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Arrive Alive (Charlie's tips for long-haul travel)

I've been traveling too much lately, and it tends to concentrate the mind. Not your usual commuting travel, of course, but international, intercontinental travel, which in the post-9/11 era is more than a little trying.

(On the subject of terrorism and flying, I have this to say: your chances of being involved in a real incident — as opposed to a false alarm — are vanishingly small. Much of the post-9/11 security checks are smoke and mirrors, nonsense designed to demonstrate that something is being done in order to justify the ever-increasing demands for money and attention emanating from the monstrous $90Bn baby of the counter-terrorism industry that has sprung up since 2001. The real solution to the security hole exposed by the Hamburg Al-Quaida cell on September 11th 2001 was in place the very same day, as the non-arrival of Flight 93 demonstrated. The ground rules for hijacking have changed: if someone tries to gain access to the cockpit in flight, you need to stop them at all costs — all else is secondary, and the simple fact that the traveling public are aware of it makes the post-9/11 security measures pointless. As for the "liquid explosives" nonsense of 2006, it's precisely that — nonsense that obsesses scientifically illiterate politicos who slept through chemistry class at school and learned everything they fear about terrorism from Hollywood.)

But I digress. I'm not here to talk about terrorism, I'm here to talk about long-haul international travel, and how to do so with a minimum of discomfort and inconvenience. Herewith, a brain dump of what I've learned from flying upwards of 50,000 miles a year for several years.

Note: this essay is applicable to ordinary middle class stiffs like you and me. The very rich need simply have their secretary call the Netjets agent and settle back to wait for the limo to take them to the Gulfstream or BBJ. The merely rich fly first class or business class, bypassing all of the discomforts and restrictions on baggage except for the onerous check-in security theatre. As for the rest of us ...

Rule #0: be prepared. If you're going to travel, you need to line up all your ducks in a row first. Make sure your passport is in date and doesn't look as if it's been tampered with. (In particular: if the photograph page looks as if someone may have messed with the photograph, get a replacement passport right now.) Make sure your flights are booked, and (if flying to the USA) you've got an itinerary with the addresses of where you're going to be staying. There will be an exam, administered in flight, and if you don't fill out the landing card properly the immigration officer may refuse you entry. Take a black ballpoint pen. (Pack two!) Visas are a whole other kettle of fish; luckily for me, most places I fly to don't require them. (The USA has a visa waiver scheme for EU citizens that covers vacations and short business trips — as long as you're not working as "an agent of the foreign press" or earning a living. This covers things like trade shows and, apparently, science fiction conventions and publicity tours.) You should also almost certainly ensure that you have comprehensive travel insurance policy, including medical and legal cover of at least $1M. Oh, and make sure your mobile phone works in your destination country and your phone plan covers international roaming. (Note that GSM phones do not work in Japan, dual-band European GSM phones don't work in all parts of the USA, CDMA phones — from the USA — do not work anywhere outside the USA, and so on. There are some other rules. Ask your phone company for guidance.)

Rule #1: allow far more time than you expect to need for connections. If you're flying international, especially if one of your endpoints is inside the United States, you really need to allow 2-3 hours for check-in these days. If you're flying intercontinental distances via a major hub — for example, flying from a regional airport like Edinburgh to Heathrow, then transferring to a long-haul flight to the west coast (as I'll be doing, next week) — you need to ensure that there are at least two, and preferably three, hours between flights.

Airports are huge places. (Heathrow employs 120,000 staff — where do they keep them all? — and shoves through a similar number of travelers on a daily basis.) It can easily take you fifty minutes to make your way from an arrival gate to a departure gate. And air traffic control delays can result in your initial feeder flight arriving an hour late. During 2006, Heathrow operated at close to 98% capacity; a light morning fog around 6am could delay take-offs, result in knock-on delays to all flights in British airspace later in the day as planes arrived late and were late taking on passengers for subsequent flights. Don't assume you can run from your arrival gate to a departure lounge in a quarter of an hour. These days you'll almost certainly have to go through a security checkpoint before boarding your onward flight, adding another 10-45 minutes to the journey. On a recent trip, flying via Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, I'd allowed two hours and 50 minutes between connections. We ended up spending less than 30 minutes in the lounge — the rest of it was spent walking, riding a mass transit system, and queuing at checkpoints.

Rule #2: for dealing with security, the cardinal points are: do not be impatient, and do not be an asshole. Security personnel are not responsible for security policy. They've got a thankless, annoying, badly paid job to do. They do not bear you a personal grudge. Things will go more smoothly if you do not make a nuisance of yourself or stand out from the crowd. Most of us find it easy to get annoyed at being treated like sheep, but consider the alternative: if you pick a fight or an argument with these people you are going to lose, probably miss your flight, and possibly end up being prosecuted. If you can't suck it up for all of ten or fifteen minutes, you probably shouldn't be strapping yourself into an aluminium can with several hundred strangers for several hours. Be polite, obey instructions, don't give in to the temptation to mouth off, and you'll almost certainly be okay. Remember you agreed to this nonsense when you decided to fly; nobody held a gun to your head. (If they did, you're being subjected to extraordinary rendition and you can ignore the rest of this article — you've got much bigger problems.)

This may sound overly paranoid, but these days I make an effort not to wear clothing bearing any kind of logo or design (you have no way of knowing what might set someone else off). I do not wear a belt (some airports are currently X-raying belts). I wear comfortable shoes that I can slip on an off easily (airports conduct random checks of footwear): sandals for preference, because they're less likely to attract a search. (You can't conceal anything in them, and you can take them off more easily during the 8-12 hour flight.) I do not carry a multitool or knife or scissors on my person or in my hand luggage — they go in a padded bag in my checked luggage before I fly. I do not carry books or periodicals that have hot-button titles or subjects on their cover (although ebooks, on an ebook reader which is switched off when going through the security tap-dance, are another matter). In other words, nothing that's potentially going to slow me down or risk setting off a stupid, angry, paranoid idiot with a bee in their bonnet. Not because I think all aviation security people are stupid, angry, and paranoid ... but because planning for the worst is prudent.

(Left to my own devices I'd normally do the exact opposite to this list ... but I've made a decision to travel and these are the rules for that particular environment. Intrusive and annoying they may be, but that's the score. Spend your time in the queue mentally drafting a letter to your legislator — who knows? If enough of us write them, the security theatre run might get canceled. But this is another digression. Back to the topic.)

Rule #3: luggage. The UK is currently a pain to fly from, because the government is enforcing a "one piece of hand luggage ONLY" rule. This may be relaxed next year with the installation of new screening machines, but for the time being, you get precisely one bag — not the usual one bag plus one personal item such as a laptop or handbag. If you want to take the "personal item", you need to be able to shove it in your single carry on bag while it goes through the security check. They don't mind you taking it out afterwards; go figure.

For a long haul flight my needs on the plane are: essential travel documentation, money/wallet, medicines, hydration, and entertainment. Hydration (in the form of water — one litre per 4 hours in the air) can be purchased in the departure lounge at the airport your long-haul flight departs from. (Don't buy your water air-side at your regional departure airport; security will just take it off you at the next airport while you're waiting in line for your connection.) Remember that the air on most modern airliners is dessicated and your mucous membranes will dry out. The way to deal with this is to avoid alcohol (which will hit you extra-hard in flight anyway, because the pressurized cabin is maintained at around the same air pressure you'd find at an altitude of 3000 metres), and drink water regularly, ideally a quarter to half a litre (half to one pint) per hour.

Medicines are a hard call. If you have regular prescription medication, take it with you in your hand luggage in the dispensed, labeled, packets. Take a photocopy of your prescription, or get your doctor to write a "to whom it may concern" letter. Take at least seven days' more medication than your trip calls for, in case you are detained by happenstance at the other end. If your medication includes opiates or stimulants, you really ought to seek expert advice before travel, from the consulate or embassy of your destination. Do this before you book your flights — in some rare cases, you may find it impossible to make suitable arrangements for travel. If taking over-the-counter remedies, keep them in their original purchased packets, try to check that they're legal in your destination country, and don't be surprised if Customs officers at the far end confiscate them. (I've avoided this so far.) Bear in mind that boxes or jars of unidentified white pills or capsules make drug enforcement officers twitchy.

Entertainment: you need a book or magazine for the hour or so that your long-haul flight will spend on the ground, queuing for take-off, or on final approach for landing. During this period you're not allowed to use electronic devices. (The real reason is nothing to do with radio interference and everything to do with folks who are wrapped up in an ipod or a laptop taking longer to evacuate from a burning wreck. In the event of the unthinkable, do you want your escape impeded because some ass-hat in front of you is trying to take his 17" laptop with him?) An ipod loaded with your favourite music and a few movies or TV shows is a wonderful thing to behold on an 8 or 12 or 22 hour flight. Make sure it's fully charged before you depart, though, or take an external battery-powered charger with you. You might also want to look into getting some decent ear canal headphones. They block external noise just as effectively as ear plugs, while letting you hear your music — and they give better sound quality.

I can plough through about one novel per 6 hours of flight. These days I carry a PDA — a Palm TX — loaded with ebooks. Even with a battery powered charger and a case, it weighs no more than a single paperback and it gives me a whole bookshelf. (I'll probably swap it for a real digital paper based ebook reader one of these days, when I see one I like.)

Using a laptop is next to impossible in economy class, unless it's tiny and you're supermodel-skinny (I'm not). Be very wary about pulling one out and putting it on the tray table before the person in front of you has fully reclined their seat — every day, laptop screens get crunched that way. Be warned that few airlines provide seatback chargers in economy class (although it's beginning to show up). Your laptop will be security-screened separately, so keep it near the top of your carry-on luggage so you can pull it out fast. Security may also ask you to turn it on to demonstrate that it's not a fiendishly-disguised bomb. Having it in sleep mode rather than hibernating or switched off is a sensible precaution when going through security. If you plan to actually use it in flight, either go Business Class or take a spare battery.

