The Best Foods for Flight
If you’ve flown in the last, oh, decade or so, you’re well aware that meals are no longer a courtesy on domestic flights. (But is anyone shedding tears over this?) By now, you’ve probably read countless blogs and articles and received numerous tips from family members and friends about food from home to bring on flights: granola bars, trail mix, PBJ sandwiches, etc. Much of the recommended foodstuffs are no-brainers, but in today’s Road Warrior tip, we’re going to look at some less common suggestions in addition to the trusty stand-bys.
First, consider a few criteria for choosing plane food: Air travel is strenuous and sometimes stressful, so foods that are high in energy and nutrients, which are of course important in everyday diets too, become especially necessary when traveling. But when you’re on a plane, what good is nutrition if it makes a mess, spoils, or requires several steps for preparation? All the following suggestions are easily stowed and eaten and require little prep or cleanup. Last but not least, consider the taste. Just because you’re flying doesn’t mean you have to eat something bland and ordinary.
- Sushi. Weren’t expecting that, were you? Well, why not! It’s delicious and primarily made of rice, which is packed with energy, and everything is conveniently wrapped up and neatly cut into bite-sized pieces. (No crumbs!) Stop by your local neighborhood supermarket, and check out the deli section. You’ll find many convenient, pre-made sushi packs for reasonable prices. One rule with this: no raw fish! You don’t want to get sick. Opt for vegetarian sushi, like the delicious cucumber, cream cheese and avocado roll, which can be stored in your bag for hours without spoiling.
- Babybel Cheese. This is the ultimate traveling food. Each personal-sized cheese is wrapped in wax and opens easily. The label recommends refrigerating the cheeses, but they will keep for many hours as long as the wax seal is intact. You can find them in the gourmet cheese section of any supermarket.
- Trader Joe’s dried fruits and nuts. TJ’s is the greatest thing to happen to food since the evolution of the stomach. Their dried fruits and nuts section is second to none. It’s not surprising to hear loyal customers tell stories about driving hours for the nearest store. Try a package of chili-spiced mangos: sweet, spicy and delicious; these are packed with energy.
- Ditch the granola bars. Those things are loaded with sugar and empty carbohydrates, and they make a crumbly mess. Instead, go for a Cliff Bar or Kashi TLC Bar. These are delicious, highly nutritious and don’t break apart into a thousand pieces when you eat them.
- Turkey or beef jerky. Jerky is easily stored, takes up minimal space and is protein rich. Get the all-natural, no preservative type, like Snackmasters. Avoid the “snack sticks” and processed stuff that you find at gas stations and convenience stores.
- Dark Chocolate. One reason you want to avoid candy and sugar when you travel on a plane is that it gives you a quick energy spike, making you antsy and want to get up out of your seat. That, of course, leads to the inevitable sugar blues. But dark chocolate is a great way to reward yourself and relieve stress from travel. It has a low glycemic level, so you avoid the typical sugar spike. It’s also, surprise, good for you! One company, Green & Blacks, makes a vast assortment of delectable flavors that can be found at just about any reputable supermarket.
Dealing with Airline Frustrations
Cancellations, delays, lost luggage: these are just frustrating facts of life for the frequent traveler. In fact, just reminding you of that obvious tidbit is probably frustrating you right now. But it’s important to remember that even in a difficult situation, there are things you can do to help alleviate the agony and get you closer to your destination in the least amount of time.
The first thing to keep in mind when dealing with a travel problem is that it is a rhetorical situation. You will be communicating with a real person directly, trying to get something that you want. The words you choose and the way you say them will determine if you are successful.
- Think about what you are going to say before you speak to a representative, and perhaps most importantly, revise your expectations before speaking. If your plane from Indianapolis to Boston has been delayed five hours, there is nothing in the world that is going to change that. Accept it and begin assessing what can be done in the new situation. You might still be on a later flight, but maybe you can at least get bumped up to first class.
- “The customer is always right.” Well, not exactly. When it comes to airline travel, it might be best to forget about that. There are over two million travelers every single day in America, and they can’t all be right. When you purchase services from an airline, you’ve agreed to their terms and conditions, which are usually worded with magic legal mumbo jumbo that can relieve them of some petty responsibilities. Adopting an attitude of respect from the beginning will actually get you a lot farther than making demands. Groveling is not necessary, but for this moment try to swallow your pride and defer to the salesperson.
- When making requests, use words and phrases such as, “Please, can you help me” and “I would really appreciate it, if…” You might even take it one step further. While the person is checking the computer screen, chuckle a little and gesture to the long line of grumbling travelers behind you. Cheerfully say something like, “Boy, as much as this is frustrating for me, I think you’ve got the short end of the stick.” If you are able to elicit a laugh or even a smile, you’ll be surprised at how much that buys you in the favor department. Make somebody’s day a little easier to deal with, and they just might do the same for you.
