Frequent tired flyer
October 16, 2011 5:09 AM   Subscribe

I fly every Sunday and Friday for the next several months. Help me stay healthy and sane.

I think I already picked up some bug on my last flight home and now I'm getting ready to fly out again today. I need your best tips for staying healthy, living out of a suitcase, keeping my sanity, your best TSA and airport tips, and just any suggestions on making the best of it.

This is all for relatively short domestic flights in the USA. So, consultants and frequent flyers of mefi, help me pack and help me fly.
posted by ttyn to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Drink a LOT of water (or other alcohol and caffeine-free, hydrating beverage). It's better to pee a lot than to get an airplane hangover.
posted by phunniemee at 5:47 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: For the TSA: slip on/off shoes comfy, pants without belts/excessive buckles. Be ready to do the scan thing before you join the line. Dump out keys, coins etc and put them inside your carry on bag so you have as few things as possible to pick up on the other side of the machine. Have your liquids all ready to show off in their baggy. Carry an EMPTY bottle through security that you can fill for water. Look presentable, not like a bum, and be courteous and obey what they say promptly. Listen, try to not zone out.

Consume Vitamin C and lots of water to stay healthy. Stay concious of hand washing hygiene. Mini hand santiser, perhaps? A mask or bandanna to breathe through if it helps you stay sane.

For diarrhoea/other stomache bugs, see if you can get an aisle seat, have your own soft cushy TP on hand and take an antacid (for mild cases) or an imodium (if you really need it)

EAR PLUGS. If you are stopped up with a cold your ears might pop uncomfortably with the change in pressure. Try and put them in before the door closes and it helps a LOT. As a kid I had BAD ear pain flying, and ear plugs were the cure. (I also grew out of it a bit, so there is less need for it now.)

Even for short flights I like a pillow or a 'blanket' of some sort (I hate it if I forget my sarong)

Living out of a suitcase isn't so bad if you stay organised- don't just wad up stuff or riffle through it looking for stuff- roll your clothes nicely (roll super tight, starting with, say, a quarter inch fold over and roll neat and tight)- not just a lazy wad/bundle roll. So you can pull stuff out and put it back. I like to keep my bag so it can be zipped up and away quickly, instead of searching for everything and stuffing it in panicking. :)

(I also like to travel carry-on only, which is totally doable for a week (I travelled internationally for 3 weeks, including to a wedding) but understand that for business travel it is nice to not have to do laundry and have a few extra things along.)
posted by titanium_geek at 5:49 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Will you be travelling back and forth between the same two places?

When I was flying back and forth between home and a remote work location every weekend, I would have the hotel I was staying at steam or dry clean my suits and wash and press my shirts over the weekend while I was gone. This saved me the hassle of:
a) carrying all that additional weight
b) dealing with the hassle of having to take care of those things on my days off
c) having to master the complex art of packing suits and shirts so that they don't crease like mad

Because I kept going back to the same place, I even left two pairs of shoes there (saves yet more weight).

Also, I made a checklist for the things I had to pack each time. Otherwise you will *eventually* leave something essential behind. This might be comical on holiday, but realising that you forgot to bring socks at 11pm when you have a client meeting tomorrow at 7AM is not fun.

(Obviously checked luggage is madness, but that you probably already know)

Make sure that you know where the priority check-in areas and lounges are and always check-in online. You shouldn't need to use the lounges often if you time your trip correctly. If your airport has any kind of iris scan, or whatever program that lets you bypass the normal security checks, then join it immediately. That time adds up.

If you have the misfortune of flying economy class, which is all too likely in these straitened times, get a seat as close to the front as you can, this will save you a few minutes (depending on plane size) when you land.

Make sure that your transport links at both ends of the flight are in order, in descending order of price and preference:
1) Car with driver (common in Asia, less so in the US)
2) Taxi
3) Convenient public transport (few changes, runs late and early, metro > bus, hotel close to airport)
4) Rental car - many people prefer this to public transport, but now you have to rent and return a car every time. Dislike.
5) Shitty public transport - theoretical, I've never had to resort to this on a work trip

Maintain a routine while you're away, use hotel gym facilities or locate alternative (if this is something you ordinarily do). Ditto in finding decent food.

I have a laundry bag that I dump all worn clothes not destined for professional cleaning into immediately after wearing, hotel rooms with socks everywhere offend me aesthetically. When I get home I dump the bag in the washer-dryer and switch it on - prevents forgetfulness and consequent hurried laundry on Sundays.
posted by atrazine at 5:58 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer:, if you don't know about it already. Avoids making the occasional very bad decision.
posted by cromagnon at 6:09 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: For the most part I will be traveling to the same location.