Be aware that various countries run on different voltages and have different types of mains socket. When I travel, I have a kit bag containing multi-voltage adapters and different plug heads for all the electronics I've got. It adds weight, but it's essential. While laptops and ipods are generally flexible, not all phones and game consoles have power supplies that accept multiple input voltages. Try and get your travel adapters sorted out before you travel (and if you're American, make sure your adapters will safely take inputs up to 240 volts).

Security personnel of some nations claim the right to grab your laptop and rifle through the hard drive for Cthulhu-knows-what. If traveling with a laptop, it's best to assume it's going to be searched (or stolen) and plan accordingly. Oddly, they don't seem to be routinely doing this to memory cards in digital cameras, thumb drives on keyrings, or your online accounts.

(Don't put your laptop in your hold luggage if you want to see it again in one piece, okay? Ditto valuable jewelry, cameras, electronics, and so on. Hold luggage is for items you're willing to shrug and replace on the insurance. It may get lost — British Airways at Heathrow have a notorious baggage problem this year — or dropped off the edge of an airliner's cargo bay onto the concrete ramp from ten metres. Keep it for clothing, toiletries, shoes, and the like. Oh, and any duty-free gifts for friends — as long as they're heavily protected by bubble wrap or the like, and the case has hard sides.)

You may want to fly with other electronics. A Nintendo DS or Sony PSP can make the hours pass faster. A personal digital video player (such as an iPod video) frees you from the usual execrable airline choice of bowdlerized pap. And a decent blindfold and a pair of ear plugs are a real help when you get sleepy.

Rather than irritating everyone by repeatedly hauling your hand luggage down from an overhead bin during the flight, look for a compact bag that holds your minimum stash — documents, meds, toys, books — and that you can pull out of your main bag and store under the seat in front of you.

Rule #4: arrive alive. Long-haul travel in an airliner is one of the most uncomfortable experiences most of us will pay good money to undertake. As I said earlier, if you can afford to, fly Business Class. Business Class is expensive, but it's not unimaginable luxury; it just takes the pain out of the experience and ensures you arrive feeling tired and grubby but not entirely bent out of shape. Unfortunately, Business Class is expensive. (For some long-haul routes such as UK/Australia or UK/Japan, it's about a 120-150% mark-up over economy ... but on the EU-US routes, price gouging holds sway and the premium can be closer to 500%.)

One thing I'd strongly recommend avoiding is flying for any route that takes more than 3 hours in a Boeing 737, 757, or Airbus 318/319/320/321. These narrow-body airliners (with one aisle) are designed for short-haul routes. They don't have the leg room, baggage space, in-flight entertainment system, or toilets to adequately serve a long-haul route. I've gone trans-Atlantic on a packed 757 once. Never again! The only exception is if it's one of the special business-class-only services — and as I indicated earlier, if you can afford them, this essay ain't really aimed at you.

Airliners are dessicated and dry, and after that first lunch or dinner is served, it's common practice to close the window shades and turn the heat up, encouraging passengers to sleep. (Sleeping passengers put fewer demands on cabin crew and are less likely to act up.) Loose, comfortable clothing is strongly recommended. Lots of extra fluid (far more than the cabin crew will offer you) is a good idea. And frequent toilet trips.

One aspect of arriving alive is to make sure you keep your circulation going. You do not want to succumb to a deep vein thrombosis. The British government has a web page here that explains what it is, and details some simple exercises you can carry out during the flight to reduce the probability of suffering from one. A simple point that they don't emphasize enough is that getting up and walking around helps. This simply isn't feasible in a narrow-body airliner, but in a wide-body there's enough room to get up and go to the toilet every hour or so, stretching your legs. (I'd advise against exercising in the toilets; it's rude to your fellow passengers' bladders and it may alarm the cabin crew.)

I'm on blood pressure medication. I always try to get an aisle seat, because the combination of medication and hydration in flight turns me into an animated fire hydrant. Crawling across strangers' laps every hour to go to the toilet isn't cool: if you have a similar condition, try to plan your seat allocation accordingly.

The next major issue is jetlag.

I don't have any real answers to jetlag except: it is essential that on your day of arrival you should try not to go to bed until your normal bed time in the time zone you're arriving in. You may need to take a nap en route, either on the aircraft or in your hotel post-arrival, but make sure you don't sleep through. I usually find that when taking a red-eye from the US home to the UK, I need a two-hour mid-afternoon nap after I get home; that's okay because it sets me up to stay awake until 11pm, and the next day I wake up on local time. On the other hand, crashing out for 7-8 hours would leave me waking up around midnight, fresh as a daisy, which is exactly what you don't want to have happening to you.

A good rule of thumb is to calculate how long your travel day is going to be, from waking up to catch your flight to hitting the pillow at 11pm or so in your destination. If it's over 18 hours, you probably want to schedule a nap, somewhere. Just remember to set your alarm, unless you do it in flight. (The cabin crew won't let you sleep through final approach and landing.)

Rule #5: Immigration

I have never met an airport immigration desk that was set up to make travelers feel welcome, but there are various grades of awfulness. Entering the USA today has been compared unfavourably with entering Iran, or the Soviet Union circa 1985. It's a very unfriendly experience, but a bit of preparation helps.

You need your travel documents close to hand during your flight because the cabin crew will hand out customs declaration forms and landing cards/visa waiver forms. This is where the ballpoint pen comes in handy, and the address of your hotel, and your passport number. (I said there'd be an exam, didn't I?) Read the instructions on the forms before filling them in, because there's nothing as annoying as being sent to the back of a queue of 300 shuffling jet-lagged tourists at what your body insists is 3am because you forgot to fill it in in block capitals or something.

US immigration will photograph you with a webcam and fingerprint you. They'll ask intrusive and annoying questions and try to spot holes in your answers that suggest you're lying to them.

Do not lie to these people. They can lock you up and throw away the key. The former US attorney general was of the opinion that they could beat seven shades of crap out of you with impunity, as long as they didn't kill you. Until you clear immigration and customs you are an un-person. Admonitions about being polite and playing by their rules apply doubly here. If you give them cause, they will clap you in hand-cuffs and put you on the next flight home. This is not what you suffered through 8 hours of long-haul travel for.

(Here, I'm lucky. I tell them I'm a novelist. If they ask for more, I can pull out a book printed in their country, with my photograph on the back cover. It's never failed yet: the DHS must have some rule that says terrorists aren't allowed to masquerade as science fiction writers. However, I live in fear of the day some budding Svengali of Sabotage realizes he can infiltrate a jihadi cell into the USA by disguising them as a literary conference.)

After immigration you hopefully get to claim your hold luggage. If it's not there, find an airline rep and tell them, fast. At this point, you need to have those bar-coded receipts they gummed to your ticket envelope or passport or forehead, and tell them your final destination so they can forward the bags to you. NB: you can usually screw a small allowance out of them for essential replacements such as underwear and toiletries. And you may need to hang on to those receipts as proof of carriage in the event that the bags never turn up and you need to make an insurance claim.

Next you go through Customs. The admonition about not lying goes for Customs, just like Immigration. If you're carrying something and you're not sure of its status, approach them and ask. They may tell you that you need to pay a fee, but the mere act of asking tends to defuse any suspicion that you're trying to smuggle stuff past them.

(NB: when entering Australia, pay attention to the warnings about food. The Australians are extremely hardcore about food. The only appropriate way to take foreign produce into Australia is in your stomach, being digested. They can and will treat a bunch of bananas as harshly as an eighth of grass at a BRitish port of entry.)

Rule #7: Arrival. You have arrived, jet-lagged and exhausted, at the arrivals hall of a foreign airport after 12-24 hours of travel. You are towing a battered piece of luggage and have a laptop weighing down your shoulder bag. At this point, you need to get to a hotel or a friend's house. It is a good idea to have ensured you have a stash of the appropriate currency before you set out, because it is at this point that you usually discover that your credit card won't work in any of the ATMs in the concourse. Hint: taxis from airports into cities are convenient but tend to cost a chunk of money. (From Edinburgh Airport into Edinburgh can be anything up to £20, depending where you want to go. New York cabs are capped at roughly $50 between any airport and any destination in Manhattan. And so on.) If your airport is far enough out to warrant a dedicated rail link to the big city, it's probably so far out that a taxi will cost as much as a flight to the next city over. You need to have planned for your arrival every bit as much as you planned for your flight.

The best way to arrive is to be met in by a friend who drives you to their house or your hotel. They'll be awake, even if you're dead on your feet, because they're running on local time. Few things are as soul-crushing as trying to make sense of the public transport infrastructure of a foreign city at what your body insists is three in the morning, with thirty kilos of luggage on tow and no money.

Anyway, that's the highlights of the travel process. I've left out a lot. What toiletries do you really need? (Most hotels provide toothbrush and toothpaste these days, or have a shop that sells such sundries. Dry dental powder, unlike toothpaste, saves you from the liquids-in-baggies nonsense at security. And so on.) Should you pack lots of clothing, or rely on hotel laundry services? What's the best way to go about booking an intercontinental trip — hotels first or flights first? How to choose an airline hub for the long-haul leg? And so on. This brain dump only scratches the surface, but hopefully it'll be useful to someone. Just remember, advance planning saves headaches later.

Safe traveling!

87 Comments

1:

"Look for a compact bag that holds your minimum stash — documents, meds, toys, books — and that you can pull out of your main bag and store under the seat in front of you."

