Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fight-or-flight response.

Airports used to turn me into a legitimate monster. I love to travel, but something about the act of flying destroys my ability to not sweat the small stuff. I'm always exhausted from staying up to pack the night before. I'm always pissed off from dealing with public transportation (I'd rather buy a new shirt than pay cab fare...sorry I'm not sorry). My first few trips back and forth from school were rife with sour glares and yells of, "Let's keep it moving, here, people!" I was that girl. I made Ashlee Simpson at McDonald's look tame.

Eventually, I realized that the old adage about catching more flies with honey is particularly true when it comes to flying. I now have a love/hate relationship with airports (love as in Washington National, hate as in Chicago O'Hare), but I like to think that I've at least figured out how to pimp the system.

Check-in. When you're lugging around the contents of your life on a semi-regular basis, 50 pounds doesn't go nearly as far as you'd think. If you had to sit on your suitcase to zip it, there's a good chance your baggage is overweight. Since a diet is out of the question (don't let anyone guilt you; you needed that extra pair of shoes), it's time to work a little magic at the curbside check-in. Put on a charming smile, twirl your hair nervously, and gently protest, "Oh, but I'm a student! Do you really need to charge me?" They will say no. And then you will tip them. $3 to the nice man who took pity on you is better than $35 (or whatever criminal amount they're charging these days) to some commercial airline executive. I haven't paid a baggage fee since 2007.

You'll probs want to skip fussy eye make-up so you can conk out on the plane, so grade A sunglasses (and maybe a touch of lip gloss) play a crucial role in maintaining your curbside allure. I am into these Maison Martin Margiela shades like a train. They have the flattering cut of an aviator (with a hint of heart-shaped sass) and the mystery of a classic bug-eye. And a $615 price tag. Crying.

Security. There's not a lot you can do to avoid snaking lines and panicked latecomers*, but you can at least avoid driving yourself crazy by tailoring your accessories for the occasion. I love jewelry as much as the next girl - probably more than the next girl - but this is not the time to show up dripping in diamonds. Stick to basic stud earrings, a watch (duhzies, it's me) and a belt, if you need one. Even the strapping businessman who would happily watch you strip down under normal circumstances won't be amused by watching you remove your stack of bangles one by one.

I've been known to wear my heaviest pair of shoes to lighten my luggage (though if you followed my first tip, chubby bags shouldn't be an issue), but riding boots aren't the easiest to wiggle in and out of at high speed. These days, I stick to Sue London roll-up ballet flats. They're easy to take on and off (and easy to stash if the torture of heels awaits you at the tail end of your flight - they even come with their own storage satchel), buttery soft, and the elastic won't dig into your heels. I love this punchy pink for summer, but if neutrals are more your jam, Sue makes them in every color of the rainbow. Nine West does a knock-off version. I've heard questionable reviews. Bargain buy at your own risk.

* I'm hardly in a position to lecture anyone on timeliness, but as a former airport lagoon creature, I will say that it's better to be obscenely early than even a little bit late. Worst-case scenario: you spend some time sampling cosmetics in the duty-free shop.

Up, up and away! People who say jeans are comfortable are obviously not people who fly. Nothing is more unpleasant than sitting for hours with grommets and belt loops digging into your flesh (not to mention that unless your jeans are made of steel, they'll probably stretch out and look loose and nasty upon arrival). A jersey dress with a relaxed fit - and a cardigan, in the event of a chilly cabin - is a much better option for a summer flight. If you're more worried about snowdrifts than sunburns, a cashmere sweater and a slim-cut pair of yoga pants is a stylish alternative to ratty gym sweats. Side note: there is never an excuse for velour jumpsuits.

OKAY. I KNOW. I'M A LEMUR. EVERYONE AND THEIR MOM HAS A LONGCHAMP TOTE. But hear me out. I'm not suggesting you carry it everywhere until it falls to generic nylon pieces, but from a practical standpoint, the Pliage makes an ideal carry-on bag. It's waterproof (you don't know what the toddler in front of you will spill as you take off). It zips (who loves crawling around under the seats after everyone else has exited the plane to gather runaway belongings?). And once you arrive at your destination, you can fold it into a tiny, tiny square, stick it in the bottom of your suitcase, and no one will ever know you carried that boring, practical bag. Think about it. All I'm saying. Army green is spot-on this season (and every season, let's be real).

One more fun fact: if you put your headphones in your ears during takeoff and landing and tell the flight staff your iPod is off...they're not gonna make you prove it.

Whether you're headed home for a relaxing summer of poolside lounging or off to explore exotic locales, I hope these tips make your trip as hassle-free as possible. Travel safely and stylishly. Your souvenir snapshots will thank you.

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