Make the Skies a Little Friendlier

We, runners are no strangers to the jostling and bumping that happens within the corrals and on the course, but do we really want that experience on an airplane? I think not.

As we all embark on journeys across the country this holiday season, visiting family, friends, and perhaps sneaking in a race, it's good to remember some tips for travel that may make your and traveling friends' journeys a little saner.

Air travel in the days of yore, used to be a civilized experience. Due to the premium nature of the method of transportation, men, women and children would get dolled up in their Sunday best, boarding prestigious birds with names like "Clipper" and "Spirit," to be whisked through the sky; all the while, enjoying a hot meal served on real china. While, I can only recall very fractured experiences like those in my youth, it's hard to deny the days of relaxed air travel are well behind us.

Sure, it took a week, but hey, Prime Rib!

My perspective on today's air travel is that the majority of airlines could really care less if we were humans or cattle (only that cattle would take up more room). Hand carved meals and linens have been replaced by bag fees, seat fees, boarding fees and fees on top of fees.

Then, this happened.

Now, my disillusionment with the airline industry isn't solely in the hands of the air carriers. The good folk who board those planes don't escape scot-free, and as I read more and more about airplane rage, well, my love of flying dies just a little bit more. Now, I know the majority of people who visit ARF do a lot of destination races, and I'm sure are pretty seasoned and considerate travelers. But, you may have a friend or loved one that may need some refresher points on traveling during this busy season, and well, I'm here to help.

Tip #1: Start It Out Right

I'm not going to get into how to pack, you're on your own for that. But, before you even hit the airport, prepare yourself accordingly. I like to check-in online as soon as possible, so I can see what boarding group I'm assigned. Although, I travel a lot for work, there are times I'll get stuck with late boarding groups, and if that's the case I know I most likely will have to check my bag at the gate. Therefore, anything that I don't need (or value) will go in that bag to be put in the belly of the plane, while my laptop and camera stay with me.

Tip #2: The Airport This Side of TSA

Depending on if the trip is business or pleasure, or if we have our dog with us, there are a few things I like to do.

  • Leave It Outside: If we are going on extended vacation and are checking bags, we check in at the curb. It's more than worth the few bucks it costs in tips to drop off your stuff and not have to navigate the mess of travelers inside with a bunch of bags.
  • Read the Signs: I can't even count the times I've seen passengers wait in line for 20-30 minutes only to find out they were in the long line. Yes, it's hysterical to watch, but it also keeps me from getting to my destination. So, make sure to read the signs and see which one corresponds to your situation. Do you already have a boarding pass? This line. Do you need to check your luggage? This line. Do you need to ask someone about the 10 sets of golf clubs, 2 tents, 4 strollers and horse you are checking? Well, that line is straight out the exit door. No one's got time for that shit.
  • Have What You Need to Get Checked In At A Counter/Kiosk: I love airlines that have kiosks. In fact, the less people I have to interact with at an airport, the better. How I make that happen is I have everything I need out when I get to the front of the line. Those items tend to be: my confirmation number, frequent flyer number, boarding pass, ID and/or any necessary documents we may need for the dog. My goal is to be done and on my way within two minutes. Sometimes, I get a terminal agent who has the same idea and I'm gone in 30 seconds. God, I love when that happens.
  • Don't Be Part of the Pileup That Is Security: Honestly, I have very little issue with the TSA agents. They are just doing their jobs, and imagine having to spend 8-12 hours nonstop telling people the same thing over and over again. I, mean, I get it guys. I used to work at Disney World and have had similar experiences with theme park tourists who couldn't find their asses in the dark with two hands, a flashlight and the Hubble Telescope. So, for that reason, I cut the TSA guys some slack. Now, how can you make this experience easier? Simple, understand the sequence of events.
    • First, the gatekeeper. This agent makes sure you are who you say you are and that you have been cleared by your airline to board their plane. Therefore, you'll need your ID and plane ticket. Have it ready to go. After you're through, most airports don't require you to show it again, so I put mine in my bag immediately afterwards.
    • Metal Detector area. Here, we are, the epicenter of people's frustrations, and the place where most travelers display their complete ineptitude of navigating life. Guys, this is super simple to navigate. So easy! Here's what I do. While waiting in line for everyone else to figure out how laces on shoes work, I take off my belt, jacket, empty everything (wallet, phone, cash, change, keys) and put it in my carry on. Since my ID and ticket are already in there (from Step 1), I'm good with that. Next, I take out my laptop and toiletries and hold them. Lastly, I untie my shoes. So, now when I get to the detector, I'm the model traveler. By they way, most airports require travelers to put their laptop in one bin, alone and everything else in a second bin. Also, carry on bags don't need a bin.
    • Once I'm through the metal detector area, I collect my bins and move out of the area to the benches. There's nothing more infuriating then the jabroni who feels the need to put everything back on at the conveyor belt. There's a special place in Hell for those people.

