Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a nice weekend! Mine was great—a good mix of social plans and true relaxation, which was much needed. On Friday night, I went with my best friend to her final dress fitting and then we went out for margs, and on Saturday night, I went to a Halloween party with a good friend who just moved back to DC! I was also able to work on my blog, catch up on a few things for my day job, finish a book, and go on walks with both my sister and my mom around my neighborhood. I also spent a lot of time cheering on the Nats—I still believe in our team and it’s been really fun to have the World Series in Washington. The city has been so full of energy!
I recently was listening to an episode of Bad on Paper podcast—which has become one of my favorite podcasts, I need to add it to my roundup of favorite podcasts in this post I wrote last year—and the hosts, Becca and Grace, discussed their travel preferences. It was such a fun conversation and I loved listening them debate how early is the right time to get to the airport and what their travel rituals are. So, I thought this topic would make for a really fun blog post since I wanted to join in on the conversation, too!
HOW EARLY I LIKE TO GET TO THE AIRPORT //
I grew up in a family where if you weren’t 15 minutes early somewhere, you were late. Being late (to anything!) stresses me out, so it should come as no surprise that I’m one of those people that would rather sit at the gate for an hour than be stressed about missing my flight. When I am flying out of DCA, my home airport (that I will pay more to fly out of—I only fly out of IAD if it’s the only option and I’ve only flown out of BWI once and swore never again!), I usually get to the airport about 75-90 minutes before my flight because the security lines are usually very short, but that gives me enough buffer should the lines be longer than usual. When I’m flying out of an airport I’m not as familiar with, but is on the larger side, I like to get to the airport between 90-120 minutes ahead of my flight; if it’s a smaller airport, I stick with 75-90 minutes before my flight.
Over the years I’ve also learned that the end of a vacation, I’d rather get home earlier in the day than take a later flight out of town. I used to book 6pm flights home to extend my trip, but would find myself getting to the airport three hours in advance just because I was done. Now, I just book a mid-morning or early afternoon flight and get on home.
MY AIRPORT RITUALS //
My airport rituals vary depending on if I’m traveling for vacation or for work. Regardless of what type of travel I’m doing, I always Uber to the airport. I think I’ve taken the Metro to DCA once in my six years of living here. I try not to take very many frivolous Ubers, so ahead of vacation, I love treating myself, and if I’m traveling for work, my company pays.
Once I get through security, If I’m traveling for pleasure, and I’m en route to my destination, I love to grab a drink at the airport bar. I’m a nervous flyer, so it helps calm my nerves, but even more than that, I love how everyone has their guard down at an airport bar. It makes for great conversation, and I’ve met so many interesting people as I’m waiting for flights. If I’m at DCA, my favorite bar is El Centro in Terminal B because they have a great house margarita. Because I often fly American (more on that below!), I do usually fly out of Terminal B, but if I’m flying out of Terminal A, the Page Bar is my go-to, or if I’m in Terminal C, I go to American Tap Room and use my $28 Priority Pass credit, which is a nice perk from my credit card. I’m usually too tired on the way home from vacation to be interested in the bar! If I’m traveling for work, I usually just head to my gate and either do some work, read my Kindle, or scroll endlessly on Instagram (#keepingitreal!).
Though I almost never buy plastic water bottles in favor of using my own reusable ones, when I’m at the airport, I always buy myself “bougie” water—either an extra large Fiji or an extra large Smartwater. I don’t care if it’s $3 (the water at DCA is surprisingly cheap compared to other airports!) or $7, I’m getting one before I get on the plane. I love carrying water on the plane with me so that if it’s too turbulent and they can’t do beverage service, I always have something to drink.
WHERE I LIKE TO SIT ON THE AIRPLANE //
I am an aisle seat person for LIFE! I like to be able to get up during the flight if I need to without disturbing others. I’ve also found that being in an aisle seat is the place I’m least anxious on an airplane because I have a better view of the flight attendants and can see if they’re nervous about the turbulence or if they’re still walking around like it’s a normal flight. If I can’t get an aisle, my preference is the window, but I don’t mind sitting in the middle seat if a person I know is sitting in the aisle seat.