Any suggestions? I'm looking for one that will accommodate an Archos AV700, Nokia N800, camera and other assorted bits'n'bobs.

2:

Tony, I'm always in search of a better man-bag. Trouble is, my current choice (which is great -- perfect size to hold a subnotebook computer along with the rest) is a Tumi leather holdall and cost $BIGNUM (or would if I hadn't found it in a 40%-off sale).

(If you were in town this week I could lend you a spare, but I'm zipping off again next Monday.)

3:

We remain hopeful you will provide your thoughts on the issues below at a future date.

>>I've left out a lot. What toiletries do you really need? (Most hotels provide toothbrush and toothpaste these days, or have a shop that sells such sundries. Dry dental powder, unlike toothpaste, saves you from the liquids-in-baggies nonsense at security. And so on.) Should you pack lots of clothing, or rely on hotel laundry services? What's the best way to go about booking an intercontinental trip — hotels first or flights first? How to choose an airline hub for the long-haul leg? And so on. This brain dump only scratches the surface,

4:

Vincent (#3): on hubs, I always recommend Frankfurt. German security staff tend to be both polite and efficient (though the liquids astrology has caused even them to struggle). Also, when my luggage failed to make a flight when I did, the Lufthansa staff at our destination were waiting to let us know and already had the claim and complaint forms filled in!

Schiphol is staffed by failed Germans - they have a maximalist interpretation of the Rules, but lack the efficiency required to get you through the airport any time this week. The shopping there makes up for it quite a bit. Thinking about it, I don't think I've ever successfully made a connection at Schiphol.

Heathrow will lose your luggage, guaranteed. This has happened to four of my friends already this year. One manage to have his luggage lost on the way out, get it back the day before he left, and then lost again on the way back. At least there's plenty of airside shopping, so you can replace stuff in advance.

The French are a bit like the Dutch, but they haven't quite grasped capitalism, and the shopping at Paris Charles de Gaulle is dreadful.

5:

For what its worth, I've put about 100,000 air miles on between the US and Europe in the last two years, mostly landing at Gatewick, Shipol, and Frankfurt, and I have a mitful of Kurzweil recommended vitamins and my diabetes medications with me at all times. Never been checked, never been questioned. Canada is another story. The hardasses in Toronto will have in the little white room in no time. Make sure you have your pills in their original prescription bottles.

6:

If you're going to make a connection in an unfamiliar airport, try to find a map of the airport beforehand, especially if you're going from an intercontinental terminal to a 'regional international' terminal in a country where you don't speak the language (Dubai International, I'm looking at you. Could you at least have better signs on how to get to Terminal 2? Please?)

If you're on a long-haul trip, always pack your carry-on in such a way that you could live out of it for a week or two if you needed to. I think a better rule of thumb is - "Travel as light as possible."

Finally, and this is more of a courtesy thing, if you know when you sleep, you lean to one side, inform the person on that side if there is one. I personally sleep straight up, but am always grateful when people inform me, "I'm sorry if I lean on you while I sleep. It's OK to wake me up if your arm is going numb."

Inventory any checked luggage before you leave, especially if you're flying through Africa or Asia, and don't put anything in there that you're not prepared to lose. If you absolutely have to have something, FedEx, DHL or UPS are your best bets. If it really is that valuable, you may not have it if you check it.

I think it's a good idea to carry your cash in a couple different locations - put some in a relatively hidden pocket in your laptop/man bag, in your wallet, and a reserve in some other location.

7:

I have a bag warranted by the manufacturer to pass any size check as per the ICAO standard; I was dubious of this, it seeming huge when stuffed, until someone made me demonstrate it fit through the metal cage - and it did, causing me to smug all day.

Anyway, on Friday I was delayed leaving Verona, with the result I managed to run from Gate A03 at Rome (Fiumicino) to Gate C41, including passport control, within 15 minutes. I was then taken in a bus all the way back to a stand opposite A03...

I wish to apologise to the passengers on the 0935 Heathrow flight that day for the sweat.

8:

Most "accessory" electronics (iPods, PSPs, mobile phones) can now be charged via USB, this is handy way to reduce the number of different adapters you need to drag along with you.


9:

Great list of travelling tips.

Given you mentioned how "hardcore" Australian Customs was on food, I thought I'd point out that they have a very broad definition of food - essentially it comes down to: if you can eat or drink it, it's food.

So, that includes everything from Bananas through to , chocolate, candy, 'cough-drops', and gum of any variety too.

10:

The nearest you can get to universal telephony would be anything with a 4-band GSM radio and UMTS. I think one Japanese network (softbank-ex vodafone.jp) is UMTS rather than FOMA. So that's everywhere covered except Buttfuck, Idaho.

11:

Alex: UMTS or HSDPA is fine in Japan. The rest is some weird-as proprietary WCDMA descendant that isn't compatible with anyone. If you don't have a 3G phone, you might as well resign yourself to hiring one while you're out there. On the plus side, hiring phones in Japan is easy for visitors. On the minus side, the hire phones don't handle SMS messaging at all.

(I'm currently toting a Sony-Ericsson M600i on T-Mobile -- that's triband GSM and HSDPA -- although when it comes back with a working speaker, a shiny new Nokia E90 should replace it.)

12:

Rather than irritating everyone by repeatedly hauling your hand luggage down from an overhead bin during the flight, look for a compact bag that holds your minimum stash — documents, meds, toys, books — and that you can pull out of your main bag and store under the seat in front of you.

It's surprising how many people still don't figure that one out.

Re. US travel, I guess a signing tour or being GOH at a convention is a good enough reason, but personally I wouldn't travel there any more--certainly not just to attend a con. We ended up paying extra to avoid transit via the US on the way to Australia.

13:

One word:TCPMP
Plays any video format in creation on the Palm TX (best if you transcode to 300kbps 480x320 res)

Well two more words 3gp Converter a lovely little ffmpeg frontend which will happily transcode anything to Palm optimal format. (or Nokia 770 mplayer, or iPod, or Nintendo DS)

A TX w/ TCPMP blows a iPhone or iTouch out of the water for video. Pack a small SD card storage container and battery pack and you are set for a trip. Oh and the transcoding makes the files real small so a 4 GB card holds lots of feature films and entire series of anime.

Palm Fiction for ebooks no contest.

A Lanyard ticket/id holder is essential these days to whip out appropriate id/papers holds the necessary ball point pen (gel ink writes on anything). Stuff wet towelette pakets and eyeglass towelettes in the pocket as well.

Noise cancellation headphones are wonderful especially since they cancel resonance between the headphones and the engine vibration. Earbuds w/ a retractable spool for the rest of the trip.

Manga one volume per takeoff/landing period. The usual time between embarking on a plane to the approved electronic devices can be used matches the time to read a volume of manga. Much easier to keep your place during distractions than other books. And in open seating you might snag a fellow otaku as a seatmate.

Protein bars, pack several in front pocket of carry on.

14:

As for a man bag consider a bail out bag (sans glock).

15:

NB: when entering Australia, pay attention to the warnings about food. The Australians are extremely hardcore about food.

And what the X-ray doesn't catch, the cute little beagles will. The nice young men and women with the beagles are much less intimidating than armed police with drug-sniffing Alsatians, and they are very friendly as long as everything is declared on your customs form...

16:

In the US be prepared for questions like "where is all the paperwork used to apply for this visa"? (If you respond "why do I need [this HUGE folder of documents that would take up most of my hand luggage] now that I have the visa?, their response is "I can ask you for any DAMN thing I like, and so now you must [pointless task for you to carry out which will safely make you miss your next flight].") That was before 9/11. More recently I got - as a greencard holder coming back in from Australia: "When we give you residency we expect you to reside here ALL the time." Welcome to Fortress America.

UK Immigration is beginning to approach their US cousins in terms of unfriendliness and unworldliness. Last year I spent 40 minutes at the Calais ferry checkin while an officer called MI5 or Whitehall because I told her my VISA card could be used to withdraw money from UK ATMs.

If you are arriving in the UK, make sure you have documentary proof of (1) travel insurance; (2) adequate money in the bank (money that may be transferred by say a parent from another account does NOT count).

On the toiletries issue, to my surprise I found that hotels & B&Bs in some countries supply no soap/gel/shampoo, so I recommend scouting the bathroom when you check in *before* you discover the deficit in the morning. (1 of 11 that I stayed at in Italy, Croatia & Slovenia this year had such products).

If you're going to be driving in the destination country, it's worth having one of those cigarette lighter-USB plugs with you. They're small and light, and can be a real lifesaver except for those MP3 players which won't charge unless connected to a computer.

17:

Comment 1: when I went to canada a while back (just 2 months pre 9-11 actually), the ppl at immigration in Toronto were actually very friendly and polite, much more so than I expected. And number two is, which was recommended to me by the travel agency (and various friends who made the mistake): when you're young-ish and long-haired, don't travel via Amsterdam. Don't give customs people the excuse to search you for drugs because "everybody knows why somebody like you would go to Amsterdam" and so forth.

18:

Michael @17: at least in Edinburgh, as of a decade ago, the profile for a drug mule on an Amsterdam flight was: mid-twenties to mid-thirties male, smart, business attire (probably a suit and tie), brief case, traveling alone.

The HMRC staff here are very familiar with Amsterdam (we have multiple competing airlines serving the route and it's a common weekend getaway destination for just about everyone). They know that the backpackers and crusties might, at worst, have forgotten to ditch the stub end of their last joint or baggie. It's not worth their while to go after the weekend users, except on an occasional basis to remind folks to leave the stuff behind. What they're really after are couriers with a kilo or two of something valuable in their brief case -- and those folks do not look like long haired counterculture types, for obvious reasons.

