Travel is the best! But some aspects can be… Harsh. But you need to know about them. Because knowing is half the battle, right? You can’t play the game if you don’t know the rules! Here are eight harsh truths about travel.
1. You Have to Go Where the Planes Go
I know, you want a non-stop flight. We all do! But I have a reality check for you: There is no non-stop flight from IAD to the Galapagos. There is no non-stop flight from BNA to St. John’s, Newfoundland. You’ll have to change planes and have a layover.
And sometimes, you have to go out of your way. If you live in D.C. like I do, Newark, New Jersey, is not “on the way” to anywhere in the Caribbean. But non-stops from D.C. to St. Martin only go on Saturdays and Sundays. But Steve and I wanted to fly mid-week instead of on a weekend. The route we had to take for our anniversary trip was IAD-EWR-SXM. We had to go where the planes would take us!
Helpful info: Exactly How to Handle a Layover
2. Group 1 Does Not Board First
This is United Airlines-specific, but it also applies to many other airlines as well. If your boarding pass says you get to board with “Group 1,” you will have to wait for several other groups to “pre-board.” This is a benefit that airlines offer to frequent fliers, military members, parents with kids under two years old, and those who are elderly or disabled and need extra time to board the aircraft.
Group 1 boards after all of those people. It may be zero pre-boarding people (on short flights and tiny planes to and from non-airline hubs), or it may be half the plane (like any flight to Orlando—be prepared for loads of elderly people and families with a gazillion screaming kids).
More here: The Ultimate Tips for Flying United
3. You Have to be Your Own Advocate
This is a harsh truth in every aspect of adulting, am I right? No one else is holding your hand or looking out for you. You have to put your big girl panties on and learn the rules, know your rights, and generally know how this whole travel thing is supposed to work. It amazes me how people just give up when their flight is cancelled or the hotel says they can’t find the reservation. You gotta figure it out. My Travel Tips Page is here to help!
In-depth information: How to Be Your Own Travel Advocate
4. You Really Need the App
Don’t wait until you get to the airport to check in, y’all. Check in on the app! Every major airline has one, and it’s the best way to check in, get your boarding pass, and scan said boarding pass to get on your flight. Many airlines have also gone to primarily “Personal Device Entertainment,” meaning there’s no setback TV; you’re just supposed to watch their TV and movies on your phone or tablet.
Another capability that major airlines have started since COVID is contactless payment—you guessed it—exclusively through their app. You cannot pay with cash or a physical credit card; you must have your credit card information on the app!
More here: The Best Apps for Travelers
5. Your Roll-aboard is Taking Up a Lot of Space
I know you think it’s easier to travel with a roll-aboard, but it’s not. Not for you, not for your fellow travelers making a mad dash from gate to gate. I realize that not everyone can lift their luggage due to age or injury (though in most other cases I might advise you to consider packing lighter!), but in general, a backpack is better.
With a roll-aboard, your hands are not free, you’re taking up the space of two people by dragging it behind you, you’re blocking the escalator by holding it beside you, and your roll-aboard’s inflexibility means you’re taking up so much bin space, others don’t have room for their carry-on items. Consider this backpack instead, and keep your hands free!
Keep reading: Pros and Cons of Carry-on Travel
6. The Best Time is the Time You Have
No time for travel? That’s your choice. It’s not that you don’t have the time, you choose not to make the time. Or you choose not to use your vacation time for an actual vacation (which, studies have shown, people actually need in order to be better employees). Don’t wait for the perfect time. Don’t put off that trip-of-a-lifetime until you get to retirement. You’re not guaranteed tomorrow, so don’t waste the time you have. Take the trip.
7. You Don’t Have to Be Wealthy to Travel; You Just Have to Want To
This is related to the point above. It’s not that you don’t have the money to travel. It’s that you choose to spend your money on things that aren’t travel. You’re allowed to make that choice, but once you do, don’t complain or try to make other people feel bad for choosing travel. I can’t tell you how many times, especially when I was single, people judgingly asked how my parents could afford to pay for my travels or thought I must be into something shady because I traveled so much. Y’all, it’s all how you choose to spend your money.
8. You Didn’t Buy that Overhead Bin Space with Your Seat
In fact, you’re not entitled to any overhead bin space. If the bins fill up, you have to check it plane-side. If someone’s luggage is occupying the bin above your seat, you can’t get mad about it—it won’t do any good! That’s why frequent fliers try so hard to attain and keep status with their preferred airline: If they can board early in the process, they get first pick of bin space!
More here: How to Pack the Perfect Carry-on
Want more travel hacks and info? Check out my dedicated Travel Tips Page!
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