7 Expert Tips for Traveling in Comfort

July 18, 2011

I’ve always loved to travel – not just the exploring new places part, but the travel itself: I love being on a ship, train, plane – even a bus – and even exploring the terminals they arrive and depart from. There’s something exciting and life-affirming for me about the actual movement of travel, and the different vistas, perspectives and cultures it exposes. From what I've seen, not too many people share that perspective – for them, travel seems uncomfortable and disorienting even sickening – literally.

Wherever you fall on the travel as pleasure or pain spectrum, there are some things I’ve learned to do and use to make my travel experiences more pleasurable. I write about them often on BillyKnowsBest.com, but with the summer travel season in full swing, I’m sharing seven of them here. Please share some of yours in the comments!

Before You Board

1. Reconfirm your travel arrangements.
Reconfirm your flight before leaving for the airport. Call or email your hotel the night before your arrival to make sure your room is in order, and that it will be held if you arrive late. Double-check your documents. It’s (almost) always easier to handle problems with more lead time.

2. You can catch more flies with honey then vinegar.
You are always at the mercy of the person behind the counter. Immigration, airline gate agents, hotel check-in clerks all have the power to make or break your experience. So be nice – even if they’re not. It will serve you better than yelling, insisting or being rude, crude or socially ungracious. But you don’t have to take no for an answer – ask politely who has the authority to approve your request, and then ask to speak with that person.

3. Be sure to research your ground transportation options.
Most travelers spend hours researching the big distance plane and train tickets, but leave the last mile to chance. Don’t. There are often great public transportation options from the airport to the city, and they’re not nearly as daunting when you’ve researched the details in advance. Travel review and sharing sites usually offer exceedingly detailed first-hand accounts of how to manage even the most complicated foreign transport systems.

4. Every mile is sacred.
I’ve had the good fortune to spend a lot of time in the front of the plane – for free or close to it most of the time. If you want to experience the comforts of Business Class or First Class travel, you must pay attention to frequent flyer programs and their partners. The best investment you can make: concentrating all of your travel with one carrier or alliance if you travel enough in total to earn elite traveler status. If you want to learn all the ins and outs of upgrade strategies, subscribe to First Class Flyer. And to rack up the most points, use the mileage-earning credit card most travel gurus recommend: the SPG Card from American Express.

Plan for Comfort

The airlines have been stripping economy class of creature comforts. And while bus travel is experiencing a resurgence in the US, those seats aren’t too comfortable either. Here’s what I do:

5. Carry an empty water bottle through airport security.
Finish it before you go through, and refill it before getting on the plane. If takeoff is delayed, you won’t be parched waiting for the beverage cart. While you’re at it, pack your own sandwiches and snacks as well. Food for consumption in flight is exempt from the TSA carry-on limits.

6. Cushion your ride!
Everyone should have an Inflatable Seat Cushion and Inflatable Foot Rest from Magellans . They won’t add the leg room back into coach, but they will make the seat MUCH more comfortable.

7. Last but certainly not least... Cushion your schedule.
The anxiety and physical stress of racing to your plane/train/automobile can ruin any travel experience.

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Author
Post written by Billy Kolber (View Author Profile)
About this author: Billy Kolber is a writer, consultant and entrepreneur, living and loving in New York City. Billy blogs about Shopping, Sex, Food and Travel at BillyKnowsBest.com.
View all posts by Billy Kolber

Comments

My best tip to make travel easier? I always wear slip-on shoes (no laces or even Velcro) and drawstring trousers. The shoes are easy to take off and put back on and you don't have to find a seat or delay the security line behind you. Further, you can easily remove them and put them back on during the flight. And with drawstring pants, (1) you don't have to fuss with removing and replacing your belt before and after the security line, and (2) you can untie the drawstring while seated and be much more comfortable during the flight, especially if you want to take a nap.

I'm a former travel agent and before that was cabin crew. One tip that I and my friends would always use and pass on is to dress smartly for a flight, as this could mean a free upgrade. Like the author of this post says, gone are the days where travelling economy was comfortable, and something else that has fallen by the wayside is the travel dress code. The person behind the checkin counter can have the power to upgrade you if you are polite, courteous and ask nicely, however they will take note of what you are wearing. This does not mean that to be upgraded you need a full dinner suit, however a comfortable pair of slip on shoes, teamed with a crisp but comfortable shirt and smart sports coat will signifigantly improve your chances of upgrade.

Also a further option is to carry a lightweight cashmere sweater in a similar shade to whatever shirt you're opting for. When you have boarded (hopefully in business class) you can easily change into it for the duration of the flight, meaning you'll actually look fresher than the rest of the passengers upon disembarkation as the shirt's not been on for very long.

1. Check your ego with your bag. Once you enter the airport your ability to positively influence any aspect of your travel experience is extremely limited. You are at the mercy of the travel gods. Your ability to negatively impact your travel experience is virtually unlimited, however: Snark to the desk agent and you'll end up in row 32, middle seat. Walk away from your bag when the bin won't close practically guarantees that the flight attendant is going to hit turbulence when the coffee is over your lap.

2. This is 2011: Yes, Margaret, you have to take your shoes off. No, you can't carry your water.

3. If you can't carry (or lift into the overhead bin) your own baggage, leave it at home. This is also true for relationships.

4. Bose headphones. "Crying baby? What baby?"

5. We all know that you are important, but when the flight attendant tells you to stop talking on your phone, please: Just stop.

6. Ambien.

If you want a better travel experience then forget the generic tourist guide sort of thing where a group of tourists are led by the nose to see the great architecture of an ancient city while discouraging any wandering off to see things for yourself among the regular people apart from the professionally guided tour complete with a fine speech that leaves you feeling like the truth is being edited and censored. Even better is if you can find someone away the professionally scripted tourist path who ends up feeling better because we treat them as real human beans rather than exhibiting a common American tourist trait of putting ego on display. Professional mindsets have been known to enter various countries and display a certain all-seeing all-knowing attitude combined with clothes and a dependency on electronic toys that make people giggle at the bus full of flowered shirts, designer pants and the strange mix of perfume and cologne scents that could make you queezy if U dont have an immune system tolerance to that stuff.