Ever wish you could pick the brain of an expert traveler? Here’s the next best thing: read on as Wall Street Journal travel writer, Scott McCartney, shares some useful travel tips he’s compiled over the years talking to travelers like you. Courtesy of Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel.
1. To remember your passport, put a shoe in the safe.
Scott McCartney picked up a great suggestion from British Airways. The airline noticed that from time to time, people show up at the airport, and realize they don’t have their passport with them because they left it in the hotel safe.
So, British Airways suggests that travelers with passports put a shoe in the room safe, along with their passport. That way, when you go to leave and check out of the hotel, you’ll realize you need your shoe — and passport —that’s stowed in the hotel safe. Just make sure you put a shoe in the safe that you plan on wearing on the flight!
2. Check in early to protect your seat.
McCartney often hears from management consultants who fly a lot, about the benefits of printing a boarding pass early. Most airlines allow flyers to check in and print their boarding pass, starting 24 hours in advance of the flight. Here’s why you should do so:
Not only does it eliminate a stop at the airline’s check in counter — if you don’t have to check a bag — but it’s an important way to claim your seat on the flight.
If you’re an infrequent flyer flying on a less expensive ticket, and the flight is overbooked, those who have not checked in are in greater danger of being bumped from the flight, if the airline has to bump somebody and can’t get enough volunteers.
Since compensation is based on the price of your ticket, airlines typically look for the cheapest tickets, and so if you check in and claim your seat early, it makes it harder for the gate agent to bump you from the flight.
3. Make your luggage “unique.”
Many of us travel with the standard black luggage and have been faced with the task of scanning the sea of black luggage on the baggage carousel to decipher which bag is ours. To help your bag stand out, customize it somehow by tying a ribbon or scarf around the handle. McCartney suggests cutting ribbon short, so it doesn’t get caught in the baggage carousel machinery.
Also put a business card or piece of paper with your name, address and phone number inside, in case your name tag breaks or gets destroyed for some reason and the bag ends up lost somewhere. The airline will open it and look for clues as to who owns it, so make it easy for them to find you.
It’s also important to never pack valuables in your checked luggage. McCartney hears time and again from travelers how they have lost jewelry or an iPad that they packed in their luggage. Bags get X-rayed, and so everybody who handles them can see what’s inside it, and there have been many of cases of theft from baggage, so pack accordingly.
And remember, if your carry-on bag is ever too large and it ends up getting checked at the gate, be sure to grab any electronic devices, medications, and other valuables out of the bag before you hand it to the flight attendant.
4. Consistency is key with the TSA.
McCartney thinks the most important thing when going through airport security and dealing with the TSA is to be consistent and have a routine. For example, it’s very easy to end up losing your driver’s license when walking through the airport because you’re taking it out of your pocket a lot, and you may forget where you put it. His routine is to instantly put his license back in his wallet before he moves on.
When it comes to carryon baggage, make sure you keep and put items, such as books, electronics and liquids back in the same compartment every time, so you know exactly where they are and where to unzip to get to them. He also thinks it’s good practice to put larger bags through the x-ray belt first, with the laptop being the last thing that goes through.
If you get delayed at the metal detector/body scanner machine, your laptop will be the last to come out, and you’ll have the laptop bag already. You don’t want to be standing there holding your shoes, laptop, etc. without a bag.
5. Keep fire safety in mind at the hotel.
McCartney shares that travelers have told him for years to request an upper floor hotel room because it’s quieter, but a lower floor room can be much safer.
If you’re on an upper floor and a fire breaks out, the fire department may not be able to reach you, and you may be on your own in an emergency situation. So, when booking a room, request that is no higher than the 4th floor.
McCartney also reminds travelers, no matter what floor you’re on, spend some time figuring out where the emergency doors and exits are in relation to your room. That way, if there is a fire, and you can’t see where you’re going because the hall is filled with smoke, you’ll know which way to go and can crawl to safety.