I've spent a lifetime traveling, but not all of it has been smooth sailing. This month I'd thought I'd share the top 10 lessons I've learned while on the road. After all, someone ought to profit from the knowledge I've gained the hard way.
- Be sure of what you know. One of my earliest mistakes was finding myself at the Delta terminal when I actually wanted to be at the Delta Shuttle. I hadn't realized how easy it is to get them mixed up. The lesson is, know your point of departure, because a simple error may mean you'll miss your flight.
- Be really sure of what you know. Not only is it easy to mix up similarly named terminals, it's easy to mix up the domestic terminal from the international terminal. They're not always side-by-side, and one time at Logan I found myself sprinting with a rolling suitcase because the Air Canada domestic terminal is nowhere near its international terminal.
- Plan your parking. Really. Not every terminal has customs. Just because you depart from one terminal doesn't mean you'll be coming back to the same one (check your ticket). Plan your parking accordingly, because customs might be in different terminal.
- Test out the horn. When you rent a car, before you switch on the ignition, take the time to figure out where everything is, instead of finding yourself in a rainstorm blindly searching for the wiper button.
- Be alert for free benefits. When it comes to car rentals, you can often secure "preferred" status for free. The few minutes that the sign-up process takes can end up saving a lot of time on the other end. One time when I rented a car in Miami I thought I could just jump onto the bus taking me out to the lot with the cars. I ended up waiting on that bus for 20 minutes because my car wasn't there. It would have been, however, had I signed on for preferred status with the car rental agency ahead of time.
- Check your hotel before you book. Check to ensure that the hotel you're about to book really has the amenities and services important to you. For example, if you plan to pack a gym bag, make sure the hotel actually has a workout room; or if you need a wireless Internet connection, don't automatically assume your hotel has it.
- Check your room before you unpack. I remember the hotel room I booked that was right next to an ice machine. That's where I learned that if an ice machine bothers you at 3 p.m., it's going to bother you at 3 a.m., too. Don't tough it out; ask to move right then.
- Check on what's up at your hotel. You may think you booked a quiet room at a quiet hotel, like I did once, only to discover that they were holding a Jimmy Buffet event! If you want to be sure of a good night's sleep, be certain that no noisy weddings or conventions are scheduled.
- Keep your ticket stub handy. Once I got on a flight where one of the passengers inadvertently shoved his ticket in a coffee cup and then shoved it into a seatback pocket. Then he moved to another seat. Naturally he couldn't find his ticket, which resulted in holding up a hundred people behind him. The lesson is, keep your things in the same place so you get into the habit of finding things fast. Be consistent. For example, keep a big manila for all of your travel receipts. Otherwise you will find yourself losing things even though you still have them.
- Get your snacks before boarding. Coffee is a big thing with me, and I know that when the weather is bad, coffee won't be served in turbulence. So I get it before boarding. And I always pack a bag of peanuts or M&Ms, because you never know how long your plane is going to be held -- and they don't serve food till after you're airborne.
Jul 1, 2005