Travel tips wanted–for me

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

As I said in the previous post, I’m going to Oklahoma City this fall, Lord willing. But get this:

  • I have never made my own hotel reservations
  • I haven’t flown on a plane in 30 years
  • I travel so little, I don’t even own luggage

GWA Symposium logoDo you know how much flying has changed in thirty years? Not only was this before stricter security regulations, and before internet access for ticket purchases, it was even before airline deregulation. (If you don’t remember the big to-do over airline deregulation, I am probably old enough to be your mother.) What hasn’t changed about flying since I was last on a plane?

So you see, I am in need of all kinds of helpful hints and advice. The best place and time to buy my airline ticket. How do I know if it’s smarter to use my local airport or travel an hour away to a bigger airport? How soon before departure should I arrive at the airport? What’s the smartest way to pack? What’s the most convenient luggage? Who sells good luggage and who sells crap? How to dress comfortably, both on the plane and in Oklahoma City, where it could be anywhere from 75F to 90F at that time of the year? And probably a zillion other questions that I don’t know enough to ask. In general, how do I travel cheaper, smarter, and hassle-free? Ok, minimize the hassles.

All those times when you wanted to give someone advice, and you didn’t, because it wasn’t polite? Now you can make up for it. I’m asking for advice, and I sure hope you don’t disappoint me.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

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Nicole July 13, 2007, 12:05 pm

Kathy: I worked 8 months last year in another island, so that was one trip home almost every weekend- so that was one flight every Friday evening and another every Sunday evening. Plus I had work travel to Suriname, St Lucia, St Kitts and Washington for meetings and training. I went to Trinidad for Carnival with my husband, and had a trip to Colorado to this big bash in honour of my professor/mentor at the University of Colorado. In November I had a great visit to my friends in San Francisco, then in December a work trip to Laos and a vacation in Luang Prabang and Bangkok after (since I was in the area and the expensive flight was already paid for LOL)-so 50 flights might actually be a conservative estimate!

Kathy Purdy July 13, 2007, 9:23 am

Nicole, Wow! Fifty flights! That’s almost a flight a week. Great tips and thanks for the walk-through, that really helps.

Nicole July 12, 2007, 9:26 pm

Kathy Here’s a little walk though:
1. Check in at the counter early. I would have a carry on with all necessities for a couple days, and a small checked luggage with the rest of the stuff and room to bring back anything. Confirm the seat you booked eg aisle, close to front etc.
2. Go through the security line right after you check in, Sometimes they may have unforeseen delays. Have your boarding pass and ID ready for inspection. The inspector will then direct you to the queue.
3. When you reach the belt and bins put on your carry-on on the belt, laid flat first, then your handbag and shoes in one bin, then your laptop ( without case) laid flat separately in another bin. If you don’t think you will really need your laptop then don’t carry it, as that complicates things. While your stuff is being conveyed though the scanner, the security will beckon you to pass through the human scanner. After you pass through he/she will ask to see your boarding pass. After this put away your boarding pass/docs.
4. They may ask you to either open your luggage or to secondary search you. If you pack with all zip lock bags except for clothes then the search of luggage is really fast. If they want to secondary search you then simply follow their instructions/answer questions. I think they more do these on international flights.
5. Take up your luggage, handbag, put on your shoes etc. and head to your gate. If there are no clear signs stating the flight at the gate, show the agent your boarding pass to confirm that’s the correct gate. I totally endorse the suggestion to carry on some granola bars, nuts etc.
6. Agent will announce boarding 15-30 minutes before the flight, it’s usually by group or seat numbers-listed on boarding p

Nicole July 12, 2007, 9:02 pm

I took about 50 flights last year, so I have tons of advice, but I see others beat me to it!
Permanently packed and replenished in my carry on are:
(1) Tiny sizes of all my medicines and toiletries in the zip lock bag ( enough to get me through 3-4 days) with larger sizes or more sample sizes of what I need for the rest of the trip (eg toothpaste) in the checked luggage.
(2) Several pairs of underwear and small pack of panty shields in a zip lock, just in case your luggage gets lost/flight is delayed, and also security wont open and search these when they are in a clear zip lock bag!
(3) Travel packets of antibacterial wipes.
(4) Another bag with small sizes of the non liquid non gel toiletries and medicines.
I can’t tell you how many women travelers I have “saved” when they arrived at the hotel for a conference sans luggage, sans clean underwear and sans toiletries.
Also, I pack all little things eg cellphone chargers, camera, flash drives in zip lock bags in my carry on, so its faster to zip through a manual security check.

