10 Tips for Easier, Safer Travel

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When traveling great distances, getting there is not always half the fun.  If you don’t get there healthy, well rested and safe, you’ll find it really difficult to enjoy the rest of the trip.  Here are 10 tips to make the “getting there” a better experience.

  1. Use “The Kit” to help you sleep on the plane. It’s not one thing you buy but a series of things I’ve collected over time.  The Kit includes: a set of GOOD ear plugs, an inflatable pillow to avoid neck kinks, eye shades, comfy slippers, lip balm, rosewater face spray, a light zipper jacket (zip up and down to regulate personal body temp), a blanket (on legs only) and pillow (for low back, to take pressure off the legs or to act as insulation from cold window-wall of plane.)
  1. The right seat is everything. I have delayed my departure from Asia on a 3 week trip by as much as 3 days to get the right seat.  As all airlines are different and have different configurations, I can only talk about NWA, KLM and SAA.  On most airlines, ANY seat in First Class is fine.If flying business class, on NWA seats 1A and 1K give you freedom to get up and out at any time but still let you lie undisturbed when you want to sleep.  You also get served first for all F&B and cleared up after the meal.  AVOID like the plague 9 – 12 as they are right next to the toilets and sheer HELL.On some flights, row 5 E & F give you the same advantages but also First Class recline.  If flying KLM, their business class is upstairs and I’d suggest the exit aisles.  SAA the only suggestion is if you have to fly cattle-car (coach), take 52 A or K (windows and only 2 of you, plus you have raft storage on your side to act as a shelf.  Most transcontinental travel for ANY airline uses the same craft or class of craft every time.  As such, get the schematic from your travel agent or the airline so you can request the right seat.
  1. Have all your frequent flyer numbers, hotel frequent guest numbers, rental car numbers, bank information, passport information printed on one sheet of paper and guard it with your life. No need to carry all those bulky cards and if plans change and you take another airline or stay at another hotel, you have the privledges you deserve.
  1. At immigration, look for the line (cue) next to the special line for flight crew. If there is someone at the immigration line, when flight crew is not going through immigration, they wave over the next person from the closest line.  This can make the line closest to the customs line move TWICE as fast as the other lines.  Speed in immigration is almost everything.
  1. Never hesitate at customs when asked a question. When asked after a 36 hour commute if I had any salesman’s samples, I paused to think what salesman’s samples were.  That pause got my a little checkmark on my form which caused me a 30 minute delay while they looked in EVERYTHING I owned.  Another time in Heathrow, I was asked if my bags had been out of my site.  I told them they were in the boot of a car overnight.  I had 6 searches and 3 physical searches as a result.  Now I just say “NO!” to everything.  (“Want a million dollars?”  “NO!”)
  1. Before leaving on your trip, lubricate the wheels of all wheeled luggage. Long terminal walks can create an inferno in those tiny wheel hubs and shorten their lifespan.  I was pulling an “O.J.” at an airport once (running…not slashing.) and a wheel siezed up.  I dragged a rubber line for about a mile.  Not to mention got their hot, tired and sweaty.
  1. Combination locks on everything. Cheap, easy to use and easy to remember…never losing a key.  I lost a sweater in Africa once because I didn’t have a lock on the bag.  A 60 Minutes special showed video of airline baggage handlers going through luggage.  Enough said.
  1. Carry all film and cameras with you. The new x-ray machines will cloud film checked in.  Also, airlines do not cover ANY electronics checked in if damaged.  Coming back from Bermuda once, I knew I wasn’t going to use my camera and locked it into my soft sided luggage.  The bag was lost on the tarmac in the rain for a week.  The clothes the airline dry-cleaned for me, but the rusted camera was toast.
  1. Make photocopies of your passport and put one in each piece of luggage and one in your purse or computer bag. If you lose your passport and any luggage, it makes it a lot easier to get a new one in another country from your embassy.
  1. Work with a professional travel agent who knows the international business. Linnae at American Express Adventure Travel has gotten me out of more than one jam and is an important part of my travel team. Recently, she saved me from extra airline charges and got me the seat I wanted when the airline said it could only be booked at the gate.  That earned her a dozen roses and my eternal gratitude.
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These 10 tips are not the only considerations nor are they the most important.  The DO, however, make international and particularly transcontinental travel, a LOT more enjoyable and predictable.  Happy flying!

kg_author_6This article is authored by Michael A. Podolinsky CSP – Asia’s Productivity Guru, Developing Productive Leaders and Teams, equipping them with the skills necessary to succeed.
To book Michael Podolinsky for your next business event or corporate training program, click here

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