getting off?” “Oh, the same place as me, that would make sense given that this is, you know, a plane and not a bus.” Until, before you know it, you’re discussing their fungal toenail infection, and all you’re thinking is:

I don’t mind a little bit a small talk from my neighbor on the plane, but, I admit, I’m really not interested in discovering your life story and hearing all about your grandchildren over a 13+ hour flight.

The second type is the one that makes me agonize over where I should sit on a long flight.

5 minutes in: “Can I get past?” “Yes.”

1 hour in: “Can I just squeeze past?” “Yes, of course.”

2 hours in: “Sorry, can I get past?” “Yes… are you feeling okay?”

3 hours in: “Sorry, just need to pop to the bathroom again?” “Do you need a nurse?”

4 hours in: “Sorry, me again!” “WHERE IS THIS EXCREMENT EVEN COMING FROM?”

5 hours in: “Can I get past?”

The window seat has nice views for about 20 minutes and is generally more comfortable, but I hate to make people get up so I can stretch or go to the toilet. The aisle seat makes that easier, but then you’re the one getting up all the time and probably being whacked by the food and drink carts. Decisions, decisions.

Normally, I advise against reading comments on most websites, but Mamamia readers have some more examples of nightmarish people to sit next to.

The child who cried/screamed non-stop from LA to Sydney. And I do mean non-stop. Probably not helped by mum (I assume it was mum) yelling at him.

My poor cousin had a drunk man vomit in her lap at the beginning of a long haul flight, and then to add insult to injury she raced to the baggage carousel on arrival for a change of clothes only to find her bag had been misplaced by the airline! She had to go shopping for new clothes in vomit covered pants!

My pet peeve is the person who has the aisle seat but refuses to stand up if you need to get out. They just move their legs to the side, forcing you to squeeze past and shove your bum in their face.

What are some types of people you dread sitting next to or nearby on a long flight?

To Miami and Back

So that’s it. My time in Miami has come to a close. I fly back to Melbourne today.

Here are some random observations and discoveries.

Memory is a tricky thing. There are Latin foods that I missed while I was in Melbourne. As it turns out, my mom’s cooking is just as good as I remembered it.  I can’t say the same for some old favorites from various restaurants. Perhaps the quality has declined or maybe my palate has changed.

I’ve done more spiritual work in six weeks here in Miami than in a year in Melbourne. I’ve attended four rituals, engaged in countless philosophical conversations with Pagan friends, reviewed Georgian materials I’ve inherited, and have begun making plans for establishing my practice in Melbourne.

I’ve missed Melbourne. Of course, I’ve missed my partner and Sam, the dog. I’ve also missed the quiet; Miami is very loud. I’m amazed that I was once accustomed to so much noise.

I’ve enjoyed the break from housework. I spent more time reading; I read five books and am halfway through a sixth title. But I’m also looking forward to getting back into the kitchen and learning some new recipes. I look forward to entertaining.

I’m happy to have seen some people I hadn’t seen in a long time even if the circumstances under which we met again were not ideal. I’m grateful that I was here when my (Catholic) godfather passed over and that I was able to attend his funeral and burial. I am grateful I was able to see my father help carry his coffin. I am grateful that I got to see my godmother. I’m grateful that I got to see their sons and their lovely families. I am grateful I got to see friends of the family I hadn’t seen in many years who turned up for the funeral. I’m grateful I was able to see some other relatives I hadn’t seen in years because they happened to drop by unannounced.

I’ve enjoyed shopping more than ever. Melbourne is expensive and so I have rejoiced at paying $16 for a new winter coat (on sale, down from $150), $7 for new sweaters (on sale, down from $40), and $70 for six pieces of new ritual jewelry (owls and snakes!). I’ve stocked up on rubber stamps, books, and tampons.

Friends are still friends. There are some people I saw a lot and some people I didn’t get to see at all. They’re all still friends. They’re all still awesome, valued, and loved.

I’m grateful to have spent good times with family and friends and that I leave here today with no regrets or unfinished business.

I have a long day ahead. I fly from Miami to Los Angeles. I have a 3.5-hour layover and then on to Auckland, New Zealand. Then I have a 2.5-hour layover before heading to Melbourne. I don’t mind layovers as long as they’re under four hours. Two to three hours is just the right amount of time to get from one terminal to another, pick up and re-check my bag, go through security again, freshen up, and get a bite to eat. I’ll read some more and watch movies, but I’ll be glad when the twenty-something-hour journey is over.

I’ve only ever flown Qantas. This time, I’m flying Air New Zealand. I have high expectations. After all, they have Hobbits, Richard Simmons, and apparently the crew wears body paint.

Wish me a safe and comfy journey!

Advice for Future Expats II

There are a lot of things to think about when you move to another country. I’ve written before about some things you should know before you go, staying connected with friends and family, using your beloved iPhone, and how to ship your belongings. I also like to share good advice from other expats that I find.

This week, Laura and Justin at Smuggling Budgies share their advice for future expats. They answer some important questions that I never dealt with, but I see asked often in expat communities.

1. Should you bring your American electronics?

This is an obvious question as electronics are expensive and Australia uses a different voltage than the United States (220/230 vs. 110). We decided to bring most of our electronics. I did some research and bought voltage converters for a very reasonable price from Amazon.com. It’s worth doing some research because different types of electronics need different size converters. For example, the combination of our TV, mac mini, external speakers, and Xbox all fit on a relatively small converter while the espresso machine and juicer need a giant one.

All of our electronics work in Australia except one. Sadly, we no longer experience the joy of our electronic bidet toilet with its heated seat and refreshing spray and dryer. We’re still surviving (but seriously, everyone should have one. It is a life changing purchase). Oh, and our lamps. Our lamps did not work here, so don’t bother bringing them.

Electronics (like just about everything) are more expensive in Australia. The cost of purchasing the voltage converters and shipping everything to Australia was far less than what it would have cost us to buy new electronics. This includes the voltage converters themselves. Buying them in the US and shipping them here is much cheaper than buying them here.

Suggestion: if you have made a significant investment in nice electronics, you can make them work in Australia. It will be cheaper than buying new.

Tip #3 might just change my life.

Read the whole entry at Smuggling Budgies.

Before You Go

I depart for Australia in about a week. I think everything is in order. There are so many things to consider when planning a trip especially a long one.

Your Passport

It should go without saying that you need a passport and preferably one that doesn’t expire within six months.

Australian Visas

When I approached the airline counter in Los Angeles just a couple of hours before my flight to Melbourne last February and handed my passport to the friendly agent, he asked if I’d obtained my ETA; I had. He smiled and nodded in approval adding that many people don’t realize they need a visa to travel to Australia. I was rather astonished. Yes, dear would-be-travellers, you need a visa to enter Australia. Tourists have a few options and there are others if you’re going to Australia for employment or studies. Visit the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for more information. If you’re an American with a clean record, travelling for tourism, and don’t intend to stay in Oz for more than three months, the Electronic Travel Visa is your best bet. You can apply online for about $20 and, if memory serves, it takes minutes for approval (but don’t actually wait until the last minute to apply for it).

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