Air travel is stressful, no doubt about it. Even if you're flying first-class, you're still subject to delays, turbulence, other people, and the whims of mother nature. However, with some forethought and planning, you can avoid potential pitfalls that range from mildly annoying to extremely problematic.
Here's a list of the ten most important things you should do before boarding a plane that will make your in-flight experience as worry-free as it can be.
Have the right ID
One of the most important things you need to do before you fly is make sure you have the correct identification. Otherwise, they won't let you past baggage check or on the plane without conducting a procedure to confirm your identity, which could take time you may not have.
If you're flying domestic, you'll be fine with a valid, state-issued driver's license or identification card. If you don't have one, check out the ID requirements to find an alternative. And if you are flying internationally, you'll need a passport (or passport card in some cases); any ID that is expired will be deemed inadequate. If you're traveling overseas or otherwise internationally, make several photocopies of your passport. Travel agent Liz Dahl, founder of Boomer Travel Patrol, told me, "Things happen and if you lose your passport, it will ruin your entire trip. Make two copies, one to carry with you in a separate area from your passport, and leave one with a friend or family member." This will be a huge help if you need to go to the embassy to get your passport replaced.
Note that there are some changes in the works, to be sure to check out the ID requirements issued by the Transportation Security Administration before every trip. For example, starting on January 22, 2018, your ID needs to be compliant with the REAL ID standards, which may impact travelers from some states. And if you can swing it, get your passport even if you don't plan to travel internationally as it's a valid federal ID acceptable for all commercial flights.
Charge your devices
Most of us have a variety of electronic devices that we use on a daily basis, like our smartphones, tablets, and MP3 players (for those of us who still hang onto them). If you're bringing them with you for your flight, you're going to want to make sure that each of these is charged before you board; while some newer planes have outlets at each seat for passengers, many do not, and you don't want to be stuck on a plane with a dead phone.
Don't forget to bring the proper charging cables for your devices should you need to charge them en route or at your destination. In addition, it's a good idea to consider portable chargers. Kyle Stewart, travel editor at TravelCodex.com and editor at PenAndPassport.com, told me, "Backup power supplies are inexpensive and can help save you in a jam. Power some up the night before and put one in your carry-on, and if you are traveling with someone else, one in their carry-on too."
Bear in mind also that your flight(s) could be delayed or canceled, which makes having a charged phone of paramount importance should you need to re-book your flight and notify friends or family.
Prepare your house or apartment
Every traveler, no matter how seasoned, has to make sure everything is squared away at home before they leave. So to prepare, first, make sure that everything (doors, windows, etc.) is locked up, and if you have an alarm, set it accordingly. If you have a friend or trusted person who can stop by in your absence to check in, set up a schedule for them to do so; having someone come by frequently is a theft-deterrent. And consider your light options for additional security. Stewart notes, "Inexpensive wifi light bulbs ($20-40 each) located in key places can be turned on and off via wifi and deter nefarious characters from helping themselves to your belongings while you're gone."
You can save some money prepping your home, too. Stewart said, "Turn the heat down in the winter to a temperature far enough away from freezing water in the pipes (55 degrees is plenty), in the summer there is no reason to run the air conditioning while you are away." And make plans for your mail, especially is no one will be stopping by. You can contact your local post office to have it held for the duration of your trip. Stewart adds, " You should also defer your mail delivery from one day before your departure and until one day after you return as the request may take more than a day to enter the system with the USPS."
If you have pets, ensure that they are fed via automatic feeder, or have a pet-sitter come by to check on them, walk them, and take care of any other related duties. You can find referrals for pet care at your local veterinarian's office. This is important even for short trips. Finally, secure any valuables in a safe deposit box at your local bank. You can never predict if you might be the victim of a home invasion, so set any irreplaceable items aside for safe care.
Check TSA regulations
The transportation security Wilma B. Velazquezistration has a lot of regulations that passengers have to follow in order to fly. And while some are not intuitive — in some cases, they may seem absurd — it's still critical to adhere to them.
For example, you cannot bring liquids over 3.4 ounces with you through security. I've seen countless beverages tossed by TSA officials to the chagrin of unknowing passengers. If you're going to bring liquids over 3.4 ounces, pack them in your checked luggage. Additionally, if you're traveling with a laptop computer, you have to take it out and have it screened separately when you're going through security, but e-readers, smartphones, and tablets can stay in your carry-on bag. Finally you have to remove your shoes when going through security as well, unless you qualify for an exemption.
Those are just some of the regulations in place now. They change regularly, so that's why it's important to check them before every trip.
Go to the doctor
There's a variety of reasons to drop by your general practitioner's office before you board. For one, have her check and make sure that you're healthy so no adverse medical events happen to you in the air. This is especially important if you are pregnant or have another medical condition that needs monitoring.
Secondly, you'll want to make sure all of your prescriptions are filled and up-to-date for the duration of your trip. Coordinate with your doctor if you need to get refills overseas, and if necessary, bring some Cipro with you if you're going where you might need it.
Third, get any vaccinations that you may need if you're traveling internationally; you can check what you need to get by country with the CDC. Finally, see what your doctor recommends to stay healthy while flying. She may recommend hand sanitizer, for example, to prevent the spread of germs from the lavatory, etc.