Air travel is the worst: 5 quick tips to save your sanity this holiday season

5 quick tips to save your sanity when traveling during the holiday season -

The holidays are almost upon us so I thought I would offer a bit of airline and international travel advice I’ve picked up over the years for those, like myself, who are forced to fly cattle class coach when driving (or taking the train) is not an option. Affiliate links are in this post.

  1. The airlines, apparently, like to know if you are traveling with children prior to check-in

My eldest son was still a toddler when I decided to expose him to the joy that is close quarters and recirculated air in a flying tube. I’d done my research. I packed him a bottle to help with the popping of his ears upon take-off and landing. I’d brought a few quiet toys to distract him on the flight. What I hadn’t thought to do was buy him a ticket as I knew he’d be making the trip on my lap. Yes I know, I am brilliant sometimes, but in my defense, I was a new parent and sleep deprived. Thankfully my doctor’s office was willing to fax over a record of his immunizations while the attendant at check-in added him to the manifest. or I might have had one irritated sister waiting for me on the other side.

The lesson here is: don’t make assumptions and call ahead if you have questions.

2. Don’t run to the security check-point like the family in the movie, Home Alone

AirTran Sign 5
Could have fooled me. Image courtesy of

You will immediately put airport security on edge and you’ll need that energy to get to your gate later as I maintain that the only flights ever departing from the gates closest to security are only for show. This is especially true at larger airports. Fun fact, terminal 1 of Hong Kong International Airport’s two terminals is over 570,000 square meters (that’s more than 88 city blocks) and employees enough people to qualify as a large town. I know this because on one of my trips I had to navigate my way through at least half of that space to get from gate to exit/entrance and back again. I think it is their way of ensuring you get some quality exercise in between your flights. Good times.

3. Don’t joke with the security team to be careful with your bag as it might explode

This tip, thankfully, came to me by way of a co-worker whose off-hand comment was supposed to be in reference to how tightly packed her bag was but was taken in an entirely different context by the transit authority.

In fact, it is best you don’t try to joke with the TSA at all. They aren’t exactly known for their sense of humor. The only time I earned so much as a smile was at a tiny airport in the midwest, and only then it was by playing along when the agent was the one to initiate the joke. In case you are curious, I clapped like a game show contestant when I was selected for an extra security screening and the agent said, “tell her what she’s won.”

What can I say, it had been a long day.

4. Don’t conduct calls while you are waiting for your flight using acronyms that can be misinterpreted – they will be

This is another tip my co-worker shared. In my day job the letters BOM stand for bill of material, only we don’t say B.O.M in shorthand conversation. We say ‘bomb,’ and for some reason, fellow passengers tend to get nervous when they hear you complaining over and over in the waiting area about how you haven’t located the final BOM yet. Go figure.

Side note – failure to follow this tip is also a good way to get you that extra special attention I referenced at the end of tip number 3.

5. Upon arriving at your destination, keep your answers to customs questions short and to the point

My husband surprised me with a trip to London this past summer so that I could spend some time with my writing accountability partner as well as attend the International Bloggers Bash. I was excited, but as I was traveling alone, a little bit nervous upon touch down. I have a tendency to speak without thinking when I get nervous.

The custom’s agent asked me if I was there for business or pleasure.

Ummm both?

I see. And where will you be staying while you are here?

With a friend.

Did you meet this friend the last time you were in the UK?

We’ve actually never met before in person.

*blink, blink, awkward pause*

She’s like my pen-pal. We’ve written to each other for months and video-conferenced.

And this is a friend, you say..?

If you blogged you would understand.

Okay, I didn’t say that last line out loud. The way the agent still hadn’t yet stamped my passport and was looking at me as if he had serious doubts about my mental state made me think it was best to shut my mouth.

Also, admittedly most of these tips are for when your feet are still on the ground and not in the air, but that would have been too long a title for this post. I hope that if you are traveling, you travel safe, and enjoy your time whether the place is new or the company well known.

