If you’ve missed a flight recently, you’re not spending enough time in airports

In this post I tackle three big issues facing the frequent flyer.

A lot of the advice for the business traveller is based on three assumptions: speed is king, you need to keep working all the time, and you don’t need clean pyjamas.

I disagree; I’m not that kind of traveller.

We work incredibly hard most of the time, have lengthy commutes, and often return to a busy house with a long list of responsibilities. Travel is an opportunity to take care of ourselves, to have some peace and quiet, to meditate, to escape the hurly-burly senseless busy-ness of most of our working days.

So don’t feel the need to spend every waking second of travel on your laptop working at breakneck speed, use the peace and solitude to reflect and take a step back.

Early or late?

If you haven’t missed a flight recently, you’re spending too much time in airports

(Dr Jordan Ellenberg)

I don’t agree; I’m not that kind of traveller.

Ellenberg says that I could be doing something better with my time rather than idling it away in an airport terminal, that the “opportunity cost” of my arriving early is subtracting from all this productive stuff I would have been doing otherwise.

Well, Dr E, there are some mighty big assumptions in there.

If I waited until the last minute to get to the airport I wouldn’t be doing anything productive, I’d be standing around, glancing at my watch, and anxiously thinking about needing to get to the airport. At least if I’m already there I can relax and read and drink coffee, which is all I really want to do anyway.

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Hold or hand?

Every lifehack, every top tip, every travel guru, says the same thing: “never check bags”

There are two reasons for this (sometimes drawn out into lists of 10 for the convenience of journalism): (1) speed, and (2) security,  i.e. no dallying at the carousel waiting for the bags, and less chance of your bag going missing or being damaged.

I don’t agree; I’m not that kind of traveller.

The practice of stuffing everything in your hand luggage is not without merit, but it is also not without cost: heavy hand luggage, slower progress through security, and a greater restriction on what you can take.

You turn the journey into a pragmatic dash, weighing yourself down in the short term just so’s you can zip out the airport a few minutes quicker at the other end.

And anyway, if the trip is anything over three days, the argument entirely falls to pieces. I’m a minimalist for crying out loud, but there comes a time when you just need a clean shirt and a pair of running shoes.

Window or aisle?

There are times when the view from a plane window is so breathtakingly beautiful that there is no place in world I would rather be: seeing the ice floes over Newfoundland (below), flying across the Sunbardan National Park on the India/Bangladeshi border (above), seeing the blue Mediterranean across northern Sardinia (further below) … but the window brings its challenges.

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Most of the time you can’t see anything anyway, at best the land is a beige haze, and more probably there is so much cloud cover that the window serves only as a source of too much bright white light.

But the worst thing is being trapped … getting stuck with ghastly Other People hemming you in against the fuselage. Psychologists say this appeals to people who like to nest, to create a tiny private bubble at the end of the row that they can own for the duration of the flight.

Those of us that seek freedom and space, choose the aisle seat. Those same psychologists say this is also the choice of introverts and control-freaks, so you can take your pick as to my reasons.

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