A Pilot's Travel Preparation Tips
No matter how often you travel, it never hurts to review some travel advice from a reliable source.
A handful of business travelers fly more than airline pilots, but not many. Those who do know what a terrible grind traveling can be, and they have probably gotten it down to a science. If not, they won’t last long. Frequent travel can really wear you out.
The Marine Corps taught me the Five Ps: Prior planning prevents poor performance. This mnemonic device may as well have been written exclusively for travelers. Modern travel is stressful enough when it all goes according to plan, and even more so if you’re not properly prepared. How many times have you procrastinated before a big trip, only to have it come back around to bite you? I certainly have, and just when I think I’ve learned my lesson, I find that I’ve done it again. Most of the time, it’s just a small forgetful error, but sometimes
under-preparedness can be a real showstopper that severely impacts your trip or even your business.
A key aspect in the trip-planning stage is to have a system in place. If you travel frequently, prepare for your trips the same way every time. Either prepare a mental checklist or have one on paper (or on your laptop) that you can cross-check to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. My system dictates that I place all my documents in the same compartments in my luggage every time I fly. The same goes for personal items. Car keys go in the top left outside pocket, tickets and passport in the top center pocket, and so on. At this point, I can take a quick look in my suitcase and know just about immediately if anything is missing. This step can also speed things up in security, should a TSA agent question you about any item detected on the X-ray. You might also find it worthwhile to wear a watch and belt that won’t trip the metal detectors. The less you have to remove, the quicker and more pleasant your security experience will be.
When I travel, I always carry on my suitcases, and I highly recommend this for business travelers as well. If you have a large bag and are worried about lack of overhead space, be sure to request a window seat. In an effort to speed up the boarding process, some airlines board the window seats first now, to cut down on congestion in the aisles —so you’re more likely to board earlier, when there’s plenty of overhead space available. (If you’re a premier member of an airline’s frequent flier program and already receive priority boarding, this is less of an issue.)
If you’re as busy as most businesspeople, you’ll want to take advantage of instant flight status text messaging now available from most major airlines. The last thing you want is to show up at the airport and find out you could have spent more time at home or in the meeting you had to leave early. These status reports also give you the advantage of rebooking before many others, if an airline has to cancel a flight.
Another good tip I learned years ago: Never show up to the flight hungry. If you have no choice, then be sure to bring some of your own food as backup. At a minimum, I usually have a bag of nuts and an energy bar. Never put yourself at the mercy of a flight attendant in order to get a quick bite. There might be turbulence forecast after takeoff, requiring flight attendants to stay in their jump seats for a while. You’ll be much more relaxed and stress-free if you’re not hungry. Along the same lines, it is always a wise idea to use the restroom before getting on your flight. You never know how long it might be before the pilots turn off the seatbelt sign.
Travel is necessary in our fast-paced, global, connected world, and it can be rewarding if you have the right attitude. Just don’t forget the Five Ps, and you’ll be well on the way.
CHRIS COOKE is a pilot with a major domestic carrier. He can be reached at email@example.com.