How do you deal with fickle weather? Pack a heavier jacket? Say screw it and try to brave the autumn temperature change madness?

Thanks for the tips so far; amazingly helpful!
posted by ttyn at 6:11 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: A filter bottle like a Bobble would help airport water taste more pleasant.

Depending on factors like rain, wind, and your own tolerance for cold, good layering could help you get around packing a jacket. Silk trouser liners/long johns, sock liners, and undershirts are lightweight and easy to pack, but warm. WinterSilks has I think three lines of underlayers with various degrees of warmth. A warm hat, scarf, and gloves will help, too.

I've found that bundle wrapping reliably reduces wrinkling for me. The downside is that you have undo the entire bundle to get to the pieces in the center, which is annoying if I need to get to my toiletries bag before I get to the hotel.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:25 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can also probably leave things beyond clothing at the hotel. I used to work at one and our weekly regulars would leave a small suitcase worth of clothes, non-perishable food (we had kitchens in our rooms), and the full size bottles of their preferred toiletries since they couldn't take on the plane.

If the hotel you're going to doesn't have a fitness center or has only a small one, see if they have a deal with a local gym for cheap memberships.

Make your reservations well in advance, like book for 3 months at a time. You can always cancel, but that way you don't have to worry about hassle of finding alternative locations because you're base hotel is really sold out one night of your week due to a big concert or something (if you're a regular they will do their best to get you in, but if there're no rooms, there're no rooms)
posted by platypus of the universe at 6:30 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In addition to the excellent tips already posted:

If you are leaving an SO or kids or whatever behind, Skype every day, even if just for a few minute.

Bring with you some casual clothing in addition to your business clothing so you can be comfy when you're relaxing in your room.

Have your suitcase packed at all times. Get extras of your toiletries etc so you don't have to re-pack every week. I use Pack-Its to stay organized when packing. They seem kind of silly but they totally, totally, totally help soooo much. Also come up with a system for your laundry -- at minimum, always carry a small mesh laundry bag to put dirties in so you know what's what when you get home.

For the plane, have layers with you and a lightweight pashmina-type thing you can wrap around your nose and mouth to give you a little extra protection when you're next to someone with a cold.

Eat really, really, really well on the road. Lots of immunity-supporting vegetables, whole grains, etc. It's stressful to your body to be on an airplane, and when you do it a lot, you need a little extra TLC. Exercise and sleep are super important, too.

As much as you can, have quiet, restful time in your hotel room rather than boisterous socializing with coworkers/clients. Late nights, alcohol, smoky bars, etc will really add up quickly and compromise your immunity.

If you don't already have one, get yourself a Kindle and/or iPad.
posted by pupstocks at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

...even if just for a few minuteS. Dammit.
posted by pupstocks at 7:19 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: How do you deal with fickle weather? Pack a heavier jacket? Say screw it and try to brave the autumn temperature change madness?

I try to get by, as much as possible, with just a good scarf. I find it a a lot easier to manage than a coat.

I usually fly hand-luggage-only, so I can't take an umbrella with me, but many nice hotels provide umbrellas to guests during their stay. If you end up leaving a small bag at the hotel on weekends, another option might be to leave a good umbrella behind too.
posted by sueinnyc at 7:31 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: I just read about paying for day passes to the fancier airport lounges in this Jezebel article. I'm going to try the same thing the next time I fly since I know at least one of my upcoming flights will be delayed due to the fickle weather you mentioned.

(Please forgive me for linking to Jezebel. I'm already embarrassed that I read it.)
posted by pineappleheart at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: 1. Extra toiletries so you have a toiletries kit that just goes back and forth with you and you never unpack it [include stupid little plastic bag for liquids/gels]
2. Bag with copies of all chargers you need [laptop, phone, dongle for laptop, card reader, whatever] that is very visible and easy to pack. I have a zipper case from Walker Bags which I like for this.
3. Pack a hat in case the plane is cold.
4. Layers
5. Hydration
6. Hotel room slippers
7. Aisle seat
8. Always gate check if given the opportunity
9. don't take a flight with less than 45 minute layover. The stress will be worse than more time in an airport.
10. silk long underwear for warmth
posted by jessamyn at 9:05 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did this for four months. The first and last week, I paid to check an extra bag, which I then left at the hotel. It held all the bulky stuff like shoes, jackets, extra phone charger, and the travel size toiletries, everything I could do without (or had duplicates) while at home. It was really easy to throw my laundry in my take-home bag on Friday and just leave the rest there. Make sure you wear slip-on shoes and have a travel-friendly laptop bag for the security check. If your flight gets delayed or cancelled, and it will, do not get in that long line at the service desk, just use your phone to call the airline and rebook. There were so many times that I had first dibs on the next flight out while 30 people on my cancelled flight were still standing in line. As for the long layovers, I was always able to use that time to work, so I really never minded them.
posted by raisingsand at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2011

