THE BLOG
12/19/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Traveling Home for the Holidays

Whoever said "getting there is half the fun" never traveled during the holiday season... especially in a post 9/11 world. Travel has become more tedious and more tenuous. While traveling over the past few months, I have had my toothbrush case opened and toothbrush carefully inspected. As if I would use it again after those dirty latex gloves had touched the bristles! I have been patted down as my luggage was searched as a "courtesy" when my flight was canceled and rebooked on another carrier. Neither of these encounters put me in a festive mood. Needless to say, arriving crabby for a visit with friends and family is no way to begin the holidays. While Star Trek styled transporters are not yet available, there are things you can do to make your travel a bit more pleasant.

Ship Stuff -- Check with your carrier in advance. Most airlines charge and "excess baggage" fee and there are some charging fees to check even your first bag. It may be cheaper and more convenient to send your luggage ahead via UPS or the USPS.

Your E.T.A. -- How ever long you think it will take to travel, add more time (sometimes in minutes, sometimes in hours!) into the mix. Chances are good that you will hit at least one snag along the way.

B.Y.O.F. -- Do bring your own food. Even when you think food will be readily available, it is usually inedible, expensive or both. Bottled water is a must, but you will need to purchase it after you pass through security. Travel is dehydrating. Good travel food includes: candy bars, granola, bananas, oranges, raisins, bagels, pretzels, or other snack foods.

That's Entertainment -- After watching the 5th disgruntled passenger yell at the hapless gate agent, you will need something else to divert your attention. Presume you will be waiting (refer to ETA). Bring books, magazines, games, letters and other ways to pass the time to keep you (and your children) occupied during your travels.

Sound Off -- Compact disc players, digital video disc players and computers are all great for traveling. Do be sure to bring your earphones so no one else is forced to listen to your music, movie or game. If your headset is not sound-blocking, keep the volume low enough so your neighbors can not hear.

Stealth Slippers -- Please wear comfortable shoes! If you have ever been told that your "dogs bark," please keep your shoes on for the entire trip. No one should be forced to endure the torture of your smelly feet.

Lost In Space -- When traveling, we tend to become very territorial. Please be aware that we are sharing space with others. Look around before reclining your seat or taking up all of the storage containers with your luggage. Take a moment to say "excuse me" instead of crawling over your fellow travelers.

Take What You Can Carry -- Sure, pack all you want for your trip, but be prepared to check your bags. Both airlines and trains these days are watching to be sure that you only carry on two small bags with you. All other luggage belongs below. When you are packing, make sure all of your bags have your name and contact information easily located on them. It is a good idea to also tape a business card to the inside of your suitcase.

Dress It Up -- So many suitcases look the same. Be sure yours is identifiable to you. Ribbons, colored pop-pops or stickers can help your case stand out at the baggage carousel.

Lift And Load -- Be sure that you can lift your luggage. Although you will probably be able to find some kind Samaritan, there is no guarantee that there will be one on your trip. And most employees will not help lift heavy parcels.

Absolute Essentials -- You can presume that anytime a checked bag leaves your sight, there is a chance that it may be a while before you see it again. Your carry-on bags should contain any medications as well as a change of clothing and your toothbrush.

Luggage Locks -- Nowadays there are only certain luggage locks that are approved by the government. Other locks must be left open or risk being removed during checked baggage screening.

Heavy Metal -- Stay away from wearing any metal; the security screenings already take long enough. When you wear things that beep, you risk adding hassle and delay to your trip. This includes belt buckles, barrettes, under-wire bras, and even metal rods in the soles of your shoes.

What To Wear -- Do wear comfortable clothing for the trip, but please keep it a notch above what you would wear to clean the garage. Dark clothing and patterns helps to hide dirt and spills. Do dress in layers since often times the traveling space is unusually cold or unusually stuffy and warm.

Gotta Go -- Other than the pleasant surprise when I last flew Quantas, the majority of bathrooms on mass transportation are a step below "ugh!" When possible, use the facilities at your starting destination. And be sure to bring hand sanitizer lotion with you.

Yes, traveling can be difficult, but it is all worth it to be with those you love most during the holiday season.

Jodi R. R. Smith is a nationally known etiquette expert and author. To email your etiquette emergency, click to www.Mannersmith.com. Copyright © 1996-2008 Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce, copy or distribute this newsletter as long as this copyright and full information about contacting the author is attached.