Air Travel Lifehacks from the Pros
It’s that time of year again! For many people, whether they’ve planned a cross-country family reunion or an exotic getaway, the holiday season means flying. For Shen Yun, it also marks the beginning of a new performing season.
From December to May, during Shen Yun’s annual tour, traveling becomes second nature to us. For me, just the thought of flying excites me inside. Because despite its inconveniences (never-ending lines, for one), flying can be fun. That is, if you do the prep work.
So how do we do it then, spend five months zipping around the world? From prepping to packing to actually flying, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
We have someone booking our group tickets for tour, but I’ve booked many, many tickets for myself as well: round trips, multi-city trips, domestic trips, international trips, even last minute international round trips—you name it. It can be tricky, but the most helpful thing is to know your plans early. A common tip is to book about six weeks before your intended departure date; some say the golden hour is around 3pm on a Tuesday.
Bonus tip: Need to book last minute? Try clearing your browser's cache and cookies to re-search for the latest (and cheapest) options.
In my opinion, the best way to beat jetlag is to fly red-eye. Flying overnight means you can snooze on the plane, then land refreshed and ready to go!
What if you arrive after no sleep, but way before bedtime? If you can, try to hold off the nap so your body can adjust its clock. Once we arrived in Taipei at dawn completely exhausted after a super long flight. But everyone was so excited to go out to explore, eat, and shop that we forgot all about the time difference. Then when we finally went to bed (in the evening, local time), all of us got a very sound night’s sleep.
Rack Up Miles
Frequent flyer or not, it’s a good idea to join airline loyalty programs. They’re free and easy to sign up for. Many airlines are part of alliances, so you can collect points without using the same airline each time. The more you fly, the more rewards you will earn—free trips or flight upgrades are just to name a few.
Many of our company members also have priority passes that allow exclusive entry into airline lounges—very handy since we spend so much time in airport terminals. But even without airline privileges, know that you can simply pay an upfront fee to get in for some quality pre-flight wind-down.
Bonus tip: If you have the time, try booking a flight with a connection—they’re cheaper but worth more points.
Packing Your Luggage
1. Travel light—bring only what you need. Global tour has taught us to pack just the necessities. Some people are so conscious of space they calculate in advance how many pairs of dance shoes they’ll go through for the 100-plus shows!
2. Roll, roll, roll your clothes, as tightly as you can—it seriously saves a lot of space. (This applies to roll-able gear like dance attire, not tailored blazers or costumes, of course.)
3. For nice smelling clothes, try slipping fabric softener sheets between them. And for less wrinkly clothes, plastic bags.
4. Take advantage of every crevice. For example: Stuff socks inside your shoes. Also, use soft toiletry and packing cubicles to minimize space waste.
5. Be mindful of valuables—don’t bring anything irreplaceable.
For more packing tips, check out fellow dancer Stephanie Guo’s Living Out of a Suitcase blog.
Mark Your Luggage
If you’ve ever chanced upon a Shen Yun company at the airport, you might’ve noticed how we all have identical suitcases. Uniformity looks spiffy, but finding your indistinguishable suitcase on the carousel after a 15-hour flight? Not so fun.
We make life easier by tying distinctive luggage tags (or keychains, ribbons, or small plushies) onto the handles. Even if you don’t own the same suitcase as 80 other fellow passengers, this will help you spot your things faster. It’ll also reduce the chance of someone accidentally rolling your belongings away.
Speed Through Lines
At each checkpoint, pick a lane with more solo travelers, as large families with young children tend to need more time. Also, go for lanes farthest to the left—research has shown that because most people are right-handed, queues on the right fill up faster.
If you’re flying with a large group like us, there will be more waiting. Tip from the experienced: It’s much easier if you split into smaller clusters to get through check-in and security.
• Always double/triple check your itinerary for incorrect times or personal information, check-in luggage limits, and airport and terminal information.
• Keep a pen in your carry-on. Though many forms are now going electronic, having a pen within reach is always a good idea.
• At around 35,000 ft., the air temperature outside is roughly -65°F (-54°C). So no matter how hot it is when you arrive at the airport, always bring an extra sweater/hoodie/scarf because the cabin will be cold! You can also use it as an eye mask to block out sunlight or your neighbor’s reading light, to prop up your laptop, or as protection against the blasting AC. Also, dress in comfortable layers so you can adapt with ease.
• On long flights, get up to stretch and move around once in a while to keep your blood circulating. As dancers, we’re always hankering for a chance to stretch out our legs and back mid-flight—while keeping out of the flight attendants’ way, of course.
Shen Yun's touring companies are currently traveling all around North America on our brand-new 2019 tour. Happy holidays, happy travels, and we hope to see you soon!
December 15, 2018