On my profiles with the airlines, I always specify that I prefer aisle seats so that in case I’m in a situation where seats are randomly assigned, I have a better chance of getting an aisle seat. That being said, if I’m booking a flight where seats are assigned at check-in or the only aisle seats available are available for an additional fee, I’m willing to pay up to about $30 to get an aisle seat if the flight is longer than an hour and a half. It’s worth the money to me to have that sense of control.
WHY I ALWAYS CARRY-ON MY LUGGAGE //
Like many millennials, I can’t remember the last time I checked a bag! I always carry-on, and gate checking my bag is my worst nightmare. I love how easy it is to get out of the airport once you land if you don’t have to wait at baggage claim. I also get really nervous when gate checking my bag because I worry it won’t make it on the plane. That’s one of the reasons why I think Delta has the best app—they scan your bag and then you can track it directly in the app, even when you gate check it. That provides me so much peace of mind.
I will say, I don’t mind gate checking my bag as much when they bring it back to the side of the plane when you land—and that’s probably the one case where I’ll give up my bag when they’re asking for volunteers. Since I don’t have status with any airline, I’m usually not in a great boarding group, so it can be stressful when boarding since I’m worried about if there will be overhead space near me for my bag (there’s nothing worse than having it behind you!), so I usually try to be first in line in whatever boarding group I’m with. I’ve never been in a scenario where I’ve carried my bag on the plane and then had to gate check it, so something in the universe has been working in my favor.
MY TRAVEL BRAND LOYALTIES //
Since I travel a lot for work, I decided that I needed to commit to a hotel chain in order to reap the benefits of my frequent stays. My dad worked for Marriott before business school, so we’ve always been a Marriott family. Luckily for me, it’s also my coworkers’ preferred hotel chain, so I always stay in a Marriott when I’m traveling for work—and try to as often as I can when I’m traveling for pleasure. Because I’ve stuck with Marriott, I’ve been able to achieve Gold Elite Status—without getting one of their credit cards—which means I earn points more quickly (and then can redeem those points for free nights!), have 2pm late check-out, and my room is upgraded when one is available. This loyalty has really paid off, and even if the day comes when I’m not traveling as much for work, I’ll definitely try to stay with one hotel chain as often as I can.
One thing I haven’t done as well is stay loyal to a single airline, and this is something I want to work on next year so that I can work towards status and reap those benefits, too. DCA is a big hub for American, so I often fly with them. But, when booking flights, I typically prioritize the cheapest direct flights at convenient times, and so I don’t always fly with American. I love Delta, so I really hope they grow their presence here in DC!
I’ve also recently earned Amtrak Select Status, which brings me to the final topic of conversation today…
MY PREFERRED WAY TO GET TO NYC FROM DC //
Getting to NYC from DC and vice versa is a hotly debated topic—and I loved the race The Points Guy team recently did to see which method of transportation was quickest!—but I always take the Acela on Amtrak between the two cities. Coming from DC, by the time you get to the airport, get through security, land at LGA, deal with the never-ending construction there, and then taxi into the city, it’s about the same amount of time as the train, which drops you off right in Manhattan. I also live close to Union Station here in DC, so I can get to the train station just 30 minutes before departure time, grab a water/food if needed, and walk right on the train without any hassle.
These days, I’m often heading to NYC for work, and having wifi/cell service the whole train ride, even if it can sometimes be spotty, means I can be way more productive than I could be on a flight, so that’s a huge plus for me. I also think it’s way easier to reschedule or hop on the next train if your schedule changes—I am always less stressed about missing a train than I am a flight! Though, let me tell you, there is a special room in hell that’s the waiting room at Penn Station.
This was a really fun post to write, and I’d love to keep the conversation going—drop me a note below to share some of your preferences! x