- Smile. Be genuinely kind. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. You are dealing with a human being. The person behind the counter (or other side of the phone line) has feelings and his or her own stresses, wants and needs. If you are able to make that person feel that you understand this, they will be much more receptive to YOUR needs and feelings, which hopefully means going beyond what is required (which is usually not much) to help you.
- Perhaps most importantly, focus on your self. Even though you’re trying to persuade others, stay focused on your own needs. Take some time to calm down and breathe properly. Find a quiet area of the airport, such as an unused gate area or lounge and just relax for a bit before going into the trenches.
If all else fails, hunker down and ride out the storm, but if the service was exceptionally terrible or you were treated unfairly, be sure to file a complaint when you do eventually return home.
When planning your upcoming summer vacations, whether they are extended or just weekend getaways, consider making a stop at one of the many craft beer festivals taking place across the country.
May 17th launched American Craft Beer Week, and we here at the Road Warrior want to pay our homage by dedicating an entire entry to America’s rich tradition of brewing excellent beers. You don’t have to be a beer snob to enjoy a craft beer festival. Many provide more than just fermented malts and barley: delectable foods, live music, raffles and beer seminars and talks are always on tap. Pun intended. Most festivals fall into the $25-$50 price range for entry but usually include unlimited beer tastes and food. As you might imagine, nobody under 21 is permitted to enter any festival.
If you’re new to the world of craft brews, you might consider acquiring a “fermentable” education by checking out BeerAdvocate or RateBeer or one of the many craft brew forums that can be found through a simple Google search.
· Monterey Beer Festival. June 5th: Monterey, CA. With over 80 participating breweries from all over the world, this event packs a huge punch. Additionally, a film festival takes place concurrently along with the beers. And if that wasn’t enough, Monterey Bay is a stunning geographical location and top tourist destination. Make it a whole weekend (or week!) and visit the many great area attractions.
· American Craft Brew Fest. June 18th and 19th: Boston, MA. This is the granddaddy of them all. With two days of events and over 325 beers available for sample, in addition to the many extracurricular beer “education” events, this festival attracts aficionados from all over the globe.
· North American Organic Brewers Festival. June 25th - 27th: Portland, OR. If you’re a fan of organic beers, this event is one for the ages. Admission is free, though you pay on a per-taste basis (1$ per 4oz pour, which is dirt-cheap). The hours are much longer than most festivals, and it goes on for three days. This event should be on any devoted beer drinker’s must-visit list.
· Empire Brewfest. July 16th: Syracuse, NY. Another monster event with over 75 national and international breweries represented. Held in magnificent Clinton Square, the festival has two music stages with five live bands and goes on well into the evening.
There are literally hundreds of festivals, large and small, happening across the country (and world). If nothing on our list is convenient for you, check the Beer Festival Calendar for one that fits your itinerary. And if you’re not sure about accommodations, just remember that Extended Stay Hotels has an affordable hotel near every festival to make your summer beer dreams come true!
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Enjoy Your Next Layover
Let’s face it: when admiring an exquisite piece of art or enjoying a pedicure, we don’t think of the airports as the venue for such activities. But more and more airports are offering the type of services and amenities that take the stress out of airline travel. Catching a redeye? Why not first play a round of golf at the championship course just down the parkway? Getting ready for a stressful meeting with the tough East Coast branchers? Enjoy a backrub at one of the full-service spas and massage lounges popping up at many major airports. Whether you’ve got an eight-hour layover or forty-five minutes before your initial flight, here is a list of things you can do to not just kill time but actually enjoy it while waiting for your plane to board.
Lots of time
Golf. That’s right. Golf. While there are no major U.S. airports that offer on-site golfing (for international travelers, check out the Nine Eagles course at Hong Kong International), there are several just a short cab or shuttle ride from premiere courses. In particular, Dallas-Fort Worth is just fifteen minutes driving distance from Bear Creek Golf Club, a reasonably priced, wonderful facility with two courses to choose from. Equipment rentals are not exactly cheap, but for those of us in need of a swing fix, it’s a small price to pay to get out onto the greens before a flight.
Moderate amounts of time
Pamper yourself. With all the airports that now offer full service spas, you’d think a massage is some kind of legal drug. Well, they are when you think of all the endorphins that are released. JFK airport has a location for the upscale Oasis Day Spa while Vancouver International (voted best airport in North America) has, count ‘em, three outlets for trendy Absolute Spa.
Pump iron. Many major airports have health clubs or have hotels attached that allow travelers to use their fitness and health facilities for a nominal fee. Use this handy airport gym finder or check the list of over 700 Extended Stay Hotels for a convenient airport-attached workout facility.
