77 Days and Counting

It is now 77 days and counting until I depart for my Chiang Mai –to- Bangkok bicycle tour.  While I still get excited about travel, I try to make the travel preparation and the long international flights for such trips as unexciting as possible. Airline travel is stressful enough as it is without adding to your stress by forgetting items, not having access to needed documents, or finding yourself in a bad seat. Let me share a few of the things I do to make such trips as stress free as possible in an era of long security lines, cramped seats, and limited travel options.

Once I make my reservations, I save the email confirmations in a travel folder. The week before I travel, I print a copy and place these in a paper folder I will carry with me. Along with the travel reservations, I include a copy of my passport and travel insurance. This may seem like overkill in the age of the smartphone but phones die, get lost or stolen, and otherwise let you down at critical times. Once in Italy, I was told I did not have a reservation and that there were no rooms. I produced the email confirmation from the owner. The hotel arranged a room in a nearby hotel at no cost for the night, they carried my bags over, arranged for dinner and had a room for me the next day. Seems the owner had forgotten to record my reservation.

Select your seat when you make your airline reservation. If you wait until you are at the gate then you are in trouble. If you are uncertain as to which seat(s) are the best then go to a site like SeatGuru. Here you will find color-coded seating charts for each aircraft and airline, with advice on which seats to avoid because they are next to the toilets, ultra-narrow, don’t recline, and so on. If you are traveling with another person, and can only select from a three seat row, then book the aisle and window. You might get lucky and have the row to yourself.

At least 48 hours before the flight, review all the on-line documents, make sure you have paper copies and that you do indeed have the right travel date and time. Nothing is worse than starting the trip by arriving at the airport and learning that you have missed your flight.

If you travel frequently, then you might want to join TSA Precheck or the Global Entry program. These can save hours in the security line and are worth the investment. Plus you can feel like a VIP as you walk past the huddled masses in the TSA line and quickly move through security with your shoes on.

I once took a Colnago bicycle to Italy. If you have been in Italian train stations then you know how dumb this was plus they make Colnago’s in Italy so I could have rented one and been $150 ahead. The point is: TRAVEL LIGHT. Unless you are moving abroad then you should not need more than one bag. I must confess that I will violate this rule in October. United will allow me to check a bag, for free, so I am going to check what would normally be my carry-on. My carry-on will be a gym bag with my a few personal items, helmet, cycling shoes, saddle, pedals, gloves and two cycling kits plus my travel reservation folder. Everything I need for a successful trip will be in my control at all times. I will repeat the process on the return flight using the checked bag for my purchases and family gifts.

I assume you will bring ear plugs, an eye mask, neck pillow and something to read on the plane. These can also be helpful after you arrive.

For a bloat-and-flatulence-free trip you need to be attentive and resist temptation, e.g. free beer and wine. Skip the alcohol and carbonated drinks, avoid fatty foods, and select the light breakfast option that is often offered before landing. Drink water or juice at every opportunity. Also, consider ordering a special meal. Your meal will be fresher and it will come first. It also gives you more of that VIP feel as you eat while the common folk wait.

Finally, get up and move around on the plane. DVTs are a real threat on a long international flight. Having had DVTs, I now have a routine I follow on all trips.  I hope this post was of some value to you. Have a great trip! I am planning on one.

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