Travel Tips for Squints On the Wing


    You know, it’s amazing at what we learn as we get older. I am always amazed. Well, I am actually amazed at more is the act that my dad is always right. always. About every little thing I have ever bitched about in my entire life, the old man is always right.

    So: lesson learned, good dads are typically always right. Isn’t that just awesome?

    [Hey dad, I just told the Internet that you were right.]

    Something I learned just yesterday is that if I do my laundry the day before I leave, and have the mindset to actually get UP the day before and do it, I can pack the night before and not run around like a headless nightmare zombie chicken. Yeah, I went there.  I’ve been around the globe a few times.  Sometimes shit is just crazy like that. In learning this lesson, I also discovered that being a little more prepared to leave the house means that I don’t have to freak the cat out, I don’t have to leave in a big hurried sweaty mess, and hell – I even had time to grab breakfast on the way to the airport!!!

    Did the sarcasm shine through with that last paragraph? Like I said, I am always amazed at how much I have to learn by applying to the School of Hard Knocks, but as I grow older, the stupid stuff seems to find its way to the bottom of the barrel.

    Since I’m actually sitting on an airplane as I write part of this, it seemed to be a great time to share some of my hard-learned travel tips for all of us lighting professionals who travel the globe as part of our office. When the world is your office, you have that many more places to lose your sh*t!

    Let me preface this list with YES, there are always exceptions to the rules, and even more exceptions with suggestions. Your mileage may vary; but I find that your attitude can completely change the outcome of a situation that might have gone your way. Don’t forget that. I learned it the hard way many, many, many times!

    There are lots of people who travel frequently as part of their daily work and read, and there are also a lot of people who read that are just starting out traveling as part of daily life in the business.  This post is for everyone.  If you’re a seasoned veteran traveler, leave a comment underneath this post.  If you’re one of the people just learning how to travel, leave a comment under this post!  I think we can all constantly learn from each other.

    Buying Your Ticket

    • There are tons and tons of innovative ways to buy a flight online, and there are places that make predictions on whether a flight will generally go up or down in cost. Places like Kayak, Travelocity, Bing Travel (which used to be FareCast, a website that predicted whether a price would go up ro down), Expedia, Priceline (you know, Captain Kirk’s website with the badass who apparently beats the price down with bare fists, but eh) that give you rates on several airlines at the same time. Something I have found as of late if you’re booking your own flights is to check with the airlines’ websites. There are enough occasions that warrant checking the airline websites for prices that don’t get advertised in places that search. It does happen, it happened with this Delta flight I’m on now.
    • if you’re a student, professor, teacher, or an other kind of educator, you can get discounts on travel through Student Universe. Everyone knew this already though, right?
    • Something that doesn’t seem like it would be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised:  If you’re getting into this business or if you’re already established in this business and you don’t have frequent flyer numbers, which are free, for every airline, go sign up for frequent flyer numbers!  This is so simple to do, anyone can.  Go to each airline website.  Sign up.  Sign out.  Done.

    Packing Carry-Ons, Carry-On Toolbags or Cases, and Checked Baggage

    • whether you’re traveling for a show, a conference, or just taking another leg of your tour on a plane, let me just say this: good Gerber multi-tools and Leatherman tools aren’t forty bucks anymore, so it’s not economical to leave them in your carry-on because TSA is gonna take it away!. Now sure, most airports have that little box where you can ship TSA contraband home, but my experience is that IF you get it back, you often don’t have time to stop going through security. I have NOT gotten back three. After that I just learned to not keep them in my bag. Same goes for Crescent wrenches, TSA’s word is that you cannot keep an 8″ adjustable spanner in your bag. You can have a 7″ spanner, but I have never seen a 7″ spanner. Go figure.
    • Be careful about your carry-on tool cases, I don’t know how else to say that.  What I find is that anything that could be considered a “tool” is better checked at the ticket counter.  This is not always possible, I know.  Even though a lot of things that you might have in your carry-on tool case might not fall on the list of TSA prohibited items, TSA gets pretty skitchy about anything sharp, pointy, or scissor-y.  Yeah, scissor-y.  I’ve had 4-in-1 screwdrivers confiscated from my tool case, somebody even tried to snag my Altman focus wrench.  I kinda threw a big fit about that, there is nothing about that wrench that is prohibited, but I suspect someone really wanted it because it looks like a cross.  But again, this is the same organization that told me in Toronto that “if you want a quick permanent four “S” on your passport, be publicly critical of the TSA.”  For those of you following at home, four “S” on your boarding pass means you’re on the list for extra security screening.  I was also told by the TSA manager in Toronto that the airlines actually make distinction on who gets marked with the dreaded SSSS on their boarding passes.

