Pre-flight jitters? No, not at all. Why ever would you think that?
December 8, 2010 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Flying Airtran from Orlando tomorrow. Last time I was on a commercial plane was over 30 years ago and I sat on the floor. What do I need to know?

I'll have a carry-on bag that is easily within size but I'm not sure what to do about my personal item. The bag I want to use could easily be oversize depending on how it is measured or what's in it. Of course I don't plan on stuffing it to that point. But I can't find out how they measure that type of thing. I've seen templates mentioned but do they allow squish factor or not?

I'm going from Orlando to Atlanta for a two hour layover before heading to SFO. Are there power outlets in coach seating? I want to be able to plug in my iphone or DS.

Food. I know have to get drinks after security, what snacks or homemade stuff can I carry? Will I have to dump my chicken salad or pb&j sandwiches? Should I stick with prepackaged stuff?

What have I forgotten to freak out about?
posted by Talia Devane to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Your personal item is generally meant to be smaller than your carry-on. If you can squish it under the seat, that's generally acceptable.

There are generally no outlets in domestic flights in the coach section.

I've found food to be generally ok. Soup is obviously something you'll want to avoid, but sandwiches should be fine.
posted by jangie at 6:46 AM on December 8, 2010

Your personal item will be fine as long as it will fit under the seat in front of you...that is, the physical size of the bag isn't as important as whether it collapses into the right size.

There are almost certainly not going to be power outlets in the Coach section of the plane, so definitely do not plan for that.
posted by griffey at 6:47 AM on December 8, 2010

I've had no problem with homemade food as long as it's not liquid.

"Personal items" are meant to be things like purses, briefcases, laptop bags, or small backpacks; if it's a huge duffel or something, they may require you to check it, especially if it's a crowded flight or small plane.

Plug in your flight info here to see if there are any power ports near your seat.

Wear shoes that are easy to take off and put on when you go through security. Socks are nice if you don't want to walk barefoot where hundreds of other people have walked barefoot before you. Minimize metal adornments--jewelry, spangled/spiked belts, etc.; you'll have to take it all off to get through security.

Relax, you'll be fine.
posted by magicbus at 6:50 AM on December 8, 2010

There ARE usually power outlets available for use at the terminals though, so you can charge up during your layover. Might look into a portable (battery powered) charger, though I don't know how the TSA looks at loose batteries.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:51 AM on December 8, 2010

I bring sandwiches, carrot sticks (no dip) etc all the time - no worries.

No power outlets on the plane, but you should be able to plug in during your layover in ATL to recharge. if you can, get to your departure gate for SFO as soon as possible, and scope out seats near the wall or near the big pillars - those tend to have outlets in them. Some gates have charging stations, depending on time of day, these can be packed though.
posted by darsh at 6:51 AM on December 8, 2010

I'll have a carry-on bag that is easily within size but I'm not sure what to do about my personal item. The bag I want to use could easily be oversize depending on how it is measured or what's in it. Of course I don't plan on stuffing it to that point. But I can't find out how they measure that type of thing. I've seen templates mentioned but do they allow squish factor or not?

They've been real Nazis about it lately. I have bags explicitly labeled "carry-on" and they still have made me test it in the wire mock-up. Lots of hard feelings and some people have had to go back and check their luggage (at exorbitant prices). Better safe than sorry here.

Are there power outlets in coach seating?

99% no.

what snacks or homemade stuff can I carry? Will I have to dump my chicken salad or pb&j sandwiches? Should I stick with prepackaged stuff?

You'll probably be fine with anything not too liquid-y. Leave it in your bag and don't even mention it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:52 AM on December 8, 2010

You can take your own food with you. I traveled at Thanksgiving time with a bowl of soba noodles, an apple, granola bar, etc. Chicken salad or a PB&J sandwich shouldn't give you a problem, unless you run into a TSA employee on a powertrip.

