Travel

As you prepare for winter travel, consider these tips and gadgets for smooth flights

Halloween is over and boom, it’s the holiday travel season.

Just a heads up for those who have not yet purchased tickets for Thanksgiving or Christmas: You’re in for some sticker-shock.

If you plan ahead and don’t mind the “Saver” or “Basic Economy” restrictions, you can get a one-way ticket as far east as New York or Boston for about $200, on Alaska Airlines or Delta. But if you want to travel a couple of days before Thanksgiving, that same ticket will cost you $559 one-way on Alaska Airlines.

Take some time now to get your travel strategy together for the busiest travel season of the year. Alaskans who travel frequently know what to do. First, remove the pocketknife from your carry-on. Then, empty your water bottle before you get to security. Make sure your Global Entry number is in your record for TSA Pre-Check status, and so forth.

For folks who don’t travel that much, flying can be stressful. But there are a lot of things you can do in advance to help smooth out the rough edges.

In advance of your trip, figure out if you’re going to check your bag or if you want to carry everything on board with you. Remember — flights likely will be full. If you’re the last to board, you may have to check your carry-on bag.

Beat the bag fees if you’re flying on Alaska Airlines or Delta. With Alaska Airlines, make sure you’re signed up for Club 49. It’s free, and Alaska residents qualify for two free checked bags when traveling to or from Alaska.

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With Delta, make sure you’re signed up for the airline’s SkyMiles loyalty plan. Members get two free checked bags.

I haven’t gotten my AirTags from Apple yet. But it’s on my holiday gift list. You can get four for $100. It’s been a long time since an airline lost my bag. But the AirTag can help you keep track of your bag if it doesn’t show up on your flight.

Checking in with my social media hive-mind, travelers are happy to share their favorite “must fly” travel accessories to make their trip a little more comfortable.

Noise-canceling headphones were the most-mentioned accessory. There are several variations, including ear buds and over-the-ear cups. I like the over-the-ear models. I have the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones, which they haven’t made for several years. But they still work great.

Travel troubleshooter Christopher Elliott sent me a note from Zurich, saying he loves the Sony wireless noise-canceling headset. They’re not headphones. Rather, they’re beefed up earbuds that effectively block the noise. “You can sleep in these, unlike the bulky over-the-ear models,” he said.

Two other high-ranking responses were “neck pillow” and “blanket.” This reminds me of Jin Chen’s invention, the Planeket, which she developed to address both of these issues.

Chen’s package includes a blanket that folds up into a pillow case, along with a clasp to keep your blanket from sliding off to the floor of the plane.

As a tall traveler, it never dawned on me that some airline seats are too high for short people. But many travelers use their backpack or a small carry-on to slip under their feet to keep them from dangling off the edge.

This was not news to Candy FitzPatrick, a petite traveler who struggled with dangling feet on long, uncomfortable flights.

FitzPatrick did the research and developed Rest Angles, an adjustable, portable footrest that solves this problem. It’s good not only on flights, though. When I met FitzPatrick for coffee here in Anchorage, she had her Rest Angle device deployed. Since it’s adjustable, the top can rest at an angle for use under a desk, too.

As we sipped our coffee, two women approached her to ask about the device, copied the website address and said they were going to order one right away.

There are new gadgets coming out all the time, particularly for our youngest travelers. Crayola came out with a “mess-free” coloring book. Kids can color in the book, but the markers won’t mess up their clothes, the fold-down tray or the person sitting next to you.

Lots of folks mentioned portable batteries, since there’s no guarantee you’ll sit at a seat with a charger. Here’s an extra tip, though: Be sure to charge the batteries the night before your trip.

There’s an entire subcategory of gadgets to keep kids busy. One parent improvised with this strategy: “I used to get small little puzzles and random small toys and wrap them individually in tissue paper and pull each out as needed during the flight.”

I always carry a portable headlamp, because I’ve sat in several seats where the overhead light isn’t working.

Other small comfort items include lip balm, eye drops and all manner of lotions, although be careful not to trip the 3-ounce rule at TSA.

Our electronics, including iPads, laptops and phones, are only as good as our ability to recharge them. In addition to portable batteries, you have to drag along the right cord. More than once, I’ve forgotten just the right cord and had to stop off at an airport bookstore, hoping they’ll have the right one.

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In addition to several cords and adapters, my “cord nest” also features extra AA and AAA batteries, a thumb drive and eyeglass cleaner.

The next big category from readers was medicine: insulin, EpiPens, Dramamine, Gas-X, ibuprofen and other prescription items that you should not put in your checked luggage.

Be sure to check over your reservations well before your flight. Double-check your connections and your seat assignments. Make sure your frequent flyer number is in your reservation. Plan to get a ride to the airport, since parking lots may be full.

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead, especially if you’re flying during peak travel periods. Now is a good time to get started.

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

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