I'm a ghostwriter but I travel more than you might think. Meetings with clients, meetings with publishers (many of whom still seem to think the only way to conduct business is over lunch), plus I speak about twenty times a year. Bottom line, lots of airports. Lots of mistakes. Lots of lessons learned.
- Consider a backpack instead of a briefcase or satchel. Easier to carry, multiple pockets/exterior pouches, plenty of room. Who cares if it doesn't look as cool.
- Keep all your chargers in your carry-on. Checked bags get lost. You can live without clothes but not phone or laptop chargers.
- Carry a mini power strip or power splitter. For $10 you can turn one outlet into two; if all the outlets are taken you can easily "borrow" one.
- Always sit near the front of the plane. Besides the fact you will deplane quicker, some planes have power outlets in the front section, even in coach. (Virgin always has power outlets in coach. Love Virgin.)
- Like kayak.com? I think you'll like Hipmunk.com even better, if only because you can sort results by "agony."
- Know the seats. Everyone loves exit row seats because of the extra leg room. Everyone hates the seats in front of the exit row because they don't decline. Seatguru does a fairly good job of showing seats, power availability, Wi-Fi availability, overhead TV placement, and where the galleys and bathrooms are located (especially important if you hope to nap.)
- Check in ahead of time. Many airlines bump frequent flyers to first class when seats are available, and the method is often first checked in, first upgraded.
- Bring offline stuff. Sometimes you won't get Wi-Fi. Sometimes you won't get cell service. Bring a book. Bring documents. Load up your laptop with work that will not require online access. Especially bring busy work. Focusing in airports and on planes isn't easy, which makes it the perfect time for relatively mindless tasks.
- Bring an empty water bottle. You can fill it once you're through security.
- Bring earphones, even when you don't plan to listen to music. If your seatmate grows tiresome put in your earphones. Works every time.
- Bring business cards. Just kidding. Don't be an in-flight networker. There's nothing worse... if only because we can't escape you.
- Be your own hot spot. My iPhone creates a handy hot spot: no Wi-Fi, no worries. Plus it's cheap since for $20 a month I get 2GB of data. (Can't watch movies, can do anything else.) And I can turn the capability on and off at will. Other hot spot options are available, so if you need Internet access and aren't sure if you'll have it carrying your own hot spot is the way to go.
- Check in by phone. Then you can use your phone as a boarding pass. Sometimes the scanner will struggle to read the image on a phone, so turn the brightness all the way up before you get to the front of the line. I've seen other people have to go back for a boarding pass, but I've never had a problem. (Some people carry a boarding pass as a backup.)
- Use airline apps. Some are admittedly better than others. Delta, United, Continental -- all pretty good.
- Consider a couple other apps. FlightTrack Pro provides detailed flight information, and best of all alerts for delays. Sometimes FlightTrack knows there is a delay before the gate attendants. GateGuru shows the food, shopping, and service options available in a number of different airports. City Maps 2 Go is a good offline map tool; download the maps you need and when you don't have cell service you won't be lost.
Those are my tips -- what are yours?
Photo courtesy flickr user eisenbahner, CC 2.0