Short Amounts of time
See an art exhibit inside the airport. Almost every major airport has permanent or rotating collections of art. Most, like Philadelphia International, list the current exhibitions on their websites.
Watch a movie. By now, many of us travel with laptops. Sure, you can bring a DVD or two from home or stream in Netflix, but who wants to pay $12.99 for WiFi access (unless you’re at one of those few, exalted landing strips that offer it free. Indianapolis International comes to mind). Never fear, Redbox is here. Most major airports are now offering these popular self-serve kiosks. Rent in Boston and return your movie in San Francisco a week later. It’s that easy.
Long-haul flights can be tough on your body. With tight cabin spaces and reduced legroom, travelers are continuously battling poor circulation and sore joints. The World Health Organization along with the American Physical Therapy Association suggest that passengers aboard flights over four hours or more should perform a variety of stretches to keep their leg muscles from contracting. In fact, in recent years there have been many concerns regarding the development of blood clots, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and both organizations have reported that the risk of DVT doubles after a long-haul flight. By doing a few simple stretches while onboard and adhering to some of the following tips, you can avoid aching joints and will disembark the plane in much better shape.
- Keeping yourself active during a long haul flight is one of the most important things a traveler can do, but this becomes very tricky when you’re traveling on a sold-out flight and sitting in coach. The good news is that airlines are aware of the cramped spaces, and many carriers are starting to provide guides for simple in-flight exercises. For instance, United Airlines provides a list of six easy exercises that passengers can do while on board. Even simple exercises like lifting your knee towards your chest and rotating your ankles can alleviate some undue stress. JetBlue also offers a similar guide to ease aching bodies and has partnered with Crunch Fitness to develop the Inflight Yoga card, which is available in the seatback pocket on all JetBlue flights. The card illustrates four yoga poses, all of which can be done from one of JetBlue’s seats.
- If you’re looking for a more comprehensive exercise guide that is suited for airplane travel, check out books like Airplane Yoga and Exercises for Airplanes. Both books offer in-depth descriptions and provide a variety of stretches and yoga options to do while onboard. Shelter Publications also provides an easy to follow list of On the Road: Airplane Stretches that you can download, print and bring with you on your next flight.
- If you’re an iPhone user, believe it or not, there is even an app for stretching on an airplane. Aviation Stretches, or aStretches At AirPlane combines traditional yoga poses with relaxing background music. The stretches are uniquely designed for specific body parts and can help to keep you relaxed and free from pain during long travel hours.
- Aside from stretching, there are items that you can purchase to avoid health risks like deep vein thrombosis. For example, Travel Socks, (support socks) to wear while traveling can help reduce leg swelling and improve circulation. Wearing support socks can dramatically reduce the probability of DVT from occurring.
After being on a long flight, nothing feels better than stepping off the airplane and reaching your destination. And, it feels good knowing that the hotel you choose will provide all the comforts of home. With spacious accommodations and over 700 locations, Extended Stay hotels is the perfect choice.
Know Your Rights
In 2006, Kate Hanni and her family were stuck for over nine hours at the Austin, Texas airport aboard a parked American Airlines jet. This unsettling experience fueled Hanni’s desire to organize FlyersRights.org, the largest non-profit airline consumer organization. After creating FlyersRights, she went on to spearhead the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights, which was passed in Congress in December 2009 and will go into effect on April 29, 2010. The law limits airline tarmac delays, allowing passengers the option of getting off delayed planes after three hours on the ground. It also requires that airlines provide food, water, temperature controls and working lavatories. The passage of this new law provides a timely opportunity to review some existing passengers’ rights.
Flight Delays are one of the most common problems that passengers face in terms of airline travel. Most of the time, airline delays are caused by uncontrollable factors like weather and/or air traffic control problems. When flights are delayed, most airlines will do their best to accommodate you on another flight (if necessary), provide meal vouchers or offer other forms of compensation. However, each airline has its own policy about what it will do for delayed passengers, and it is important to realize that airlines don’t have to guarantee their schedules. One way that you can protect yourself against flight delays is to check the on-time performance for flights and airlines that you are considering. You can refer to the Air Travel Consumer Report for a list of the most frequently delayed flights for each month.
Cancelled flights are essentially extended delays, and many of the rules and passenger rights concerning cancelled flights are the same as those regarding delayed flights. If your flight is cancelled, airlines will do their best to accommodate you by rebooking you on a later flight or by refunding the value of your ticket. The Department of Transportation provides a list of some of the main airline customer service plans, and it is always a good idea to check each airline’s cancelled flight policy before embarking on your trip.
