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.



Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet

When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. That is unless you are a multimillion dollar food conglomerate, in which case why are people throwing lemons your way? Can’t you pay for high-quality reusable shipping cartons to minimize the risk of bruising? But I digress.

Happy Lemon

This weekend ended much like any other weekend. The kids were tucked into bed dreaming dreams of firetrucks and / or monkeys while the hubby (who has now requested I refer to him as Lamont – my apologies to Lamonts) and I enjoyed a few hours of child-free television. Lamont was kind enough to pour me a lemonade. It wasn’t the fresh squeezed, homemade variety, but it would do. Ahh, I thought as I took a sip. Spring had finally arrived. I’d better enjoy the weather now as all too soon neon yellow pollen would fill the air and coat every surface in sight. I took another sip, savoring the sweet and sour taste.

I shifted from my spot on the couch. I couldn’t get comfortable. A weight seemed to press up against my lungs no matter which way I sat. It was almost like being pregnant without the hormones. I took another sip while I sought a position that would relieve the pressure.

No amount of movement seemed to work. My breath became more shallow, my skin more hot to the touch. I turned to Lamont and calmly said, “I can’t seem to breathe.”

“What do you mean you can’t breathe?!” (I have a long history of understating things with regards to my health.)

“Is my face red? My skin is on fire.”

I looked in the mirror. Sure enough, both cheeks were brilliant lobster red. Another red stain spread down the center of my chest.

“I think I might be allergic to something in the lemonade.” (I am also a master at stating the obvious. It really should be on my business cards.)

Up until this point, if you had asked me if I had any allergies I would have said yes, to bee stings (something else I learned from an unfortunate experience), but now I know my body is still able to learn new tricks. Yay!

Confused LemonWe read the juice label as I took a Benedryl. Ingredients listed were water, sugar, and lemon juice. All words I could pronounce. All ingredients I enjoy in other forms on a fairly regular basis. Definitely nothing I expected to trigger an allergic response. The product advertised that it was all natural. Was it possible that some bees were accidentally ground up (naturally of course) in the manufacturing process along with the lemons?

The next morning (thank you Benedryl) I fired up the computer to see if anyone else might have written about a similar complaint. I learned my reaction is considered rare (lucky me!), but I also learned a few things about the juice manufacturing process that aren’t exactly advertised. Being the great moderately acceptable parent that I am, I feel it is important to practice sharing (even if it is a little off my usual topics).

For example, I learned that as part of the preserving process all chemical that give a naturally squeezed juice its flavor are removed leaving behind a tasteless liquid that no one would buy. The manufacturers then put in flavor and scent packets to give the juice back its, umm… err… juiciness depending on the tastes of a specific market. They don’t have to declare the specific make-up of these packets on the labels because they are supposed to be based on derivatives of the base ingredients (It’s a Fruit Loop-hole). A little citrus by-product here, a pitch of black magic rind there. Voila! Bon Appetit!

lemonscaryThese flavor packets can change depending on where the fruit is harvested and when and can be created by third party designers. Therefore not only do I still not know exactly what it was that caused the reaction, I also have no idea whether this was a one-off reaction or if more products could affect me in a similar fashion. Breakfast could become my own version of Russian Roulette! (Don’t ever leave me, coffee…)

You aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover (except for mine because my cover is awesome), but I didn’t realize you weren’t to judge a product by its label too (up until now I thought that was the point of the thing). Maybe one of these days I’ll learn a lesson the easy way. Here’s to truth in advertising!