I would, however, advise against flying to anywhere in North America from Amsterdam. American media portrayals of Amsterdam as some kind of sink-hole of depravity seem to have warped the DEA employees' brains, and the sight of what converges on the baggage carousel in SFO when a 747 arrives from Schiphol is not remotely pretty. (Unless you like beagles.)

19:

A few notes:
1) Personal music needs to stay personal: Get a set of noise-cancelling headphones, and watch for "leaky cans": phones that let everybody else hear what you're playing. (on that note, I'm still working on the playlist 'not to be played while waiting in airport queues' including Bruce Cockburn's "If I had a rocket launcher", Aerosmith's "Janie's Got A Gun", REM "It's the End of the World as You Know It" etc.)
2) Someone recommended Frankfurt as a hub. Be aware that it has extra special screening layers if you're going to the US: You hit the normal passport control and security screen, then another set of the same to get to the US gates, to ensure that you can't get off a plane from Ihateyustan and hop onto one to Kansas City. Allow extra time for that supplemental colon cleansing.
3) Liquid Restrictions: Flights in the US and EU restrict liquids to 3oz/100ml that can all fit in a 1qt/1L bag (so far, nobody's complained about the slightly larger EU bags and bottles I use in the US). Keep that bag at least as easy to get to as your laptop, since it must be screened separately. Note also that Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, prevents you from taking larger amounts of water into the departure lounge, AND also checks you again to prevent you from taking the overpriced bottle you bought in the departure lounge onto the plane itself. That's the only place so far that I've found with that bit of stupidity.
4) Experiment with the max metal you can make it through with to minimize your annoyance. I've got a belt that will make it through, huzzah.
5)

20:

Three things.

Ear canal headphones rock, (to follow up on Charlie's suggestion.)

Second, not everywhere has the idiotic liquid ban. Chile, for example, is much more sensible.

Third, as someone mentioned above, be careful about flying anywhere near the US. If the plane stops in the US, even if none of the passengers are disembarking, one has to clear DHS. Instead, pay whatever it takes to not stop in the US.

21:

Joel @19: I've tried noise canceling phones. Generally the sound quality is poor. I agree leakage is bad, but I prefer to go for ear canal phones with foam tips. They attenuate external noise almost as well as noise cancelers, the sound they produce stays inside your head, and the sound quality is better. (I currently use a pair of Shure E5c's and an ipod loaded with tracks ripped at 192kbps/VBR or higher (including lossless compression for some stuff) and I have no intention of going back to anything less.)

The person who recommended Frankfurt as a hub is my wife. Yes, we've used it for trips to the US. Despite the extra security hassle, the security staff are better house-trained than at Paris or Schiphol and the experience is generally okay.

I tend to dump all liquids (hand creams, shampoo, toothpaste, etc) into my hold luggage, or use solid substitutes. It saves headaches, unless the airline loses your bag -- and if they do that, they're paying for the replacements.

22:

I had a good experience with renting cell phones in Japan. Instead of the company that had a deal for Worldcon attendees, I went with another outfit and they allowed e-mail and internet access from the phones. E-mail worked just like texting and was 1 yen per Kbyte.

I'm from California and I have to let you know that Australians are not alone in their concerns about invasive pests and diseases that could affect agriculture. Please do not take live plants, cuttings, dirt, or fresh fruit with you when you travel, even between places in the same country. For example, the glassy-winged sharpshooter can be spread accidentally with infested plant materials. It came from the southeast US to southern California, and now is moving north and threatening the state's vineyards. Another example was the MedFly infestation in Silicon Valley -- we had to put up with repeated arial spraying, and could not take home-grown fruit anywhere, even to the next town. However, if you want to smuggle in drugs, dangerous chemicals, seditious materials, or weapons, please go right ahead. We already have plenty, and it's not like more will make a big difference. Just don't bring in any, um, plant cuttings, with pests that could affect our dope crop.

23:

joelfinkl 19: All hubs have an extra layer of security for the US, and my assessment includes that, although I should point out I have no recent experience of it.

24:

New Zealand is also very tough on bio-security.

Also, you aren't supposed to bring food between mainland Australia and Tasmania. (There was a dog brought in on the flight I came in on, and the sniffer beagle was much more interested in the other dog than checking the baggage)

25:

If you can get business class from UK to Australia for a 150% premium over economy, I'll buy a planeload. Seriously.

A typical LHR-SYD return is around 6-700 pounds. Business class is around 3000. It's *almost* worth it, too.

26:

I've flown a great deal in the continental US and Canada; the liquids thing was the final straw though, and I now avoid air travel unless it's completely impossible to do so.
A few additional points:
1) solid underarm deodorant counts as a liquid, so put it in the bag.
2) smaller airports have more time on their hands, so plan for more time spent in the security line.
3) it's not going to get better without some kind of truly major event, though it is very likely to get worse.

27:

It's worth mentioning that the reception you get from U.S. Immigration is just as hostile if you are a U.S. citizen. The last time I came home from an international trip, the officer was looking for holes in our story, and projecting an aura of menace suggesting "I'll send you to Gitmo if you look at me cross-eyed."

28:

If you have questions about anything related to flying- travel security at airports, frequent flyer programs, anything- I highly recommend the web forums of FlyerTalk (flyertalk.com).

They're about as helpful (and patient with new forum members) a group as I've ever seen on the web, and they like going into details. Also, if you're suffering from low blood pressure, the 'safety and security' forum can help raise it quickly, with the tales of security gone crazy.

And little tidbits of travel help can make a big difference.

For example, I'd read on flyertalk that Australia has special customs lines for people with legal-but-restricted medications (the bring a doctor's note kind, which as CS mentioned above, can vary wildly by country). Sure enough, the regular lines were long, but no one was in the Declare line. All we had to do was show that we had a doctor's note- the custom's agent didn't want to read it- and we were through in 2 minutes.

29:

Recommendation for the good travel bag--I have a Timbuk2 Outtawhack messenger bag. It has a laptop compartment and a couple of other compartments for the various essentials you haul along on the plane. Three ways to carry it--handle, backpack straps (though it does fit crosswise on the back) or shoulder bag.

Also makes a nice pillow for those times you're waiting in the Southwest cattle car line (which appears to be going away, alas). For the short-legged among us, it appears to fit under the seat and makes a decent footrest. At least on the planes Southwest flies...I've not flown anything other than Southwest for a year or so, though that will change for Worldcon next year.

30:

A few additional tips:

If you travel much at all, join a frequent-flyer program! It's unbelievable how much improvement even modest status within such a program can bring you. Upgrades to business class, access to airport lounges, increased baggage allowances, free tickets and/or upgrades to first class in exchange for accumulated mileage points, et. al. Determine where you fly the most and join the appropriate program associated with the airlines which service your destinations - Star Alliance is the United-associated group, One World is the American-associated group. Understand the boarding privileges membership gets you on member airlines - for example, with Star Alliance, I can board w/business class travelers even when flying economy-class (and, thusly, get early access to the overhead luggage compartments). If universal access to lounges requires you to spend some miles, do it - it's well worth the 'expense'. And sign up for the various promotions offered by your mileage plan, you'll generally have to proactively look on the Web site, as they're not generally publicized (there are some tools you can find which will automagically subscribe you to new promotions, I recommend these if you're willing to give someone else your frequent flyer ID# and allow his system to post on your behalf). Check to ensure you receive mileage after you complete each leg, and save your boarding passes so that you can prove you took flights when miles aren't automagically awarded (this doesn't happen frequently, but it happens enough to make keeping the boarding-pass stubs worthwhile). Once you achieve good status in your program, pay careful attention to the rules for maintaining that status, and book travel accordingly (there are online consultants who can help you with this for as little as $50; be prepared to take a small, inexpensive flight or two for the sole purpose of maintaining your status, it's well worth the investment of time and money to do so).

Get a document/ID/boarding pass carrier which goes round your neck - Victorinox make one which is available for about $15US, and it's well worth the money when standing in line trying to juggle carry-on luggage, ID/passport, and boarding pass, all at once. Use it to keep track of the bar-coded reciepts for any checked luggage.

Don't check luggage if you can avoid it - I can go for 7 days out of one ICAO-sized draggable without doing laundry or drycleaning. Being willing to do laundry and/or drycleaning can extend the length of time you can travel without checked luggage.

Ensure you carry-ons can fit in the overhead bins or under the seats of the aircraft in which you'll be flying, this is especially important when connecting to commuter airlines who fly smaller aircraft. Aisle seats on commuter aircraft often have smaller under-seat space; exit row seats, which provide extra legroom, don't have under-seat storage at all, and thus both your carry-ons must fit in the overhead. Many commuter airlines allow you to get a luggage receipt at the gate and check one of your carry-ons at the jetway as you board the aircraft, and then reclaim it at your destination jetway.

Toothbrush/toothpaste and deodorant on long flights are a must. Get one of the small folding travel toothbrushes, some of which can hold toothbaste internally, and/or a small travel-sized tube. This will go a long ways towards refreshing you at the end of your flight.

Get one of those semi-doughnut-shaped lumbar pillows - they aid tremendously when sleeping on aircraft, otherwise, you end up with an aching neck when you awake. A sleeper's blindfold and either ear-canal headphones which can double as earplugs or dedicated earplugs are a must.

If you have connections to make, and in general to allow easy toilet and leg-stretching access, book an aisle seat, in most cases as far forward as possible. On long flights, exit-row seating is grand, as you can really stretch out your legs. When you board early because you signed up for the frequent-flyer program, put both your carry-ons in the overhead bin, so that you've more leg-room (but be prepared to re-stow one of them under-seat if storage is tight and folks can't find room for their big carry-ons).

