Guerilla Travel Tips

At the risk of screwing up my own travel plans, here are some tips for less stressful travel:

  • When going through airport security avoid lines containing vehicles (i.e., infants in strollers, or oldsters in wheelchairs). Both tend to be highly unpredictable.
  • Print your boarding pass at home/office before the flight. Automated terminals at airport tend to stop allowing check-in too early, preventing you from getting on a flight that you could have otherwise made. (Seth says same here.)
  • When going through country customs, avoid lines containing clusters of non-citizens. They’re trouble.
  • Look to the front of Customs lines to find ones sharing officers. Entry in Vancouver, Canada, is the best example, where the far left station shares offices were with two and sometimes three other people. You can have huge lines, and still get through faster there.
  • Get a seat early via the phone, and then ask for another seat at airport.
  • There are often power outlets at hidden seats behind the check-in counter.
  • You can often get free WiFi by sitting on your suitcase outside airlines’ premium lounges.
  • Provide short, monosyllabic, and polite answers to Customs Officers’ questions. Be sure to smile that wan, just-landed-after-a-12-hour-flight smile the whole time.
  • Always ask when renting cars if the outlet is at the airport. Not all airlines companies maintain airport offices at all airports, and discovering that during a last-minute, unexpected bus ride is a giant pain-in-the-ass.
  • Allow one-hour mechanical delays, and then begin making other travel plans. There is a rapid decline in the likelihood of your original plane being repaired if it doesn’t happen in the first hour.

Anyone have other guerilla tips? Feel free.


  1. All things being equal choose the line at immigration alongside where there are empty booths, sometimes additional officers open up also if there is a dedicated line for crewe etc choose the line adjacent to it.

  2. Andy Nelson says:

    Avoid crossing the boarder on the middle leg of a connecting flight. i.e. choose Seattle-Chicago-Toronto rather than Seattle-Vancouver-Toronto. In Vancouver you have to wait for your luggage, clear customs, leave the secure area, re-check your luggage, line up again for security, take off your shoes… In Chicago you just walk over to the gate for your next flight.
    As Bob Dylan said,
    “An’ here I sit so patiently
    Waiting to find out what price
    You have to pay to get out of
    Going through all these things twice.”

  3. Lee Courtney says: and noise cancelling headphones are a God-send.

  4. If the flight gets cancelled/delayed and you need customer support, call it on your mobile phone as you walk over to the booth in the terminal. You’ll usually get through hold and finish up making other arrangements before you reach the front of the real line.

  5. One of my favorite tips that I talk about on my blog is bringing a small power “splitter”. If all the outlets are full at the airport, you just unplug a persons laptop, plug-in your splitter, then plug your laptop (and their’s) back in. There will also be an extra plug you could share with another traveler if you want to boost your karma a little bit.
    I had a similar post on my blog with useful “Off the beaten path” travel tips at

  6. 1. Shoes that you KNOW will never set off the metal detector. And a pocket shoehorn in the laptop case.
    2. Noise canceling headphones as mentioned above.
    3. The attitude of Siddhartha:
    – “I am not in need; I have never been in need”
    – “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”

  7. Purchase luggage insurance for a trip of any length, particularly outside the US. AMEX sells that for around $12-20 per round-trip flight. They will pay you $500 if your luggage is delayed more than 4 hrs, and throw in another $2k if the luggage is lost. This is on top of everything the airline pays. Comes in handy when you find yourselves 10kmi from home with nothing but the shirt on your back, and the airline cannot tell you anything about your luggage. This happened to me 3 times this summer – never again!

  8. I assume that everyone really does want to help me and that anyone unlucky enough to be on the front-line talking to customers is unlikely to actually be responsible. I try really hard NOT to yell at anyone doing first or second contact — they often can’t help at all.
    Getting angry is only going to stress you out and lose your karma points with any staff. Stay calm, try to be understanding and keep breathing.