Ready Steady Travel

In the course of the last two years I have travelled, both with and without my family, on over twenty-five trips, to Ireland, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, London… I have become so accustomed to travel in a relatively short time, that I have my kit down to a fine art and I know exactly how long it will take to get to the airport. (Tip: Travel is best in the early morning, when traffic and flight delays are minimal – a taxi to the airport at five am is ideal.)

There are advantages to all this: A certain welcome nonchalance when packing for a holiday, an acute awareness of when my passport needs renewed (December 2019, daughter’s passport ditto) and a familiarity with airport queues that has taught me how best to catch the flight when there are three thousand people in the passport queue and only one immigration official checking passports very slowly… So here are my top tips for trouble free travel.

~ Travel with hand-luggage only; and in the spirit of hand-luggage, keep your bags modest. Do not be tempted to pack to the max and get through the checks with fingers crossed. Budget airlines have small overhead lockers and rather unexpected attitudes to luggage that looks too obviously packed to the max.

~ Check in before you travel, and, if at all possible, obtain your return flight boarding pass as well. If you fail to do this, you may find that, arriving at the airport to check-in, you are the last to be allocated a seat on an overbooked flight. Some airlines are fairly shameless about double booking flights, so the earlier you obtain a boarding pass, the better. (You know you will have a wait, if the boarding pass you print off has no seat allocated on it.)

~ Avoid buying duty free, unless you can fit it comfortably in your hand-luggage (or you have forgotten to buy a present for the grande dame to whose reunion you are flying). There is nothing more irritating to flexible, fast travelling than a collection of plastic carriers attached to the handles of hand luggage.

~ Learn to get near the front of the queue, and to state your case clearly to harassed officials coping with returning football crowds, large conferences, etc. “Excuse me, sir, I have to catch a flight in half an hour,” is far more likely to get a positive response than simply shoving to the front of the queue and demanding that someone do something. That said, a bit of elegant elbow shoving is occasionally indispensable.

~ Look confident, and confidence will aid you. Try not to burst into tears when faced with a desperate situation. Assume that everyone is already doing their best in difficult circumstances, and your gratitude and patience will be the best gift to every situation, turning overworked airline staff into our allies.

Happy travelling!

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