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Tickets, Tablets and Traveler’s Checks: Traveling Tips for a Smooth Flight

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Want to zoom through security, lighten your load and guard your personal info while on the road? Here, we weigh the pros and cons of several key choices of a frequent flyer.

Tablet vs. Computer

How do you intend to use it? Tablets are better for quick information digesting (emails, web surfing, reading, watching, etc.) while laptops remain the choice for content creation. For me, I typically need the larger screen-size and programming of my laptop, and I usually have it with me anyway. I’d rather have just a tablet with me on vacation, however. When I travel for pleasure, I like to travel lightly and I definitely leave the widescreen laptop at home. Plus, tablets are perfect for catching up on my fun reading or picking a great restaurant for the first night in paradise. They are light, easy to use and pretty to look at. They are not even an option for me when I’m using my flight to reorganize databases or craft comprehensive reports. Here, both products clearly still have their niche.

Print or Electronic Boarding Pass

It’s hard to beat a piece of paper undisputedly displaying your travel details, unless it’s an email delivered to the phone you’re already carrying in your bag. Printing and packing my one-page boarding pass at home has never bothered me. I’ve never forgotten it—though I can see how that would happen—but it wouldn’t matter because the airline attendants or the check in machines usually print another one anyway. In fact, on several occasions I’ve had these attendants reprint my preprinted boarding pass, just because. Hmm. Now my paper boarding pass has become several sheets of paper, and I’m not thrilled about that.

Electronic boarding passes, on the other hand, don’t require printing at any point. No more paper to get crumpled up in the bottom of my carryon or lost amidst my other ‘very important’ notes—I’m a bit of a serial list-maker and note-taker. When they work, electronic boarding passes are hands-down my favorite option. Unfortunately, I’m at about a 50% success rate in 2012. I’ve been told that I could use the electronic boarding pass at the gate, but I needed a print version for security, and vice versa. The other day I was flying with my family and my two-year-old was able to use his electronic boarding pass (sent to my email address on my phone). However, the security agent wouldn’t take more than one e-boarding pass on my phone, so my husband and I both had to use print passes.

Even with the flaws, I prefer to get my boarding pass electronically. It’s only a matter of time until the quirks are ironed out and if I do encounter a problem, I can easily print an old-school paper version.

Cash, Credit or Traveler’s Check

When I was young, my father taught me to never travel anywhere without at least $20 cash, and I still heed his advice. Depending on your destination, $20 may or may not make sense, but I still advocate for keeping a small portion of your home currency as well as your destination’s currency on you or pinned inside a secret flap in a bag.

Credit is a great payment option if it is widely available in your destination, and your card fees for currency conversion aren’t horrendous. Make sure to alert your credit card company that you’ll be traveling so your purchases aren’t blocked as suspicious activity, and keep track of your receipts. Also, check with your tour books, online blogs and booked accommodations to ensure that they do in fact accept your specific credit card at your destination. My husband and I spent three weeks in Madagascar for our honeymoon. Two weeks before we departed, I learned that one of our accommodations (planned 5 nights) would not be able to accept credit cards. They did have the ability to cash traveler’s checks on the spot.

Traveler’s checks are secure—they can be replaced if stolen—but there may be a service charge to buy them and they don’t always get the best exchange rate. Also, they can be difficult to cash as not everyone accepts them.

When I travel, I use a mix of all three: cash for small purchases, credit for a few larger purchases with reliable vendors and traveler’s checks for cash exchange or emergencies.

Laces or Slip-ons

Shoes are admittedly not the most important item on your travel agenda, however, the style you choose can significantly impact the time it takes to get through those security lines and maybe define whether you make it to your gate on time. Unless you’re under 12—and exempt from the TSA’s shoe removal policy—then this is a no brainer. If you habitually arrive late to the airport, your flight makes a bunch of connections or you like to take your shoes off on the plane (and need to put them back on every time you get up), then opt for the slip-ons. You’ll have one less thing to worry about.