Tag Archives: airline travel

Pros and Cons of Carry-on vs. Checked Baggage

airportgroundtransportationFactors to Consider Before Packing for Your Next Flight

Most travellers I know aim to travel with just carry-on baggage but most often end up checking their bags because it takes far too much time and effort to pack smart and efficiently. Most of us pack far too many clothes than we will ever need because doing so requires much less thought when packing. Just throw everything in that suitcase and don’t worry about it right?

Although there may be several benefits to travelling with just carry-on, in my personal experience it may not always be the best choice.  In fact, it may end up causing you more headaches throughout your journey.  Before I divulge why it may be less convenient to not check a bag, lets explore some of the benefits to travelling with carry-on alone:

Pros of Travelling With Only Carry-On Baggage:

No extra baggage fees


The typical airline charges $25US per checked bag and up to well over $100 for bags that are overweight.  By keeping your personal articles to a minimum, you can save up to over $200 per return flight. Recently however, due to long TSA wait lines, some airlines are dropping baggage fees in order to expedite the security wait times.

Save Time by Avoiding Baggage Drop-off Lines and Waiting to Collect Your Baggage at Your Destination

Businesswoman walking with luggage in airport baggage claim area, rear view (tilt)If you are checking a bag, be prepared to add at least 1 hour minimum to your transit time.  Instead of simply printing off your boarding pass and proceeding through security, you will have to tag your bag and line up to drop off your bag. This process alone can take an hour so if you are planning on checking a bag, be sure to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights in order to ensure you have enough time to drop off your bag and go through security.

Furthermore, when you arrive at your destination, typically you will have to wait an additional 20-30 minutes for your bag to be available for pick-up at the baggage claim carousel. For international travellers, this wait may be even longer given that customs agents may be searching your bags prior to putting them on the carousel.  What better things could you be doing in those 20 minutes? Be at your hotel, sipping on a nice glass of chardonnay? Sign me up!

No Worrying About Lost Baggage

lost baggageI don’t know about you but every time I’m waiting at the baggage claim, I always fret over the fact that my bag might not make it.  I neurotically think of what time I checked-in for my flight and what order my bag should be in as it was loaded and unloaded on the plane.  Fortunately, I have not ever had one of my bags lost but one time I had to wait almost 3 hours after returning on a flight that arrived at midnight.  I was not a happy camper by the time I claimed my bag at 3am but nonetheless, I was pleased that I did get my bag!

Save Money at Your Destination

suitcasefull It’s quite simple: if you have limited or no space in your bag to put anything else in it, you don’t have the option to buy things and bring them home, well unless you buy another bag!

 

 

Cons of Travelling with Only Carry-On Baggage:

Not All “Carry-on Approved” Bags Will Fit in Overhead Bins 

Can't fit much more than a laptop case in this bin!

Can’t fit much more than a laptop case in this bin!

Ever go to a luggage shop and see luggage labelled as “Carry-On Approved Luggage”?  Or even try out the airline’s “Carry-on Approved Luggage Sizes” bins at the airport?  Well sorry to disappoint, all that is meaningless and rather completely dependent on the type of aircraft you will be flying on.  Each aircraft has VERY different overhead bin storage space and there are some aircraft such as the dash series which won’t fit much more than a laptop case!

 

IMG_20160505_200803Travel Tip: I always travel with an extra small bag/purse within my larger carry-on which contains all of my electronic devices (cell phone, chargers, etc).  Note the small purse in the left of this photo which I store in my larger carry-on below.  This way if you are on a small aircraft where your bag won’t fit and you have to use the sky-check service, you can quickly remove any articles which cannot be checked (i.e. anything containing a lithium ion battery).

 

Additional Scrutiny at Customs Checkpoints

customs nothing to declare

As I mentioned previously, if you are just travelling with carry-on, you have limited space in which to place any additional articles which ultimately limits you in terms of what you can purchase throughout your travels.  Several times, well more often than not, I travel with only carry-on and do not purchase any items while abroad and therefore have nothing to declare at customs.  Apparently this must be some sort of red flag or perhaps a red flag only because I am a female and I should be bringing multiple bags and shopping everywhere I go? I have wound up in secondary screening almost every time I travel with carry-on only and have nothing to declare. Being subject to secondary screening is time consuming and anything but fun.  At minimum, it may add 1 hour to your journey and if you have been travelling for a long time, this is the last thing you want to have to go through! As a side note, if you are travelling internationally, ALWAYS DECLARE EVERYTHING HONESTLY and IF IN DOUBT, DECLARE IT! Not properly declaring items is a serious offense!

