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Saturday, November 20, 2010

10 Items to Have With You When You Are Stranded in an Airport

Airport terminal at the Eindhoven AirportImage via Wikipedia
I still have a few more weeks of flying before I get back home for a month or so, then it will be off to Asia, most likely before the new year. If there is one thing that is nearly a guarantee for travelers, it is that you will be stranded in an airport during at least some point in your journey. Here's ten items you need to have with you in order to be prepared for these inevitable delays:
  1. A cell phone. Actually I can't think of anyone who doesn't travel with a cell phone these days and I can't imagine being stuck without the ability to contact friends and relatives who are expecting me or being able to call the airlines to rebook a missed flight.
  2. Internet access. Actually I have redundant systems for this. I always carry a netbook with me for the occasional airport that offers free wi-fi access, and I also have internet on my cell phone.
  3. Food. There are a few airports that have pretty great food in their (highly over priced) restaurants, but sometimes I just want a snack so I tend to carry a small bag of food with me whenever I travel. Items include: granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, candy, etc. I've also been known to travel with fried chicken and separately packed components of a subway sandwich which I can put together on the run.
  4. Entertainment of some sort. Whether it is a book, a Kindle, a deck of cards, games on an iPod Touch, music on your cell phone, or something else that takes your mind off of being stranded, some sort of entertainment will help wile away the hours in an airport.
  5. Contact numbers. For those times when a slight delay turns into a day or more "stranded in the airport" situation, I like having numbers of local contacts that I can call up for everything from a ride into the city (for more rural airports that lack public transportation) to a meet up for a coffee or impromptu business meeting.
  6. A way to secure my bag to me. Since I only travel with one bag, it makes it easier to both have all of my stuff (a change of clothes, toiletries, etc) with me and keep an eye on it. For those times, however, when you end up sleeping in an airport, a way to both secure your bag itself and secure the bag to you is a good idea. Fortunately I am a pretty light sleeper and I tend to put my bag where someone would have to hop over me to get to it.
  7. Plenty of cash. This should include both cash on hand and adequate reserves in your ATM-accessible bank account and/or on a credit card. On rare occasions you could end up stranded for literally days (think 9/11 when all aircraft were grounded for days or the Iceland volcano incident which similarly grounded all flights in the area for days). In these situations, airlines won't usually cover the cost of a hotel, and if you really need to get somewhere, you may end up renting a car or taking ground transport to your destination, all of which will require additional cash you didn't plan on needing.
  8. Items to make sleeping in an airport more palatable. Even though I am a light sleeper, I an fortunately able to sleep anywhere, any time. On a rock in the desert in broad daylight, above a rambunctious bar in downtown Manila, doesn't matter, I can sleep easily. Others, however, have trouble sleeping without ear plugs, eye shades, a blanket, a pillow, etc. If this is the case, either bring these items or be able to improvise them.
  9. Business cards. You never know who you will meet while slogging through long hours of boredom in a shut down airport. It's a nice idea to have business cards with you in case you want to trade info with people you meet.
  10. A personal info sheet. My personal info sheet has all sort of important info on it that comes in handy in a variety of travel situations. For example, I lost--probably misplaced although it could have been stolen--an ATM card from one of my bank accounts a few days ago. By looking at my info sheet, I simply called the bank (number was on the sheet), gave them my account and ATM card numbers (ditto), and had them cancel the card. Obviously I could have called information for the bank's number then asked them to look up the information but it is much more efficient to have all of this important info at my fingertips. I keep all sorts of other information on this sheet as well including airline phone numbers and frequent flier account numbers, user names and passwords for all of my online accounts (the passwords are in code of course), personal info (allergies, blood type), etc.
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