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Flying to Mexico; 25 Things You Absolutely Must Do Before You Board a Plane

Traffic-clogged airports. Malfunctioning check-in machines. Brusque TSA agents. Overpriced restaurants. Chaotic boarding procedures. The fight for dwindling overhead space…not to mention the armrest.

Flying today is a practice in pandemonium. Unless you mix a little preparation into your process, that is. Here are 25 simple strategies every traveler can undertake to travel in relative comfort and calm for a more peaceful experience.

Download and Use Your Airline’s App

Unless you’re checking a bag, there’s no reason to queue up at the check-in desk or deal with a fingerprint-smudged kiosk at the airport. Download your airline’s app ahead of time, make sure your reservation details are in, and then use it to check-in. That way, you can head straight to security when you arrive at the airport. Delta’s app will even check you in automatically 24 hours in advance of your flight. Several airlines, including Alaska and Southwest, now offer free onboard entertainment via passengers’ personal devices through their apps, so you should have them on your phone anyway.

Get The Airline Credit Card

Don’t fly enough to earn elite status? Airline credit cards like the United Explorer and American’s Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select offer cardholders perks similar to elites, including free checked bags and priority boarding. Carrying one of these cards can save you money on luggage and ensure you’ll find carry-on space in the overhead bins ahead of the crowd.

Have a Status Strategy

Speaking of airline status, if you are going for gold (or silver, or platinum) this year, make sure your frequent-flier number is attached to all your airline reservations. Even if you’re not flying your usual carriers, chances are the airline you’re on is partners with another you fly more frequently thanks to alliances. That way, you can earn airline miles toward status on every single flight you take.

Check Aircraft Alternatives

Seats and amenities can vary dramatically, even from plane to plane within a single family of jets in a particular airline’s fleet. Before booking, look up flights on Routehappy to see which airlines on your route offer the roomiest seats and conveniences like in-seat power and the availability of Wi-Fi. Once you settle on an airline, double check the aircraft type and seat map on the carrier’s own site to make sure you’re flying the plane you want. After all, you don’t want to think you’re booking one of Qatar Airways’ QSuites only to end up with a random recliner. Why You Should Get Global Entry and How It’s Different Than TSA PreCheckIf you’ve ever arrived on an international flight carrying 500 passengers, you know that the line at customs can be brutally long.

Assess Your Seating Situation

Whether you like a window or an aisle, it’s worth checking SeatGuru‘s detailed seat maps to confirm your chosen place on the plane won’t be too close to the galley or the lavatories, with their associated noises (and smells!).

Stay Organized

Keep all your information in one place by using App in the Air or TripIt, two apps that do things like consolidate your flight statuses, check-in times, gate numbers, and nearby lounge locations, and will update you on schedule and gate changes.

Check Real-Time Reports

Like a jilted lover, airline apps are usually the last to know when things are going wrong. Use FlightStats to track flight statuses, on-time performances, weather conditions, and even the flight history of your specific aircraft, all in real-time so that if your plane is delayed, you can be the first to know and the first to get rebooked.

Remember the Liquid Lowdown

Remember, any liquids you’re carrying through TSA checkpoints must be less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) and placed in a see-through bag no larger than a quart.

Sign up for PreCheck, Already

Keep those shoes and belts on, leave the liquids and laptops in your bag, and forgo the full-body scans by getting TSA PreCheck. You could pay $85 for PreCheck itself, or spend $100 for Global Entry, which also confers PreCheck (usually) as well as expedited immigrations and customs access. Several credit cards, including the Capital One Venture and the Bank of America Premium Rewards card, will even refund you the application fee for either program.

Investigate Security Speed

Bypass the worst security checkpoints at over 200 airports around the globe by tapping into the MiFlight app’s crowd-sourced, real-time checkpoint waiting times.

Size Up Your Bag

Sighting a new revenue source, many airlines have instituted strict size limits for carry-on bags, which are stringently enforced by eagle-eyed gate agents. Check your bag’s dimensions at home and make sure they adhere to your airline’s limits. Keep in mind that European carriers’ limits vary slightly from those in the U.S. Blame it on standard versus metric.

