New Year, new travel plans — new (more efficient) you. As we say goodbye to 2022, let’s look ahead at the next 12 months and make some resolutions we can actually keep — or schedule, at the very least. Globetrotting may not be as glamorous as it was 60 years ago — though one does wonder if the in-flight steaks and cigarettes left a bit of a stench during the ‘Golden Age of Air Travel’ — but it can certainly be less arduous than it is today. Who says airports have to be the seventh circle of hell? (Or, given frequent flight delays, and lost luggage — the earthly version of purgatory?). From skipping the lines at security to superseding flimsy WiFi connection at the departure gate, here are three ways to travel better in 2023.
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Signing up for Global Entry isn’t exactly a ground-breaking resolution — either you already have it, or you’re on the waitlist for the next four to six months. (And, if you are neither of those things, then by all means, sign up immediately). Global Entry, which allows travelers to expedite their arrival in other countries (and their return in major US airports), comes with TSA PreCheck, which has — until now — been viewed as a godsend for frequent fliers with a tendency to overestimate the traffic on the way to the airport (or underestimate the mellowing allure of a Bloody Mary or two pre-departure). If you were in a rush at the security line, TSA PreCheck had you covered — no missed flights, no running to the gate, and no haggling with the other travelers in the queue.
And yet, those halcyon days of line-skipping have since passed — news that’s only surprising to those who haven’t traveled on an international flight recently. Enrollment in the Trusted Traveler Program (which features Global Entry and TSA PreCheck) has jumped 44% since before the pandemic — up to nearly 27 million people. The line at TSA Pre-Check is now sometimes even longer than the public access queues (a reality I experienced in Jackson Hole, last weekend). The solution? Adding one more layer of qualification to your boarding ticket. CLEAR is an airport verification program that was once viewed as somewhat redundant to travelers already in possession of TSA PreCheck. Until now, that is.
While CLEAR and TSA PreCheck usually have separate lines at the airport, travelers in possession of both clearance IDs can skip ahead to a nearly infinitesimal line at major airports such as JFK and beyond. Plus, CLEAR requires no wait time — just sign up the next time you’re at the airport (and skip ahead at security once more in the process). A resolution that requires zero paperwork in advance to complete? That’s simplicity at its finest — and it's all in service of simplifying your upcoming trips. Cheers!
Up in the Air (Tags)
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In 2022, US travelers were 135% more likely to lose their checked bags than the year prior — and the ongoing airline staff shortage gives us little hope to believe the situation will drastically improve in 2023. Given the current chaos, AirTags have been hailed as a peace-of-mind option for the frequent flier incapable of traveling light. Travelers can attach one tag to their checked bag, and track the status of their belongings via the Find My app on their Apple iPhone.
And yet, this technological tracking device has its faults. As in: you can see your luggage is at the wrong airport, or on its way to the wrong country, but you can’t do anything about it. Worst case? It’s being stolen, and you’re watching as it makes its way to an unknown (non-airport affiliated) destination. Additionally, your fellow travel companions who also happen to be Apple aficionados (or Apple device owners) will get notified about your AirTag, and its geolocation, endlessly during your trip. A minor annoyance, but still an annoyance nonetheless.
If you simply must check a bag, we recommend doing so for direct flights only, if possible — less likely for your luggage to be lost in translation (or, in this case, transition). Additionally, download the airline’s mobile app and hold onto your luggage tags for dear life — that bar code will save you from having to buy an entirely new wardrobe if your bag (and your tag) goes missing at baggage claim. An at-home luggage scale will help to make sure you’re within the weight limit per each individual item of luggage — a number that varies by flight path and airline.
Finally, if you do find your belongings missing in action, the secret to getting your bag back — and eliciting helpful consideration and care from the airline staff — is to take a deep breath and be kind. (Easier said than done occasionally if the temper tantrums on display at customer service kiosks at arrival gates all around the world are anything to go by). Be kind, be patient, and say a mini prayer to the travel gods — the worst-case scenario has already happened. Your luggage is missing. (See, we told you to downsize).
Keep Calm and Carry On
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Speaking of simplicity, if there’s ever been a time to reassess all your excess baggage (emotional or otherwise), now is the time. Given the all-too-likely scenario of lost bags and interminable wait times at the luggage belt to no avail, your best bet is to focus on quality over quantity — use packing cubes to compress your clothing, and try to do more with less. To quote Confucius, "Wherever you go, there you are." So it won’t matter much if you’re in your favorite impractical clothing in a foreign land — be it the winter coat that’s impossible to lay flat, the heeled boots that take up half your luggage space but are practical for less than half a day on your trip. You’re still you — and probably the most you while wearing the uniform you unthinkingly put on every day of your regular life.
A five-day vacation isn’t the time to experiment with that dress you’ve never worn but imagine would look perfect in the Bahamas, or the loudly patterned sweater you’ve been meaning to find an occasion to wear one day — preferably, in the Nordics. Less is more, trust us. Especially when it’s a zero-sum game of less or nothing at all (read above re: checked bags). An expandable carry-on, like the Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic Carry-On Expandable Spinner, is the suitcase equivalent of the Mary Poppins purse — it can accommodate a seemingly endless number of items within a (relatively) compact space. If you’re hesitant not to check a bag, this is the option for you. If it’s the vintage style you’re after, then Steamline Luggage is hard to beat — bringing to mind that aforementioned Golden Age of Travel with its chic leather trunks housing lavishly printed interior designs (palm trees, stripes, and more). Wheels up!