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Traveling has always been one of my favorite things to do. We moved over 20 times before I was 10, and at one point when I was five, we packed everything into storage and took off on a road trip in a little yellow fiat with a canvas tent strapped to the roof. My Mom was pregnant with my sister at the time. We drove from Vancouver, down into Mexico, back up through Texas and crossed the border into Canada in Ontario before making our way back to BC so my Dad could look for a new job and pay off the charge cards. Times sure have changed the way we travel. I’ve travelled on trains, planes, boats, buses, and motorcycles. These days I travel laden down with all the gak and paraphernalia that go with a toddler so as I prepare for my 2 year old daughter’s 8th flight, I’m thinking of ways to make it easier on both of us.
TSA Wait Times
These days we need to get to the airport hours ahead of our flight so we can get through the security check which can mean standing in line for a very long time. Fortunately, there is an app that lets you look ahead and see just how long the wait is at your airport. You can also see if there are checkpoints that are moving faster. If an airport has several screening points, but they all get travelers into the same place, it will be worth it to walk to one a little further away if it saves you 45 minutes of standing in line. One thing I’ve learned about travelling with a toddler is that we do much, much better if we keep moving. If the airport only has one, look for a line at an outer edge so there is less merging, or check to see if there is a security entrance from inside an attached hotel.
Another terrific travel app is GateGuru which includes maps of airports showing shops, services, and restaurants at each terminal. See real-time flight status information and receive push notifications for updates on your flight. With customer reviews and photos uploaded from travellers, the information stays current. Give other travellers a heads up by posting actual security screening wait times while you’re putting your shoes back on! You can also access TripIt and Kayak travel itineraries through the app.
A great tip I learned from another travelling Mama is to spread everyones stuff into all the bags your family is checking. That way when a bag is lost or delayed, one person isn’t completely without clothing. To make sure that a bag will be returned to you if the outer tags come off accidentally, print a page with your contact information and place one in each bag, right on top so it is the first thing someone will see when they unzip it.
I never book a car in the category I actually want. I get the cheaper one and accept a free upgrade when I get to the counter. The economy cars are nearly always overbooked, and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t get upgraded to a better car for free.
Use Your Manners
I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I see so many sour, grouchy people when I travel, and I know they’re not going to have the same experience I will. I smile constantly, and am polite in even the most trying circumstances. I once won over a grouchy ticket agent who was giving me a hard time, and she ended up apologizing to me and being quite helpful. Armed with unwavering courtesy and gratitude, I get VIP treatment even though I’m a budget traveller!
Alyssa White is a travel agent for luxury Bahamas resorts who has travelled her entire life with her family. She uses her experiences to write articles and give advice to others on the ins and outs of travel.