Limited Quantity of Items (Liquids and gels, clothing, shoes etc.) 

liquids and gels

This is probably the biggest challenge for most travellers; Being able to pack all of your necessities in such a way that it meets carry-on requirements.  Liquids and gels are limited to a maximum of 1L total comprising of bottles that contain a maximum of 100 ML each and that is very difficult to do, especially if travelling for more than a few days at a time.  Clothing can be packed minimally especially if your hotel has laundry facilities but shoes however cannot.  If you are planning on travelling with just carry-on, I recommend wearing all of your bulkiest items (boots, jacket, etc.) during transit.

In reading this, I hope that my points will better prepare you for your next trip.

Looking for tips on how to travel more efficiently? Contact me at thetravellingsaleswoman@gmail.com

Safe travels my friends!

TSW

 

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My Top 10 Airline Travel Fails

woman_embarassedTravelling isn’t easy.  Even if you are a frequent traveller like myself, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will experience some sort of hiccup along the way.  It may be a delayed, a cancelled flight or something else totally ridiculous entirely.

Below is a list of my top “fails” when travelling by air.

10. First Time “Priority” Status, Last One to Board Plane

aircanadapriorityboardingThe first time I was granted priority status, I was so excited.  I would get on the plane first and relax knowing I wouldn’t have to struggle to find overhead space for my carry-on baggage, however that isn’t what happened at all.  I was flying to Toronto from Orlando and what I clearly didn’t consider the fact was that EVERYONE BUT ME was travelling with small children and at that time the airline’s policy was that individuals with disabilities and families with small children under the age of 6 board first.  So, being the only solo traveller, I ended up being last to board the plane.

9. Dropping Documents While Approaching Customs

womanholdingpassportdocsAs I was approaching the customs kiosk, I was fumbling with my documents trying to put my boarding pass and declaration sheet into the photo page of my passport when I dropped it all.  “Apparently” this makes you look suspicious and will pretty much guarantee you will end up in secondary screening. I obviously never did anything wrong besides accidentally drop my documents but from then on, whenever I have completed my customs declaration on the plane, I make sure to have everything organized together in my purse so that I don’t have to fumble with my documents last minute.

8. Driving the Wrong Way to Return my Rental Car

rentalcarreturnsIt was 4:30 or 5am and I was trying to return my rental car to the airport.  I missed the entrance to the rental car return area and drove into the next driveway which was barricaded and there was no exit other than to turn around and drive the wrong way. So, I did just that.  In order to get back to the main ring road I had to drive the wrong way and hope no other idiot like myself was making that very same mistake and would drive into me.  Fortunately, there was not another car in sight the entire time.  Pfewf!

7. “Buzzing” Carry-on Baggage

Baggage Screening_2.ashxUpon removing my liquids and gels from my carry-on baggage and placing it on the conveyor belt for X-Ray scanning at airport security, the TSA agents all gathered around the X-ray machine. I passed through the metal detector and they all gathered around my bag and asked me if it was mine.  When I saw it, I immediately knew what was drawing all of the attention- my bag was vibrating! And no, it’s not what you think! I had packed an electric toothbrush and it had accidentally been turned on as I put my bag on the conveyor belt.  Once they opened my bag, they all got a good laugh.  I think some of them were disappointed that it wasn’t something else.  Ever since then, I just pack a regular manual toothbrush!

6. Suitcase Goes on Wrong Plane

-While I was sitting at my gate, I was watching the baggage being loaded onto the plane at the neighboring gate and I noticed, that one of those bags was MY bag! I had a very unique bag so it was surely not to be confused with another and this plane was most definitely not my plane.  I ran up to the gate agent for that flight and alerted her immediately.  She initially assured me that it was fine but apparently second guessing herself, she made a call down to the baggage handlers and discovered that the wrong bags were in fact being loaded onto that plane! Fortunately, the ground crew was able to remove them in time and everyone on my flight all got their bags.

