Air travel is rarely a stress-free experience – from check in to baggage reclaim, there’s a barrage of things which can and often do go wrong. However you don’t have to be a frequent flyer to be a smart traveller; becoming a smart traveller is a combination of attitude and preparation which together produce an ultimately more enjoyable flying experience.
The smartest travellers are not the ones kicking off a fuss when the flight gets delayed, the ones taking selfies on take-off to share with their legions of followers or the ones with their bags first off the luggage carousel. Instead, they are patient, quiet and unassuming – the smartest travellers are the ones you often don’t notice.
When I started travelling in my mid-teens, truth be told, I was not the smartest traveller. Delays would put me in a bad mood or I’d wake up mid-flight to find I’d missed meals and hanger would hit, the conclusion being most of my flying experiences resulted in me being grumpy. As I travelled more and more, the expert travellers quietly taught me the skills of travelling smarter.
I still remember on my first flight out to Korea back when I was 16, I boarded the plane feeling smug that I’d bagged an exit row seat on the aisle. My smugness was quickly replaced by disappointment and panic as I approached my seat. I heard them before I saw them and there they were, two babies (already bawling) being rocked by their two exhausted parents standing up by the seats next to mine. The crying continued through boarding, take off and the first meal. I’d been reduced to pondering what was worse: blown eardrums from incredibly loud music used to drown out their crying or enduring more of their crying when an older lady in the seat across the aisle leaned over and offered me earplugs. I never flew without earplugs again.
So what sets these travellers apart?
- The mindset : They are polite to cabin crew and fellow passengers, share their space and hold your food tray for you when you drop your cutlery on the floor and face the unnecessarily complicated task of retrieving it.
- The luggage : Their luggage is unobtrusive and fits within the limits of the airline. Neatly packed, they know where everything is and normally have the things they need in a smaller bag which they take out pre-flight. This is an area where I admit I have room for improvement. I always carry a small bag with my essentials in it – snacks, earplugs, eye mask, moisturiser, book, headphones and USB charger – but my hand luggage has been known to push the limits in terms of size… I was advised in an airport once by a well-flown executive to always take pictures of my bags pre-flight in case anything happened to my bags although I wonder if anyone actually does this?
- The preparation : Their liquids and gels are already in the correct amounts and bagged, their passports are opened to the correct page with the passport cover already removed and having checked in online and downloaded the app, they breeze through immigration and security. My Year 7 Science teacher had it right with her 7 Ps mantra : Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Over a decade later, her words are still as valid now as they were then. Fifteen minutes of pre-departure preparation (have I packed my passport? have I got my ticket? etc) will save both time and energy at the airport. Hoping for the best while preparing for the worst goes a long way when faced with delays, detours and so on.
The best of the smart travellers are the ones who are not only acutely aware of how fortunate they are to travel but recognise and are willing to help those not so accustomed to flight – now that is a real smart traveller.