This week I crossed a million miles flown on American Airlines. With a million miles you can circumnavigate the globe 40 times. I’ve traveled a lot in my 26 years. These days, I fly 150,000 to 200,000 miles a year. Most of that travel is done on my six annual trips to Manila, where I jump forward 16 hours, cross the international dateline and generally work a nocturnal schedule at our call center. Now, I don’t consider myself a travel expert for any reason other than the fact I travel so often. However, boarding hundreds of flights, losing my luggage, forgetting which day of the week it is and sampling nearly every cuisine offered in airports scattered across the globe, I’ve picked up on few indelible travel truths. So I would offer up my five best tips for successful travel:
- Be Loyal – If you travel a lot, forget about the best price. Pick an airline alliance and stick to it. I chose American AAdvantage. Plenty of people say American is the worst airline in the sky, but I completely disagree. Why? Because when I fly American I get to cut the security line, pick any seat on the plane and generally get upgraded. Those perks come with loyalty. Hence, to enjoy the same amenities you have to pick an alliance and stick to it.
- Get the Card – Get the credit card for your airline alliance and start spending every dollar on that card. If you have a business this will add up quick. At TaskUs we earn ourselves eight or more first class flights a year to Asia by running our daily business transactions through our airline credit card. No matter who your alliance is with, also get yourself an American Express Platinum card. This card will get you into most airline lounges, which comes in handy…always.
- Fast Pass – The U.S. government offers two awesome programs: Global Entry for skipping customs lines when coming from overseas. This program requires a background check and an interview with a customs officer. It costs $100 (if you have an American Express Platinum card they will pay for it) and lasts for five years. TSA Pre Check allows you to cut the express security line, leave your shoes and jacket on and mozy through security like it was 1992. If you have frequent flyer status with any U.S. airline or Global Entry, you are already qualified.
- Sleep Matters Most – If you are on an international flight, getting sleep is the most important thing you can do. The second you enter the airplane set all of your clocks and your mind into the timezone of your final destination. No matter how long you must stay awake, or how quickly you must fall asleep, you have to act as if you are already at the destination when you get on the flight. Generally, this requires some combination of caffeine and sleeping pills, which is totally okay. In this case, the ends justifies the means. I also recommend a sleeping mask and great ear plugs.
- When All Else Fails…Relax – The most frustrating thing about travel is also the greatest thing about travel. There are always situations when you end up stuck somewhere, on a flight with no wifi or delayed. These seemingly unpleasant situations create the opportunity to be present and enjoy the moment. Remember, being removed by circumstances can lead to great things. Catch up on some personal reading, ponder your existence or strike up a conversation with an interesting fellow passenger. If the meeting is delayed, the presentation late or the email unanswered, there is no better excuse than a travel issue. So enjoy the momentary freedom.