5. Broken Suitcase

stuckhandleNaturally, just as I approach the baggage drop kiosk, the handle on my suitcase refuses to go down. Talk about last minute stress! Since it is not possible to check a bag if the handle is locked in the open position, I had to get out of line and since I didn’t have the time to buy a new suitcase and figure out if all of my things would fit, I opted to take everything out of my suitcase, tear it apart and was able to locate the part that was jammed. Using a toothpick, I was able to temporarily fix the jam and lock the handle in the closed position so that the bag could be checked.  Throughout my trip, I didn’t mess with the handle but rather waited until I got home to purchase a new suitcase.  Dragging a 55lb suitcase with no handle in addition to a large briefcase and purse is no simple task!

4. Time for a “Quick” Cigarette Between Connections?

DEN security lineupWhen I was in DEN and had a 2-hour stop-over and I figured that this was more than sufficient time to go outside to have a cigarette, come back in through security and get to my gate but I was wrong! What I didn’t realize was that the ONLY way in and out of that airport is through a single entrance and that there are no exits in the individual terminals or concourses. It didn’t take me very long to exit the building, maybe 20 minutes or so but when I got back I realized there was ONLY ONE SECURITY CHECKPOINT for the entire airport and it was PACKED! I had my NEXUS pass but at that time the US airports only acknowledged that for international travel and I was travelling domestically.  Luckily, one of the agents let me into that line and I just made the last call to board my flight.

3.Leaving Valuables on the Plane

ipadonplaneI hate to admit that I have done this not once but twice and both times I forgot my items in the seat pocket in in front of me. The first time was my driver’s license. I had it tucked into my boarding pass and as I was getting seated, I placed it in the seat pocket in front of me and simply forgot about it.  It wasn’t until a month later when I got carded that I realized I had misplaced it.  The second time I forgot my iPad on the plane.  I was travelling for almost 24 hours and same thing, placed it in the seat pocket in front of me, fell asleep and forgot about it when deplaning.

2. Broken Shoe

sandalsRushing to make my connection, my sandal decided that it was the best time to fall apart and I mean fall apart in pieces (worse than in this photo-all the straps broke at the same time) . That day luck was on my side as I happened to have an extra pair of sandals in my carry-on so at least I didn’t have to run through the airport barefoot!

 

1. Asleep at the Gate

ManSleepingAtAirportI have never done this but a friend of mine did and I think this deserves the #1 spot.  He fell asleep at the gate while listening to his headphones and well, needless to say, he missed his flight. Ooops! The same thing happened other day when I was flying home when I couldn’t help but notice that the passenger behind me was asleep at the gate snoring like a madman and would not budge.  Take this as a warning folks, save the nap for when you’re ON the plane and if you can’t do that, be sure to set an alarm on your phone to wake you up at the boarding time indicated on your boarding pass.

To date, these are my top airline travel blunders and I’m sure there will be many, many more to come.   I would love to hear your stories, so please comment and share!

Happy travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

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Tips on How to Fly Through Airport Security: A Step-by-Step Guide

AirportSecurityGuards

Now that summer has officially ended, it’s the perfect time to start planning your next vacation or plan that next work trip. After all, flight prices are historically the lowest in the month of September.

If you’re flying somewhere, I’m sure you’re like most people who absolutely dread the thought of passing through airport security screening. It can be a timely and intimidating process.

What aggravates me the most is that although the process is quite simple, so many people are completely clueless or just pretend to be ignorant of the rules and cause unnecessary delay and headaches for everyone else because they are unprepared!