Bring a small (preferably memory foam type) pillow on the flight. Mine rolls up and takes up about 1/4 of a small backpack. Use it right behind the small of your back. Then, you have your own pillow in the hotel! Yay!

A blanket from the airline or a sweatshirt also works, but pillow is best.

That will help you keep your neck in proper alignment during the flight, which will mean no back/neck pain afterward. To get your neck into proper position, you just push back your chin until your spine is straight, and rest there in that position. If my description is not doing it for you, it comes from the exercises in the mefi favourite, Treat Your Own Neck, and was a total lifesaver on the last flight I took.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2011

If you are travelling to the same location, it's worth finding some of the amenities you have at home there. That is, find yourself a place to exercise, a few places to eat, a nice cafe-- whatever your during-the-week wants are. Of course you could be pretty busy with your work during these trips, but if you find a few places you like to go or even places you like to order food from, places you can think of as "my favorite thai place" or whatnot, it'll make the time more bearable.

Oh, and if you don't have it already, frequent flyer status does help a bunch with the way flights feel (you tend to get seats farther up front in economy class, and you're more likely to get random upgrades, and rescheduling messed up flights is easier), so it's worth trying to keep your flights all on one system if you can.
posted by nat at 10:15 AM on October 16, 2011

Don't do your laundry. Really, don't. It's a waste of time that costs you way more energy and logistics pain in the ass than it seems like it should. Find a wash and fold laundry service that isn't much more than a dollar a pound. Drop it off thursday night, pick it up Sunday evening.

That's stuff you don't have to lug through the airport, too.
posted by ctmf at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

A blanket from the airline or a sweatshirt also works, but pillow is best.

Pillows and blankets are history on most US airlines these days even in first class. I would also discourage someone from buying a day pass to a lounge as all it really does is entitle you to smaller line for customer service unless you like free drinks. It is, however, quite important to pick an airline, join their loyalty program and fly them consistently unless price gets in the way. The more you fly, the better service and perks you get from the airlines. This is the secret to flying. Visit Flyertalk for news about your favorite airlines loyalty program.

Join a hotel loyalty program too. If you're gone a week at a time, your points towards free rooms will mount up quickly. Hotel loyalty programs have quarterly bonus offers, check them out and double your points. I find hotel points more valuable than airline miles but YMMV.
posted by Xurando at 11:17 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: Invest in a good sleeping mask, something that's comfortable and you like. Stick it in the back of your carry-on. You might never use it, but the times when you do, it can feel like a godsend.
posted by vecchio at 11:48 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: 1. Have a checklist and a place to pack. For me, it's the dining room table. Everything goes onto the table as it gets checked off the list. Then it goes into the bag. Once the table is clear, I'm done packing.

2. Stay well fed and hydrated on the flights. Bring a snack (CLIF bars, dark chocolate, granola, etc.) and an empty water bottle through security. I've had good luck with Camelback bottles not leaking due to the pressure changes in the cabin. Not so much with Nalgene.

3. Know the airports you frequent like the back of your hand:

ATL has a nice little Zimbabwean sculpture gallery in the moving walkways between the T-gates and Concourse A. You never see it if you just hop straight onto the tram, and for me, the extra walking time is offset by getting to enjoy some art.

MSP has a semi-secret "Skyway Security Checkpoint" separated from the main ticketing and check-in desks. It's carry-on only, has a kiosk for printing Delta tickets, and spits you out right into the middle of the C or G concourse. It rarely has any line at all, and it's actually easier to get to from public transit than the main checkpoints. On my last return flight, exiting through it cut half a mile off my walk from my gate to the light rail station.
posted by SemiSophos at 12:45 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Depending on the hotel, you may not get a choice, but try not to live out of an open suitcase. It goes a long way toward feeling comfortable, at least for me, if I take a few minutes to put stuff in the closet, in drawers, shaving stuff and toothbrush out the way I like it, etc.