Gather Your Gadgets

Phone: check. Laptop: check. Tablet: check. Camera: check. Spare charger: check. Power cords: check. Travelers are carrying more electronics than ever. Luckily, there are organizer cases galore to keep all your devices and cables within reach and ready for security screening.

Remove Those Batteries

Due to fears of onboard fires, airlines have instituted smart luggage battery bans since January 2018. If your bag has a battery pack, be prepared to show that it is removable in case your bag has to be gate-checked. But don’t leave that battery pack at home, necessarily. Just because your airplane seat is supposed to have power ports does not guarantee that they’ll actually work when you’re on the plane.

Grab and Go

Hate airplane food, but afraid you’ll miss boarding while waiting in a line at an airport restaurant? Use the Grab app to pre-order and pay for items at participating restaurants and vendors at over 30 airports in the U.S. and U.K. Place your order on your ride to the airport and pick it up on your way to the gate without breaking stride.

Connect for Less

Many airports offer free Wi-Fi, but beware of hackers. Using a VPN offers a measure of protection. Several American Express credit cards, including the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and the Platinum Card, offer complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi access in case there are no free networks available.

Lounge Around

Why wait at the gate when you can enjoy free Wi-Fi and snacks in the comfort of a loungeLoungeBuddy posts reviews on airport lounges around the world, including their entry requirements and how you can score day passes. Several premium credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card from American Express, confer access to hundreds of Priority Passlounges worldwide. Frequent travelers can also consider airline-specific cards such as the Delta Reserve or United Club Card, which get you into a particular carrier’s clubs. The agents in them can also usually help you faster than those out in the terminal, and get you rebooked if something goes awry with your travel plans.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

Airplane cabin climate settings seem to vacillate between icebox and toaster oven, with no habitable happy medium in between. And no one wants to touch those germy air nozzles, which only provide a hissing draft of dry air anyway. Dress for any contingency by wearing multiple light layers, and look stylish to boot.

Stick Your Neck Out

As airlines squeeze more and more seats into coach, ergonomics seem to be flying out the window. Luckily, travel pillow technology has never been better, with options for every type of sitter and sleeper. It’s time to invest in a quality travel pillow that will spare your neck and back the worst effects of a long flightin cattle class.

Bring Your Own Bottle

Avoid single-use plastic (and a bottle of water that costs $8 post-security) by bringing an empty travel water bottle with you instead. Some are even collapsible to save you space, and more airports have installed water bottle filling stations next to drinking fountains to make carrying your own that much more convenient.

Disinfect…Everything

Due to the number of people passing through and touching everything, airportsand airplanes are some of the germiest places around. Protect yourself as much as possible by using disinfecting wipes on your hands and your airplane seat once you get settled. Because they’re not liquid, like hand sanitizer, wipes will also not count toward your carry-on liquid limit.

Moisturize Like a Maniac

Even on next-generation jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350, cabin humidity levels rarely top 20% (and are only around 8-10% on conventional aircraft). To avoid looking like a prune after your flight, pack a light moisturizer and apply it frequently.

Get a Jump On Jet Lag

Flying across multiple time zones? Use an app like Entrain or Timeshifter before you fly. Both help you gradually shift your pre-travel schedule toward your destination time zone based on your specific plans and preferences so that by the time you fly, you’re already ahead of Jet Lag.

Park Like a Pro

Airport parking lots can fill up quickly during the busiest travel times. Use SpotHero to reserve a place in advance at lots near over 40 airports throughout the U.S.

Understand Your Credit Card Protection

Flight delays and cancellations happen. If you travel frequently, it pays to carry a credit card you know will protect you under certain circumstances. Many offer compensation for delays, cancellations, lost luggage, and more if you use them to pay for travel plans. So if you have to spend money staying somewhere overnight or to replace certain items, it won’t come out of your bottom line. Before traveling, read your card’s benefits packet carefully to understand what you’re entitled to and how to go about claiming it.