In this article, I will provide some useful tips and tricks of the trade that will help you better prepare for your next flight so that you (and your fellow travellers) can breeze through airport security.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL:

Trusted-traveler-logos

  1. Enlist in a Trusted Traveller Program. These passes enable you to bypass regular line-ups because you have been pre-screened.  It is quite a process to get one of these cards but trust me, it’s worth the 2 hours of interviews and the $50 even if it is just to save yourself sitting in line waiting for 2 hours on a single flight! My Nexus pass is the best investment I have ever made. To learn which would be the best for your travel needs and how to apply, visit US Customs and Border Protection Website.
  1. Invest an Airport Lounge Pass (if you fly more than 3 times per year). Airports are expensive places to be held captive.  One time I had the “cheapest glass of wine” at an airport bar in SFO which was $27 before tax and tip! Yikes! If you’re stuck only a few times per year for a few hours at a time, it is definitely worthwhile to invest one of these lounge passes because for whatever you pay for that pass, you will get your money’s worth in food and drink that you won’t be buying at airport prices like a sucker. If you travel frequently, you come out well ahead!
  1. Visit Your Local Travel Health Clinic (Foreign Travel Only). Some countries have endemic diseases for which you will require vaccination before you travel. More exotic countries require several vaccinations that require 2-3 boosters that are to be administered weeks apart and you must have all of them in order to be fully immune.

BEFORE YOU GO TO THE AIRPORT:

TravelDocsBe sure to bring the following items with you:

  1. Photo ID (Passport, Trusted Traveller Program Card, Driver’s License)
  2. Printed Copies of Your Itinerary (Boarding Pass, Copy of Hotel and Rental Car Reservations). You never know when you will lose wifi access, if your phone battery will die or if you lose your phone all together!
  3. Wallet (Credit Cards, Cash)
  4. Liquids and Gels Separated in a Clear Plastic Bag that is Easy to Remove from your Carry-on
  5. Phone, charger and other electronics stowed in your carry-on. Any device containing a lithium ion battery is considered a dangerous good and cannot be checked. You will also likely need to charge your devices in the event that you did not do so prior.
  6. Pens (for Customs documents if required)
  7. Ziploc Bag (or a jacket with a pocket that zips up)

BEFORE YOU GO THROUGH SECURITY:

Frustrated Punk Woman Waiting at Airport Security

Frustrated Woman Waiting at Airport Security

To save time and aggravation (for you and other travellers!) before you even line up at the security gate, step aside, sit down somewhere comfortably and remove the following items in ADVANCE.

  • Belt- Remove it and put it in your carry-on
  • Jewellery-Take all of it off and store it in a Ziploc bag or in a pocket that you can secure with a zipper and store safely and securely
  • Loose change– Keep it in a jacket pocket which zips up (you will have to remove your jacket anyway) or stow it in a change purse that you can stow in your carry-on
  • Make sure that you can easily remove/have access to your:
    • Laptop computer
    • Liquids and gels (stored in a clear Ziploc bag)

You WILL have to remove these from you carry-on at the check point, so if you ensure that these are all easily accessible and can be easily put back into your luggage so you don’t struggle with them and cause any unnecessary delay.

  • Empty your water bottle if you will be bringing it with you through security. It sure is better than tossing it in the garbage and paying $7 for a new one after security.
  • Boarding Pass (last)– Once you have all of your other things in order, keep your boarding pass tight in hand. Do NOT store it in your suitcase! I can’t count the number of times I have seen people do this!!

AT THE SECURITY CHECKPOINT

AirportSecurityScanning

Assuming you took my advice and followed all of the aforementioned,  there isn’t much to stress about doing at the security checkpoint itself.  Whatever you do, do NOT think that you can save time and get through quicker if you “forget to remove these items” because that will NEVER happen!  Keep in mind that as you approach the metal detector, you will be instructed to remove these items. If your bags already went through the x-ray machine, then you will be interrupting everyone else behind you. So be a good passenger and remove these items for screening in the x-ray machine:

  • Shoes with a heel or thick sole (pumps, running shoes, boots, etc.) Pretty much anything except flip flops. Try taking them off while you are waiting in line to save time.  They need to be in their own bin and its best if they are the first of your items to go through the scanner because they will be the first ones out of the scanner after you pass through.
  • Outer wear: Coats, sweaters, jackets, hats, sunglasses
  • Laptop computers and other large electronic devices
  • Liquids and gels

AFTER AIRPORT SECURITY

finnair-lounge-helsinki-airport

Make sure you know where your gate is and go to the airport lounge, sit back, relax and enjoy all the “free” food and drink you can until 30 minutes prior to boarding.

I hope some of you less frequent flyers find this information helpful.  If I can only save a handful of you, I feel like I’m making a difference.

Safe travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

 

 

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