But, don't spread your stuff all over, either. Keep it so packing at the end of the week is a simple matter of "these 3 drawers, that suitcase. Bam." That also means you have to be disciplined about keeping your room neat, which is psychologically nice and restful as a bonus. If you don't have your laundry done for you (which I still highly recommend) then, instead of collecting your dirty laundry in a bag, take a few seconds to re-fold your clothes when you take them off. They fit in your suitcase better that way. Packing for the flight home should take ten minutes, not the entire evening like I see my co-workers dreading sometimes.
posted by ctmf at 1:14 PM on October 16, 2011

If you always fly at the same times, introduce yourself to the crew--they'll most likely be the same on your flights. I used to do this, when I worked for a tv news magazine show, and by the end of the first month--they made me feel like family. Same with the hotel.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:48 PM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: Double the advice on ear plugs. The Ear-Plug Superstore has an inexpensive assortment of 32 and 33 db NR plugs.

Go to a medical equipment store and get light- or medium-compression stockings, which will prevent deep-vein thrombosis. Get a prescription from your doctor and your medical plan will pay part of the cost.

While you're at it, get light-compression slipper-type stockings so you can take off your shoes without having your feet swell.

Airlines charge for blankets and pillows. Instead, bring along a small throw blanket from Lands' End, which is light as a feather and very warm, and also a travel pillow.

Noise-cancelling headphones can help. The ones from Bose are outrageously expensive but work well and have good sound for use with a CD or DVD player.

If you avoid an aisle seat to keep people from climbing over you to get to the bathroom, and you don't want to crawl over them from a window seat, a Texas catheter, a/k/a the Motorman's Friend, can be a life- (or at least embarrassment-) saver, However, it gets uncomfortable after a few hours, and Depends are easier.
posted by KRS at 2:53 PM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: Three other living-out-of-hotel room tips

1. When I get into a hotel room I immediately put out the do not disturb sign and clear off all the clutter from the surfaces [all the weird table toppers and fancy magazines] and toss them in a drawer. I use the ice bucket to put everything that I take off or pull out of a pocket that is not clothing [room key, phone, earrings, receipts] so that things stay focused. If possible, charge phones and whatnot in here as well. Any time I have a charging cord in a non obvious place, I pack it or put it in the ice bucket as soon as I am not using it.
2. I have a hat that doubles as a sleeping mask if I pull it down low. Travel with a few safety pins and you can jerryrig almost any hotel curtains into something quite dark if they weren't there already. Consider traveling with sleeping pills in case you have really bad travel insomnia. You may never use them but it's nice to know you have the option.
3. Besides just basic toiletries I also travel with stuff like gum, cough drops and a CLIF bar or two [so I'm not starving if I arrive late after all the restaurants have closed] and some good moisturizer and something scented and nice. You'll be all dried out after you get off the plane, apply moisturizer liberally. That said, having a pared down toilet kit is often helpful. Evealuate what you're bringing and try to eliminate stuff you really never use

And last: always travel with a bathing suit. Every now and again you may wind up someplace with an awesome pool and/or jacuzzi and it's nice to be able to take advantage of them.
posted by jessamyn at 3:25 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Some strategies to counteract the natural tendency to over-pack:

1. Start with the shoes. Pick either brown- or black-based shoes, not both. Bring as many types as you're sure you'll absolutely need, valuing versatility and comfort over "this looks perfect with my x". The idea is that you're using layers to keep warm, so everything you pack should match (almost) everything else you pack, so you're not bringing multiples due to color.

2. Plan to wear relatively neutral tops and bottoms, and use accessories to add bright colors and interest. Easier to match/reuse things in neutrals, and accessories take up less space.

3. Pull out all the clothes you intend to bring, and put them in your packing area (before you put them in the actual suitcase). Then remove 1 out of every 5 items. You can do it! When forced to make the tough decisions, you'll find the best places for efficiency.

Also, plan your home life around your travel. Make some healthy home-cooked food in bulk, and freeze it. That way, when you're just back from the road, you'll have good food at home to eat. Nothing worse than being so sick of restaurant food, and realizing you have nothing good/fast/healthy/fresh in the house.

And lastly, a colleague of mine had a policy to always take the hotel apple if they offer one. Even if you're on your way to a catered meeting sort of day. I've followed the advice, and it's saved me more than a few times.
posted by nadise at 4:06 PM on October 16, 2011

I always like to take along a beautiful silk scarf in my favourite colours and use it to wrap the lampshade closest to the bed at the hotel (though make sure that there is an opening at the top for warm air to escape)- it hardly takes up any room, and is a nice little bit of personal decor that makes the room feel more cozy.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:41 PM on October 16, 2011

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