What I want to discuss is not just attempting to survive the airport but to flourish in it. Yes, there is a way to do it. Exactly how, I don't know, but I do have a few good ideas. Before I hit the details this is my BLUF or military acronym for Bottom Line Up Front.
BLUF- YOU MUST POSSES THE FOLLOWING TO MAKE THESE TIPS USEFUL
- Some level of patience
- An expectation of challenges
- The ability to tolerate crowded spaces
Now that we are ready for war, shall we. Before you ever step foot in the airport you have to drive there, right. My first end all suggestion is this.....get a ride to the airport. You will save money by not leaving your vehicle in storage as well as keep it out of the public. Most airport storage parking areas are secure, however, keeping your vehicle secured at you residence is always better. This can help protect the car and your home, as people cannot tell that you have left upon first glance. Getting a ride isn't always possible in that case here are a few good suggestions to assure your not stranded in the storage parking area upon returning from your adventure:
1, Disconnect your car battery. This applies to anyone who has experienced any sort of power drain during long term parking or other inactivity. It takes just a minute to disconnect, and can save you from airport parking hell.
2. Don't leave your windows "cracked". Not only does it make your vehicle easier to unlock, outside airflow could blow your parking ticket from the dash to the floor. The last thing you want to be doing after getting back from a long trip is searching all over you car for the phantom parking ticket.
3. Use a windshield sun deflector. It keeps your car cool and protects its interior. This also has a dual purpose of obstructing the view inside the vehicle. You shouldn't have anything valuable inside in the first place but it serves as another deterrent.
4. Ensure that your tires are fully inflated. Even the slowest leak will have time to flatten a tire if you have an extended airport parking stay.
5. If it's winter, have an ice scraper. This sounds obvious, but an unexpected blast of winter weather coupled with a long term airport parking stay can be a real pain in the neck to get off the windshield.
6. Do a final walk around. Do a final walk around your vehicle. Make a mental note of all the bumps, scrapes, and pre-existing dents you may have on your car. Also, write down where it is (i.e row 5B) More importantly, when you return do another walk around and evaluate. At least you can recognize damage and report it if there is any. Airports are the epicenter of "big brother" in America and have more surveillance systems than banks and casinos combined. If your vehicle was struck or tampered with the airport has it on video somewhere.
Pack wisely, we must...
Read below for some great strategies from personal experience as well as the Transportation Security Administration.
1. Carry-on baggage is a small piece of luggage you take on the airplane with you. The TSA states that (You are allowed one carry-on in addition to one personal item such as a laptop computer, purse, small backpack, briefcase, or camera case.)
a. All liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in one quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Larger plastic bags or bags that are not zip-top (such as fold-over sandwich bags) are not allowed. Each traveler is allowed to carry only one, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. If you have favorite products that will not fit in 3 ounce containers, pack them in your checked baggage.
b. You must remove your quart-sized plastic, zip-top bag from your carry-on luggage and place it in a bin or on the conveyor belt for X-ray screening. The TSA says that x-raying separately will allow security officers to examine the declared items more easily.
c. The TSA allows only the following exceptions to the 3 ounce containers/1 quart zip-top plastic rule, but you still have to present these items for screening at the security gate:
- All prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including KY jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes. [For more information, see How to Take Medication through Airport Security]. This is found on the TSA link above.
d. Label your laptop computer. Tape a business card or other identifying information on the bottom of your laptop to avoid loss or accidental "exchange" by travelers. Basically be smart and keep your carry on close and in sight at all times.
2. Checked baggage is luggage you check in at the ticket counter or at curbside. It will not be accessible during your flight. TSA advises travelers not to lock checked baggage, but if you must lock it be sure to use a TSA "Accepted and Recognized" lock. If your baggage sets off an alarm and TSA cannot gain access to your checked bag, an unrecognized lock may be broken.
e. Don't put film in your stow away luggage, the screening equipment will damage it.
f. Pack shoes, boots, sneakers, and other footwear on top of other contents in your luggage. This will make it easier for security to check your footwear.
g. Avoid over-packing your travel luggage; the airport security screener should be able to easily reseal your bag if it is opened for inspection. If possible, spread the contents over several bags. Check with your airline or travel agent for maximum weight limitations.
h. Avoid packing food and drink items in checked baggage.
i. Don't stack piles of books or documents on top of each other; spread them out within your baggage..
j. Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport. View the list.
k. Put all undeveloped film, and cameras with film, in your carry-on baggage. If your bag will pass through the X-ray machine more than 5 times ask for a hand inspection to prevent damage.
l. Check ahead of time with your airline or travel agent to determine the airline's travel baggage policy, including number of pieces you can bring and size and weight limitations.
m. Carry-on baggage is limited to one bag and one personal item (1+1).Personal items include laptops, purses, small backpacks, briefcases, or camera cases.
n. Don't forget to place identification tags with your name, address and phone number on all of your baggage, including your laptop computer. It is a good idea to place an identification tag inside your baggage as well.
o. Avoid over-packing so that your articles don't spill out if your bag is opened for inspection.
p. Think carefully about what you pack in you luggage. The TSA does have the right to look through it in its entirety if they determine there is a reason do do so. By reason, I mean they could make up anything they want, so just be careful. There's a time to "fight the man" this is not a good time to do so and you won't win.
q. Wait to wrap your gifts. Be aware that wrapped gifts may need to be opened for inspection. This applies to both carry-on and checked baggage. Well here you go folks, can't say they didn't warn you.
r. For those of us that are visual people this is the picture provided on the TSA website outlining what they say looks like shit (right) and what is acceptable (left). Personally both pictures seem sloppy to me but you get the idea. Wrap your cords up and fold your clothes, its not rocket science. Once again, they gave you fair warning. A lot of times people get pissed when there items get looked through but as long as they are following some of these directions they would never have had an issue in the first place.
Finding Your Gate, Currency Conversion & Wifi
Prices are typically given on a daily rate and range from 5-10 USD. Some airports do have free wifi available, ensure you check before you go. If you have to meet someone at an airport overseas than wifi is an excellent option. Paying ridiculous world wide cell phone rates is not worth it. For a fraction of the cost you can communicate over wifi via messaging and locate each other. I will be using this method on my upcoming trip. Also, remember to check and see if individual companies and shops in the airport offer their own free wifi. You can use theirs instead of paying for the airport's.
He doesn't want a large Farva....
It can be tempting to get a super sized bunch of crap as soon as you get off a long flight where you were offered nothing but peanut packets and grape juice. It won't do your wallet, waistline, or weight any favors. Taking some simple steps can save you from the jungle of overpriced and unhealthy airport options.
BYOF- Before you leave for the airport, grab some healthy snacks for your carry-on luggage. The Transportation and Security Administration’s rules prohibit travelers from bringing gels and liquids through security, but solid foods like nuts, fruits, energy bars and carrot and celery sticks should clear just fine. Cliff bars are money, and will get you through long hours. Once you’ve cleared security, the food options will mostly unhealthy and generally overpriced. Its not a bag idea to grab a chicken wrap option (not the fried one from BK) before boarding the plane. It is healthier than the on board meal. Stock up on bottled water and dried fruit packages and if it’s near mealtime, grab a grilled sandwich or wrap to take with you on the plane.
Utilize Healthy Options- Even though you may pay dearly for healthy food in an airport there's one thing you must ask yourself. How much is your health worth? It amazes me that people would rather save 3 or 4 extra dollars on their meal and spike their glucose levels, block their arteries, and increase their chances of type two diabetes exponentially. It really isn't worth feeling like crap and gaining weight. The last thing you want is to feel horrible during your long flights and moving through a bustling airport all day. Not to mention that if you consistently workout and eat healthy you are undoing months of hard work for a few days of travel.
No Hotel, No Problem, Sleep in the Airport!
Getting a rental car for your trip?
1. They are Liars- Technically, omitting information is not lying, but when a company withholds information about addition hidden fees from what its "advertised rate" is, I call that bullshit, and lying. At the end of the day the industry as a whole is guilty of this. Be prepared to see a different rate on your bill.
2. Fill the Tank- If the rental company has to top-off the gas tank after your return, you will pay a ridiculous price per gallon. Always ask that the car be filled up prior to your departure, and then bring it back full of gas. If that's not allowed without a fee, be certain you return the vehicle with as much gas in the tank as when you started.
3. Hidden Fees- Ask the rental company about any additional taxes and fees from the advertised rate. There's 10% sales tax, general usage fees, and something called a vehicle license fee. Don't forget an "arena fee" as well. Now you are paying more than $25/day for something advertised at $18/day. Keep that in mind when you see rates under $20/day advertised. It pays to do some shopping around if you can.
