Traveling by air, like anything, can become an art. It can also become a monster, growling and gnawing at you if done wrong.

In light of yesterday’s flight from CLT-SYR, I thought I’d post a few tips. It’s by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add your own.

1.) The TSA is a joke.

I don’t know how else to say it. Knowing this simple fact will help you stay even-keeled when in security.

People that have 100% access to the aircraft – like rampers and gate agents – don’t pass any airport security (and are paid minimum wage; propensity for coercion anyone?), while pilots (who could literally do anything they want to an aircraft) are subject to the same crazy searches we are.

That being said, rules for what should or should not be placed in or outside a bin, on the conveyor belt, left on or taken off your person, are due to change at the whim of whatever over titled, under-credentialed agent you encounter.

2.) Check TSA’s website.

Marking 10 years since 9-11, you’re finally able to pack almost everything in a carry-on again. This is especially helpful for short trips, or those who prefer packing light (like me). Contrary to popular belief, shaving kits are no longer considered threats, fingernail clippers have ceased being a hijacker’s weapon of choice, and even solid-stick deodorants are allowed to stay in your bag (apparently filling them with C4 is out of style).

And while you still need to take your shoes off to go through security, children under 12 can keep them on now. (Terrorists don’t mind blowing up innocent people, but they’re quite averted to putting shoe bombs on random orphans).

Any drinks, however, must be consumed in their entirety or be thrown out before going through security. (That HCL you’re carrying may not burn a hole in your sleekly altered plastic bottle, but it sure does a number on your digestive system).

Checking their website can help you know how to pack. And because they’re constantly changing protocol, it’s worth checking regularly if you fly a lot.

3.) Get good luggage.

When purchasing luggage for check-in, I prefer non-fabric, non-zipping. Samsonite clam-shell style cases have been the best I’ve ever owned. Strong, lightweight, and durable. They’ve never gotten knocked out of alignment (where they no longer close right), they hold a lot (with new weight restrictions, often too much), and they protect well. I’ve had one since 2002 with over 500,000 international miles on it.

Granted, I recently broke this rule with a higher-end TJ Maxx find, but it was calculated: the bag was med-sized, had super-heavy-duty zipper construction (ye’ big ole’ fat kind), and the nylon weave exterior was extremely dense and double layered. It’s served very well for shorter trips.

Asking people in the airline industry what they prefer is always a good idea. Certain manufactures try and make handles, wheels, and overall dimensions conducive to the majority of aircraft types.

4.) Roll your clothes.

Yes, it really does create more space.

5.) Leave a little extra room for your return flight. Whether it’s an item your friend wants you to bring back with you as a gift, to souvenirs you purchased at the airport, to a bag of cashews you bought at a gas station but never quite finished, you’ll virtually always be bringing back more than you left with.

6.) Use technology.

While I may be a pastor, the only thing truly sacred is His presence. Therefore, that beautiful, leather-bound, 8″x10″ beast of a Bible I’ve loved so dearly over the years? Yeah, she stays home.

All my notes, messages, Bible translations, concordances, cross-referencing software, and bookmarks are kept on my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro. Should they all be stolen or fail, everything is backed up to two different cloud services. And when all else fails, I’ve either memorized my messages and scriptures in advance, or I snag a Bible from someone willing to lend me theirs.

Because of the advent of the e-reading age, I also take a whole library of books with me, as well as my music. Loading and charging your devices properly ahead of time can help fight boredom later. And I rarely get so much free time to read as I do on planes.

7.) Think power.

I always pack a three-socket 10′ extension chord in my bag. While carrying my chargers is important, often there is no wall outlet close by (this goes for airports and destinations). That home extension chord has saved me more times than I can count.

I also carry a AA backup charger for my iPhones. The day Apple finally finds a smart phone battery that last for than a day will be celebrated in the Hopper house with gusto.

In addition, I keep multiple terminus convertors (or plug adapters) for each nation I frequent (and purposely collect them). While almost every gadget I own will have a power convertor built in (110v-220v), the physical plugs need to be changed. No more than a dollar or two, without them you ain’t got nuthin’.

8.) Embrace your new clock.

While there are a myriad of remedies – natural to neurotic – that help with jet-lag, the best tip I’ve found for adjusting to time change is all on the opening day (especially traveling east).

If you land in Europe at 7:30am, resist that urge for a 5-8 hour nap. Sleep at 12noon for an hour, but then stay up as late as you can. By day 2, you’ll be feeling more acclimated and alert. This practice is especially useful on short international trips.

9.) Stay hydrated.

Planes are, by nature of air filtration, a dry environment. Resist your soda pop, ask for bottles (or multiple cups) of water instead.

10.) Be yourself, but be courteous.

I like talking with people. I’m an extravert. But not everyone I meet is. Learning how to engage in casual in-flight conversation can be daunting, but rewarding. I have friends to this day that I met on flights.

But some people are over-talkers. Having a pair if earbuds or a book/e-reader is a great way to politely signal, “I’m tired if talking and would like to be left alone.” ch:



Billy Jepma · 14 Oct ’11 at 9:32 am

Great tips, I honestly just learned something and had fun doing it. Who’d a thunk it? Haha, hope you had an amazing trip Christopher. Much love, πŸ™‚

    Christopher Hopper · 14 Oct ’11 at 8:20 pm

    It was a wonderful trip, thanks Billy. And glad you could glean a few tips for your future world travels. (Yep, you know it!).