Kathy Purdy July 11, 2007, 1:00 pm

Thank you, County Clerk, for the great walk-through. And my symposium materials do mention that it could easily be 95 outside and freezing (uh, air conditioned) in the hotel.

All–I just found some more great travel tips. Who knew there was a website devoted to the seating plan on every imaginable carrier?

The County Clerk July 10, 2007, 12:04 pm

Oh… and Late September in Oklahoma isn’t exactly the “fall” you might be thinking of. More like LATE SUMMER. September in North Texas can be a scorcher. I’m guessing Oklahoma is no different.

To me, August and Sept are the hottest months of the year down there….


July is no picnic.

The County Clerk July 10, 2007, 12:00 pm


Are you infirm or aged? If you, shouldn’t be a problem

Otherwise, don’t WORRY about it. You stand in the big line when they tell you to stand in the big line. They move everyone through very quickly. You step on board and say this to the flight attendant (who will be at the door of the plane – count on it): “Hello, I’m seat 18C, where is that?”

Peice of cake.

The County Clerk July 10, 2007, 11:56 am

Tracy is right on.

Here’s the big thing: It is GOING TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF A HASSLE. It will be fine. But if you EXPECT everything to go easy-smoothly, you will disappointed. There will be hiccups.

Check your big bag, carry a SMALL one. Allow plenty of time. Bring something to read. Make sure your Phone, iPod, Laptop etc are fully charged.

Checking your big bag is key. These days, no one wants to do it. We all want to speed up the arrival. But… there is rarely enough overhead space and you don’t want the hassle. Check the bag.

Also… ANYTHING but a middle seat. Aisle seets are great if you wany a little “breathing” room and want to easily get up. But… on the aisle, you get up EVERY TIME anyone else does. Window seats are great for sleeping… you can put your head on the bulkhead. But… you are “tucked” in there. For me, I do AISLE seats for short hops (Chicago to Detroit) and WINDOW seats for everything else.

I’ll actually take a different flight if I get a middle seat on long hop.

Oh… I don’t know if you driving to the airport (at home) or not. And I don’t know how it is for women, with purses. But, when I part at the airport (at the beginning of the trip) I write a note to myself on the parking ticket that I got when I entered the garage. The note is a clue as to where I parked… what floor what corner, what evelator. It is susually just a few words… or I circle the right stuff on the ticket (floor number, etc). Then… put that ticket IN YOUR WALLET. Do not leave it in your car. You want to have it with you. Then, after you lock your car (it will be fine), put your keys and stuff away. I’m a guy. I norally I have my keys in my pocket. When I travel, I zip ’em into my carry-on. I do this IN THE PARKING LOT. Also, if you smoke, leave your lighter in the car (you can’t take it) and put your smokes away (you can’t smoke anywhere). Also, put any change (that might be in your pockets) away… somewhere else. You don’t need any coins to travel.

(The BEST THING to do is get a towncar or a friend to drive you and pick you up.)

Get your ID ready. Put your carry-on on top of your rolling “big bag.” Extend the handle of the big bag and pull them both to the check in counter. Walk to gate (clear security), sit down, open book, read.

Have a great trip.

Kathy Purdy July 9, 2007, 6:44 pm

Tracy, I have been enjoying all the tips immensely. I can stand all people want to share. Come back a second time, anyone, if you think of something you forgot to mention the first time! Number 3 made me laugh, because it is exactly the type of thing I need to remind myself. I usually feel (even when I know better) that if I don’t get it right the first time, I’m ruined! And barrettes setting off the security alarms? Ack!
Rualway, thanks for the link. It looks like it has a lot of “overview” information that I need to get the big picture. It sounds like just about everything revolves around coping with various security requirements.