Understand the seating plan for your aircraft and which seats are more desirable - you can learn a lot by reading www.flyertalk.com and www.seatguru.com.

If you use your laptop in flight, be aware that folks next to you and behind you will be able to see your screen. Either don't view/write confidential information while on the plane, or indulge in a 3M privacy screen for your laptop. Ensure the sound on your laptop is muted so that you don't annoy your fellow passengers (or use headphones). Ensure WiFi and Bluetooth are disabled, as the miscreants know that folks travel on planes with these things enabled and may well try and pwn your laptop (or smartphone)! I highly recommend the six-hour extended battery from www.battergeeks.net, be sure and request a MacBook adaptor cable when you place your order if you use an Apple laptop. Be sure and bring the charger and adaptors so that you can recharge it during layovers. I have a single 'universal' Transformers-like AC adaptor, and I carry a small, foldable Monster Cable four-outlet power-strip in my laptop bag, it's very handy in avoiding fighting over rare AC outlets in airports (i.e., be prepared to share).

Get a good laptop backback with a lumbar belt and chest-strap and strap-pocket for your mobile phone, or get a draggable rollaway. If you carry dSLR camera gear, get a Lowepro Slingtshot 200 or 300 bag, or a draggable rollaway; I don't recommend the omnibus camera/laptop backpacks, because you'll end up giving yourself a hernia. Be prepared to take your dSLR out of the bag and show it to security-monkeys, as well as to recite the make and model (I kid you not); if you carry a travel tripod, strap it to one of your carry-ons so that it doesn't count as a 'personal item'. In some airports, you're required to take *all* electronic gear out of your bags and place them in trays when clearing security - be prepared for this and ensure you've enough time to re-pack it! Wear a photographer's vest or light jacket into which you can stow your watch, keys, change, mobile phone, and any other metal items prior to getting to the security screening point, it makes things much faster.

That's all I can think of for now, but there are a lot more tips and tricks one can learn on fora such as www.flyertalk.com.

31:

In addition to Roland's comment, if you are travelling through San Francisco: be quick when repacking those electronics. Security there is very impatient, and will threaten to arrest you if they think you are taking too long to put all equipment back into the bag that they asked you to take out.

32:

The staff at US airports differ in attitude and efficiency. Of the west coast airports, I'd say that Portland is probably the best, and by report LAX (and probably any Southern California airport) is to be avoided at all costs. St. Louis I found reasonable on my last trip. Intercity travel in the USA without a car...is often possible and much less hassle than air travel, even for citizens.

33:

In Southern California, Burbank near LA is nice - quick, easy, valet parking. Orange Country/John Wayne is OK, unless there's a security scare or other issue which leads to cascading delays; they're totally inadquate in the number of security screeners on duty at any given time. LAX is to be avoided for inbound international travel at all costs, the customs/immigration setup is wholly inadequate to handle the volume.

In the Silicon Valley, San Jose is pretty good, especially if you're willing to surrender biometric data for the Clear vetted traveler program; San Francisco have added a Clear lane in the domestic terminal, but not the international terminal.

In terms of the 'cattle rush' of Southwest (I find it annoying and declasse, and refuse to fly Southwest unless there's no alternative), be advised that in many international airports such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, boarding is a general free-for-all, with no row-based boarding or other organizational principle, so it's best to get your carry-ons and stand near the jetway entrance to one side, once boarding is about to commence.

Always, always use your corporate travel department (if you have one) or a travel agent to book your flights, you're stupid if you don't. Some travel departments allow you to book personal travel, you just pay for it yourself; if you mix business and personal travel, they simply calculate the delta for the extra leg(s) and you pay the delta. If you're traveling strictly for personal reasons, do use a travel agent, you'll often get better deals and the agent can help you get prime seat selection, etc. Once your flight is ticketed, be sure to check in online at the earliest possible time so as to be ahead in the scrable for upgrades and so forth, and to check (and change, if necessary) your seat assignment. I recommend Carlson Wagonlit-affiliated travel agencies, I've always experienced good results from them.

When traveling in Asia, especially on holiday, understand the monsoon/rainy season at your destination(s) and avoid traveling there during those times. You won't get any worthwhile beach-time, and will end up feeling stupid for not having checked prior to booking your travel.

I made a typo in my previous comment regarding the external laptop battery - it's from www.batterygeek.net, and I recommend it highly.

34:

Joel @19:
And in particular don't play I Blew Up The United States by Was Not Was with leaky headphones

35:

TomB (#22) is right. US Customs (and Calif. Dept. Of Ag. if you're traveling overland) can be very fussy about food, especially meat, cheese, and fresh produce.

San Francisco Chron story: Take It Or Leave It.

A US Customs pdf, "Know Before You Go", is aimed at US residents, but is still pretty useful. Most of the food info is on pp 40-45.

36:

HandBrake is a nice little DVD ripper with output presets for iPhone and the video iPods.

For carry on bags, get one of the little two-wheeled satchels with a LONG extensible handle - having the cute little wheels doesn't help much when you have to hunch over to reach the handle without it riding up the back of your leg.

For the mini-bag inside a carry-on, go to a camera shop or hit the camera department in a big store. Multiple pockets, often weatherproof (for spills and dirt), and padded.

Assuming you don't have a first class or business ticket, ask for bulkhead seats. You get more legroom, and you don''t have to worry about someone leaning their seat back into your face. Failing that, get an exit row.

Podcasts. Fill up on them before leaving, and refill at each stop if you can. You can get a couple of dozen hours of brand-new content for free.

...and a backup music player is always nice. Even with your cool new media player, having a gig of miscellaneous stuff in a Shuffle-sized device is a good backup - and it's easier to deal with in a seat, compared to a full-sized player.

37:

Lovely post. I'm bookmarking this one for the next time I decide to head overseas (I'm in Western Australia - *every* international flight is a long-haul flight from here). So far I've been overseas once (Sydney - London return, via LA in the middle of things, back in 2002 before the worst of the security theatre got started) and the only advice I can give other travellers is the following: if you can avoid LA Airport, do so. It's the nearest thing to hell on earth created so far.

Oh, and the reason the Australian customs people are so down on foodstuffs? Well, it has to do with the whole "island continent" thing. There are lots of lovely diseases, pests, funguses, bacteria and viruses that exist outside our country which we don't have here. So we have a rather solid and strict Customs regime to deal with them. Some states here are stricter than others - Western Australia (Perth Airport) and South Australia (Adelaide Airport) are the two major offenders as far as I'm aware (having never flown to or through Brisbane, Hobart or Darwin, I can't comment on them). If you're going to visit friends in Australia, take the recipe for your brownies, rather than a sample.

According to our customs people, if it's organic, it's food. Declare everything - wood, paper, etc, and if in doubt, go through the "something to declare" lane. They're much more polite if you're over-cautious like that. Here's the link to the Arriving Travellers information on the Australian Customs website. My one and only trip, I just went into the "something to declare" lane, and got shuffled through at high speed by the nice customs officers as a reward for being honest but stupid.

If you're travelling inside Australia, this applies too - particularly if you're heading west. Don't try to take fruit, flowers or honey from NSW to South Australia or Western Australia: you'll only be asked to leave it at the checkpoints. They do have trained beagles who can sniff out any fruit or similar you have with you (I know this - I had one spot the scent of an apple I'd eaten in Canberra *before leaving* on my bag in Perth airport on arrival. When I explained this to the handler, she praised the dog something chronic).

38:

I've never been to Dubai airport, but "backwater" airports in the gulf have the classic approach to procedures in the region : nobody really knows what there are for, they will be applied to you depending on random factors absolutely unrelated to the way you dress, act or talk, and issues will be resolved by a well placed phone call.
Most of the scanning procedures are to ensure you don't bring alcohol or pornography into Saudi Arabia, and nobody really seems to be looking for bombs. I have seen boxes of chocolates confiscated, while passing with a pen knife I'd forgotten to take out of my bag.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the ease with which my CPAP device (a breather for sleep apnea) passes through security checks. It's the size of half a shoe box, full of electronics, fairly uncommon, and nobody, ever, ever, be it in schiphol, paris, heathrow, jeddah as ever asked me to turn it on to check what it was.

For the man bag issue : RedOxx bags (http://www.redoxx.com/) - less expensive than Tumi, durable, well made, nice to look at.
I travel every week through Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and they've never let me down. You have enough pockets to shove your phones/ipod/keys into at security checks and take em out again. The Gator is my man bag of choice for plane carry on if I don't have my laptop.
And for a bunch of tips and tricks about travelling light, http://www.onebag.com/.

39:

Chaz @25: last year, doing LHR-SYD, I managed to find Qantas business class for £2200. That came within my pain threshold for a 22-hour flight (especially as it was a business trip, and someone else was reimbursing me for the equivalent of an economy class ticket).

The cheap business class fares are out there if you hunt around at the right point before departure. (Generally, seat fares on a given route vary over time. They're priced high a long time ahead. Then, about 12 weeks before departure, the price drops. Then about 4 weeks before departure the price rises again. If you fly at short notice, the airlines assume you need to go somewhere at any cost, and gouge accordingly; and if you book a long while in advance they assume your trip is important to you, so ditto. In-between, they price seats according to what the market will bear and according to how many seats they've got left to dispose of. The sweet spot is in the 12-6 week lead time, and you can pick up some real bargains if you keep an eagle eye on the current offers.)