Compensation is required only when you are bumped (or denied boarding) from a flight that has been oversold. Many passengers don’t realize that a paid ticket holder can be denied boarding when the airline sells more seats than the airline can accommodate. Before airlines can deny boarding to passengers, the Department of Transportation requires them to ask for any volunteers who are willing to take a later flight. Often volunteers will be rewarded for their inconvenience with gift certificates and vouchers for free trips. For instance, Southwest will not only immediately book volunteers on the next available Southwest flight, but they will also give travelers a $100 voucher in exchange for the disruption in their travel plans.
If you are bumped involuntarily, and the airline can arrange substitute transportation that will get you to your final destination within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, airlines are not required to compensate you in any way or form. If carriers cannot arrange for alternative transportation within one hour of your original arrival time, each airline must compensate you according to their own policy. For example, Alaska Airlines will provide $400 maximum credit for rebooking passengers 1–2 hours later than their original flight. The Department of Transportation has specific information regarding these rights on their website.
Another common problem that many travelers face is having their bags lost or damaged. Every airline has their own policy regarding lost or damaged luggage, and you should always check your carrier’s website for specifics regarding this issue. For example, Continental Airlines has just increased their baggage liability limit from $3000 to $3300.
Being familiar with your rights as a traveler can help you make informed decisions in the event that you experience delays, cancelled flights, bumping and/or lost baggage. And, remember, even if your airline travel plans don’t turn out as you expected, having a nice, comfortable hotel room to step into after a long and tiring travel day can erase even the most grueling travel experience.
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Coach in Comfort
Almost every traveler has experienced the nightmare flight: stuck in an aisle seat right next to the lavatory with a continuous stream of passengers entering and exiting. The person sitting next to you has crammed his carry-on with so much stuff that placing your own bag under the seat seems impossible. Not to mention, the beverage cart keeps clipping your elbow with every pass! Could it be worse, you wonder?
Yes, you could be jam-packed into a middle seat with minimal legroom and reduced seat width. So what is a weary traveler to do?
To begin with, no matter which seat you happen to be flying in, there are a few basic rules for comfort when flying coach. For instance, most travelers realize that if you want to be comfortable in coach, carry on fewer bags. With limited space already, having a carry-on that takes up even more of your legroom can be very distressing. Wearing comfortable clothing and managing the ambient noise can also enhance your in-flight comfort. Noise canceling headphones, like the Audio-Technica QuietPoint headphones or Sony's Digital Noise Canceling Headphones can make your overall flying experience much more pleasant and peaceful.
Another proactive step that you can take to ensure that you have a comfortable flight is to research the airline. Seat width and pitch (the distance between two rows of seats) can vary greatly between airline carriers and even aircraft types, so do your homework to ensure that the flight you book will provide you with the most comfort. The following airlines have received positive reviews for their spacious coach-class seats as well as some of the extra amenities they provide.
- Jet Blue offers 32-36 inches of legroom (depending on the aircraft) and 17.8–18-inch seat widths. Jet Blue also has leather seats, personal televisions on every seatback, unlimited snacks and 100 channels of X Radio all for free! For an extra $10, passengers can purchase an EML (Even More Legroom) seat, which increases the legroom to 38 inches.
- Southwest offers more seat room in all of its coach configurations than most of the other airlines (except JetBlue). Southwest offers 32–33 inches of legroom and has seat widths of 17 inches. The airline may not provide all of the extra amenities compared to its competitors; however, it does offer complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and snacks. It has received various awards for its low fares, dependability and friendly service.
- Virgin America coach seats are made of leather and have a 32-inch pitch and a 17.7-inch width. With personal televisions on every seatback, on-demand food and beverage service, free and for-pay entertainment and Wi-Fi for purchase, you are sure to stay busy. (Wi-Fi for purchase ranges from $5.95 for flights 1.5 hours or less to $39.95 for a 30-day pass.) They also offer a sleep kit in case you want to catch a nap onboard. It includes an eye mask, a fleece blanket, reusable ear plugs and a hypoallergenic travel pillow all in a reusable travel pouch.
- Midwest Airlines has seat pitches that range from 31–33 inches and seat widths from 17.0-18.1 inches. Although Wi-Fi isn’t available on their aircrafts, they do offer complimentary “baked fresh on board” chocolate chip cookies, which—not surprisingly—have passengers coming back for more.
Keep in mind that fewer or smaller carry-on bags, wearing comfortable clothing and cancelling out ambient noise generally equals a more relaxed flight. Knowing which airline seats are the most comfortable can greatly improve your chances for flying peacefully in coach. Carefully reviewing airline seating plans and referring to sites like Seat Expert or Seat Guru can make the difference between a cramped and uncomfortable flight experience or one that is refreshingly pleasant. And after your relaxing flight, what could be better than settling in to your ultra comfortable room at one of the nearly 700 Extended Stay Hotels all over the U.S. and Canada?
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