Keep those tips coming, everyone!

rualway July 9, 2007, 2:49 pm

For the latest up-to-the minute info from the government on seurity issues, see:

I work in the travel industry and always include this link for my clients.

I would also advise you to purhase your ticket sooner rather than later-there is far more demand than capicity for air travel at this time which always translates into higher fares and fuller flights.

OKC is not that far away but nonstop flights are not offered from Binghmaton or Syracuse.

Remember to bring your patience when you travel!

Tracy July 9, 2007, 1:20 pm


I travel a lot for business, and I see you’ve gotten a lot of great tips. If you can stand it, here are some more:

1. I would highly recommend checking your suitcase, even if you’re only gone a few days. I find that when I’m at a conference I get a lot of stuff (as someone else mentioned), so I bring a suitcase with some extra room. That saves the expense of shipping things back. Also, security is now a royal pain in the neck. The fewer things you bring with you on the plane, the better.

2. If you check a bag, put the following into your purse or tote for the plane (in addition to what you’d normally have in your purse): anything prescription (medications, glasses, contacts), some over-the-counter meds (like aspirin, antacid, etc.), gum, snack(s), camera, phone, a good book. Plan to purchase bottled water or other drinks at the airport, as you can’t bring them through security.

3. Remind yourself, “There are stores where I’m going.” That way, you’ll feel a lot less stress about forgetting something. I always figure, if I have my purse and glasses (I’m a contacts-wearer), I can get anything else I need at my destination.

4. Don’t bring your computer unless you absolutely have to. It’s a pain to bring through security, it’s heavy to carry around the airport, and even with the best of intentions I hardly ever end up using it. Even though I’m a business owner, I’ve discovered that I never have to bring my computer. The phone works fine, and e-mail can wait a few days.

5. If you wear contacts, make sure to bring a travel-size rinsing solution, contact case and glasses with you on the plane. That way, if you get stuck for any reason, you can take out your contacts.

6. If you do decide to bring a carry-on rather than checking your bag, here are some tips: Mascara is considered a “gel” and must be in the 1-quart plastic bag. Don’t even think about using a 1-gallon plastic bag – they won’t let you. Pre-pack your 1-quart plastic bag before you get into the line. Have your ID and boarding pass ready when you get to the front of the line, and keep them out until you go through the metal detector. Double-check your fluids and gels to make sure the packages are 3 oz or less. You can’t bring a 6 oz container that’s only half full – the container itself must be 3 oz or less. Toothpaste is frustrating – it seems to only be available in either those tiny little 0.5 oz tubes or in 5+ oz sizes. There are different rules for liquid medications, which are posted at each airline’s website.

7. Wear shoes with socks to the airport. I personally find it gross to go barefoot through the security line. If your shoes are slip-on’s, all the better.

8. Gold jewelry will go through security without having to be taken off. This includes my gold watch, but I’m not sure if that’s specific to this watch or all gold watches. Silver is a little more problematic, so I always wear gold and pack silver.

9. Barrettes set off the security alarm. I always forget this one – I just forgot 2 weeks ago and set off the alarm. Underwires will not set off the alarm.

10. When you get to the hotel and are checking in, ask for a room with a good view. A lot of times you can get a really nice view, sometimes not, but it’s always worth asking.

11. Also, as a woman traveling alone, I always make sure my room is not at the end of a hallway or tucked around a corner. You don’t have to be right in front of the elevator, but don’t let them put you in a location that feels “lonely,” either.

12. There will be a hair dryer at the hotel, so you don’t need to bring your own.

13. Even if the conference has a negotiated rate for the rooms, if you have AAA, ask about it. Occasionally it will be less expensive than the negotiated room rate.

14. Pack in clothes you can wear in layers. As someone else said, it can be chilly in conference rooms, but yet 90 degrees outside. Don’t bring new shoes unless you’ve broken them in. Nothing is worse than blisters at a conference.

Jane July 9, 2007, 10:01 am

Oh, don’t worry about the Fahrenheit thing on my account – I could easily do the conversion but I’m lazy 🙂

ellipsisknits July 9, 2007, 9:13 am

As I understood, pre-boarding was only for people with small children, or others with conditions which make it hard for them to navigate the aisle and get settled.

