Traveling? Do’s and Don’ts for Both the Experienced and the Novice Airline Traveler

An updated version of a recycled post with a few more tips tacked on.

The whole Knee Defender episode has gotten a lot of people hot under the collar about flying these days.  Yes, leg room is less as airlines are cramming more seats into aircrafts and overbooking their flights but it does not mean that people need to be nasty.  I have been known to recline my seat but usually only on longish flights and never when there is a meal service being offered.  Different planes vary on how upright the seats are to begin with so my rule is just to be considerate and use some common courtesy.

I am a traveling kind of gal. Whether it be by car or airplane–whatever means it takes to get me from Point A to Point B —I usually love the entire experience. This month finds me with trips to North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Like I said—I am a traveling kind of gal.
Airports are always a great place to people watch and I prefer arriving early just so I can see what is going on all around me. Usually my trip to the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport includes a trip to Starbucks where the barristas seem to have difficulty with my name.

When I travel with “Mr. Diamond” I am treated to top of the line service. Easy check in, pretty yellow priority tags on my luggage which ensures it gets handled first, and always courteous treatment and thanks for being a valued customer. When I am on my own (although I currently have Gold status and usually get TSA Pre-Pass) I have to go through the normal security line, usually travel in steerage (I try to get Economy Comfort or exit row) and don’t always get those flashy yellow tags. Either way I don’t mind. Yes, the special treatment is a little nicer but as long as I reach my destination I am happy.  Maybe I should say as long as my luggage also meets me in my destination I am a happy camper.
My recent travels have made me think about some of the things that happen when traveling. There are some great ways to be able to handle airport and airplane travel a bit easier so here is my quick list off the top of my head without much thinking.
1.Know the “rules” of your particular airline that you are using. A little preparation ahead of time by just going to their website can save a lot of time and high blood pressure upon arrival. Know what their rules are on luggage sizes and how to transport pets!
2. Live and breathe the 3-1-1 rule. It applies to EVERYONE flying in the US. No liquid more than 3 ounces each in a 1 quart bag with 1 allowed per traveler. You would be amazed at how much you can fit in a 1 quart bag. Have it already bagged BEFORE you go through security–ready to pop in the bin.
3. Don’t forget that that last minute purchase of a liquid might not be the thing you want TSA to pull out of your luggage. On a trip over Valentine’s Day Chris and I witnessed a thoroughly embarrassed middle aged woman try to escape the TSA’s loud announcement that the lovely tube of KY Warming Jelly was larger than the allowed 3 ounces. Oh the mortification as he pulled it out, held it high and announced to her that if she wanted to go back and put it in her checked luggage she could do so…..

Image from since I don't have any of this in my house.  :-)

Image from since I don’t have any of this in my house. 🙂

4. Once in the security line please make sure that you are ready. Be a Scout—prepared to take off those shoes, belt, that sweater, and the lovely accent scarf that you have donned to complete your airport attire.If you have clunky jewelry or sunglasses—put them in the bin right away so if they trigger the detectors you already have it covered.  Have your liquid bag, your laptop and anything else that needs scanned out and ready and move, move, move as quickly through the line as possible.
5. If you know what you are doing avoid lines with families and frail older people or people in wheelchairs. This is not being mean—-it is just a matter of fact that this is going to lengthen your wait time in security if you get behind strollers laden with Cheerio encrusted toddlers and the occasional pensioner who depends on a wheelchair for transport.
6. Once you are in the boarding area PAY ATTENTION! The time on your ticket that says “Board Time” is not absolute but you should be there by that time to ensure that you hear all the instructions for boarding. The flight attendants and gate staff can be very helpful but only if you ask!  Just make sure you allow them time to finish all the work they need to do for the last flight out of the gate before you approach them for your later flight.  Their priority is to get the flights out on time and they can get snippy at times if you try to get help for a flight that is not up on the board yet.
7. Board when it is your zone. Most airlines board by designated zone with a few exceptions. Pay attention and don’t board when it is not your zone being called. That just makes people angry.

8.  Pay attention to your carry on size.  Just because you don’t want to pay the extra fees does not mean you should test the waters and take the largest carry on on board.  On the smaller planes they just do not fit.  The flight attendants will tell you that.  LISTEN to them. They know the capacity of the bins and you don’t want to be the one who is swimming upstream like a salmon on a full flight trying to get your suitcase gate checked.  Trust me on this one.

