Savvy Tips for the Unseasoned Traveler

Want to get through airport security faster? Get in and out of baggage claim in a jiff? Spend less, a lot less, on food? Next time you go to board a flight, keep these four tips in mind.

Wear Slip-on Shoes
Dressing for air travel used to mean donning a semi-formal outfit suitable for the occasion. Today, with the objective to get through airport security without delay, the dress code favors the practical. In addition to having to remove belts and jackets, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening policies require all able passengers to remove their shoes for scanning through security. The latter is what seems to take the longest, particularly for children. To keep it simple and quick, sandals are the obvious choice in summer but not everyone likes to travel in half-bare feet, either because they get cold or trampled. Moc, Crocs, Clogs and slides make great alternatives, as well as Toms. Pack a pair of socks or compact slippers for warmth on the plane. Speaking of slippers, if tweens and teens are permitted to wear hard-soled slippers to school then surely these would qualify for air travel too. Uggs and Sketchers make a variety of slippers, most lined with soft, furry fabrics to keep the feet warm.

Luggage Ties and Handle Wraps
Unless you have a unique suitcase, say pink polka dot or psychedelic, chances are yours looks like all the others. While it is not unique to recommend tying a ribbon to the handle, it is surprising that so few people do it. Distinguishing your luggage with a simple adornment costs little to nothing and makes it easy for kids, even the very young, to help identify your bag as it goes around the turnstile. Yes, a decoration can rip off during baggage handling, so secure it tightly or add a secondary item such as a luggage spotter or handle grip that includes a hidden ID window. Always include a business card or some identification inside the suitcase as well in the event that everything gets torn off. It happens!

Bring-Your-Own-Food
Pack a soft-sided cooler big enough for your traveling party but that will fit beneath the seat in front of you. Do not pack drinks as they will not be allowed on the flight unless they are 3.4 oz (100ml) or less (there are exceptions for formula and baby food, which can be found on the TSA website). Make hearty, generous sandwiches that won't get soggy in case there are delays, and even consider making two per person depending on length of flight and appetites. Rolls typically work better than plain sliced bread. Add chilled baby carrots and cut apples to the cooler. These not only make crush resistant, healthy snacks, but they help keep the contents cool. If you want ice but are worried about leakage, seal cubes in resealable snack bags to use as ice packs. Most soft-sided coolers have side pockets for dry goods. This is a good place for snack bars, dried fruit, mints, utensils, 3 oz paper cups and a few napkins. A bottle of water will cost between $3 - $5 past the security gates, so plan on sharing or waiting until your onboard where sodas and water are still served for free. Better yet, if you're traveling through San Francisco International Airport bring an empty reusable bottle and fill it up at one of the Water Bottle Refill Stations in the three post-security areas. Chicago's O'Hare and Midway International Airports have introduced similar green initiatives.

Blankets & Pillows
There was a time when every passenger on an airplane would be provided with a blanket and pillow, but when you think about it, would you really want to use these after the last 180 passengers disembarked? Today's ultra soft microfleece blankets are both warm and compact for travel. If standard microfleece is too bulky, plenty of department stores and discount stores carry travel blankets, some even as a set with matching eye mask. Eagle Creek, PB Travel and L.L. Bean offer a variety of travel specific blankets and pillows, but if you have a fleece throw blanket on the couch or the foot of your bed you may want to try that first before investing in something new. Pack the throws and pillows in reusable cloth shopping bags, which are easily overstuffed, handy during security check and, when empty, fold away just about anywhere.

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