Investigate Intelligent Insurance

Beyond delays, cancellations, and lost luggage, which are covered by most major credit cards, you might want to insure an expensive trip with a policy that includes provisions for emergency medical evacuation and cancellation for any reason. InsureMyTrip.com is a convenient resource for comparing travel insurance plans from major providers including Allianz and AXA.

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Don’t Forget your Passport and Visa

25 Travel Tips: Packing, Planning and Enhancing Your Experience

“Explore the world with an open mind, a sturdy carry on, and clothes that don’t wrinkle.”

-Madeleine Albright-

TIPS FOR PLANNING:

1.  Don’t Overplan:  When planning exploration of an exiting new destination, it is a knee-jerk reaction to jam in as may cities, attractions and excursions as humanly possible, but this type of travel will leave you feeling rushed, exhausted and under appreciating the actual worth of the sights before you.  Narrow down the list to the areas or highlights that are most important to you and focus on spending quality time in each.

2.  DO Plan for Downtime. With rich culture and history, stunning architecture or world famous art, some destinations make it impossible to envision wasting even a single moment on such a mundane task as sleep.  If you are traveling as a couple, and especially as a family with children, it is vital to yourself and your little people that you leave plenty of time to breathe, relax and recoup. Downtime allows room for an adjustment or addition to plans, and you will find you actually bond best in those quieter moments as you take time to breathe, listen, smile and soak it all in.

3.  Set a Realistic Budget:  Travel costs can quickly add up, so to avoid blowing the budget, factor in costs that will be above and beyond airfare and accommodations.  Items including food, alcohol, tipping, airport transfers and rental cars, excursions and entry fees, cleaning, parking, resort/hotel fees and taxes are common additions.  This is a reason all-inclusive resorts are a great budget option to consider.

4.  Keep a Running List:  Packing and To-Do lists are an excellent way to ensure piece of mind.  By keeping a running list, you can add or delete items as the date draws near.  Saving the lists to a spreadshseet for future use is a great way to remove those excess items that come with the experience of travel.

5.  Check Your Passport:  I cannot state this strongly enough!  Know the expiration date, be aware of the amount of time it must be valid for during travel,and renew well in advance.  Take a photocopy (and even additional passport photos) with you, and leave another copy at home or work with your emergency contact.  You can also take a photo to place in virtual storage.

6.  Create a Virtual Storage Box:  Virtual storage clouds are a perfect backup for the safety of items such as mobile photos, photos of passports and even all of your email or social media login access information.  Should your mobile phone be lost or stolen, those irreplaceable images and necessary information can still be recovered.

7:  Alert The Bank/Credit Card Company of Travel:  To avoid having your travel spending appear as suspicious activity and your account thus frozen, alert your card holder that you will be traveling.

8:  Secure That Which You Leave Behind:  As difficult as it is, social media is not the place to advertise that you will be away and your home is empty.  Have someone check on your home (this is often required for insurance purposes).  Have someone clear snow or cut the lawn, and bring in the paper.  Do not leave valuables visible in the windows.  Removing the telltale signs that the home is empty is a simple way to improve safety.

9.  Line Up Pet Care Well in Advance:  If you require a pet sitter or kennel care for your furry family members, ensure this is booked well in advance (especially over peak holidays) to avoid disappointment and panic.

10. Renting a Car?:  In order to rent a car in a foreign country, you may require an international drivers permit.  If your are from Canada, you can find more information HERE.  ‘The IDP provides you with additional photo identification and includes a multilingual translation of your valid Canadian driver’s licence.’

11 Beware of ‘Free Public Wifi’:  In order to avoid hefty roaming charges, it is convenient to plan hopping onto free public ‘hot-spots’, but you should always use with caution to avoid being hacked.  This includes internet cafes, airports and even hotels, where you should look for encrypted channels with the website prefix https.  You should not perform any personal banking, ensure you use long, strong passwords and switch off your wireless connection when not in use.  Consider purchasing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) contract prior to departing.

