Avoid Airport Chaos
Major flight centres from Pearson in Toronto to Heathrow in London have become bottlenecks to the smooth return of travel. The former loses pretty well every piece of checked luggage while the latter just capped the daily number of passengers permitted on the premises. Airlines are trying to function with skeleton crews after two years of covid restrictions that resulted in major layoffs. The same goes for airports. The jobs that do exist are difficult to fill. Continued covid illnesses are still disrupting regular service. Airlines are cutting hundreds of flights per day. All this adds up to piles of lost luggage, hundreds of delayed or cancelled flights, crowds of travelers lined up for hours at security and a whole lot of annoyed passengers. And now it’s summer holiday season, adding to the congestion. Here are a few ways to reduce or avoid long waits and lost belongings.
- Fly from a smaller airport: If you live close enough to a smaller airport, fly out of there of you can. If you usually fly from Toronto, try Hamilton or London. Or try a smaller airline. Torontonians know that flying with Porter means flying from the tiny downtown airport on Centre Island, walking distance from the urban centre.
- Nexus: If you do need to fly, consider signing up for a Nexus pass. It’s used to speed frequent flyers through security as they cross the Canada-USA border, but it proves useful in other situations as well.
- Fly midweek: Certain times of the day and week are less busy than others. If you can, fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when there’s less congestion all round.
- Drive: If you have enough time and it’s a short-haul flight, consider driving. Yes, gasoline is expensive and driving is time consuming, but so is flying, especially when you factor in getting to and from an airport hours before departure, waiting in those long lines, taking taxis and renting vehicles at the other end.
- Take a train: Train schedules and ticket prices are not usually competitive with North American air travel, but at times like these when airports and airlines are everyone’s favourite punching bag, train travel can be relaxing and convenient. In some parts of North America and across Europe and Asia, train travel is frequent and economically priced.
- DO NOT check luggage: Just don’t do it. You’re asking for trouble at a time when airlines and airports lack the staff to handle your luggage. A checked bag won’t likely make your flight, and even if it does, it’ll take a week to track it down and retrieve it at the other end. Which means that you also need to…
- Pack Smart: Taking only a carry-on will free you from the anxiety of checked luggage. Learn to pack smarter and better. For a recent 18-day trip, I had only a carry-on suitcase and a smaller case for my electronics, the latter only because I was working. Here are some packing rules I always follow. a) Pack light. Nothing gets in that suitcase if I can imagine taking it out at the end of the trip unused. b) Roll all clothing before packing it, which saves room. Shove socks and underwear into shoes and hats. Leave no airspace unstuffed. c) Take only essential toiletries. If you do leave something out you need later, it’s likely an easy purchase at your destination. d) Bring multi-use clothing such as pants that convert to shorts or walking shoes that can be worn in a less casual setting. A sarong can be used as a beach towel. Shorts can be used for swimming. e) Pack layers rather than bulky items for warmth. Each layer can be worn on its own or together with another item. f) Choose quick-drying, lightweight items for trips that involve hiking or other strenuous activities. g) Wash clothes on the road is usually an easy way to reuse them. Even buying a couple t-shirts is easy and so worth it. h) Take the right luggage. If you’re backpacking, that’s easy, but if you’re not, consider a wheeled backpack that is as easy as a wheeled suitcase in those giant airports, but just as easy to throw on your back in other settings.
- Staycation: Just stay home. Wait for airlines and airports to catch up at a time when everyone wants to travel somewhere, anywhere immediately. There’s a lot of pent up demand, but waiting for slower times can mean less time, money, and energy spent on your next holiday. Or enjoy a local holiday. Staycations are all the rage, and for good reason. Since the beginning of covid, many of us have rediscovered our own backyards and our home turf. If it’s conveniently reachable via car, then it’s worth checking out. If it’s reachable by bicycle, even better. Take a weekend or a week to re-familiarize yourself with where you live. Go camping. Visit friends. What better way to spend your precious holiday time. And of course, staycations are usually the best possible DAILY TRAVEL DEAL.