23 Air Travel Tips From Super Frequent Fliers

One of my views out the window, though I can’t remember where.

I’ve been logging a lot of time in the air in the past few years, training and working with NPR member stations, shooting a political video project, hanging out my Europe-dwelling parents, freelancing for the Knight Foundation and just plain ‘splorin.

But my road warrior days are coming to an end next month, when I’m banned from flying due to the spawn in my system. So I thought I’d share some of my rules for the road in case you’re about to, say, be in five cities in eight days and want to avoid spending the night in a freezing cold baggage claim.

Below are my tips, along with travel advice I solicited from friends who log Hillary-Clinton-level frequent flier miles: John Bracken (professional innovation agent), Brad Willis (international poker blogger), and Matt Mullenweg (international man of mystery). Please send me yours or leave them in the comments and I’ll update this post.

UPDATE April 2013: Reader Alex Volnyak found this post useful and he took the time to translate it into Czech for any of you Czech readers out there. Please check it out if you’re interested. And thanks, Alex!

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2011 Year in Review: Up in The Air

In transit at the Warsaw Airport. (October 2011)

 

My friend Patrick Terpstra wrote this of his year: “‎2011 was like riding a tilt-a-hurl after eating seven corn dogs. But it sure beats watching from the ground.”

I can’t disagree. I did plenty of plane riding, which is the most consistent memory of this year, besides saying goodbye and hello to a lot of people I really love. To rewind:

The Year I Flew Around the World, Twice: After saying goodbye to Texas and The Texas Tribune, I spent 99 days this year away from home, logging 78,931 miles in the air to 29 locations including places like Warsaw, Poland (for fun) and Boise, Idaho (for work). Not proud of the carbon footprint but I can now glide through security like Ryan Bingham.

Don’t Look Back in Anger (I Heard You Say): It felt like a pretty angry and destructive year, didn’t it? My second favorite emotion*, outrage, seemed to abound. I write this as tens of thousands of Russians protest in the streets, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya take their shaky steps toward self-rule, and socioeconomic dissatisfaction continues at home. We said goodbye to Osama bin Laden, Amy Winehouse and Steve Jobs (none of whom were picks in my clearly talentless celebrity death pool), an earthquake-tsunami combo led to radiation disaster in Japan, and we experienced a rare earthquake in my new hometown of Washington, D.C.

Favorite Video of The Year Is Also My Favorite Song: “Ching Chong (It Means I Love You)”
After a UCLA student went on a crazy rant about Asian people in the library, she faced a backlash so large she had to quit college. But Jimmy Wong turned his rant response into art — one of the catchiest songs of the year, and an instant viral video. It will get stuck in your head, so if you haven’t seen this, you’ve been warned.

Speaking of Asians, My Most Memorable Welcome to Washington: The Crazy Guy in Starbucks
There was one morning after the devastating Japanese earthquake when I went into Starbucks in Chinatown, natch, when a random guy off the street wandered in, started yelling at people in line, stopped at me, and said this, to me: “Fuck you, go home. You deserved the earthquake.” Then he told the rest of the line we were all going to die. Yep.

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Purgatory

The more I travel, the less I expect a smooth trip or a even a mildly pleasant one. It’s almost inevitable that your flight will be delayed (if not canceled), that you get to your destination but your bags will not, or you will be flying back from Amsterdam when a dude in the rear of the plane decides to light his balls on fire in a failed Al Qaeda plot (we think).

So here we are, in Dallas (when we were supposed to be connecting in DC), headed to London (though the destination is Amsterdam), hanging out in the “DFW Comfort Lounge” (I suppose they’re trying to be ironic). Our first attempt at leaving Austin failed. We were re-routed since our aircraft was stuck somewhere in the tundra. Drove home. Drove back to airport to take off on re-routed itinerary. Made it to Dallas. Found out flight to London was delayed a few hours. Consumed some subpar tacos. Considered the “three tequila flight”. Opted for a post-meal fro yo instead. Found out our flight was delayed again. Now sitting in this so-called “lounge”, watching a retrospective on the “We Are the World” concert from a few decades ago.

Chuck Klosterman said something last year at a book signing about how airports are purgatory — an in-between place where everyone’s waiting to go somewhere but at the mercy of higher powers. Couldn’t have said it better.

UPDATE 9:17pm: Just learned both airports in Europe we must stop at (Heathrow and Schipol) are going to be quagmires… heightened security after the pants-on-fire-security-threat. Time to take that tequila flight.

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