Today, I am heading off to Tokyo! I love Japan and haven’t been back for a few years. I always find Japan such a wonderful place to visit and find inspiration while enjoying fabulous food. scenery and shopping too.
For this trip, I am violating one of my “kind-of”rules of travel, which used to be: never check baggage. Now that there are two of us traveling though, I’ve found myself breaking this rule more often than not, as I like to leave lots of room for souvenirs and not stress over how to limit my packing. My husband I also usually work remotely and bring multiple laptops. So in light of that fact, I’ve decided to put together some of my revised rules for air travel:
1. Never check baggage. Unless you absolutely need to – then make sure it’s a direct flight. I still try to avoid checking baggage whenever possible – the possibility that it might be lost + the extra time tends to make it unappealing enough for me to pack lightly. However, sometimes when I have to check some baggage, I make sure that I’m on a direct flight, where there’s less of a chance that my baggage will be lost. Also always remember never to pack valuable items or electronics in checked baggage! Never!
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2. Pack a scarf. Scarves can be used when you get off the plane to look stylish and keep you warm. They can also be used on the plane for all of those things, plus as a blanket, if they’re large enough. From coach to first class I have never been that happy with the blankets provided by planes – they are either too small, or kind of itchy, or really comfortable and nice upon which my thoughts then wander over to how often they are washed. And what kind of sweaty gross person was probably using it before me. To avoid such psychological torture, I bring a large scarf now, and use it as a barrier between me and the blanket.
3. Pack PJs in your carryon. This is a new one for me. I love being comfortable – I am the kind of person who as soon as they get home, changes immediately in pajamas. However, I was always taught that I shouldn’t be sloppy in public and so have always worn regular clothes when flying. However, over the years my “flying outfit” has degenerated to the point where now it’s become leggings + long tee shirt + hoodie anyway. Combine that with the fact that Cathay and Lufthansa are already providing PJ sets for you to change into in the first class cabins, and I’m thinking that PJs on the plane are A-OK. Just bring a set to change into once you’re on the plane, in the bathroom. You have to pack them anyway right?
4. Estimate how many hours of entertainment you’ll need to bring for the plane..and then add 50% to that. There are few things worse than being wide awake on a plane with no movies left to watch and something like six hours to go during your flight. It feels like twenty hours have already gone by and now you are stuck facing a huge chasm of mind crushing boredom. Get a Kindle, or bring a lot of magazines, or download lots of shows and movies to your laptop. Since I have a very teeny attention span, I do all three.
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5. Get to know the airlines. I assume you’re already flying specifically within one alliance or another (One World or Star Alliance) – if not, please do! Airline status is always great to accumulate, though in my opinion it’s kind of overrated for international travel, where I rarely get upgraded – but for domestic it’s pretty good.
By getting to know the airlines though, I mean understand the pros and cons of each carrier, and understanding what matters to you – the hard product or soft product. The hard product on a plane refers to the actual equipment – the seats, the model of plane, the types of engines. Soft product on the other hand, refers to the service, food, attitude, etc. For me, the soft product is very important and thus I love to fly Asian airlines. For my husband though, the hard product is very important – he is a plane nut so is very picky about the equipment and plus prefers a truly lie flat seat. For this trip, I wanted to fly ANA because I love their service but my husband won out and we’re flying United due to the equipment.
In the past, I just used Kayak to search and then just chose the cheapest option. This worked out only 50% of the time, and the rest I was unpleasantly surprised. Usually it’s only been a ~1-3% difference in price for me to choose a favorite carrier, and I’ll gladly pay that to have an experience I know I’m more likely to enjoy.
What are some of your tips for surviving air travel? And I’m interested to hear…what are you favorite carriers?