Roland @30: mostly spot on, except Toothbrush/toothpaste and deodorant on long flights are a must. Get one of the small folding travel toothbrushes, some of which can hold toothbaste internally, and/or a small travel-sized tube. This will go a long ways towards refreshing you at the end of your flight. This is true, but deodorants and toothpaste are caught up in the potentially explosive liquids nonsense, thus requiring you to do the silly polythene bag thing.

On the power outlets front, while in Japan I picked up something I've never seen elsewhere and that looks really useful. It's a cheap US-style five-socket mains block with no cable, but a recessed plug at one end. You plug it in to a straight extension cable (plug at one end, socket at the other.) The cables, being sold separately, come in a variety of sizes -- so I picked one with a ten centimetre run. The thing's tiny. Used on its own, the ten centimetre plug/socket lets you get something like a PDA power brick hooked up to a seat power socket that's inconveniently recessed inside an armrest; used with the five-way, it lets you get five items of mobile electronics hooked up to a single room socket (as most hotels are pathetically short on mains sockets for visitors).

(Yes, I'm British. But I travel overseas enough that having a separate go-bag full of US voltage/plug adapters for my gear is necessary, and finding a truly tiny multiway adapter was ... priceless, never mind 500 yen's worth!)

40:

For those of you whose eyes tire easily of watching movies or reading books during flights - as I am - consider Audiobooks and podcasts. I make it a habit to stock up on podcasts and BBC radio shows before a flight. Once you're no longer able to watch that small screen, you can lean back, give your eyes a rest and enjoy a good SF story, a sketch show, or commentary of your favorite TV show.

41:

If you wear contact lenses then consider what being in a dessicated environment is going to do for them - consider wearing glasses for the flight.

42:

Entering the US. As others have said LAX is to be avoided. I've found Dallas to be a reasonable point of entry, also SFO and Boston. Chicago and JFK are ok but really really busy so everyhting takes a long time.

Classic no no. Do not buy duty free until you are on the last leg of your journey (unless you will be able to put it in your hold baggage after, for example, passing US customs).

If you can fly internationally via Zurich its a good hub. Unfortunately the merger with Lufthansa seems to have led to far fewer flights from there to anywhere useful transcontinental-wise.

If you fail to follow Feorag's advice (#4) and use Schipol then DO NOT LEAVE THE AIRPORT if you have a 4 hour or less wait between flights. Getting (back) into the airside section at Schipol can literally take an hour or more. A couple of weeks ago it took me 85 minutes from joining the enormous snaking queue to taking my shoes off at the Xray machine.

Check for public holidays and popular vacation times at your destination. E.g. don't plan on leaving the US just before/after thanksgiving when everyone and his dog is (returning from) visiting the family. Also avoid Golden week in Japan (End April, beginning May) and Obon (mid August) and if you're travel plans include the south of France then avoid the Cannes film festival, the monaco grand prix (end of film festival time) and weekends in July and August, unless you LIKE paying 10 times as much for everything and queueing endlessly and discovering that you can't get a reservation anyway.

Personally I go for the 50:50 beer water mix when flying - one can beer one bottle water repeat until bored. But I'm sure Charlie is right and the booze is bad.

Finally (on the booze front). Don't get really drunk for 48 hours when you have just arrived in a new location many hours time difference away. I find that an evening of boozing even after a day of resetting the body clock is a recipe for disaster jetlagwise.

43:

Francis @41: you missed the other "do not visit" flag: Edinburgh in August. Personally, I try to find an excuse to be away from home for as much of that month as possible. The population literally triples with tourists who've come for the festival (not to mention annoying in-your-face performers clogging up the pavements and yelling at you to go see their shows), it's impossible to get into your favourite pub or restaurant, the pub late night extensions and idiot tourists combine to get singing and shouting in the streets at 3:30am in many residential areas, and it's generally hell on earth. Yes, there are a couple of good shows, but there's also a metric ton of shite. And if you're visiting, expect hotel and room rates to be, ahem, elevated.

(I suppose natives of Cannes and Monaco can make the same complaints ...)

44:

To reset the body clock (especially returning to the UK from the USA) I use melatonin, which is available over the counter from any supermarket/pharmacy in the USA (but only on prescription in the UK). This helps me to readjust to timezones quite quickly, expecially if I have been away enough to get used to USA time.

45:

For long flights, in addition to lots of water, take along a bottle of saline nasal spray. They're cheap -around $2.00 - and they keep all of those nasal and sinus areas moist. For anyone who has ever suffered any kind of sinus problems, saline nasal sprays really help prevent post-flight sinus headaches.

You might feel a little gross spraying up every few hours, but it's worth it.

Rick York

46:

Saline nasal spray is a good idea, but runs up against the "liquid explosives" security theatre. (One can hope that they're going to drop that particular idiocy in the next year. Dream on ...)

47:

#45 "liquid explosives" security theatre

Quite a while ago I posted about Roissey Charles de Gaulle airport being really

a museum to style, modern French architecture and concrete.

I continued explaining that the "passengers" were really unwitting participants in "the largest performance art installation in the world" and it occurs to me that the post 9/11 security theatre (new expanded paranoia edition) that is playing there now almost makes it worth revisiting that post and adding a bit...

PS In case anyone hasn't guessed I avoid CdG like the plague - it is probably my least favourite major airport in Europe which is quite a trick when you consider that it's winning against such gems of the "airport as armpit" genre as Gatwick.

48:

I flew through Paris Charles de Gaulle last month.

While the air-side shopping was pretty poor, it was architecturally and experientially rather better than Griefrow, much less Crapwick.

The security theatre, however, failed to improve the experience. And long haul travel is pretty hellish these days, whateverr the airport.

49:

We flew through CdG in Feb 2005, and Milan last Feb. Pretty painless in '05, and I brought fourteen bottles of wine/cider/hard alcohol back from Paris. That was a nice trip.

Milan wasn't too bad, except for the crap about liquids when we *exited* the aircraft.

I dunno. I have the uptight, get-there-four-hours-early response to this dreck, so the screening hasn't been too bad.

Detroit/Beijing 2002 was much, much worse.

50:

Random thoughts: After eighteen years of never leaving the country (unless you count two visits to Glasgow) I still enjoy looking out of the window, even if it's just clouds below. On the flight back from Narita last month, I peeved my neighbour by continually looking out of the window while he was trying to take an extended afternoon nap in the darkened aircraft.

And on one of the eight flights (including connections) I've taken this year, I neglected to declare the tube of toothpaste in my carry-on luggage and stick it in one of those silly zip-lock bags. Nothing happened. At all. Still, this was flying out of Seoul, where they don't take security theatre to the West's absurd levels.

Also, you'd think steel-capped DMs would be a problem going through the x-rays and metal detectors, but no. Surprising, considering I could be hiding anything inside those caps. (Also, a complete waste of time wearing them to Japan in August, since I ended up wearing sandals every day, for comfort.)

51:

NB: when entering Australia, pay attention to the warnings about food. The Australians are extremely hardcore about food

Ditto-ing the comments by others and the same applies to New Zealand. Both island nations' economies rely heavily on agriculture and being island nations, are (relatively) free of some of the more egregious pests & diseases e.g. foot and mouth disease. The biocontrol people are responsible maintaining the status quo.

Declaring all items of biological origin is the safest option.

52:

One quick tip on flying into Chicago. If possible do Midway (MDW)and not Ohare (ORD). Much smaller and easier, and it has a branch of Morry's the source of the best Reuben in town.

53:

I fly upwards of 150,000 miles a year (or at least did last year) and most of it's coach or Economy+.

Headphones:
I've tried and lost many pairs of noise cancelling headphones and have found the new Bose lightweight half ear ones to be absolutely the best.

An interesting test for frequent flyers who are not convinced by noise cancelling headphones. Get a pair. Use the crappy airline ones, or your own normal ones, get the volume on the inflight entertainment system to a comfortable level. Then, plug in your Noise Cancelling jobbies. Scream and claw the headphones from your now bleeding ears. The noise difference is that much. I realised I couldn't fly without them again when I saw that the volume was comfortable at around 20% of max with my Bose and 80%+ without.

Airports:
Frankfurt is one of my nightmare airports. Getting onto a British Airways flight is scary - 3 layers of security theatre. Charles De Gaul is another pet hate. Heathrow T4 is ok, T1,T2 and T3 are vile and should be closed and remodeled (which they are doing).

Kastrup (Copenhagen) lulls you into a false sense of security which has led me to nearly miss flights there on 5 occasions.

O'Hare is almost the worst airport I have ever been to.

Immigration:
As Charlie says, just be nice. Seattle is the best point of entry to the US bar none. Dallas isn't too bad. San Francisco is about the worst, followed very closely by clearing US immigration in Vancouver.

Side note: Canadian immigration officers are not light and fluffy either especially if you've a US visa. They want to make damn sure you're going to be let back in to the USA.

Packing:
It pays to have a change of underwear, socks and a shirt in your hand luggage. I've had my luggage fail to turn up 4 times in the last 12 months. If it doesn't arrive you can often expect to be without the bag for up to 48 hours.

Travel adaptors are useful and breed like rabits because if you travel a lot you keep finding you left them at home.

Muji shower bags make good cable stores.

Security:
Finding XXXX printed in the bottom corner of your boarding card is bad. It means that you have been "randomly" selected for extra-special attention. Causes of random selection include one way internal US flights, having to have your boarding card reprinted and annoying check in staff.

Where possible I always check in online and print my boarding pass at home. That way, if you don't have hold luggage you can walk straight up to security.

Jetlag:
Set your watch to the local time zone the moment you get on the plane and try to behave accordingly.

Always stay up until the local bedtime for the zone in which you have arrived.

When arriving in the US for the first time, especially the west coast, having flown from Europe, just accept you
're going to have a dreadful night's sleep.

