As I write this, we have just taken off on what promises to be an epic adventure to discover two cities on opposite ends of the country that both bear the same name… A Tale of Two Portland’s.
The adventure started from our home with Ryan’s alarm going off at 4:20am this morning. Or maybe it actually started late yesterday morning when I booked us standby on our flight.
Flying across the country can make for a very long, or very short day, depending on the direction you’re traveling. The first leg of our trip is from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Philadelphia, then Philadelphia to Portland, Maine. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7am, but didn’t actually take off until about 7:45. In the grand scheme of things 45 minutes may not seen like much, but when you are connecting to another flight, and flying standby, it can mean the difference between getting to your final destination today, or spending the night in an unplanned destination, and another whole day in the airport tomorrow. If we are lucky and everything goes as planned, we should make it to Portland, Maine just in time for a lobster dinner.
Flying standby requires a lot of patience and flexibility. As numbers 20 & 21 on the standby list, we were lucky enough to make it on the flight, even if we weren’t able to sit together. At least we were assigned to the same row, in the bulkhead where we could have a little leg room. Unfortunately, we boarded the plane to find an old woman already settled into my seat, and not willing to budge. The flight attendant who was eager to get going, was willing to make her move, but told us that her assigned seat happened to be an aisle seat. That was all Ryan needed to hear and he opted to take the trade that sent us to completely opposite ends of the airplane. Me in row 8 and him in row 37.
Now I know there are people who don’t like sitting with their spouses on airplanes. I’ve seen them many times. I’m not one of them. Still, not too much of a big deal, except when you are sharing a tablet for your in flight entertainment. That’s right, I should know better by now, but I made the terrible mistake of not downloading any movies, shows or music to my phone. “That’s OK”, I thought to myself, “I’ll just pay for the WiFi and everything will be good.” That was right before the flight attendant announced that this flight has no in flight entertainment and no WiFi.
That’s when I decided to share these great tips on what you should bring with you when traveling standby to make your trip as smooth as possible.
1. A good rolling carry on bag. Good carry on luggage is a must! I like mine alot. It’s has swiveling wheels so it will roll in any direction, making it easy to maneuver through airports and narrow airplane aisles.
2. A backpack for your personal items. Most airlines still allow you to travel with one carry-on bag and a small personal item like a briefcase, purse or backpack. They will often offer complimentary bag check at the gate, which is great if you are flying on a non stop flight and know you will be making it to your final destination. I like to carry a backpack with my toiletries and anything I might need in flight like a small purse, a light jacket or sweater, something to read, etc. It fits nicely under the seat in front of me, making my things easily accessible in flight, and can hold a lot of necessities for the flight, or an overnight.
3. A quart size zip lock bag for your liquids. TSA only allows you to bring small travel size bottles of liquids like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash, mouthwash, etc. I store mine in a quart size zip lock bag and keep it in an outside pocket of my carry-on or backpack. This helps prevent any leakage, and also makes it easily accessible to take out of my bag, if needed, when going through security.
4. Comfortable clothes. I like to be comfortable, but still look nice when I fly. Let’s face it, you’re probably going to have to have to take half your clothes off and your shoes, just to get through security. Plus, airports are big places, there have been days I’ve walked more than 5 miles and never stepped outside the airport.Why not make it easy on yourself and choose clothing and shoes that are comfortable, easy to layer and take on and off. Today I chose a comfortable summer dress, that is loose fitting, and a pair of flip flops. I packed a light denim jacket in my backpack, just in case it gets cold inside the airport or on the plane.
5. A portable entertainment device. We have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 that we purchased just for traveling with. We have some music and games loaded on it, and are able to download movies and TV shows to watch in flight, even when there is no WiFi.
6. Charging cables for your portable electronic devices. There is nothing worse than sitting in the airport all day waiting for a flight, only to finally get on one and have no battery life let in your phone, tablet or laptop. Make sure to bring your charging cords in your carry on bag so you have them when you need to recharge. You can find outlets throughout airports, although sometimes in the strangest, or most inconvenient places. Some have realized the need and even have USB charging stations. Phoenix Sky Harbor is not one of them. Last year, I was on an international flight to Ireland that had USB chargers in the arm rests on the airplane. That was a nice feature!
7. Portable backup chargers. We have 3 or 4 little portable back up chargers. They fit easily into my backpack and can provide a little extra juice when there isn’t an outlet handy.
8. A refillable water bottle. It’s important to stay well hydrated when you are traveling, but knowing you can’t bring bottled water through security, airport gift shops and eateries charge an arm and a leg for a small bottle of water. I bring my empty Camelbak eddy with me through security and refill it once I’m in the airport. It fits nicely into the water bottle pocket of my backpack, and also has a nice handle that can clip with a caribiner to just about anywhere.
9. Snacks, snacks and more snacks. Airport and airplane food can be pricey. And if you are going to be spending alot of time waiting to get on a flight, you will get hungry. I always try to have plenty of snacks to make the trip bearable. Protein bars, small bags of nuts and chewing gum are just a few of the things I pack in my backpack so when the urge to munch hits, I don’t end up spending $8.79 on a tiny little fruit and cheese plate, or $5.00 for a small bag of potato chips.
10. Noise cancelling headphones. When you are flying standby, you never know who you are going to end up sitting by, and airplanes can be very noisy. I like to travel with a good pair of noise cancelling headphones that will drown out any background noise and allow me to enjoy my movies, music or audio books.
11. Your good humor! Like I said traveling standby requires a great deal of patience and flexibility. It can be alot of fun waking up in the morning and saying “where do I want to go today?” But challenges like getting stuck in the middle seat in the very last row that doesn’t recline, not getting on your flight, spending a long day at the airport waiting for a flight and getting nowhere, or having to spend the night in the airport or get an unplanned hotel room, can really bring you down. Knowing those things can all be expected, and maintaining a good sense of humor about it makes the adventure so much more fun. And isn’t that what it’s all about?