If your trip to the RWA Conference in San Francisco marks your first airline flight in awhile, be prepared! The rules of the road have changed. As one who has come by my travel credentials honestly (and has the frequent flyer miles to show for it), I’ve got a few hints that will help make your airport adventure go more smoothly.
• This is old news, but never more important. American Airlines, and others, have announced a $15 charge to check a bag. (The second bag will cost even more.) Check your airline for requirements. Whether there is a charge for your bag will depend on what class of ticket you bought and when.
• I recommend no more than three pairs of shoes (and you’ll be wearing one!). And stick to a color scheme of neutrals and one color. That way, everything will go with everything.
• You can carry on a purse or briefcase and ONE bag that fits in the overhead bin.
Dress for security.
• You will have to take your shoes off. Wear slip on shoes or shoes with Velcro to get through quickly. No lace up athletic shoes, please!
• Keep your jewelry in your purse until you’re safely through. It can set off the metal detector. Rings are generally okay, but I’ve had silver bracelets give it fits.
• If you are carrying on lip gloss, makeup, contact solution, or any other gels or liquids, they MUST go in a one quart plastic bag and be placed prominently in the bin for scanning. And each container must be a three ounce size or smaller. A partially used four ounce container is NOT acceptable. (For me, this now means I always check my suitcase, since for any multi-day trip, I need more than three ounces of contact solution.) Yes, this means whatever is in your purse AND your suitcase if you are carrying it on. You can put however much you want in your checked luggage.
Make check in simple.
• Check in (online!) before you go to the airport. Print your boarding pass. Have it ready, with your photo ID, when you get to the airport.
• You’ll still need to “check in” to check your baggage, but the process should be quick. Use the self-service kiosk. It’s MUCH faster than waiting in line for a person. You’ll need a credit card, so they know who you are. Slip that in and out of the machine (your card is not charged) and follow the prompts. Note: despite my saying “no charge,” there may be a charge upon check in for the bag, depending on when you purchased your ticket and what kind of ticket you have.
• Once you punch in how many bags you are checking, and get confirmation, step away from the machine and wait a minute. An attendant will call out your name. Take your bag over, show the attendant your boarding pass and photo ID. S/he’ll tag your bag and either put it on the belt, or show you where to take it to leave for X-ray.
• Hold on to your photo ID and boarding pass and head for security.
• Don’t buy anything to drink on the way. You can’t take it through.
Plan your security strategy.• Some airports now have lines to sort travelers by level of complexity: frequent flyer, ordinary traveler, or families/people with special needs. If you can’t breeze through security on auto-pilot, don’t pick the frequent flyer line.
• Here’s my routine:
o Lay out three gray plastic bins:
o Remove shoes (now see why I said slip ons?) and jacket or sweater and belt, if you have one, and put in the first bin. (Yes, you have to take off any “outerwear” as well as shoes. And a belt buckle can set off the alarm.)
o Briefcase or purse goes in the second. The plastic bag with the gels and liquids can go on top in either bin. Any bags that go through security must be flat on their sides. Note that cell phones, change, anything that is metal must go in the bins, not stay in your pocket.
o The third bin is for your laptop, which must be scanned separately.
o If you are bringing a bag through, lay that on the belt last.
o Still clutching your photo ID and boarding pass, smile and walk through the metal detector when prompted.
o On the other side, the bin with your shoes and clothes will come though first. Grab them and slip your shoes and jacket on while the other two bins are being scanned.
o When the second bin comes through, set your briefcase up straight, grap the computer from bin three, and put it back in the bag.
o If you are not dressed yet, please do not stand at the end of the line. There are people and bins coming immediately after you. Hold on to whatever you haven’t got on and move away from the conveyer. There should be a bench or a chair nearby where you can put yourself back together.
o Make sure you have everything: cell phone, purse, boarding pass. You can now put away your photo ID.
Relax and prepare to fly.
• Now’s the time to buy a bottled water or two (airplanes are dehydrating) and a book or magazine if you haven’t brought something with you.
• Go to the gate, but stay alert. Gate changes and flight delays are not uncommon. Even once you get on the plane, you may be delayed in take off. Never get on a plane without reading material. You may be there for awhile. And on a flight to San Francisco, you may have time to finish that book --- just in time to load up on all the new ones you’ll get from conference!
In a previous lifetime, Blythe Gifford ran a national publicity campaign and authored a booklet of “Tips for the Woman Business Traveler.” Now, when not traveling on business, she time travels to the 14th century to write her medieval romances. Innocence Unveiled is out now from Harlequin Historicals.. Visit her at www.blythegifford.com.