With tongue securely in cheek, seat up and tray table securely fastened (or is that the seat belt?), I would like to share some tips to make your travels better:
Adjust your attitude and your altitude. Keep your spirits high, angels! I was born in the city of the angels, Los Angeles, and we were called angels. And "angels fly because they keep their hearts light" is my motto when I travel, and it really helps. Bags will be lost and delays will happen, so just roll with it. Try to resolve it via phone, Internet and the authorities there if you can. When you can't, vent to the people you sit next to. You will release the frustration and might even make a pleasant acquaintance. Or, you might irritate them and they might ask to have their seat moved as far away from you as possible. It's a crap shoot. You could end up married to your seat mate so "think positive!"
Copy your important papers and keep them in the suitcase -- this has saved much time and hassle for when passports are lost or stolen. A passport can be replaced within hours as opposed to days. Xerox all your credit cards so you'll have copies, too, and hide those -- but do have the numbers stored safely in case you have to report stolen credit cards.
Secure your money and passport when traveling to certain areas of the world where known pickpockets, purse-snatchers and gypsies are waiting near cruise ships or looking for unsuspecting travelers. You can buy pouches that hang around your neck and go inside your clothes. These handy hangers have zippers for cash and a passport. I think the closer your money is to you, the better. Remember this: You will always pat your body to feel where your money is. If it is in an outside pocket, that is where you will pat, and the minute a thief sees this you may be marked. So, play it safe. Or, dress to look like a gypsy and no one will mess with you.
Dry clean -- Cleaning bags (the cellophane ones from the cleaners') can be used to prevent wrinkles when used to roll silks and everything delicate and fragile, and they really work! (Just don't pack the kids or the dog.) And if you are against dry cleaning, please use ones from an earth-friendly dry cleaner.
Drive -- no, not the family car. Use baggage with wheels. Whoever thought of luggage on wheels deserves a Nobel Prize. People who have wheels on luggage are happy. People who don't have wheels and have lugged 55 pounds around might be grumpy. Grumpy people are no fun to be around. Therefore, make sure your friends have wheeled luggage even if you have to gift it to them.
Use skycaps -- I depend on them. They are under-used because of the above mentioned wheels on baggage. But I love the way that they make me feel like I'm not marooned on a little airline island in a big sea of airport. Plus, they are generally friendly.
Find a good travel agent. With everyone booking online, why would I suggest a travel agent? Because as good as you think you are, they are better. They are trained professionals. And, if anything goes wrong with your travel plans, you can call them. Now, this does not mean you call them at 4:00 a.m. for lost luggage, but if you get to an airport in Timbuktu and your names are not on the manifest, you need to call somebody. That somebody is your travel agent. And when the trip you are on needs revising, your travel agent can do it for you. That said, I make all my own travel arrangements and continually frustrate myself, so maybe I should take my own advice.
Under-pack -- Chances are that you are going to buy a bunch of "stuff." You can find lots of "stuff" where you are going. You may think you know what will be worn where you are going -- and you probably do -- but when you get there, you realize that which you really need is a hat or a muffler or a this or a that. You can buy a "this or a that" at your destination so it becomes special, having been bought on a travel. All you really need is a passport and toothbrush to start you on your way. And traveling light feels good, too! You can also pick a color scheme i.e. black and white, which makes light traveling easier. Camel and grey are nice together, as are navy and black or black and beige.
Say "yes". Whatever is asked of you, say, "Yes." This one I learned from others in other countries where it was spoken to me a kazillion times. Once, in Japan, my fluent-in-Japanese brother was trying to buy gas for his car. "You have gas?" he asked. He was told,"Yes." No gas was pumped (remember when they pumped it for you?). He said, "Are you out of gas?" "Yes." came the answer. Culturally, in Japan the word "No" is a no no! Everywhere in the world, people love to hear "Yes." So, why not? Yes, this is a powerful traveling piece of vocabulary! "Are you serving lunch?" "Yes!" and so you wait -- there are many funny "yes" stories for you to discover!
Get Lifelock Identity Insurance -- identify theft is real. People want your U.S. passport and papers. There is a card you can get for travel to Canada and Mexico that is called a "passport card" that takes the place of your passport (available at the same U.S. passport office) so you don't have to carry your valuable passport with you. I think this is the way of the future. Get one and use it for these two countries. You can even use it as I.D. if you don't have a driver's license. Never carry a social security card. Ever. No exceptions. Lifelock is Johnny-on-the-spot when your social security number is used to apply for credit or a loan and will contact you by phone or internet to let you know. It's under $15.00 a month and is one of the best investments or gifts you can make. No, I don't own the company. There are competitors but none operate like Lifelock.
Share your itinerary with at least one person. Make sure someone has it in e-mail form or you have called and listed the particulars. Even if it's your driving service, someone needs to know flight numbers and times and departure dates and arrival times and hotel reservations and the like. Not only in case you go missing, but you might need to be reached in case of emergency. I changed my plans in Scotland without telling anyone and long story short, the Scottish police was looking for me because I had left all my things in my hotel in Edinburgh to extend my stay in the Highlands. Next time, I want Scotland Yard!
Be there on time. Allow for traffic, accidents, gas fill-ups, rental returns -- life, in other words -- just don't screw up on your end. This halves the potential for headaches and disasters. Inspire others by showing up early, dressing as would a first class traveler, setting an example with your behavior and being an inspiration as you pass through the TSA with utter finesse à la George Clooney in Up In the Air.
TSA Screenings. A word after my last piece: I received over 100 letters and everyone had a valuable opinion. We are stuck with this TSA invasive presence. We have to deal with it and I tried to make light of it and make it more palatable. I have tried to become a preferred traveler to get through the TSA muck more easily and even armed with a PhD., I could not understand the TSA website enough to complete the application which asked about "their invitation?" What invitation? I also learned that TSA complaints are handled in-house by the TSA.
I visited Bozeman, Montana, a TSA training center, and yes, there is a bit of "nuking" going on so a "pat down" may be a better way to fly through the security "hands up" machine though these radio waves come with this information on the machine: 1/10,000 less than a three minute conversation on a cell phone. Lap tops have to be removed but tablets don't. And, for those of you who have stopped flying because of the TSA, please resume flying. Enjoy exciting planet earth.
Patricia Rust is an award-winning author, screenwriter, columnist, speaker and content creator whose website is www.patriciarust.com. She is also founder and executive director of the children's 501c3 literacy organization Power for Kids. Her last hit children's book The King of Skittledeedoo is now in its third Printing and her upcoming book I'll Call You Back is due out spring of 2013.