I’ve re-ticketed before, not on a connection, but my first leg. We arrived at the airport the recommended crazy amount early, and the gate agent offered that there was a flight leaving soon if we could make it. Didn’t even have to ask.

As for flying out of nearby airports, the best way to figure this out is at the travel site itself. Just plug in nearby places and see if it’s cheaper. Smaller airports can also be less crowded, stressful, and delay prone, assuming the flights don’t connect right back through the same airport you avoided in the fist place!

If you’re getting second hand luggage, bring a tape measure. They’re much more picky about sizes than they used to be. Most airline sites list their luggage size restrictions, though they generally use a convoluted formula.

I’m also a big fan of mailing things if you have someone to receive them on the other end.


Kathy Purdy July 7, 2007, 8:27 pm

Carol, I had been thinking about shipping souvenirs back, but you’re right, there will probably be a ton of papers. Thanks for the idea.

Kathy Purdy July 7, 2007, 8:26 pm

Robin, great idea about the candle! What’s your favorite (brand or scent)? My mom also gave me the tip about tips, and it’s a good thing, because I forget about “helpers” needing tips.I have been thinking a lot about the bag I will be carrying all day, as I know we will be going on several garden tours where I will want my hands free to take pictures. So I was thinking of some kind of “fanny pack” (worn in front). The only one I have is just big enough for keys and id. Can anyone recommend one that is better suited for travel–and symposiums/conventions?

Kathy Purdy July 7, 2007, 8:19 pm

Jane, the GWA reserves a block of rooms; I just have to call to get the negotiated rate. And thanks for the tip about shoes. I was planning to buy some, but hadn’t given much thought to breaking them in. Sorry about the Fahrenheit. When I have time, or if the post revolves around temperature, I use this trick to convert from Fahrenheit for the rest of the world. It is embarrassing to be so backward about temperature, and I’m ashamed I don’t always take the time to provide it both ways. But you’re right: OK’s autumn weather sounds like my summer weather.

Kathy Purdy July 7, 2007, 8:11 pm

Camilla, I never heard of reticketing to an earlier flight before. Have you done that often? And great idea about scanning all the cards. That’s quicker and probably more accurate than writing them all down.

Kathy Purdy July 7, 2007, 8:08 pm

Marie, the site you recommend was temporarily unavailable. My mother has been clipping newspaper articles about travel websites. I’m getting quite a folder full.

Kathy Purdy July 7, 2007, 8:05 pm

Sandi, How do you know if you can take advantage of preboarding? I think the Wall St. Journal had a similar article. It sounds like the best thing to do is avoid connecting flights–but that’s not always possible, is it? An “overzealous” security person? Ack!

Carol July 7, 2007, 11:12 am

Another tip for the conference is if you find you collect a lot of handouts and brochures, send those home via UPS, rather than lugging them with you. It makes you decide if all the materials are worth the expense of shipping.

And if you take a laptop computer, do not check it as luggage, or you may never see it again.

Robin (Bumblebee) July 6, 2007, 4:36 pm

I travel a LOT. You have received some good advice. I would add the following:

–I have sat on enough planes without food that I ALWAYS carry a bag of nuts, a granola bar or other muchie. Airlines don’t stock much food these days, but think nothing of stranding you on the ground for hours locked inside the cabin.
–You will be meeting all kinds of interesting people. Don’t forget to bring business cards, even if you have to print them youself. You’ll be glad you did!
–I always take a nicely scented candle to light in my room. Even though you can get non-smoking rooms, they always have a peculiar odor. Light up! (Oh, and make sure you put the matches in your checked luggage, as they’ll confiscate them at the airport if you don’t.)
–I always carry plenty of one dollar bills and usually have four or five stuffed in a pocket. It seems I’m always running into someone who expects a tip (doormen, valets, bellmen, bathroom attendants, etc.). I hate having to be digging in my bag looking for a bill with people standing around.
–If the hotel has a concierge, rely on them for recommendations about local restaurants and attractions. Often they can get you a seat when no one else can because they send so much business to the local establishments.
–Trim down the contents of the bag you’ll be carrying all day during the conference. Those things get heavy after a while!

