As you prepare for winter travel, consider these tips and gadgets for smooth flights


Halloween is over and it’s the holiday season again.

For those of you who haven’t bought your Thanksgiving or Christmas tickets yet, take note: you’re going to be hit with some stickers.

If you plan ahead and don’t mind the “Saver” or “Basic Economy” limitations, you can get a one-way ticket as far as New York or Boston for about $200 on Alaska Airlines or Delta Air Lines. But if you want to travel a few days before Thanksgiving, the same ticket costs $559 one-way on Alaska Airlines.

Take a moment now to develop a travel strategy for the busiest travel season of the year. Frequent travel Alaskans know what to do. First, remove the pocket knife from your carry-on luggage. Then, empty your water bottle before you arrive at security. Make sure your Global Entry Number is on your TSA Precheck Status Record, etc.

For people who do not travel often, flying can be stressful. But there’s a lot you can do ahead of time to help remove rough edges.

Before you travel, decide if you’re going to check in your luggage or take everything with you. Remember – flights can be full. If you are the last to board, you may need to check your carry-on luggage.

If you fly with Alaska Airlines or Delta Air Lines, there is no baggage fee. On Alaska Airlines, make sure you are registered with Club 49. It’s free, and Alaska residents are eligible for two free checked bags when traveling to and from Alaska.

At Delta, make sure you’re enrolled in the airline’s SkyMiles loyalty program. Members receive two free checked bags.

I haven’t gotten my AirTags from Apple. But it’s on my holiday gift list. You can get four for $100. It’s been a long time since the airline lost my bag. However, if your luggage doesn’t show up on your flight, AirTag can help you track your luggage.

Using my social media hive mind, travelers are happy to share their favorite “must fly” travel accessories to make their trips more comfortable.

Noise-cancelling headphones were the most mentioned accessories. There are several variants, including earbuds and earmuffs. I like the over-ear model. I have Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones, they haven’t made them in years. But they still work just fine.

Travel troubleshooter Christopher Elliott sent me a letter from Zurich saying he likes the Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones. They are not headphones. Instead, they strengthen the earbuds, effectively blocking out noise. “You can sleep in these, unlike bulky over-ear models,” he said.

The other two top-ranked responses were “neck pillow” and “blanket.” This reminds me of Jin Chen’s invention, Planeket, which she developed to solve both problems.

Chen’s package includes a blanket that folds into a pillowcase, and a clasp to keep the blanket from slipping onto the plane’s floor.

As a tall traveler, I never realized that some airline seats are too high for short people. But many travelers use their backpacks or small carry-ons to slide over their feet to keep them from dangling from the edge.

This isn’t news to Candy FitzPatrick, a petite traveler with her feet in the air on long, uncomfortable flights.

FitzPatrick did the research and developed the Rest Angles, an adjustable, portable footrest that solves this problem. It’s not just good on flights, though. When I met FitzPatrick for coffee in Anchorage, she deployed her Rest Angle device. Since it is adjustable, the top can also be angled for use under a table.

As we sipped coffee, two ladies approached her to ask about the device, copied the website address and said they would be ordering one right away.

There are always new gadgets coming out, especially for our youngest travelers. Crayola has launched a “clutter free” coloring book. Kids can color in the book, but the markers won’t mess up their clothes, the foldable tray, or the person sitting next to you.

A lot of people mention portable batteries because there’s no guarantee you’ll be in a seat with a charger. Here’s an extra tip, though: Be sure to charge the battery the night before your trip.

There’s a whole subcategory of gadgets to keep kids busy. One parent improvised this tactic: “I used to get small puzzles and random little toys and wrap them individually in tissue paper and pull them out as needed during the flight.”

I always carry a portable headlamp because I’m sitting in a couple of seats where the overhead lights don’t work.

Other small comfort items include lip balm, eye drops, and various lotions, but be careful not to violate the TSA’s 3-ounce rule.

Our electronics, including iPads, laptops, and cell phones, depend on our ability to charge them. In addition to the portable battery, you also have to drag the correct power cord. More than once I forgot the correct rope and had to stop at the airport bookstore hoping they would get the correct rope.

In addition to a few cords and adapters, my “cord nest” comes with extra AA and AAA batteries, thumb drives, and eyeglass cleaner.

The next big category for readers is Medications: Insulin, EpiPens, Dramamine, Gas-X, Ibuprofen, and other prescription drugs that shouldn’t be in checked luggage.

Be sure to check your reservation before your flight. Double-check your connections and seat assignments. Make sure your frequent flyer number is in your booking. Plan to take a car to the airport as the parking lot may be full.

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead, especially if you’re flying during peak travel times. Now is a good time to start.


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