Afaik, there are no outlets in coach - that varies depending upon the plane and airline, though. Most likely, you won't be on the plane during your layover: you'll have to get off and then you can find outlets in the airport.

When I travel, I take a stuffed carry-on bag (a small wheeled case), a medical equipment bag and a personal bag (a tote bag that is my 'purse'). The gate attendants haven't said anything to me about the extra bag (the medical bag doesn't scream 'Medical!'). The carry on size limit seems flexible to me: I've seen folkscarrying big gym bag-type duffle bags. So long as you can squish it into the overhead, you'll be fine. Your personal bag can go in the overhead or under the seat in front of you.

The worst part of air travel nowadays are the overly invasive 'security' searches. You'll have to remove your shoes, jacket, any metal, including your belt. Some airports have those 'naked body' scanners; some don't.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 6:55 AM on December 8, 2010

Could you post a picture of your personal item, maybe with something else next to it for scale? Its hard to say without knowing what it looks like. (That said, I've never had anyone actually put my bag in the little measuring thing -- if it looks small enough, it's probably fine.)

By "coach seating" do you mean the plane itself, or the waiting area at the airport? I have never seen power outlets in coach on an airplane from any airline, personally, although it's been a couple of years since I flew AirTran specifically. The Orlando and Atlanta airports will probably have "charging stations" in the terminal where you wait to board, generally small tables with lots of power outlets in the seating area. Usually they're branded -- I've seen a lot sponsored by Sprint. If you don't see one right away, it would be worth asking, as some are less obvious looking than others.

You can double-check on the TSA website, but non-liquid homemade food should be fine -- I've certainly brought it through security and never had a problem. A zealous TSA officer might give you a hard time with super-soupy chicken salad, but no one's going to care about PB&J. I also don't think packaged-vs-homemade will make any difference. (Although if anyone else has had problems with food, of course I stand corrected.)

If you're fine with tap water and want to save some cash, you can bring empty water bottles through security and fill them in the terminal before you get on the plane.

Airplanes get very cold in flight, and most will now make you pay for a flimsy blanket if you want one. Bring a sweater.

If you own headphones that use a mini jack, bring them -- if you want to listen to any of the in-flight entertainment, you'll have to buy cheap headphones from the flight attendants if you don't have any of your own.

If you want to buy anything on the flight, don't assume you can use cash -- a lot of airlines only accept credit cards in the air, although I'm not sure of AirTran specifically.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:56 AM on December 8, 2010

Just to make the security thing less of a hassle for you, don't carry anything in your pockets and don't wear a belt. Don't wear jewelry or shoes with metal in them (like Danskos have staples). Wear socks so you aren't barefoot in the security line (ew) and look over the TSA website to get through the line faster and easier.
posted by cooker girl at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2010

While you do need to get your drinks after security, there's not problem carrying an empty bottle to fill with water from a drinking fountain after you get through the security line. I often do that to save the 2-3 dollars for a soda or bottle of water in the terminal.
posted by BlooPen at 7:14 AM on December 8, 2010

When going through security, you will also have to take off any coat or jacket you're wearing and put it through the x-ray machine with your luggage and shoes (they have plastic bins so you don't have to put your loose items directly on the conveyor belt). If you have a laptop computer or portable DVD player, it will need to be taken out of your carry-on and sent through the scanner in a separate bin (i.e. with nothing else in that bin). Other electronics (e.g. phone, camera, computer power cord) can remain inside your luggage. Your travel-sized liquid toiletries (toothpaste, lotion, shampoo) should be gathered together in a small (quart sized) ziploc bag inside.

I have also recently learned that technically, what counts as a "liquid or gel" for the TSA is a substance that changes shape to conform to its container. So a jar of peanut butter (over 3 ounces) could be confiscated, but a sandwich is fine even if it has peanut butter in it. However, enforcement does vary quite a bit depending on which TSA agent you happen to get and what mood he or she is in (I mean that more about things like jars of peanut butter than sandwiches. No one will take away your sandwich). Homemade food is just fine.