Finally. Business Class isn't always prohibitively expensive. Premium Economy, especially Virgin or BA, makes a huge difference.

54:

Beijing airport has been pretty good for the last three years (at least). No idea how it will handle the crush next summer. They aren't obsessive about security (unlike Shanghai, which was inconsistent and arbitrary).

Toronto Pearson is hit-and-miss. Some of the security guards are polite-but-firm (which is good), but too many seem to be training for the DHS. Encouraging each other to be rude to passengers, for example.

Mirabel was good last time I flew through, but that was 20 years ago -- it will have changed by now.

Vancouver tends to be very by-the-book. It's a good location, so the staff there tend to have a lot of seniority, and know how much they can get away with before retirement. The gate staff, for example, have a bad reputation with other airline employees for being awkward and obstructive (but always within the rules).

55:

Re Oz and NZ: Declaring all items of biological origin is the safest option.

NZ Ag and Fish will hold your organics for you for a reasonable fee, so you can e.g. buy knick-knacks in Australia, fly to NZ, hand them (and $$) over, and pick them up on the way out. Often better than dumping them or paying for fumigation.

Some friends of mine mentioned that their parents had the misfortune to visit a stables in NSW last week just before the horse disease was discovered at that site. They aren't looking forward to getting through Auckland Airport.

56:

Robert @ 53 wrote: "Beijing airport has been pretty good for the last three years (at least). No idea how it will handle the crush next summer."

They've just finished a whacking great new terminal (and new runway) specifically for next summer. It doubles (and then some) the capacity, and has the best baggage system in the world (on paper at least!)

Oh, and "Ask The Pilot" at Salon is (or should be) your first port of call for all things air travel. Everything from airplane paint-jobs to x-ray machines:

http://dir.salon.com/topics/ask_the_pilot/

57:

Rule number one:
For stress-free long-haul travel, do not take any kids aged between 6 months (hand luggage) and 6 years (tetris).
Rule number two:
If you are forced to break rule number one, then pay especial attention to all the other rules, but remember that it's going to be a bit of trial.

58:

This sort of stuff is a significant part of why I don't fly these days (Chris@56's comment is another significant part and the carbon footprint is the final piece of the puzzle).

Fortunately I rarely need to travel on business and for recreational travel I'm well placed for Eurostar, which gives me an acceptable alternative to short-haul for most of western Europe. Long-haul I can easily do without.

Regards
Luke

59:

If you're connecting at Heathrow from a different country, the one bag rule will apply to you! You may be able get on your first flight with two bags, but when you pass through security at the UK end, you will get crap about it. The time it happened to me, I got a 'don't do that again', I don't know if I was lucky or that's SOP.

60:

So far as security is concerned, how do major Israeli airports like Haifa and Tel Aviv handle it? Perhaps I am induldging in caricature/stereotyping, but it seems to me that the Israelis would set the gold standard for Airport security.

61:

Steven @60: Israeli airport security isn't about security theatre. They do active behavioural profiling and employ real security specialists who cross-train with Mossad on counter-terrorism ops. The overt level of screening is probably about as intrusive as you get at any international airport these days, but it's much more thorough. Rather than harassing travelers at random to prove that they're doing their job and being even-handed, they evaluate everyone to see if they're behaving oddly, and single out people who don't act normal for further questioning using psych techniques designed to determine if they're unduly anxious or keyed-up (rather than just afraid or irritated by airport security, which are perfectly normal responses).

The trouble is, Israeli style airport security is costly because instead of employing minimum wage rentacops with a remit to look busy, they're treating it as a real problem and using properly trained security and intel staff.

Bruce Schneier has some comments here and here.

62:

Charlie,

That is pretty much what I figured. If the Israelis of all people think certain measures beloved by TSA are not required, then why the hell do we? Maybe we can get a real grass-roots movement going on that issue on this side of the pond.

Thanks for the link to Schneier, yet another blog/site I will have to keep up with.

63:

CDMA phones — from the USA — do not work anywhere outside the USA

Please don't tell my CDMA phone this. It thinks it's supposed to work in Canada.


64:

Marna: s/USA/North America/.

You won't have a lot of luck using it in Europe, Australia, Japan, the Middle East, or ...

65:

#63 #64. CDMA phones.

ISTR that CDMA networks (not WCDMA aka UMTS but the older ones) are deployed in Israel, Japan and Korea (and Brazil or was that iDEN?) and a few other places. That doesn't necessarily mean you can use your phone there though because Qualcomm - CDMA's creator - cocked up the roaming concept good and proper despite having the working GSM one to copy at the time. Some CDMA phones can roam to some foreign CDMA networks but not all and I don't recall the details of how you can tell what works where.

As a general rule nothing is well designed by a large standards body but GSM in many ways is the exception that proves the rule.

66:

Charlie, @ 43:

"Francis @41: you missed the other "do not visit" flag: Edinburgh in August. Personally, I try to find an excuse to be away from home for as much of that month as possible. The population literally triples with tourists who've come for the festival (not to mention annoying in-your-face performers clogging up the pavements and yelling at you to go see their shows), it's impossible to get into your favourite pub or restaurant, the pub late night extensions and idiot tourists combine to get singing and shouting in the streets at 3:30am in many residential areas, and it's generally hell on earth. Yes, there are a couple of good shows, but there's also a metric ton of shite. And if you're visiting, expect hotel and room rates to be, ahem, elevated."


Sounds like good research for your next novel, set in post-global warming Scotland in 30 years, after the refugees from the Burnt/Flooded Lands swarm in....

67:

Tel Aviv: The only place in the world where I had no trouble getting in to the country but needed a letter from the people I had been meeting to be allowed out. There's nothing like being profiled at 5.30am with a stinking hangover and smelling like a brewery. The clincher question that saved me, "how long has it been since you packed your bags." I looked bewildered, counted on my fingers and looked at my watch. "About an hour."

He let me go then. That's _before_ they x-ray the bag and you go through the standard security. I had to do all that just to get to the check in desk.

CDMA: I don't think they had standard CDMA in Japan, they used PCS and their own brand of TDMA networks. They've now got WCDMA which solves some of the roaming issues. Korea definately. There's some CDMA in Brazil and I think Australian. Israel is all GSM AFAIK.

The issue with GSM roaming is the operators got together and did it because the radio standards were set. Hooking up the back ends was a software rather than standards problem because the core network architecture of HLRs and the like was all common. All they needed was a mechanism for handling the Billing Requests. For some reasons the CDMA operators didn't go down this route, even though technically there was nothing stopping them. I suspect Qualcomm didn't think they needed to and have been paying for that decision for years now.

One of the daftest competition decisions ever was the one to allow for competition between carriers on the radio bearer. People don't care. The bearer really means little to them.

Even now I find the advertising in the US about quality and fewest dropped calls to be bizare because in the UK you just don't get dropped calls(*).

(*) - ok, so you do, but there's usually an easy explanation, like, for example, trying to make a call at 4pm on a Friday afternoon in the City of London.

68:

#50: I've never had to do the plastic bag thing, flying between the US and Canada. I always expect to get a hard time, or have my deodorant and toothpaste taken, but no one ever says anything.

Regarding lying to immigration and customs officials, of course you should tell the truth. On the other hand, it pays to keep it simple. Categories of visa and permitted entry purposes vary from country to country, and the details of your speciality likely aren't known to the officer. Don't try to explain the NAFTA coemployment arrangement between the organization you report to and the one that sends you paychecks. Remember that they may not connect the "postdoc" position you're starting with the term "Postdoctoral Fellow" on your visa.

If you're coming to Canada or the US for a meeting or a conference, the answer to whether you're going to work while in the country is "no" unless you have a visa or passport that permits employment. You work for whatever company in your home country, regardless of whether you're traveling for work or plan on doing work-like things with your laptop. Writers may be an exception to this, actually, but immigration is quite picky in both countries about things you can be employed to do.

It does help, of course, to be able to provide excruciating detail when requested. Demonstrates authenticity, it does.

69:

#64: s/USA/North America/.

Charlie: Yes, I did, mentally.

Rather, s/USA/Canada and the US. Mexico I have no idea.

And yes, I own a European GSM phone.

But if I referred to North America as "Canada", or suggested by omission that Canadian cel phones won't work in the US, someone would probably point out that I was gravely mistaken.

70:

KDDI is CDMA2000 with 1xEV-DO.

The Aussies are ripping out the CDMA (CDMAOne, not 2K) 800MHz network; Telstra's "NextG" service is UMTS with HSPA Class 8 (7.2Mbits/s!), at 850MHz. They're putting a Node-B in every location that can muster 500 subscribers; Ericsson is building the network on contract from Telstra.

Some of the cells are 200Km across; 2Kw TX power. They have some ordinary UMTS (i.e. 2100MHz) in the cities, which will permit you to roam. Hutchison and Optus both have ordinary UMTS, too.

Brazil is converting everything to GSM and UMTS; Telefonica had the ex-BellSouth owned CDMA net, but IIRC they are converting it. TIM Brazil is GSM.

South Korea is the weird corner case; there's GSM, UMTS, and CDMA2K, and WiMAX too!!

Japan; there is FOMA (weird nonstandard standard based on UMTS) with NTT DoCoMo, CDMA2K with KDDI, UMTS with Softbank. There's probably some PCS about, which is of course GSM1800/1900, too. Then there's a big 4.9GHz WiMAX deployment on in Tokyo and a huge UMTS-TDD data network, IPMobile, deploying at the moment.

71:

Did anyone else just read: "KDDI is CDMA2000 with 1xEV-DO." in the first line of a comment and think "That'll be Alex."?

