Our buddy Kevin Kline has started a travel meme to provide ideas for people travelling to PASS, given many don't travel very often. He's after some good solid travel tips. I'm one of the people he called out so here are a few that come to mind immediately:
1. Delays and mishaps occur. If you don't allow enough time between flight connections, etc. then you are asking for problems, regardless of what the airline says. For example, I *never* allow an international to domestic connection through Los Angeles of less than three hours and prefer four hours. The further you're travelling from, the more you can get delayed. Airlines will let you book a two hour connection there. Don't do it. If you're feeling frustrated with delays, get over it.
2. Given you'll be spending time in the airports or on planes as per point #1, don't waste your time. Take something to read. You'll have long periods where you can't use anything electronic.
3. If there are problems, don't take it out on the counter staff. Doing that can only hurt your chances. My favorite story on this was about a guy standing in line watching another guy in front of him yelling at the lady behind the baggage counter. The whole time she was smiling and being pleasant. When it came his turn, the guy said "I don't know how you do it. How can you keep your composure like that?". She smiled again and said "I just keep focussing my mind on that fact that tomorrow he'll be in Denver and his bag will be in Boston".
4. It's tempting while sitting in a flight at cruising level to undo your seatbelt. Don't do that unless you need to go to the restroom or when you take a bit of a walk around the plane. When the airlines warn you to keep your seatbelt loosely fastened while seated, they aren't kidding. Just loosen it a bit.
5. Try to avoid checked luggage but if you're doing so, make sure your baggage is small enough and light enough to be accepted. I see countless arguments where passengers have oversized carry-on baggage. This has increased markedly since some airlines have started charging for checked baggage.
6. If you are travelling with your partner, split your luggage between his/her checked baggage and your own. This will increase your chance of having *some* baggage at the other end. Reasonable connection times will also help with this. See point #1.
7. Don't lock your baggage if travelling through a US port. The TSA will simply cut your locks off or your bags open. I've had them do this when it wasn't even locked and it wasn't obvious to them how to open the bag. (Make sure it's obvious or get another bag).
8. Noise-cancelling headsets are a gift from Heaven. Get some. Don't whinge about the baby crying behind or near you. Clearly the kid doesn't want to be there either and has no idea why his/her ears are suddenly so sore.
9. If going to a conference, take a flat soft bag inside your checked bag. You can then go with one bag and come back with two, with all the swag you got at the conference.
10. If travelling internationally, I try to get into the right timezone a bit before I leave home. Most importantly though, when you arrive, no matter how tired you are, try to stay awake till evening at your destination. You have much more chance of adjusting quickly and avoid severe jetlag.
I'm sure that more will come to mind but this should be a start.