Bonus TipSpeaking of the Bloggers Bash and those across the pond, the event’s founder and author of the non-fiction writing guide, 13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains, Sacha Black, is launching her first YA fantasy novel, Keepers (The Eden East Novels Book 1) on Friday, November 17th. Its a story about a girl who can manipulate the elements, a boy who can manipulate emotions, shifters, sorcerers, mysterious deaths, and the forces of chaos poised to disrupt the very fabric of our existence.

Because if you are going to travel it’s always a good idea to bring a fun read with you (and maybe a good sense of humor).

And finally here are some actual helpful tips

42 Biggest Travel Don’ts Around The World

 Happy Travels

From Visually.



20 thoughts on “Air travel is the worst: 5 quick tips to save your sanity this holiday season

  1. This is wonderful advice. I especially love your encounter with customs. Bet you baffled that guy to no end. I’ve had a few run-ins with the TSA, so now if I’m traveling with my husband he chants “don’t mess with the TSA” under his breath to me the whole time we stand in line. And those lines are darned long.


    1. What’s not to love about taking the train? Sure it might take a little longer than driving direct unless you are taking an express route, but at least you can walk around.


  2. So very much to love in this post. Runner up is “Tell her what she’s won!” But my fave is probably, “I maintain that the only flights ever departing from the gates closest to security are only for show” because I can relate to that so very well. Ah, great stuff, Allie P. Thanks for the laughs, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, until wheels down again. Then I worry about how to get out of the airport. I’ve never had the displeasure of Hong Kong, but D.C. was bad enough. If I hadn’t been with a former native, I’d have been screwed. How was I to know I needed Concord Z to escape?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The stories in numbers 3 and 4 are so so funny.

    Of all the airports I’ve been in, LA is the worst. Seoul is the best. Most of the others are meh. And I agree that train travel is better…love the bullet trains.


    1. 🙂 I’ve been through LAX and know exactly what you mean, though Atlanta’s is not one of my favorites either. Hong Kong’s airport is beyond huge, but very nice. My favorite, however, is Vienna’s for no other reason than how they handle the security screening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haven’t been through Vienna, so I wouldn’t know about that one. Seoul, though….it’s so clean and efficient and easy to maneuver compared to some of the others. And so familiar. At the end of a long trip, I’d have the “ahhhh I’m finally home” feeling in the airport.

        Beijing’s airport (our new home-base) is kind of gross and is so inefficient and has endless long lines, so at the end of a long trip we reach the airport and I have that “yup….we’re definitely back in China” feeling. (Not nearly as positive as Seoul….China does have it’s perks….it’s just that the airport isn’t one of them.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I haven’t had a chance to go through Seoul, though that does sound really, really nice. I don’t ask for much in my airports. Just be clean and lay your gates out so that I don’t have to take 10 walkways, a bus, followed by an underground train, more walkways, and have to change through security twice to get to where I am going.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My own little travel “horror story.”
    Several years ago, my wife and I traveled to Seattle to visit her daughter. The flight from Asheville, NC to Chicago was uneventful. However, during the process of changing flights, we passed through the mammoth Chicago terminal on our way to making our connection. Along the way, we stopped to use the restrooms. When I returned from the men’s room, my wife motioned quietly for me to look behind her. glancing over her shoulder, I saw a man down on the ground on his knees, intermittently bowing toward Mecca. (My imagination immediately went into overdrive, and I was convinced I saw an explosive vest hidden beneath his clothing. So, following the advice of “see something, say something,” we hurried to airport security to report the troublesome behavior we had witnessed.
    “Oh, him,” said the security person, “that’s just (blank) saying his daily prayers. He works here.” My wife and I looked at the man in disbelief. His lax attitude was amazing. At last, I addressed him. “Well,” I said, “you might suggest to him that it would be a good idea to perform in private.” He shrugged his shoulders.
    Oh, there was no explosion within O’Hare Airport that day, but I will never feel the same about flying again.


    1. That’s an unfortunate story for all involved. I’m sure you weren’t the first to ask the security guard about his colleague, nor were you the last. It is a sad observation about how a simple regular act of prayer today can now raise fears. Then again, I would be equally troubled if I saw, say a pilot, pull out a rosary before a flight.


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