This article continues the series "Flying Basics", written for first-time fliers and others who are wondering about commercial flights, even if it is not their first time flying. If you have a fear of flying, reading enough to understand what to expect may help. The series includes:
- Flying Basics – An Overview
- Flying Basics – Airport Security
- Flying Basics – Booking
- Flying Basics – Seat selection
- Flying Basics – Packing
- Flying Basics – Weather Info
- Flying Basics – Weather Matters
The example used for Flying Basics is a domestic flight of about four hours, where there are no stopovers, no border crossings, and the flight is on a regularly scheduled route with one of the major airlines, not a discount or no-frills carrier.
Other articles in this series will look closely at special needs and some of the things which arise when your flight is not exactly like the basic example.
Packing for Special Events
When you travel by airplane, the size and weight of your luggage are limited by the terms of your ticket. You can find out from the airline, usually on their website, what the limits are. On discount airlines and some charter flights the limits may be less than on regular carriers' flights. Sometimes there are money penalties for going over the limit, and sometimes you may simply be refused your request to take excess baggage.
Packing for a Destination Wedding or Formal Event
When you travel to a formal event, like a wedding, your wardrobe will probably have two components: everything you need for the event, and everything you need for the rest of your holiday. Your baggage limit doesn't change, though!
For wedding dresses and other formal wear, on the trip to the wedding, you want to keep the clothes as fresh and safe as possible. It helps if you can:
- keep the garment in a garment bag, securely sealed against any moisture or dust
- hang the garment up at every possible point in your journey
- treat the garment as carry-on luggage and hang it up on board the plane
- pack the garment in a rigid container, with a minimum of folds, and check it as special handling baggage
- buy a ticket for a seat for your dress and keep it beside you for the journey (Delta Airlines explains that you can buy a seat for your fragile items, for example)
- allow time at your destination to have the garment spot-cleaned, steamed, or repaired if necessary
- send the garmet to the cleaner and have it repacked immediately after the event.
It is not always possible to guarantee that there will be space to hang the garment up on board the aircraft. Some planes have closets, but the space in these is usually on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you are travelling as a wedding party of eight people, there may not be room for all eight outfits.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. The steps to try are:
- talk directly to the airline when you make the reservation, and find out what exactly they recommend. The services available vary between airlines and according to what aircraft you are flying on.
- find out from the dressmaker, tailor, and other references, how to best protect and pack your garment in transit. This will depend in part upon what textiles and other materials are in your dress.
- arrange in advance for a professional at your destination to give your garments a refreshing treatment upon arrival. If you are going to a popular wedding destination, check with the concierge of the hotel and look on-line for cleaners who specialize in formal attire. Talk to the cleaners and find out what they recommend for transportation.
One risk with checking any item is that it will be lost or delayed in transit. If you take a direct flight from A to B, the chances of this happening are less than if there are stopovers.
Labelling your luggage (whether or it is checked or carry-on) is crucial. Make sure the destination is prominent. "Jane Smith, TO: LAS VEGAS" would help. If you have a local phone number at the destination, or a cell phone number, put that on as well. This is in addition to the regular baggage tags with your address.
Special Items Do Use Up Part of Your Baggage Allowance
Remember, the terms of your ticket spell out how much luggage you can take.
In addition, some airport security have limited it further. Heathrow Airport in England currently allows only one piece of carry-on baggage, no matter what the airline might allow. Check the website for the airport you are flying from (at both ends of your journey) to determine whether this will affect your plans.
Other Special Events
For most special events, you have to figure out:
- what you need specifically for the event
- whether it is something you must bring with you OR
- whether it is something you can get there.
My personal philosophy is PACK LIGHT. Even if you have to pay a little extra to get the things you need at your destination, just do it.
If you plan ahead, using the internet and the phone, you can figure out what's available where you are going. For example, champagne is sold in every liquour store, but good champagne might need to be ordered in advance. Trying to carry it cross-country in your luggage is not worth the trouble.
The same goes for gifts. Even if you are giving someone a truly unique item – especially if you are doing this – you should minimize the miles that item has to travel. Are you taking a wedding gift to the new home of the bride and groom? OK. But if they are simply going to have to pack the irreplaceable item and bring it home, it may be better to give them a beautiful card with a handwritten note telling them about the gift, and let them collect it after the honeymoon.