Surviving the gauntlet

Molly Cahill

Traveling, like all dangerous sports, requires you to keep track of an exit strategy. Plan ahead for all eventualities and you might not only get out alive, but even arrive at your destination on time. With the number of days until spring break arrives dwindling, most students will hopefully already have their break plans taken care of. Some will be hanging around school, and others will be heading off to more exciting locales. For those who are traveling by air, I thought I might share a few time-tested bits of advice.

One of the more important things to remember while traveling is that unless you have lady luck on speed dial, something will go wrong. How badly this will trip you up depends solely upon how well-prepared you are beforehand. Know ahead of time the alternate routes that will get you to your destination. Doing this will not only save you time, but also will cut down on how long you have to deal with the underpaid and overworked denizens of customer service. The faster you can get in and out, the less likely you are to lose a limb to the gaping maw of 12-hour layovers and multiple-transfer flights.

There are plenty of things to worry about these days, what with the possibility of your seatmate wearing exploding undies, so try not to get worked up over the small things. As long as you come prepared, you will get where you are going. Print your boarding pass before you get to the airport and keep that along with your identification in an easily accessible place. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off because you will have to remove them at security checkpoints. And try not to dress in clothing with an overabundance of metal so as to avoid setting off metal detectors.

Also, know that your fellow travelers are often inconsiderate jerks; try not to follow their example. The majority of people, when faced with a delay or a missed flight, immediately descend to a maturity level on par with small children. Consequently nothing anybody does will satisfy them, and they let the whole world know it. Your best bet is to avoid these people by getting in a different line and smiling at anyone with a nametag. Odds are the person attached to that nametag has gone so long without seeing a sympathetic face that he or she will go the extra mile to help you out. I’ve scored plenty of free goodies this way.

Finding out you missed the last flight to your destination until the next morning is horrifying enough without the possibility of spending the night sleeping in an airport. And in all likelihood, if you do manage to fall asleep, you will only wake up more tired and cranky than you started out. But there are two simple things you can do to combat this. The first, of course, is to find the nearest Starbucks. I like to just sleep in the terminal closest to it so I don’t have to stumble too far in the morning. The other is to keep a fresh change of clothes in your carry-on bag. Being able to change out of your old clothes is a great pick-me-up and will almost certainly brighten your mood.

As Mark Twain said, “I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” People are more likely to show their true selves while in transit from one place to another.

This is one of those times when they are at their most vulnerable. You can learn a great deal about not only yourself, but also the rest of humanity if you pay attention to how people interact during these moments.

So when Thursday or Friday rolls around and the mass exodus of Kent State begins and you’re finally off to do whatever it is you have planned, remember to take a deep breath and just go with the flow. Because a level head is your best defense against travel woe.

Molly Cahill is a senior pre-journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].