I’m waiting at ORD for my flight back home to TUS. Passing through TSA territory was not BAD. Here is a TIP or TWO to help you FLY with as much ease and comfort as you CAN.
1. Travel light. If you have to think about it, don’t bring it. Winter travel season is here, with flight delays and luggage confusion. Bring only what you need, and pack as much as you can into your suitcase. Carry-on luggage is under scrutiny like never before, and updated info is posted at TSA. When in doubt, leave it out. Buy and use a rolling suitcase that is either a strange color or uniquely decorated with peculiar tape designs or ribbons, for instant identification. Have your personal information inserted into several places within each item you bring.
2. Be self-sufficient. Bring your own solid food in your carry-on or jacket. Airport food is plentiful and improving in quality, but lines can be long during busy times. Place a day’s worth of vitamins and medicine in your pocket, for insurance if your luggage is delayed or lost. Travel with an empty water bottle that can be filled in the airport or aboard your plane. You will be served beverages on the flight, but probably nothing else worthwhile.
3. Computer common sense. Protect your laptop in a lightweight, strong, durable sleeve or case such as MaxUpgrades’ MaxSleeve. Place this sleeve into a sturdy rolling carry-on that can fit overhead or under a seat. Have your laptop battery fully charged, and ditto for your essential second battery. Bring along the power supply, wrapped in foam or neoprene. Never let the carry-on roller out of your grip or sight when you are on the ground, and make sure it too is either a weird color or decorated to avoid any possible confusion. When computing in the sky, close and put away your laptop during beverage service!
4. Digital domain. Place your fully-charged iPod into a secure case. I use this one from Matias Armor. Have earphones handy, not buried. Load your iPod with pithy podcasts from MyMac.com, both our original (Friday) and “mini” (Monday) editions. Cell phone battery must also be at capacity, with charging cable handy. Digital cameras deserve their own special column, that I hope to prepare soon.
TIP: Read David Weeks’ voice-of-experience article on laptop battery usage, here.
5. Attention please. My departure gate at O’Hare was just moved from K12 to H14, which is roughly the distance from Cupertino to Chattanooga. Keep your ears and eyes open in the airport, because gate changes are common.
6. Elbow room? Ha! Your plane will be full. Seated in front of you is a guy who is 6′ 4″ and 357 pounds, reclining all the way back. Behind you is a mother holding a crying, sneezing toddler who kicks the back of your seat every few seconds. You are in the middle seat, with a perfumed lady snoring on one side, and a boozing road warrior on the other who is reading the Financial Times with elbows flying like an ice hockey player. Be a good neighbor, especially if you are displaying your Mac laptop. You are among friends, although it may not appear that way. Only in an emergency do you extract from your carry-on the aroma therapy: a smoked salmon and banana sandwich half from four days earlier that has been unrefrigerated.
7. Split up. When assigned to the smelly, noisy rear of a plane, ask your airport gate agent or onboard flight attendant if you and your pal or spouse can sit closer to the front in exit rows or in separate seats. You may get lucky on this one, especially if you arrive at the airport far enough ahead of departure.
8. Destinations for dummies. When going to an unfamiliar airport, do research on how to get the heck out of there once your luggage arrives. Luggage carousels are changed on passengers without any announcements, so look for your suitcase where you least expect it to be. At OAK (Oakland International), a bus (AirBART) takes you to Oakland Coliseum BART station, with the ticketing and boarding processes not obvious to newbies.
9. We’re up! My flight is aloft now, and by pure dumb luck my seat assignment is perfect. I’m in seat 11F, which is a right side window seat in a 3-2 configuration. This or its equivalent in a left side A-seat is the best place to be if you plan to do any in flight computing. Although window seats are the most cramped, you can tuck your laptop and its sleeve between your knee and the interior wall of the airplane when you want. And even though there are often two seats between you and the aisle, if the middle seat is unoccupied, as in my row today, you can stow your carry-on under the middle seat ahead, giving you extra leg room. Window seaters control window shades, for glare-free computing at 37,000 feet. Bonus — window seats are best for napping, so grab a pillow and blanket upon cabin entry if your plane has them.
10. Back up or shut up. USB flash drives now cost around $20 for 1GB of storage, so you have no excuses for not bringing one along and making copies of all documents you create on your journey. I’ll do it now, I promise, before I close my PowerBook and start listening to this week’s MyMac.com podcast my iPod.
Please post your additional suggestions in our Article Discussion area below. Registration is free, and we value your contributions to our collective knowledge base. Then sit back, enjoy the flight, and send me an email to let me know you and your equipment + data arrived safely.