How to Travel Flawless: Do Everything The Opposite of What I Did
Forget visiting a new country! Let’s talk about the physical act of traveling. It is an adventure in itself, and completely unpredictable.
As a somewhat seasoned traveller, I let my preferences guide my search of the painless voyage, if it does exist. For example, I like red-eye flights because crowded airports just might be the newest circle of hell. I’ve become acute in spotting overzealous TSA agents because I like the quiet ones, the ones who aren’t going to shout in my ear about taking off my shoes as I take off my shoes. Then of course, there’s the art of finding comfort on an airplane. Pray for good weather. Pray that the vessel is on time, that crew is on time. Pray that the vessel isn’t full, pray that I chose a good seat (window or aisle, duh), a good row, and pray that nobody is sitting next to me. In spite of this, all it takes is one mishap and it all falls down.
As I travelled from New Orleans, Louisiana to Athens, Greece, I jotted down a list of mistakes I made along the way that ultimately contributed to a tumultuous journey that left me a boneless heap of delirium as I set foot in the Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport baggage claim.
Here’s what I learned:
- Find a good deal to Athens, Greece in January and book a girls’ trip with great friends.
- Spend months getting ready to explore a country you’ve never been to.
- Read the following list of DON’Ts, so you can learn from my terrible string of strange mistakes and learn to travel flawless!
Don’t visit Chicago in the winter.
Bump! The plane lands and you get that rollercoaster stomach pop feeling as it hits you that you’ve just materialized in another state! BALLIN! The pilot comes on the PA: “Welcome to Chicago Midway—”
“The temperature is currently seven degrees.”
Don’t half-ass look At your itinerary for six months.
This seems like a very, very, very obvious thing, but like, listen. Don’t forget about that little thing called time zones, and just because you glance down and see an arrival of January 11th, does not mean you leave on January 11th, okay?
Don’t do this, or you’ll end up flying from New Orleans to Chicago and realizing that your flight to Athens left yesterday. Now you text your friends, who apparently have been trying to contact you like, where are you? But you never checked your emails. So now you have to call your travel agent and beg them to help you figure out how to get the money back and reschedule.
If you’re lucky enough to get rescheduled, know that the flight you get probably leaves in two hours from O’Hare, so now you’re panicked and giving up precious travel money to pay for a taxi to get you from Midway to O’Hare because the CTA, although cheap, will take way too long.
NEVER fly United.
Welcome to United, where we treat anyone not flying first class like absolute trash!
Be ready to enjoy our company motto: why hire and give benefits to employees when we can make you do their jobs for free? That’s right, everybody, you can check yourself into the flight, slip the tags on your own bag and put them on the belt yourself.
Also, would you like to pay for EVERYTHING?
Two checked bags? $100, please.
Would you like a little extra leg-room in coach? $159, please.
Wanna upgrade? $2,000 and a kidney, please.
Late for your flight and need to skip the TSA line? $50, please.
Want wifi on the plane? $16.99, please.
Noticed that we don’t provide power outlets on our shitty planes so you may have to switch devices? No problem if you’re a Mileage plus member. Oh, you’re not? Another $16.99, please.
Enjoy our sub-par food, sardine-can space, angry flight attendants who are most likely angry because they’re overworked and underpaid, as well as the hour delay we’ll spend sitting on the tarmac and won’t inform you of because really, we’re just hoping you won’t notice. More watery cranberry juice?
Thanks for flying United!
Don’t let anyone convince you that transferring from Heathrow to Gatwick is a good idea.
Because you’re thinking, hey, this is a cheap ticket, so I’m completely cool with landing in London Heathrow and catching a new airline from the other airport on the other side of the motorway, Gatwick.
Except you flew United, so your plane is naturally delayed.
Except you forgot that Heathrow’s passport control overpopulated and understaffed, so here’s the two hour wait.
Except just like in Chicago, you’re late for a very important date and you can’t just take the Tube anymore because you won’t make it.
Except unless you want to be stranded in London, you better take a cab.
Except the cab driver informs you that a trip from Heathrow to Gatwick is ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS!?!?!?!
Except the UK and EU think it’s cute that you have to pay for your luggage at a different desk than the airline one, so they give you a bill and send you off to Gatwick services and you immediately panic at the sight of another American who is slumped over a representative’s desk and bawling because she also just paid ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS!?!?!?! to get from Heathrow to Gatwick only she didn’t make her flight to Madrid, and the representative is too busy being very British–AKA so infuriatingly pragmatic–tapping away at the computer, that it seems she doesn’t see the loud American having a nervous breakdown in front of her.
You somehow make it. You run off, wanting to tell the crying American, “Stay strong!”
But you have no time. You hurry back to the airline service desk and the rep tells you, “Hurry! The flight is boarding right now and you still must get through security!”
Oh, okay! THANKS!
Don’t ever believe TSA or any flight security is anything other than arbitrary.
USA: No liquids. Take off your shoes, jacket, anything in your pockets, put your computer in a separate tray, but your tablet and phone are fine where they are. Step into the huge Xray chamber of death. If you’re a black woman, your hair is about to get searched, deal with it. OMG A MUSLIM! CALL IN THE DOGS!
UK: Still no liquids. Leave shoes on. Jacket can come off. Tablet in a separate tray, computer in another separate tray. Hurry on over through the metal detector. Why would I search your hair, black lady? That’s stupid! OMG A MUSLIM! POLITELY CALL IN THE DOGS!
Don’t freak out.
Yes, yes, you’ve been up for hours. Yes, yes, you’ve been through five different airports, a sixth one coming. Yes, you’ve spent more money than you meant to and you’re in need of a shower and probably some coffee because your ipod has been playing “Trap Queen” on repeat for a good four hours and you just now noticed, but do yourself a favor. Do not freak out at the girl wearing rain-boots, carrying a pair of well-used hiking boots tossed over her shoulder currently boarding the flight to Athens. It’s okay that you neither brought rain-boots nor hiking boots. You’ll be fine…heh heh…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Don’t change with age and time.
It’s the final leg, you’re at passport control, and now five Greek passport control officers are staring at your photo because you “look much different.” Don’t bother handing them your driver’s license, because unlike your passport photo, your other license is a picture of you with natural hair, and now they’re really confused. Just sit back and smile as they toss out comments like:
“You look lighter skinned in this picture.”
“You look older in this picture.”
“Can you take your hair down? Your hair is down in this picture.”
Just point to the scar on your cheek and then point it out on the picture, then tell them that the “delay” is completely fine.
WELCOME TO ATHENS!
Carol H. Hood is a writer and professor who lives in about 3 different states while working on her novel, The Misadventures of Tip and JB Turner and her graphic novel,American Witch. Follow her snark shark ways at @carolhenny.