9. Be careful when you do board the plane that you don’t bump everyone on the way down the aisle with your luggage or handbag.  It is often a tight fit so the best protocol is to keep your luggage close to your body and not swinging wildly where it will whack someone (probably me) in the face.  Ouch.
10. Finally my basic rule of thumb is simply to BE NICE!!!!! I find that engaging the TSA folks as well as the airline folks in simple polite conversation makes a world of difference. Just think how many bozos these people have to deal with on a daily basis. If I can smile and say “thanks and have a great day” to them maybe it will in turn affect the way they react to the next person in line.

So there you have it—just a quick list of a few helpful tips. Nothing revolutionary or new but just practical every day tips. Got any of your own? Please feel free to share in the comment section.  Don’t forget that comments this month go to support Bridges Mentoring. 


  1. People can get nasty on planes, for sure! Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’re all just trying to get somewhere and not to take things personally. Everybody is dealing with something, so be courteous and forgiving when people are not courteous in return. Thanks for the tips!

    • You are so right—I find niceness gets me a lot farther than being nasty. My flight to PIT was great last week–let’s see how today’s flight home works out. 🙂

  2. Perfectt! Agree on all of it! The thing I don’t like about traveling now is how long it takes everyone to find a spot for their ‘carry-ons” and sit. When the plane lands, it takes forever to get off while waiting. It can really hold up people with short connections! I still always check my luggage just because of all that! That said, I really do love to travel and love to explore all of the different airports!

  3. Great job, Beth! I do not travel much any more, but you are spot on with advice and attitude….and of course, you made me laugh!!

  4. All I like to take on board is a backpack that fits my purse, books and something to write with. The TSA prechecked is wonderful! I’m glad they are saving time and manpower with that relatively new policy.

  5. Nice seems to work in most situations, doesn’t it? My niece worked for Delta and she confessed that airline staff respond much better to nice. As far as random TSA recheck, did you see in the paper last week it’s being discontinued unless you pay for the service? I’ll miss it but I don’t think I’m going to pay the $85.

  6. I learned it’s much easier to wear yoga pants when traveling. There are no pocket, belts or zipper to deal with. You get through much quicker. Having said that, I do not enjoy traveling at all.

  7. I hate to admit this, but your list pretty much sums up why I’d rather drive than fly!! Traveling by car, while slower, means I don’t have rude/slow fellow travelers to put up with. Nor do I have to practically disrobe just to board, Ha!

  8. I am with Debbie! I am not a good flyer. BUT I think your post today is very helpful. If I have to fly, I am coming back here and reading. You are a traveling gal!

  9. Great advice! I love to fly, but don’t do a lot of it, so I always fear that I, the one that stands out like a sore thumb as the person who doesn’t know what they are doing!

  10. katybethjensen says:

    I like to fly and while security makes me a little anxious I usually get through without too much drama. I guess the only thing I might add is be prepared to wait and make it part of the adventure. Weather delays, mechanical delays, and stupid people delays are all apart of the traveling game no matter what mode of transportation you take off on.
    Too funny about the KY. Mostly, because it didn’t happen to me!

    • I agree about the patience thing. It is always interesting and usually entertaining to watch all that is going on around –that is for sure. The KY was hysterical. The woman was mortified and trying to just melt into the carpet. I will NEVER forget that and yes—-it would have been mortifying if it had me. I imagine Mr. Diamond would have risen to the occasion if it happened to him and had something witty to say.

  11. Oh my goodness. This post made me giggle, but has very solid tips. Traveling can be so stressful!

  12. Hey girl — I’m flying to Florida next month so these will come in handy!

  13. I’ve probably thrown away a 100 bottles of water. Travel tips great.

  14. Lacey Waller says:

    I loved this post, brings back so many memories of my traveling experiences. That’s for sharing

    • Thanks, Lacey. It is simple advice but I have found that a lot of people are just stymied when it comes to figuring out what to do in airports. Maybe it will help a little bit!

  15. My add: If you’re going to take nail clippers in your carry on, make sure you’ve detached the nail file attachment before you go through security. I lucked out the last time we flew, I didn’t realize this regulation & the security guy gave me the option of going back & putting it in my checked baggage or allowing him to break it off. I let him break it off & thanked him very nicely for giving me an option.

  16. I’m glad I don’t fly much!

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