Fly like an Eagle.
I love air travel. I know it can be a hassle and downright miserable if there are delays or cancellations. However, when a flight goes right it feels like you are on a mini-vacation whether or not you are actually on a vacation.
Whenever I am flying I always make sure to arrive at the airport two hours before my scheduled departure time. It doesn’t matter if my flight is at 8am or 8pm; you better believe I’m stepping foot into the airport at least 120 minutes before the wheels of the plane take me up into the sky to spit in the face of physics. There is no way I’m going to miss my flight because I was running late. Besides, there is too much fun and entertainment to be had while waiting for takeoff to just run into the airport and get on the plane.
First things first, you must always, always, always check a bag. “But Wes”, you say, “what if they lose my luggage?” Well, a 2012 study (most recent study available) performed by the Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Department of the U.S. Department of Transportation reported an average of 3.52 reports of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers. That is a rate of .35%. That means you have a 99.65% effective rate of getting your bag without any issues. Let’s compare that to some contraceptive method statistics as published by the Center for Disease Control:
- Injectable contraceptive – 94% effective
- The Pill – 91% effective
- The Patch – 91% effective
- Male Condoms – 82% effective
Based upon these studies, you are more likely to get pregnant (or get someone pregnant) using a condom than you are of losing your checked luggage. Are you going to stop having completely safe and protected sex because your contraceptive method has a 9% chance of failing? I didn’t think so. So check your bag so you don’t have to lug a suitcase around the airport while you are visiting all your wonderful bars, restaurants, and stores. Check your bag to travel light and travel right. I sweat like an animal simply carrying around my backpack of supplies. I don’t need another bag dragging me down.
Now that you know you are going to check your bag it is time to stock up for the trip. That means preparing for snacks and entertainment. Bring along plenty of books, magazines, movies, and music. You’ll have plenty of time to relax so make sure you bring along everything you need to enjoy the spare time. I always make sure to throw in my favorite (or at least) current book to read and my headphones to listen to whatever podcast I’m addicted to at the moment (more on podcasts at another time). Of course, all of these entertainment tools are really just a guise to allow you to people watch all the other crazies that are running around the airport. Two of my favorite examples are:
- The busy business man who only means business. He can be identified by the rolling computer bag (made of leather, of course), the Bluetooth headset, and the freshly ordered coffee that is just slightly smaller than the rolling computer bag. He is wearing his best khaki pants and golf shirt he got at whatever conference he is going to or coming from. Most of all, his cell phone is attached to his belt with a leather case that provides easy access. Like a gunslinger in 1876 Texas, he can whip out his phone and respond to an email faster than Cat Ballou. DRAW!
- The over-packed family of five. I feel for these hapless sons-of-bitches that are running through the airport to catch their flight. There is Dad who, being physically the largest of the group, is carrying a diaper bag, a carry-on bag, a snack bag, and is pushing a stroller holding his 2-year old daughter with a cup extra-large cup of black coffee in the stroller drink holder. This is unfortunate since the daughter is sleeping now it means she will be wide awake and screaming for the entire five and a half hour flight to visit his in-laws in Walla Walla, Washington. The Mom is not fairing much better. She has a backpack on her back and a 9-month old son strapped across her chest. The 9-month old is screaming at the top of his lungs because he has just pooped but there is no time to change because their flight takes off in 8 minutes. Their eldest daughter, a 6-year-old, is calmly holding her Mom’s hand while pulling her own teddy bear shaped carry-on bag. This bag was to be filled with books and games to entertain her for the flight. What Mom doesn’t know yet is that while Mom and Dad were frantically packing all the last minute items and the younger kids, this bright 6-year-old replaced all her toys and games with her Mom’s lingerie which she found playing in Mom and Dad’s closet. Won’t Mom be happy when her young daughter pulls out the wrong kind of teddy to play with during the flight?