Tip #3: The Gate Area

Okay, we're now through security and waiting for the flight to board. There are some things you want to keep an eye out for.

  • Don't Be in The Faux Lineup: You know these people, the ones that are the last to be scheduled to board, yet are front and center and blocking the gate. If compared to a race, I like to think of these people who jump the front of the wrong corral, take off like a bat out of hell at the start and are spent by mile 2, requiring you to have to alter your race strategy to navigate around them. These guys are a close second to the metal detector re-dressers. When I say close, I mean less than the width of a razor blade (which, by the way, isn't allowed on the plane). Now, their argument is that if they aren't first on the plane, then they won't have overhead space for their 10 sets of golf clubs, 2 tents, 4 strollers and horse they are trying to board with (see what I did there?). Here's an inside scoop, if the gate agent doesn't make an announcement about having to check carry on bags, then everyone is probably clear. Just board where you are supposed to and everything will be copacetic.
  • Find Your Seat and Get Out Of the Way: There will be plenty of time to put your stuff away when (and there always is) a break in the boarding. Best to get out of the aisle so others can find their seat.
  • Laws of the Overhead Bins: The second salvo in flyer frustration. Personally, I wish they'd just get rid of 'em as a lesson to all flyers. "See, that's why we can't have nice things." Seriously, these things are worth more than gold and turn every flyer into Mad Max in Thunderdome with no rules, except for the passengers that decry, "These bins are all mine. Only my stuff can go in here!" Those passengers (or, "turds" as the industry calls them, I think) are awful. You don't have to even give others the thought of if you are one, by remembering these simple tips:
    • Roller bags go in wheels, first. Trust me.
    • If you can't close the lid to the bin, neither will the airline attendant. It's a pretty clear your shit don't fit.
    • Save some room for others by putting small things under the seat in front of you.
    • Coats in the bin? Seriously, just get the eff off of the plane. You are the most hated person in the plane.

Step 4: In Flight

Ahh, you've made it. The wheels are up and the old lady sitting next to you can't stop gushing about how polite and efficient you were when boarding the plane. Let's keep up that image by showing some decorum at 35,000 feet.

  • This Ain't No Rock Show: Nothing I love more than at the end of the flight, complimenting the musical selections of the person three rows in front of me. Seriously, I love Chumbawumba, too. But, I'd prefer to listen to it via my own hi-fi system. Let's keep the volume low.
  • Reclining Seats: The ultimate in d-baggery. Really, I'm sure those extra three inches make it all worthwhile. You've just been voted off the plane. I never recline my seat out of consideration of the tur, ah, passenger behind me.
  • Speaking of Seats: The same seat passengers grab to get up is the same seats I'm sitting in. It's such a great feeling to be jolted out my sleep, only have my neck snap back once that passenger is up. If I have to get up, I use the arm rest for stability.
  • Don't Do Things That You Should Do In Your Bathroom: Clipping nails? Brushing your teeth? No! No! For the love of all things, holy no!

Step 5: Deplaning

Lastly, getting off the plane is no reason not to show some pro-traveler skills. While, I stand up like everyone else, I always let the row across from me out first. Don't be one of those "rear of the plane" pushers who have to fight their way off first. That's a clear sign of turning the whole plane against you.

I hope these few tips have been a helpful reminder for  you all as you head out for your holiday travels. By no means, am I a travel expert, rather these are some of the things I do/think about when off among the clouds. I'm sure there are additional tips that you would love to share, so please do in the comments section.

Happy travels!