    Dealing with the TSA

    Folks, it’s not a false statement to say that flying has become a serious pain in the ass unless you have the money to fly Business Class all the time, which most of us don’t, or if you work for a company with a really generous travel budget. Down where the rubber meets the road in the industries, that’s not typically the standard. Again, YMMV, but there are other ways to fly Business class if you really wanna check it out.  What you’re paying for is the privilege of a nice seat and about 42% less airport crap.

    • Something to remember is that when you get to the airport is not the time to take up your rage of fire against the TSA and how it treats us as we fly, do that when you get home and you aren’t subject to the rules that the government has asked the TSA to put in place. Let me be clear about this: you’re not going to win against the TSA at the airport. the best thing to do is to be ready to smile, take off your belt and shoes, make sure that you don’t have anything stupid in your carry-on (you know what I’m talking about) and act like a human being. As much as I hate the way we’re marginalized while traveling, the people at your airport didn’t make the rules, a large portion of the TSA is human. However, there are also a large number of sadistic, power-hungry animals that work in the TSA, and if you find that you are mistreated, you should make notes, keep boarding passes, and lodge the complaint the official way and by contacting your congressperson upon your return home. Until then, keep in your head that airports are clusterf*cks of places, and that where will be some consternation on your part if you choose to be a jerk. You also slow it down for everyone behind you too!
    • Generally just remember this about the TSA: they do not have a lot of humor, it isn’t part of their gig. Situations in their world can be pretty hairy, and if you think your pissy attitude is going to persuade them one way or another, think of the few thousand people with pissy attitudes coming before you and the few thousand after you.
    • in order to file a formal TSA complaint – because if we have to follow their rules, so should they.  TSA’s own complaint website is a little innocuous, as they try to right off the bat to govern the things you can complain about by giving definitions.  Screw that.  Sometimes you have actually been affronted, and they need to be dealt with swiftly.  The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has some other ideas about filing that complaint, so check them out, too.
    Flying Time

    When you fly, obviously you’re going to spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 15 hours or more in a plane. If you’re on the way to a gig, use this time to be productive! I write a lot of blog posts on planes on my iPad with the WordPress app installed. Some planes even have WIFI now, although its usually more expensive than paying for WIFI at the airport. However, that little bit of WIFI can be the difference between getting things done and not getting them done. It’s your money, spend and save wisely, caveat emptor.

    If you’re a traveling professional and you need some things to do on the plane, here are a few suggestions from the JimOnLight readership!

    • pay your bills online
    • catch up with emails
    • snore (which is sometimes what I do, sorry)
    • double-check paperwork against the plot
    • go over that presentation a few times to save your conference audience from boredom
    • blog!
    • catch up on some reading you’ve been neglecting
    • learn something useful to improve your life
    • solve the National Budget

    Some other flying time things to consider, some informative and some hilarious:

    • FOOD:  if you’re not on someone else’s expense account, it’s going to save you from 20-30% on food prices.  For example, I bought an egg mcmuffin and a large iced coffee black on the way to the airport, and it cost me just over five bucks.  At the airport, the same order is $8.20.  See what I mean?  Generally this is the case all over the place in airports.  Besides – do you really need to eat right when you get to the airport?  Knocking this habit of mine off saved me 14 pounds over four months.  Pretty awesome, at least to me.  Grab a sammich or something before you get there; planning even a wee bit ahead when you’re on a budget and having to hit the airport will save you in the long run.
    • FOOD AGAIN:  This one is more of a courtesy thing more than anything – but taking a tuna, onion, and egg sub sandwich into a closed tube that people are going to smell your sandwich in for hours makes you an ass.  Sorry.
    • HEALTH:  airplanes are notorious for spreading sickness.  I mean, it’s like being in a cigar tube with a bunch of other people and breathing the same collective air.  Actually, it’s not LIKE that at all, IT IS THAT!  Keep some hand sanitizer in your bag, wash your hands, all that.  Use common sense, you can certainly get sick.  Something I always try to do, whether it’s more mental or actually working, is to try and eat really clean for the few days leading up to my travels.  I figure that if my body is strong, I’ll have a better chance of fighting off Airplane Nasty.
    • BOREDOM:  get yourself something to do while you’re waiting in lines at airports.  You will wait for a long time in long lines a lot of the time.  Who cares what it is, just as long as it keeps you occupied.  You’re going to do some waiting in your career, and mostly it’s going to be at the airport!

    Well, I hope that all helps!  If you have tips and tricks for travelers, drop a comment into the post!

    Thanks to Pleated Jeans and Jet Planes for the pics!

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