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Travel Tips from Scholarly Kitchen Chefs

Travel Tips from Scholarly Kitchen Chefs

A few years ago we asked the Chefs what travel tips they might want to pass on. Like many of you, many of us travel and have developed preferences and strategies for making the most of it. So this month we thought we’d revisit this topic to see if any new tips have emerged.

We asked the Chefs: What travel tips have worked for you?

passport stamps

Robert Harington: My first  tip for traveling by air is simple; just don’t do it at all. There really is no pleasure to be had in cramming in with all the other sheep, with the lamb like promise of being sheared somewhere along the way. Travel less, video conference more, and add years to your life. This tip is of little use though if you have to travel.

Back when I last thought about this question, the main quality I extolled was that of being zen. It is easy to be frustrated. There are so many excruciating trials to face. When on a long haul flight you may experience a joyful hour or two waiting in line at security, only to find out that your ticket has your initials, rather than your full name, and you are subsequently listed as persona non-grata.

It is worth ensuring all the names match from passport to ticket. One of the best purchases I made in recent years here in the US is the Global Entry pass. If you are a US citizen this eases your return through immigration and customs, and buys you access to TSA Pre on all domestic flights.

But still there are many more irritations. What do you do when your seat back is being kicked by a stubborn toddler, or the person sitting next to you decides that they own your seat as well as yours, or perhaps they determined early that morning that not showering would be their gift to you, their fellow passenger, or the headphone jack is so wobbly, you just can’t get a connection — the list continues?

Amidst all of this, it is natural that your blood will rise, and perhaps your face may turn a putrid red, with exasperated gasps of frustration emitted in place of actual words, as you desperately cajole yourself to use your inside voice. Instead, just breath deeply and practice the art of being zen. The way to do this is to pretend you are not traveling at all, but in some land of limbo, where time does not count, and all is good with the world. Yes, part of you wants to be that person pulled off the plane, kicking and screaming for complaining your pretzels are soggy, but instead just be cool, be zen.

Joe Esposito: The best thing I have ever done regarding travel was to move from the West Coast to the East Coast. This reduced my annual air-miles by 75%. Air travel is expensive, time-consuming, uncomfortable, and unhealthy. The people who run airlines are, in my view, no better than tobacco executives.

Rick Anderson: The tip that has worked most consistently for me is also the most boring and predictable one: always arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your scheduled departure. Now, I have heard stories about people (sociopaths, apparently) who don’t even leave their homes until an hour prior to the flight. What do they do when they arrive to find a quarter-mile-long line at security? (Granted, they probably have TSA Precheck, but still.)

What do they do when they go to check their luggage and find themselves in line behind someone who doesn’t understand the concept of weight limits, or who thought they could check an unlimited number of bags of unlimited size for free, and who are still failing to understand these things despite having them explained, multiple times, by multiple airport employees of gradually-escalating managerial rank? No. No, no, no. The key to happy (by which I mean boring and uneventful) travel is to get to the airport early and have either a good book to read, or lots of email to catch up on, or both, in the departure gate while you wait an hour and a half to board. Also to have TSA Precheck.

Lettie Conrad: Travel can be exhausting and hard on the body, so I’m a big fan of eating well and getting extra rest where possible. I usually travel with trail mix and veggie snacks, which serve me better in the long run, than airport indulgences (I’m looking at you, Cinnabon). I usually eat mostly vegetarian on the road, so I don’t get feeling weighed down or sluggish. And drink lots of water!

For jet lag, I’ve found shifting my sleep times at home a few days before, even just going to bed / waking up 30 mins earlier, can really help speed time adjustments when going west-to-east. Also, low doses of Melatonin (1-2mg) has worked wonders to knock me out when I have trouble getting to sleep, but doesn’t leave me groggy.

Speaking of sleep, I’ve learned to give myself permission to rest intermittently during long days at conferences. Even a 20-min snooze or meditation can help get through 14+ hour days with a sharper mind and better attitude. The art of the power nap!

David Crotty: I have to admit that Robert Harington’s tip about “travel zen” from the previous post (mentioned above) greatly improved my travel experiences. There are times where the trip is absolutely crucial (a wedding, a funeral) and you need to be on schedule, but most of the time you can adjust, and those you’re working with will be understanding. Getting angry or anxious about things out of your control just makes the experience worse.

I’d also advise staying hydrated, and if possible, join the airport lounge for the airline you travel on the most frequently (my company pays for this for frequent travelers).

As is often the mantra around here, “privacy is the new luxury”, and really the only way to escape the blaring televisions and chaos of the airport is to pay for a quiet space. Factor in a table, good wifi, and ample electrical outlets and you have a reasonable space to get things done, turning wasted hours into productive ones. Better yet, if your flight is delayed or cancelled, dashing into the Club to get your flight changed or adjusted lets you avoid the long line of angry people at the gate, and the level of service offered is usually vastly superior.

Ann Michael: What is interesting to me about the suggestions so far is they are mostly about attitude and preparation.

On the attitude side, don’t let yourself go to that negative “put upon” place. Don’t be the one that feels entitled or expects perfection, and you have a much better chance of a less stressful trip. Some of us that travel a lot have affinity program privileges that, if we’re not careful, can turn us into a high expectation group. Fight that. Practice the art of being thankful!

When it comes to preparation, Rick suggests getting to the airport early (which is a stress reducer!). I know it’s hard to do, but I strongly endorse that (although I’m only a 90 minutes early kind of person myself). Remember, this doesn’t need to be lost time. Schedule calls with team mates or calls that are a bit more informal in nature for your waiting time (when you can chuckle about the background noise!).

Lettie spoke of food and sleep. As someone that is often working 14+ hour days when traveling, I can’t agree with her more. One trick that was suggested to me a while back by William Gunn was to skip evening meals on transatlantic overnight flights. He had read research that it was easier to adapt to another time zone when you get your body’s digestive cycle in line quickly. I have done that now for years and, for me, it works!

Robert mentioned Global Entry and TSA Pre. I can add UK Registered Traveller for those traveling to the UK and Nexus for those of you that frequent Canada. I have them all and they make life so much easier. In my opinion, they are bargains that pay for themselves as soon as one multi-hour line is avoided!

Other things to add in no particular order:

  • Pack a bag in your bag! I have an expandable bag that I bring on trips when I know I’ll be tempted to shop. This way I have somewhere to put what I buy without having to buy another bag.
  • Whenever possible, carry all your luggage on board. If you have back or neck problems this may not be the best move for you. But if you can take your luggage with you and avoid baggage claim areas, do it!
  • If you don’t have a carry on bag (briefcase or purse) with an easily accessible pocket for boarding pass (paper or mobile) and id, get one. It needs to be secure, but easy access saves a whole lot of time.
  • Dress in anticipation of going through security. Try not to where things that will “alarm” like belts, shoes with buckles, etc. The faster you get through security the happier you (and those behind you) will be.
  • If you do need to take off belts or shoes, collect them on the other side of the scanning equipment and move out of the way to reassemble yourself (it’s just common courtesy!).
  • If you are traveling with your family or others that do not frequently travel, help them understand what they need to do before you get to the airport. I was at the Ottawa airport a while back and saw a family of four go through security and I wanted to give them a medal. They were brilliant! They weren’t perfect — don’t expect that — but they knew what they needed to do and did their best to do it!

Now it’s your turn. What can you recommend? Which travel tips have served you the best?

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