Traveling smart

By Andrew Mellen, organizing expert & guest speaker May 9–14

andrewmellenAir travel these days is almost always stressful. Extended comforts or luxury are gone as airlines struggle to stay afloat financially. And staff seems to reserve what little courtesy remains for first/business class passengers and frequent flyers. For everyone else, being herded onto the plane and talked down to is the best we can expect.

As passengers, we also bring more than physical baggage with us. From clearing security to arriving at the gate, the experience is fraught with fear. Will I make my connection, will we crash, will there be room for my carry-on luggage?

There’s much we have no control over. But for those things within our grasp, how can we make traveling easier on ourselves?

Pack less. And pack smart.

Start by asking yourself, what do I absolutely need to have with me and available on the flight?

If you don’t check bags, it’s that much more important to ensure that anything you need is easily accessible in your ‘personal’ item. Leave everything you don’t need at your fingertips either in your suitcase or at home.

The night before a trip, I lay out all the things I want accessible that will make the flight more comfortable.

Here’s my list:

Noise-cancelling headphones, an eyemask, a neck pillow and a current book. Reading glasses, computer and computer charger (for longer flights), a pen that works, a notepad. Any work I hope to do while in transit. A jacket or shirt for cold planes.

If the headphones need to be charged or the battery replaced, do it now.

The day of the flight, I review the above items. Is it a short flight? Have I overestimated how much work I’ll actually do? Do I even feel like working? Would I rather watch a movie or read? Or nap?

I run through these questions, weeding out any unnecessary items – if they’re things I’ll still want on the trip but not on the plane, they go into my suitcase. Remember, when packing for the plane, ‘someday’ or ‘just-in-case’ is not your friend.

I also pack some snacks and maybe a meal.

And stay hydrated.

Why is it that a bottle of water can’t clear security, given that flight personnel can bring water with them? Just asking.

Back to food. Even flying business or first class, what's offered is often disappointing. Selections are overly processed and loaded with salt, fat, and sugar. So I always pack some nuts and maybe some cheese and some fruit. And chocolate!

For flights longer than two hours, I’ll make a salad or sandwich as well. I bring just enough for me and a companion (when applicable), but not enough to feed the entire coach cabin. Remember, we want the trip to be easy.

We may not be able to do much about surly, harried clerks or unhappy flight attendants, but we can control how much we load onto our backs and drag with us.

Click to read more of Andrew's blog.

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