We’ve been preparing Sean all month for Startup Grind Global. He’s booked his flight, reserved a hotel, and found a ride from the airport. At this point the average person might dust of their hands and call it a day. What could possibly go wrong?
This is Amanda reporting in and if there's anything I’ve learned from my previous life traveling the world for the US Army, it’s the inevitability of error. So whether you’re going to San Francisco for Startup Grind, or the [Redacted] for [Redacted], take it from me, you can never be too prepared.
Pre Flight Preparations
Let me start off by saying if you’re less than a week out and you still haven't bought your plane tickets, fix yourself. The internet streamlined the booking process and made travel simple and affordable, but it also created as many problems as it’s solved. Here’s what you can do to save time and money before you fly.
Studies show you get the cheapest rate when you buy your tickets early, on a Sunday, and fly out Tuesday.
Don’t just save your confirmation number. Get the contact information for the third party site you use (if you use one), the travel insurance information you really should buy, and all your flight numbers. When things go sideways you’ll need this information on hand.
Buying from a third party site instead of directly from an airline can save money, but when you miss your flight you’ll have to negotiate with the agent not the airline, which can make getting a new flight complicated.
Speaking of missing a flight, that’s why you want insurance, whether it’s your fault, the airlines, or the weather, delays happen. Also keep in mind, if the airport you’re flying out of has “international” in the name, there will be delays.
Unless you’re flying Southwest, confirm your seat assignments as soon as possible. Third party agents are cheap, but notorious for “selecting your seat” then failing to tell the airline. Check with them directly at least a week before and again when you check in to make sure they didn’t move you.
It sounds paranoid, but airlines routinely overbook seats. The best way to avoid getting dragged off a plane is to book early or buy a more expensive seats.
Use the 24 hour check-in. If there’s any issues with your booking, or the flight, or anything in between, checking in a day early gives you a chance to address it, before you’re standing in an empty airport at 4 am yelling at the only airport attendant in sight.
Once you have your ticket in hand the only thing standing between you and your plane is the airport. Airport security is the bane of any travelers existence (even for the pros). If you want your next trip to the airport to be less “hurry up and wait” and more “high speed, low drag” here’s what you’ve gotta do.
TSA Precheck, if you fly more than twice a year it’s totally worth it, I got it for free, but it’s only $85 for civilians.
Pack an outfit in your carry on, someone's bags are getting lost, be ready for the day it’s yours.
Wear socks and slip on shoes, when it’s cold only wear pullover sweaters (no jackets or scarves) and for the love of all things holy please take your laptop out before it gets to the conveyor belt.
Don’t yell at the TSA, just don’t do it.
Once you’re at your gate sit back, relax and finish reading that book you said you'd get to over a year ago and then never did, you’ve earned it
And if you’re nervous about flying, don’t be, you’re far more likely to die in a car crash driving to and from the airport. That’s comforting right?
In Flight Expectations
Once you’ve navigated the airport there are a few more details you need to attend to before you celebrate your trip with an in-flight cocktail (it’s totally acceptable to drink at 11 am if your 20,000 ft in the air).
Some items you’ll want with you when you fly:
- neck pillow
- eye mask
- headphones (ideally the noise canceling kind)
- the aforementioned book
- a downloaded spotify playlist
- maybe an app game
- “offline” work
- food and drink
Ginger is your friend. Ginger ale, ginger tea, ginger chews, whatever floats your boat. Air sickness is real and even iron stomachs benefit from reinforcement.
Ignore the flight attendants at your own peril. Sure you’ve heard the speech a thousand times, then again, I know how to jump out of an aircraft while in flight, do you?
When they turn of the seat belt sign get up a stretch your legs. Sitting is the new smoking, it’s bad for your health.
This one might be obvious but don’t leave anything important in the seat pocket in front of you, like an iPad, as an example.
Post Flight Habitations
Once you make it off the plane safe and sound the maze of baggage claims and airport parking garages is the last hurdle before you can finally crash land on the fluffy white sanctuary of your hotel mattress. Here are few final notes to take with you as you go:
Baggage claim is a lot easier if your bag is easy to spot and properly labeled. I recommend an olive drab duffle with your name written in bold black sharpie on the bottom, it’s a technique.
Check the pricing on airport transportation before you go, don’t get stuck at the rental car desk at the airport. Also, become a member of the rental car company of your choice. You can use the app, get points, and the best part: no line.
Airport roads typically mean toll roads, make sure you have a few bucks on hand when you leave just in case.
Have a phone charger handy, don’t get stuck in San Francisco traffic with a dead phone.
Finally, if you’re like Sean, perpetually hungry and from the east coast, Jack in the Box is open 24 hrs.