How to be a good traveler

20 Apr

Traveling is usually it’s own reward.  As a former flight attendant (the best people watching job in the world) I have observed lots of travelers and noticed some ways to make travel always (or mostly) enjoyable.

A lot of it is attitude- If you have a flexible, patient, good natured attitude to begin with, everything will go easier.  If you start out annoyed, it will just get worse.  The folks working at the airport do not try and mess with you (well, sometimes they do – see below) and they will usually go out of their way to help easy going, friendly folks.

Anthony Bourdain , the host of the travel show “Parts Unknown” has a great quote in the New York Times.  He has strong feelings when it comes to the right attitude for travel, “Just be nice,” he said.  “Getting angry and frustrated in much of the world doesn’t help at all.  It’s incomprehensible, you lose face, it makes you look ridiculous.  Have a willingness to try new stuff.  Be grateful for any hospitality offered.  And be flexible in your plans, because a rigid itinerary is lethal to a good time.”


Pack light (see blog post about packing)  If you aren’t carrying around half of your belongings, you will be in a way better mood to start.  No matter how little I pack I always have too much!


If you are the organized type of person, or type A, just know that not everything will go as you planned.  Be open to the possibility that a change in plans can sometimes be the best part of a vacation.  If you are a control freak, realize that you can NOT change the weather, people, delays, reservation issues, or attitude of anyone else.  You CAN control how you handle all the issues that will inevitably arise and most likely have some adventures that will make the trip so much more interesting.

Air Travel-

Research the airport and make sure you give yourself extra time to get thru security.  If you travel a lot- sign up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry if you travel out of the US a lot. It is a fantastic way to save time and irritation.  If you are checking bags and checking in at the airline’s counter, be the nicest person you can possibly be to the ticket agent and you will get a better seat, more info and you can feel set the tone for a great trip.  Just watch how most people act at the counter- it is horrifying. Ticket agents deal with so many cultures, personalities, constant questions and have very physically demanding schedules- be kind and smile!

The same agents that work the counter also work the gate.  They will remember you!  If you are wonderful and kind and you are looking for an upgrade -if they have it available they will give it to the nicest person on their upgrade list.  I always bring treats for the gate agents and the flight attendants.  Usually individually wrapped chocolates – I give them when I check in and when boarding- I give them to the lead flight attendant who is usually just inside the door of the aircraft.  The best gifts are Starbucks cards.  I buy a bunch of $5 cards and ask how many in the crew.  There are 3 flight attendants and 2 pilots on most flights- Virgin America, SouthWest, West Jet, Spirit, and regional carriers.  If you are going overseas there is usually a big crew of 10 or more so I bring a box of Sees Candy.

Flight crews appreciate treats, respect, kind words and cooperation more than you can imagine.  They are usually working a 12-16 hour day and get paid very little.  Remember that when you are delayed, they are too and they are NOT getting paid.  Flight crews only get paid from the time the plane leaves the gate until it blocks in at the arriving gate.  They have nothing to do with weather delays or mechanical delays.  When the flight crew shows up late or at the last minute it is usually because their incoming flight was late and they have already worked one, two or three flights before yours.

I am really passionate about treating flight crews well as it is the hardest job I have ever had!  I have never worked with such amazing, intelligent, fun and fabulous people! Parts of the job are fun, but low pay, long hours, obnoxious people  and horrible schedules are all part of the job.  A little kindness from passengers will go a long way.

Delays- are inevitable- 

With a shortage of TSA workers, terrorist events happening around the world, mechanical and weather issues- delays are an everyday part of travel.  Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse and thinking that you won’t encounter any delays is just silly!

As a flight attendant I talked to so many people that didn’t give themselves a cushion of time to get to an event.  Always be early- plan to get to the city of your choice a day or two early and explore.  If there is a delay you will be there in time.

Have your travel toolbelt ready- Kindle loaded, yoga mat, needlepoint, music, headphones and phone charger, are always in mine.  Enjoy the peace of sitting still. Make your own little oasis in the airport or train station and breathe deeply- freaking out will not make a delay go away any faster.

Traveling is always an adventure- we might as well enjoy the journey – we learn so much by our experiences (good and bad) that inevitably enhance our world.



5 Replies to “How to be a good traveler

  1. Hi Catherine! Thanks for posting on FaceBook. The subject of this blog caught my eye as we are preparing for a European vacation in about a month. Your suggestions are things I already know but somehow forget as I prepare to leave. It’s a great reminder from a your professional perspective of how not to get overwhelmed if I prepare myself mentally for whatever may happen.
    Looking forward to reading your other blog posts!

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