TIPS FOR PACKING:

12.  Don’t Put All Your ‘Eggs’ in One Suitcase:  In order to avoid panic should a piece of luggage fail to appear at the arrival carousel, ensure you divide clothing up between suitcases.

13.  Carry a Set of Essentials in the Carry-On:  Lost luggage happens.  Spills happen.  Kids happen.  Keeping items such as a swimsuit, toothbrush, deodorant, underwear and change of clothes in your carry-on assures you can handle an unexpected event such as a flight delay or bag that is MIA.

14.  Carry a Pen:  If you are taking an international flight, you will often have paperwork such as customs forms to fill out enroute.  By carrying a pen, you can ensure this is done in a timely manner.

15.  Headphones:  Passenger do not wish to be pelted with sounds coming from a mobile device or laptop.  Airline headphones can be ill fitting or non existent, so in order to fully enjoy movies, games or music without disturbing those around you, bring them….borrow them…beg for them…just use them.

16.  A Re-Usable Travel Mug/Bottle:  A re-usable mug comes in handy for an early morning coffee on the beach or to tote water along for the day.  Many destinations have drinking fountains to refill your bottle, and you will avoid paying the exorbitant prices for disposable along the way.

17.  A Light Scarf:  Scarves offer genius, versatile travel solutions.  Whether it is to keep out the chill of the evening, or to cover bare shoulders upon entering a religious house of worship (many require it), scarves are an easy, light weight option.

18.  Humidity Weighs on You:  When packing, ensure you know your luggage weight allowance as airlines charge hefty fees for exceeding these limits.  If you are traveling to an area that is higher in humidity, the moisture in your clothing can actually cause your bags to weigh heavier.  It is always piece of mind to travel with a portable luggage scale.

TIPS TO ENHANCE YOUR EXPERIENCE:

19. YOU do YOU:  It is a hot debate: Traveler vs. Tourist.  My opinion?  Be both.  Embrace both. Travel how YOU want to travel, it’s your journey.  Never miss out on a touristic epicenter based on someone else’s opinion.  Every diverse corner of the earth is deserving and worthy of you forming your own opinion from experience.  You won’t love everything (and that’s okay!) but you came to your own conclusion.  So take that cheesy photo and splurge on the overpriced cheesecake…heck, eat it for dinner. You do you.

20.   Listen to the Locals:  You will not receive better advice on your destination than from someone who proudly calls it ‘home’.  Locals are a gateway to the unheard of, the incredible ‘hidden gems’.  From quiet beaches to hole-in-the-wall eateries, locals love to share their favorite spots, many of them offering a more authentic experience that is less expensive and nearly tourist free.  Take the time to listen to their stories, to show respect and interest, for in return they will share an opportunity for genuine connection that you cannot duplicate.

21.  Embrace the Unexpected:  No matter how much time and effort you put into planning your travel, there are going to be moments that are out of your control.  From a lengthy flight delay or extreme weather to accommodation conundrums, staying positive is key.  Oftentimes it is those unplanned moments or events that lead into the most memorable stories and experiences.

22.  Show Love for the Language:  Learning a few key phrases such as “please”, “thank you” or “good morning” will go a long way.  It is about making an effort, and locals are always appreciative.

23.  Consider Hiring a Photographer:  One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family is a portrait session.  Having a professional capture your entire family in a beautiful, foreign setting is unique and well worth it.

24.  Take Notes:  In between those moments of getting lost and embracing experience, take notes.  Keep a journal to reflect on, and to recall the name of that hike with the incredible view, that restaurant with the amazing tortellini, that secluded beach or the name of the local who shared his table and his wine. There are great apps so you can do this directly on your mobile while traveling, a popular option is Evernote.

25. You are on an Adventure, so be Adventurous!:  Some of the greatest adventures begin when you lose your map and your rigid-routine self.  Search out the narrow pathways that lead to smiling faces and hidden corners.  Try new foods, especially the ones that look strange but are loved by locals.  Try an activity that pushes your comfort zone such as diving, parasailing or swimming with sharks.  Open your soul to adventure!

Source: travelandleisure, passportsandpigtails

The Mazatlan Post

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