Happy travels!

Jane July 6, 2007, 10:23 am

I recommend a good travel agent (although I don’t know one in your area) – she/he should be able to handle booking your tickets, the hotel and giving you advice about travelling, packing, luggage, etc.

That said, I have heard that you can get as good or better hotel rates by phoning the hotel direct, as opposed to booking online.

Can you borrow luggage from someone, rather than buy? If you don’t travel much, it might be better. Or go to a second hand store – they often have luggage that is perfectly fine. Wheels are good, and soft-sided so you can cram in a few extra souveniers. And make sure the zippers work. Buckles that reinforce the zippers are a good additional feature.

I love flying so I always get a window seat – it is cool to look down on the world. I chose my undergraduate major (physical geography) after getting fascinated with the view of the Canadian Shield from the air. All those glacial striations…

A pair of good walking shoes is essential. Make sure they’re already broken in – last conference I went to I wore new shoes and got insane blisters just walking between my hotel and the conference venue 🙁

When planning for a variable climate, go for the layered look. That way you can add/subtract as the weather dictates. I don’t do Fahrenheit, and of course temperature is always relative to what you’re used to, but 75-90 degrees sounds pretty warm to me, so I’d go with a waterproof windbreaker and a nice sweater or sweatshirt that you can layer if it gets cooler.

As far as other clothes go, I always find it better to be slightly more formal rather than too casual. Chinos and polo shirts are great – they are comfortable and they look slightly dressier/more professional than jeans and t-shirts but have the same advantages in heat. A pair of tailored shorts are versatile as well (and they pack smaller than trousers).

Camilla July 6, 2007, 9:35 am

I sound like someone who loses things all the time, but that isn’t actually the case; I’ve lost my wallet once ever, from an unattended bag (and I was very grateful for the photocopy), and my luggage has always turned up eventually. But I find that a good understanding of what in life is easily replaceable helps my attitude a lot, when strangers are rooting through my stuff.

Oh, and if you bring a laptop computer, do make a backup before you go. The bumps and jolts of traveling can make drives fail pretty easily.

Camilla July 6, 2007, 9:26 am

I have a baggy cotton overshirt (made of seersucker or some such) that I always take traveling. It’s light enough for summer use, and you want something to put on if you’re stuck in an aggressively ac’d terminal or chilly plane. People dress down for flying these days, so a tshirt and shorts is otherwise fine.

Among my other incidentals, I usually have a spare pair of socks in my carry-on, and a tube of lip balm.

I do not buy travel insurance anymore (if you do, beware the fine print – mine was unhelpful the time I needed it) but I also try not to take along anything I would be sad if I lost. If things conspire against you and you miss a flight, many airlines will accommodate you on the next one; likewise, if you are ridiculously early for a flight that the airline runs every hour, ask the gate agent nicely if they can reticket you onto the earlier one.

Before leaving, line up all the cards in your wallet on the bed of a scanner or photocopier, and save multiple copies of both sides. Take one with you, and leave one with a friend or at home; that way, should your wallet get lost or stolen, you will have a head start in getting everything reported and replaced.

Marie FKA Piana Nanna July 6, 2007, 5:15 am

It looks like Sandi answered most of your questions, but as far as buying tickets, I have a suggestion. I hesitate to plug a travel site but this one has good prices. It’s an online travel company owned by a friend. Check out Prices are equal or better than places like Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline, and easy to use.

Sandi July 5, 2007, 10:37 pm

You can only take a small mount of liquids on the plane, and they all have to fit into a 1 quart ziplock type bag.

Your flight will probably be late or delayed, there is an article about that in the NYTimes

Some airlines only allow one checked bag now, you have to check your airline policy when you book the flight.

Everything goes through the xray machine, and if you have laptop it has to be put through in it’s own separate container in the security check-through.

I always tie a colorful ribbon on my luggage so I can tell it from all the other luggage on the carousel.

Get to the airport early, use preboarding if you can, nothing is worse than having to squeeze your carry on bags into the overhead with a bunch of people crushing you trying to do the same.

And if course dress in comfy clothes and shoes that are easy to slip off just in case you get an over-zealous security person.