Plan to arrive at the airport an hour before your flight leaves (that means at the terminal - if you're driving and parking, it can take a while to get from a long-term parking lot to the airport itself), and have your photo ID somewhere easily accessible, as you will need to present it (along with your boarding pass) to a TSA agent before you enter the security-check zone. Also, checking in online at the airline's website and printing out your boarding pass in advance is definitely worth it.
posted by unsub at 7:47 AM on December 8, 2010

Bring headphones. AirTran has live XM Radio at every seat.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:06 AM on December 8, 2010

Oh, also: smile and be pleasant to everyone, use your manners (please and thank you go so very far), and if you're unsure about something, ask someone (there's no shame in saying, "I haven't flown in 30 years, do I need to .....?).
posted by cooker girl at 8:47 AM on December 8, 2010

While it doesn't help you any on AirTran, a lot of people have been saying that there's never power in coach. American has power in every row on most of their 737 fleet (with standard 110v outlets), for the first 10 or so rows on their MD-80 fleet (with cigarette lighter-like adapter) and sporadically through the 767 fleet (also with the cigarette lighter adapter).

I've actually switched airline allegiance because of it.
posted by hwyengr at 9:45 AM on December 8, 2010

- slip on shoes
- comfy, non-fussy clothes
- no harsh smelling perfume or cologne
- headphones & music (does wonders to calm nerves)
- books, magazine or something loaded on an eReader (phone, book reader, computer, etc)
- earplugs (if you don't want to listen to music, it helps with anxiety more if you don't have to listen to people talking or crying children in the cabin)
- loose fitting sleep mask so you can catch some zzz's
- sweater, large scarf that can double as a thin blanket (the airline blankets often end up at people's feet are not cleaned between flights)
- empty plastic bottle that you can fill up once you're by your gate. Water fountains are usually by bathrooms.
- a non-smelly sandwich brought from home or supermarket deli (not a good time to bring something with a pungent smell) . Bring something you can eat out of hand (breakfast burrito, a chicken wrap, empanada, etc.) without the need for a container or packaging/utensils to schlep/save.
- travel pack of moist hand wipes for at-seat clean up if you're eating/drinking
- feeling nauseous - eat a little something salty (pretzels or saltines) helps with nausea, also candied ginger is good for nausea

When going through security. Have your ticket & ID out, but everything else...shove into a zipped bag such as wallet, phone, jewelry, belt, ipod, etc. If you condense down the number of bags and doo dads you have to take care of you'll feel less flustered. (If you're bringing a laptop, you have to take it out of it's bag to have it xrayed.)

For example I travel with one check-in back (which I always put my toiletries in so I don't bother with the 3oz ziploc thing rule.) And I have one backpack which holds my laptop, emergency day's worth of clothes(just in case my luggage gets lost), book, magazine, tissue,wipes, pill case with various meds for emergencies, phone/ipod, wallet,camera, blowup neck pillow, eye mask, earplugs, empty water bottle & lunch/snacks. My backpack fits under the seat in front of me or if I want the leg room I put it in the over head. I aslo pack a foldable duffle bag in my checkin luggage, if I have purchases I need to bring back from my trip. I can fit it in the overhead for the flight home.

I put a name tag with my end destination & phone # on both my luggage and my backpack. I do the same on the way home. For locations I frequent often I have preprinted laminated cards that I slip in/out of my luggage tags.

Also, airlines are slowly adding nice features like USB ports and outlets at seats...but it is pretty random depending on the airline. You'd have to check your carrier and model of plane. For instance VirginAmerican

I also take an aspirin for long haul flights to help prevent DVT (blood clots from sitting too long).

Pack a small umbrella if you're heading to SF, I was just there and it's been chilly and a bit wet.

Safe travels, have fun!
posted by RK at 12:35 PM on December 8, 2010

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