And Then I Got Detained
Before the trip, a friend as well as myself decided that since we would be hopping around the world it would be advisable to at least take a knife with us on our travels. What bad could it do? We figured, throw it in our stow away, the blade was about 3' long. It was a "tactical" spring assisted knife. We knew that we would be in the red light district of Frankfurt. Italy is usually fine but better to feel secure with some protection.
Well my third friend was not excited about our plans. We gleefully nicknamed him "Johnny Tight Pants" who is know a medical doctor. He habitually nagged and nagged about how stupid it was and how we should forget it. But us two, being mischievous and sort of enjoying the attention decided we would bring them.
So we left, getting through not one, but two major international airports with no issues at all. Before we knew it, we were in country and felt smug in the fact that we had proven old Johnny wrong. Two weeks went by without a hitch and the knife concern was dropped. After hitting Rome for the last 4 days of our trip we we're exhausted.
It seemed like a flash and we we're back in the airport mulling towards security lines like hungover zombies. Honestly, I was looking forward at getting back to the craziness of America. If anything, Italy turned out to be one of the calmest places besides Rome itself. The people were generally slow moving as was everything else there.
We all stepped through the metal detector dropping loose change and our belts into the pin. After passing through I stood there peacefully in my socks waiting for my shoes to come through the detector. The line was long that day and I gave it a final glance. I was about to be the lucky guy moving on to the delicious coffee I could smell emanating from the food quart. So close yet, so far.
Then I noticed the two TSA agents pointing to there little screen and squabbling about something in Italian. From the minimal language I picked up over two weeks I could tell they were arguing and It seemed that one was talking about Americans and how its "normal" for them. Sitting there with my stupid smile I asked the female TSA what was going on. Then I saw it. The one thing I forgot to pack into my stow away. Johnny saw it too, looked over and said, "seriously man, come on!" I figured no harm no foul, yeah I've lost my knife but that's my own fault. They will take it and my happy ass will be on my way to the coffee shop.
The one TSA with the knife in his hand began to open it. The look on his face as that blade came out was priceless. I thought his eyes were about to bulge out of his head. The female TSA asked me sternly, "Did you purchase this in the country?" I replied, "Oh no, of course not I brought it." She shot back, "So you brought this into the country?" Now I didn't want to answer anymore, "Yesss?" I whispered. Wrong answer for Larry.
Some very bad thoughts started entering my mind and she informed we we had to wait now. "Wait for who?" "The Policia, she said." Now the line was really really long and I looked like a terrorist. Great, I thought as I stood there in my socks. People in line started looking concerned. At this point Johnny and my other friend we being ushered away and things were definitely heading on a downward glide path.
Apparently, it is highly illegal to bring any knife, even a pocket sized one longer than 1 1/2 in long into Italy. My 3 1/2 in knife was definitely a NOGO. I wonder if they have coffee in Italian prison. Oh goodie, the Polica showed up at this point.
No shit, what appeared to be Italy's version of Delta Force rolled up and they look just like these guys. Automatic weapons, kevlar vests, berets, the works. Needless to say this didn't calm the situation.
By this point the knife has been handed off to this guy, an Italian Army Officer who is playing with it and ignoring the shit out of me because I'm about to go to the slammer and he's got a new toy.
Finally an older man in civilian clothes comes to talk to me, the only one who can speak English. He whips out his badge and informs me that, he's an Italian Federal Agent. Oh stellar, all I needed was an Italian firefighter and they could have started singing the "YMCA". I was sure I wasn't going home. Upon questioning me he learned I was an Army Cadet at the time.
After passing my military id around to everyone like a neat souvenir he said since, I was "a good guy" it was.... ok? In fact he told me they could vacuum seal the knife and I could take it on the plane!
He said that Americans are used to carrying weapons, and explained this to his counterparts. Interesting, that they take us for a bunch of gun toting rednecks, that actually saved me from prison? "So, do you want the knife?," he said.
Well guess who was still in the back twiddling my knife in his hand with the evil eye.
And do you know who still has the knife to this day?...yep. I decided the knife probably wasn't worth my freedom. Point of this story folks, know the laws of the country you are going to. And for god sakes please check your carry on before you go to the airport. You don't want to be the terrorist in line with a hangover, no shoes, and no friends, believe me on this one.