Tips for Travelling to Tech Conferences, Part 5

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When you travel with colleagues a lot, you might end up as the go to guy for travelling tips. This series contains all my tips, so you may benefit from the situations I’ve encountered, avoid them, and travel in style and happiness.

With your documents printed and checked and your luggage packed and documented, it’s time to get to the airport and get onboard the flight(s) to your destination.


Tips for getting to the airport

Leave your car at home

If possible, leave your car at home. As a Dutch person, I’m weary of the typical high parking costs at airports: the same amount of money also buys you first class tickets to transportation tickets, or pays for a cab. Leaving a car in front of your door, however, has an additional benefit. Potential burglars might not stop at your home when there’s a car in front of it; they might think you’re just at home.

My favorite way to get to the airport is family driving me. The drive itself allows for some last minute chats and I can give my loved ones a final hug hours later. Luckily for me, my family travels often themselves, so I don’t have to feel guilty; I can just return the favor.

If you do need a car to get to the airport, an alternative way to get a car in front of your house is asking a neighbor to park his car in front of your house. Of course, you’ll need to trust your neighbor sufficiently before asking.

Be there on time

Your flight information, typically, would only include a time of departure.

Before a plane can depart with you, however, you’ll need to pass through passport control, airport security and any additional screening you may require. Also, you must have completed the boarding process and your luggage must have been brought to the airplane. All these activities take time, especially the last one.

Therefore, be sure to pick an appropriate arrival time to the airport. In your timetable, also take into consideration that public transportation may fail, cabs may not show up, and cars can break down. Flying on a Monday morning or on a Saturday afternoon may cause lines at the baggage drop-off, whereas during off-hours you may just scroll through.


Tips for passing smoothly through security

Before you may board your flight(s), the nice people at the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) would like to welcome you to the airport.

Don’t take it personal

Don’t freak out when you’re pulled from the line, searched more intensively than others or when you need to put your bags through the X-ray machine multiple times. Remember: these people are just doing their jobs, following the same rules at every airport. As silly as it sounds for you to remove your flip-flops, this is how their system works.

Keeping calm and smiling nicely is the way to go, in my opinion. Actually, that’s how I once ended up with the mobile phone number of a nice TSA girl at Boston Logan International. Knipogende emoticon

Don’t take pictures or make calls

When your responsibility is to ensure safety in a cat and mouse game situations, you might end up paranoid too. Taking pictures and/or making phone calls is not a good method to remove these feelings with TSA personnel. Refrain yourself from touching your communication devices, except for placing them on the belt where airport personnel instruct you to place them.

Don’t wear thick clothing or a belt

The responsibility of the people at the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is to make sure you are no threat to others. In a world with merciless terrorists, unfortunately, this means airport security has become a cat and mouse game. The TSA people need to make sure you’re not concealing anything harmful… underneath your clothing, in your shoes, etc.

When you avoid thick clothing, you can pass through scanners without problems. If you do need to wear layers of clothing, make sure they’re easily removable. A vest is a perfect replacement clothing item for a sweater.

Have your liquids, computing equipment and printed info at hand

Standing in line for the scanners is the perfect time to prepare for them by taking your belt off (and placing it in your carry-on luggage), gathering your belongings from all your  pockets into one easy to reach pocket, taking out electronic devices like your laptop(s) from your carry-on luggage, grabbing the plastic bag with your liquids and, of course, presenting the paper work for your interview (when flying to the USA).

I’ve seen people scrambling for flights, given priority over the lane, and I would still pass security quicker than them, because of preparation.

Don’t leave your belongings out of your sight

Always keep an eye on your belongings. Remember: your passport also needs to go through the scanner, apart from you. Following instructions from TSA personnel is important, but not as important as your belongings.


Tip for boarding

Use a digital boarding pass

I recommend using mobile boarding passes, but unfortunately, not all airports and airlines offer this technology yet. Your boarding pass contains personally identifiable information, be sure to treat it wisely. I prefer this information safely behind the security of a passcode on a mobile device, instead of on a piece of paper.

If you do use a paper boarding pass, be sure to tear it up after you’ve taken the flight. Make a picture of it first, if you want the information, for instance, when you need to claim non-awarded frequent flyer miles, afterwards. Again, passcodes and device encryption provide the security for your information.



It’s nothing personal… until you make it personal.

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