Sarah · 14 Oct ’11 at 10:29 am

You can however bring an infinite number of unopened juice boxes.

Brian · 14 Oct ’11 at 11:07 am

Very helpful. Thanks for the advice on luggage. We’ve been in the market for new luggage for a while (our $49.99 Kmart 4-piece luggage set is no longer cutting it). I will have to look into the zipperless pieces!

    Christopher Hopper · 14 Oct ’11 at 8:23 pm

    Glad I could help. Be prepared: Samsonite is not cheap. But you truly do get what you pay for with them.

Christian Fahey · 14 Oct ’11 at 2:12 pm

Oh delish!! TSA a joke–BAM! (Seems to have perfected the art of making up the rules as you go.) “Roll your clothes” Yes!!! One year ago, I traveled to Colo Springs with a laptop and 1 carryon bag. Found a used bookstore and bought about 25 books (some of ’em whoppers). Learned real fast that rolling clothes saves a LOT of room. “Use technology.” Certainly for travel but the larger issue is the eventual ubiquity of the cloud looms both largely and practically here (and no doubt financially). Great post!!

    Christopher Hopper · 14 Oct ’11 at 8:24 pm

    I knew you’d chime in with some conclusive evidence, what with all your travels and all.

    Can I just say that I love that you used “ubiquity” in a blog comment? Genius.

      Christian Fahey · 14 Oct ’11 at 9:46 pm

      Though I’m not even in the same universe as he, like Tolkien, I love the sounds of words, even ones that don’t get out of the house too often. πŸ˜‰

        Christopher Hopper · 14 Oct ’11 at 10:27 pm

        I think only those before the man – and that inspired him – were in the same universe; namely, MacDonald.

        We should start a “words that don’t get out if the house much” club.

          Christian Fahey · 15 Oct ’11 at 9:11 pm

          Totally!! We could turn loose gems like “exigencies”, “mellifluous”, “legerdemain”, and “flatulentially tendentious behaviour”!!

          Christopher Hopper · 15 Oct ’11 at 10:20 pm

          I praise God for the propinquity of our minds.

Natalie · 14 Oct ’11 at 3:57 pm

The tip about the extension cord is great! AA+

In your carry-on, ALWAYS pack snacks, a sweater or blanket (only one US airline still gives free blankets…when they have a supply), and buy a bottle of water before boarding.

If you’re traveling with young children, have them wear a “pull-up” even if they’re fully potty trained. It is NOT worth their safety to take them to the restroom when the seatbelt sign is on…I don’t want to get into sad details…but trust me.

And be nice to your flight attendants, they’ll be nice to you…you want them on your side. πŸ˜‰

I could go on & on but I’ll spare you. πŸ˜‰ Loved the post!

    Christopher Hopper · 14 Oct ’11 at 8:25 pm

    You really should be a guest poster on this subject-revisited. Between you and Joe, you literally could write a book on it.

    Dang, I can’t believe I forgot “be nice to your flight attendants.”

Susie · 14 Oct ’11 at 9:25 pm

If you have kids…make sure you have plenty of toys/activities packed. My mom kept us sane flying back and forth from the Philippines (5 kids) I don’t know how she did it.
Also one thing I’ve learned is to take a reusable water bottle with me. I take it empty through security then fill it up with water at a drinking fountain after I get through (saves me a lot of $$ instead of buying over priced bottles of water).
Also bags that have wheels are amazing. lol I use to travel with a duffel bag…worst idea ever (especially b/c I rarely checked them in). I flew to mexico a week and a half ago and went to Arizona after that and took 1 checked bag and 1 carry on that I stored my ipad (fully charged of course), a couple of small books, and work that I wanted to complete on the plane. It was much easier having just a small bag..going through security was much easier.
Also, as a girl (guys might find this harder) I try to not wear belts or jewelry or anything that has metal on it or shoes that require a lot of tying so that way I can slip my shoes on and off easily, therefore getting through much quickly.
Also be extremely kind and super positive to the employees there! If you go out of your way to compliment you they will help you (like bumping you up to 1st class when a flight gets delayed or holding a plane for you b/c they messed up your ticket). They control your baggage and how fast you can get through. πŸ™‚
Sorry this is long..haha…but great tips! (love the extension chord idea i usually end up sitting on the ground by the outlet).

    Christopher Hopper · 14 Oct ’11 at 9:39 pm

    GREAT additions, Susie. Thank you!

    “I try to not wear belts or jewelry or anything that has metal on it or shoes that require a lot of tying so that way I can slip my shoes on and off easily, therefore getting through much quickly.”

    This is one of my favs; and yes, it can be done as a guy. But in a slightly different way. While I’m still in that uber long security line, I slip my iPhone in my bag, as well as my belt. That way, when I get up to the scanner, I’m ready. I also almost ALWAYS wear flip-flops (in another life I’m a SoCal surfer), or super easy slip-off shoes in winter.

Brian · 17 Oct ’11 at 12:04 am

Love it!!!

Comments are closed.