72:

Last week I flew to Boston via Amsterdam. Despite being mid-twenties with long hair, I didn't have any problems with security, immigration or customs. I got the impression "software development" as one's profession is a magic phrase that indicates you're not a threat to the US.

Going back was hellish, though: air pressure changes are painful when you've got a cold and your nose is running.

73:

#71. #70.

Did anyone else just read: "KDDI is CDMA2000 with 1xEV-DO." in the first line of a comment and think "That'll be Alex."?

Well it could have been me. And talking of which I don't think this is quite accurate.

There's probably some PCS about, which is of course GSM1800/1900, too.

I wasn't aware of any GSM in Japan and neither (for that matter) is the ">GSM association. Japanese PCS is some bastardized Japan only standard IIRC.

74:

..And that's why I'm not going abroad unless I absolutely need to, or it's moving to get a job. Especially to America. Well, even for a job I'd very very likely chose to fly to Canada and go over the border by land.

75:

PCS was also a term for the 1800/1900MHz North American wave band used both for GSM1800/1900 (as in the original SprintPCS), and then also for CDMA.

I think we should all have been thinking of PDC instead.

76:

Chris (#57):
Rule number one:
For stress-free long-haul travel, do not take any kids aged between 6 months (hand luggage) and 6 years (tetris).
Rule number two:
If you are forced to break rule number one, then pay especial attention to all the other rules, but remember that it's going to be a bit of trial.

If you are forced to break rule #1, for God’s sake try to remember that an airplane isn't a nursery, and that the other passengers might reasonably expect you to supervise your offspring.

(More specifically, when your bored son starts kicking the back of the seat in front of him, it’s my spine that he's kicking.)

77:

76:
Worst flight I was ever on consisted of an ATA 757 (tighest packed plane in existence, already the 9th circle) from LAX to Chicago 5.5 hours. The kid in back of me was kicking the back of my seat the whole time. And not at a regular period, he'd change up the pace and position to be most annoying (probably works at Gitmo now)! Each time I'd glare back his parents were beaming over their little Torquemada.
Had the flight run 30 minutes longer I'd have been at one of the hatches insisting that the kid be able to play outside, a la D.B. Cooper!

78:

It was on a 14-hour flight to Beijing. My plan had been to sleep on the plane (to kick-start getting over jet-lag) and I hadn't slept the previous night. Trying to navigate in Mandarin with no sleep for two days was not fun.

Worst flight (in terms of comfort) was Air Transat: forward toilet started leaking into passenger cabin.

79:

Air Transat are, indeed, Special. And I will not fly trans-Atlantic (or on any flight lasting more than 3-4 hours) on a 757, even though Continental offer a direct Edinburgh-Newark route that shaves three or four hours off the direct Edinburgh-New York journey time (by not requiring a hop to a hub). 757s offer a comfort level suitable only for short-haul flight, like a 737.

80:

Air Transat: just think yourself lucky you weren't on the Atlantic Glider, the A330-200 of theirs that lost most of its fuel in mid-Atlantic after a combination of a leak and a human-factors/GUI snafu that led the crew to pump fuel from the other tanks into the leaking tank rather than vice versa. After this hellish blunder, the skipper then pulled it around to legendary, Ernest K. Gann status by gliding it in to a no speedbrake, no flap, RAT electrics only landing in the Azores.

My least favourite flight; Barcelona-Heathrow at the end of the 3GSM World Congress. Iberia, so incredibly tiny seat pitches, pay for coffee, late, and filthy; the only route for 50 kilodelegates to get to LHR and hop one for wherever they're going, so packed with 16-stone Canadian radio engineers and their duty frees.

81:

<snark>The Atlantic Glider would have been the right kind of Aviation Disaster to be on -- notorious enough to be famous, but everyone survived: you could dine out on it for years.</snark>

(Definitely a whole bundle of No Fun At All at the time, though. Must have been absolutely terrifying, and, being realistic -- no, I wouldn't want to have been there.)

My least favourite flight: 22 years ago, a China Airlines Boeing 737 from Kai Tak (the old Hong Kong airport) to Bangkok. I'm ill/feverish, convinced we're going to follow the example of another China Airlines 737 earlier in the month by crashing, and looking out of the window and up at a cable car doesn't help. Then my CD player batteries die. (Being young and naive I didn't pack any spares in my hand luggage. This was the stone age, back in 1986: the Toshiba CD walkman I was using ate 'C' cells, six at a time.) The guy in the seat next to me says "Hello." I say something noncommittal. "'Scuse me, but I can't help wondering, son, are you Jewish?" I boggle slightly: "what's it to you?" "Wow! That's great. Do you realize that when the apocalypse comes, all the Jews who accept Jesus will go a-flying up to heaven ...?"

Three hours of running a fever on board a plane I'm convinced is going to crash, with an overweight missionary trying to evangelize me, and a dead walkman for company.

82:

Emergency landings aren't fun. When you look forward and see the blood drain from the stewardess' face as she straps herself in, then look out the window and see fire engines lining the runway…

(That was my worst flight—all five minutes of it. Engine sounded rough before take-off, but the pilot took off anyway, then it sounded rougher and we immediately circled back and landed.)

83:

Andrew@74: crossing from Canada to the US is best done by air, since one clears US customs in Canada --- where they're not able to send you to a small enclave in Cuba; the most they can do is refuse to let you in and turn you over to the Canadians. On land, by the time you're in US customs' tender clutches, you're within the US and have just got yourself a non-stop, one-way ticket to Cuba.

Charlie@81: Another good one would have been the Gimli Glider. Look forward to seeing you Friday at 1.

84:

Charlie@81: sweet Cthulhu, that must have been bad. I know you're probably over it by now, but you have my sympathy anyway.

Reading all of these, I feel almost jealous; I've never had any serious difficulties while flying. But, then, I'm a US citizen who flies maybe once every three years and has never been overseas.

Anyway, thanks for the tips. See you in SF.

85:

Rule #3: luggage. The UK is currently a pain to fly from, because the government is enforcing a "one piece of hand luggage ONLY" rule. This may be relaxed next year with the installation of new screening machines, but for the time being, you get precisely one bag — not the usual one bag plus one personal item such as a laptop or handbag. If you want to take the "personal item", you need to be able to shove it in your single carry on bag while it goes through the security check. They don't mind you taking it out afterwards; go figure.

While this can be irritating, it's less irritating than those selfish bastards who take a small suitcase, a "handbag", a laptop and a carrier bag of duty free, and fill an entire locker by themselves.

PS Just finished "The Atrocity Archives" - outstanding. :)

86:

I've also done a lot of flying, almost all economy.

I'll add a few things I've found useful:

a. Pack some kind of snack food for when you arrive, if possible. It's a big pain in the a-- to be stuck in coach with no food for several hours, arrive at your destination with the airport restaurants closed, get to your hotel to find that room service shut down fifteen minutes ago, and end up either going hungry or wandering around some unfamiliar place in the middle of the night, trying to find the restaurant or bar that's alleged to maybe still be open. This has become more of a problem as the airlines have decided to stop feeding you even on very long flights, or to charge you $5 for some vending machine style meal.

b. Bring something warm for the flight. I've been on flights where, once we got into the air, the temperature dropped to about 45, all the blankets were gone, and if you didn't have a sweater or something handy, you were in for a real long flight. (I learned this the hard way, boarding a flight in July in shorts and a T-shirt, and shivering all the way to my destination.)

c. Print out several copies of all relevant information, and put them in different bags, different parts of your bag, etc. It's not much fun to be unable to find your hotel information when you're jetlagged, firing up your laptop where you just know you have a PDF of your hotel reservation *somewhere*.

d. If you're traveling with a kid under 2 in the US, you're allowed to take them on your lap. You will probably be *much* happier with them in a carseat, which lets you strap them in so they can't get into stuff while you're busy. (If you do this, you must take some wheeled bag as a carry on, and work out how to strap the carseat onto.) This also offers the chance that they can fall asleep and let you read/listen to music/think. Carseats are a pain to install, and you often have to do weird things like wrap the belt around the armrest to avoid having the seatbelt buckle sticking into your child's kidney.

e. If you're flying into places selected for extra security theater (Reagan/National in DC and Dulles, but also Salt Lake City airport when the Olympics were on), you will not be allowed to use the bathroom for 1/2 hour or so before landing. (Flying out, it's reversed--no bathroom breaks for 1/2 hour after takeoff.) This is a big deal if you have small kids, because you *must* take them to the bathroom before takeoff or before the 1/2 hour exclusion zone.

f. I'll second the comments about noise-canceling headphones--my over-the-ear Bose ones work great.

g. I can't stand blindfolds, but like wearing my dark sunglasses when I'm trying to rest on the plane, since that cuts most of the light, but lets me open my eyes to see that the drink cart's about to nail my knee.

87:

Charlie@21 et al: In-canal headphones and in-flight entertainment.. LOOK OUT. The volume levels can be different between the VOD and "radio" channels. Dramatically and painfully different. I was dozing off and accidentally stroked the "Audio" button in the arm rest - I thought the wing had fallen off or something. It's a mistake I'm not going to make again.

If you want to use your own Shure headphones with the inflight system you may need a short 3.5mm extension cable as the moulding of the right angle bend part of the headphone plug may prevent you from plugging it in properly. (You used to need one with the first Nintendo DS as well).

RANT I hate the enforced sleepy time - mainly for the way it's often played out in the cabin. No explanations, just "NOW YOU WILL SLEEP" and you're sitting there thinking "But it's half past two in the afternoon"
Coming back from Seoul, I wanted to watch Mongolia slide by but I got a (very polite) "We are doing this now, please?" /RANT

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 30, 2007 3:32 PM.

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