This year has been hectic for me as I’ve traveled from the cotton fields along Mississippi’s Route 61 to the beaches along Chicago’s lakeshore, from Nob Hill to the Avenue of the Americas and from the Four Seasons outside Dallas to Sheraton’s Four Points outside Toronto. My motivation has been to deliver training in crisis communications, media interviews and presentations to our clients; but my frustration has been in what I’ve learned about the state of travel these days.

How can the powers that be have made things even worse for travelers than they were in past years? Here are a few ways:

  • Now when you fly most regional jets (those up-to-50-seaters), as I do most of the time, you can only bring one item on board. That’s one item not one bag. A briefcase or a purse counts as one item, for instance. So when I travel for training, I somehow need to jam my camcorder into my computer case if I don’t want to take a chance on its being demolished in the baggage system. On the other hand, I have lots more legroom now.
  • No longer does Northwest provide even those cruddy pretzels with your drink. Cup, ice, cola—that’s pretty much it. On the other hand, some airlines do allow you to buy a decent snack on board—and some even serve free cheese crackers.
  • Airports have installed a lot of technology but apparently forgot to build in a maintenance budget. You can enter a parking lot by swiping your credit card in a reader and then, when you return, do the same to exit to avoid lines at the cashier’s booths. But the reader going in is out of order most of the time. Moving sidewalks decide not to move whenever I step into the concourse. Baggage claim has become much more efficient, but the chances of your bags’ tumbling out on the carousel that appears on the electronic board are maybe 50-50. You have to keep watching the board to see where they’ve moved your flight’s cargo.
  • It’s crucial to allow at least one hour between flights when making connections. You can count on flights almost never being on time. Fortunately, the connecting flight is usually late, too, so you might make it—even if the bag you were forced to check doesn’t.
  • I just rode the Scrambler at the state fair and my stomach did a little better than riding the rental-car shuttle bus from the airport to the lot. Is someone stealing the suspensions from these vans? With no seat belts, no springs and apparently no speed limit, the shuttle may have become the most nauseating part of flying. Bring your own bag.

I enjoy the training sessions with client executives so much that the travel inconveniences are worth the periodic aggravation, but there must be a better way to get from here to there in one piece—with more than one piece. What tricks can you offer to ease the irritations?

–Steve Friedman

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