It is important to know that time means everything and nothing while waiting for your flight at an airport. It means everything because the last thing you want is to miss your flight and have to scramble to find another flight to get you to your destination. It means nothing because of the food and beverages available to you. Feel like bellying up to the bar at 7am to have an ice-cold Miller Genuine Draft before your flight to Toledo? Go for it! You have an hour to kill before your 9:30am departure to Madagascar and you forgot breakfast? Just slide on over to Chipotle and have yourself a delicious and nutritious steak burrito. Its 10pm and you want some fried eggs and bacon with a mimosa before catching your red eye to Albuquerque? Max & Erma have you covered. Beer is always flowing and meals are always served.
Once your belly is filled with delicious meat and your liver is saturated with medium (low)-quality alcohol, it is time to get in a little shopping before your flight. Every major airport is full of high-end shopping for you to enjoy. Seriously, why in the hell would there be so many upscale stores in an airport terminal? Every major airport has a wide selection of luggage to purchase. Should this have been done before you arrive at the airport? I know I always bring my clothing to the airport in a hefty, hefty cinch sack then head straight to Vera Bradley so I can pick up my brand new suitcase and pack in style. And I never miss a chance to stop into the doody free shop. I’m amazed that in order to get products that are free from doody I have to go to an airport but if that is what it takes to stock up on Chanel #5 without doody then that is what I’ll do. And I always leave home without my Beats by Dr. Dre – Black so I make sure to grab another pair each time I’m at the airport.
With your meal and shopping now complete, it’s time to take the last 20-30 minutes before your flight to grab some snacks and magazines at the news stand for your trip. The airport news stand is a magical place. You can pick up your favorite magazines along with a soda pop, water, chocolate covered pretzels, Pringles potato chips, SweetTarts, a snow globe, and a hooded sweatshirt all for the discount price of $643. Somehow the snacks for the flight are more expensive than the Omega watch you picked up at the doody free shop. That’s okay because, you may not know this, all snacks at an airport are fat free, carb free, and calorie free. I don’t know how they do it but somehow the same chocolate covered pretzels you picked up at 7-Eleven that made you gain 3 ½ pounds last week are locally produced, organic, and are a zero-point Weight Watcher food when purchased from the news stand at the airport. So stock up because you can’t get this kind of magic on the plane and you will most definitely be hungrier on your flight than you ever are in the real world.
Now that you are stocked up it is time to get on the plane so I will give you my last two tips for airport enjoyment. (1) There is no need to stand in line like cattle waiting to go to the slaughter in order to board your plane. As you have undoubtedly checked your bag based upon my above recommendation, you don’t need fret the lack of overhead space. Go to the gate when they call your boarding zone. Getting there early just puts on in the way of everyone else trying to get on the plane which actually slows down the process. Just have a seat, relax, enjoy some calorie-free gummy worms you bought from the news stand, and wait until it is your turn to board. (2) Make sure you are short. I recommend you stay below 5’8”. All airline seats have plenty of leg-room if you are on the shorter side. I never have a leg-room problem when I fly. So for all of you tall drinks of water out there, do yourself a favor and drop a few inches. It will make life a whole lot easier.
P.S. If I am traveling with Rizzo then my two hour pre-takeoff rule no longer applies. Rizzo does not share my fear of missing a flight so I have to be flexible. Sometimes we even arrive as late as 1 hour and 45 minutes before the flight time, but only if I’m feeling really outrageous.
P.P.S. You say you don’t want to “waste” money to pay the fee to check your bag? Fine, I can’t help you with that but I certainly don’t consider the freedom of travel around the airport terminal without pulling a suitcase a “waste” of money. You say you don’t want to waste your time after the flight at the carousel to gather your checked baggage? I can’t really help you there, either. In my opinion, if you are in such a hurry to get out of the airport that you can’t wait 15-20 minutes to pick up some luggage then you are in too much of a hurry. Slow down, take a breath, and try to enjoy life instead of just rushing through it.