The holiday season is all about families and friends coming together and being thankful for the opportunity to celebrate each other's company. Whether it means hitting the road or taking the sky to celebrate with loved ones this week -- the busiest travel time of the year -- Thanksgiving travel can be stressful. So let's not forget how a little can go a long way and consider the small ways we can keep holiday spirits high at every part of the journey.
As a flight attendant, I'm constantly witnessing passengers juggling armfuls of bags, herding children and dragging strollers among the typical airport and inflight hustle and bustle. So, during this season when giving even just a little bit of yourself to someone else tends to mean the most, I love to jump in and help in any way that I can, whether it means finding passengers space to stow luggage in an overhead bin or leading a child to their seat while Mom manages checking large items at the gate. It's really a win-win-win to help out in this manner; by offering some assistance in even tiny ways, I am able to help bring a flight of customers home for the holidays even sooner.
You don't need to go out of your way to find a fellow traveler who could use a little help. It's as simple as being mindful and proactive throughout your trip.
In the airport:
• Be kind and courteous and take note if someone is in a real rush. Give a little of your extra time to a traveler who doesn't have any to spare. Let them go ahead of you through TSA or even cut ahead of you in line when trying to get a bottle of water before they have to board their flight.
On the airplane:
• Be prepared. Have your plan of action for where you're storing your items on board and aim to keep things moving when boarding so there isn't a backup on the jet bridge. Especially in these chilly months, try move quickly so that passengers heading onto the plane behind you don't spend too long waiting in the cold.
• If your family is separated throughout the flight, take initiative to ask the individuals around you if they wouldn't mind swapping or ask a flight attendant if they can help facilitate a seat change. While flight attendants are happy to help, we can't make anyone move from the seat they paid for. We love when passengers take the initiative to make the situation right and allow a child to sit with his parents. We'll even go so far as to reward an accommodating passenger!
• If you think you'll be cutting it close to a connecting flight, don't panic! Let a flight attendant know and we'll gladly ask the rest of the customers to remain seated until you've deplaned. We've all been there and know what a difference a minute can make - and when going home for the holidays, that minute can mean everything.
Doing something nice doesn't always need to be tied to solving someone's woes. Doing a genuinely kind act simply for the joy of putting a smile on someone else's face is one of the greatest things you can do. You should see what a pair of wings can do for even the littlest travelers! The small memento can make their whole flight all the more special or calm them down if agitated.
"What are your holiday plans?" is a question often asked this time of year, but it's particularly relevant when you're in the midst of travel; I love learning about our passenger's plans once their flight arrives. If I learn that a family still has a trip ahead of them to get to their final destination, whether it's Grandma's house or childhood friends' homes, I like to pack little "goodie bags" so the remainder of their journey is as special as their JetBlue flight. Yes, those seatback bags have more than one use! They perfectly store a bottle of water and snacks for the long road ahead and are greatly appreciated by recipients.
One of my favorite personal travel memories directly relates to having a long journey before being home for celebrations, unfortunately thanks to a very common fear for holiday travelers coming true: a cancelled flight on the night before Thanksgiving. During one of my very first years as a flight attendant, I had just gotten off of my last working flight after flying all day and was ready to leave Pittsburgh and arrive at home in Virginia, when that fateful announcement was made at the gate. Travelers had already begun dispersing, headed to find another way home, but six of us remained at the gate, without a clue about what to do. Still dressed in my uniform, I suggested that we all rent a car to get to Virginia. Though the flight was cancelled due to weather, I navigated the highways for a six-hour ride south with five strangers all huddled in a caravan. I was the pilot of that "plane," even though I was the youngest member of the group by many years. The long, strenuous drive literally flew by, occupied with engaging chatter in which we got to know a little about one another and our respective holiday plans. I learned a lot that night about the kindness of strangers and how truly magical it can make a holiday. While we were all devastated to learn that our flight had been canceled, everyone in the caravan was equally grateful to eventually arrive at our destinations just in time for the holiday -- and make some new friends along the way.
Traveling may seem stressful, but it can (and should be) as equally enjoyable as the holiday celebrations with friends and families it connects you to. Do your part and help make travel special for yourself and others by being aware of your surroundings and lending both a hand and a smile -- it's the little things that mean the most this time of year!
Do you have a favorite happy holiday travel story to share? Ping me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) to let me know how you keep the spirit high at any altitude.