*Photo by Justin Patterson Photography
Planes, Trains, Boats, and Busses
Or how to travel without losing your mind, or your cool
In the past year alone, I have been on countless bus rides, planes, trains, and driven several rental cars. Granted, I was on a tour. A few years ago I spent about nine months on a cruise ship. (Boy, that’s a bubble of a world if there ever was!) And as we all know, it is remarkably easy for even the coolest calmest Bette to get a little frazzled on a long travel day. So here’s a few of my tips and tricks to make the best of those annoyances like the TSA, car rental offices, busses, and boat life.
Packing: I’m a fan of packing light, not checking a bag (no real weight limit) and those amazingly useful packing cubes. They keep your stuff so organized and make moving from place to place a cinch! You don’t need more than two pairs of pants, or 10 shirts for a week trip. Take extra socks though. (The spare pair of pants is for when you get your dinner all over yourself, or get sprayed by “gutter juice” from a summer rain in the city!) Shoes: know what you’ll be doing, and plan accordingly. If you are going on a camping trip, you don’t need high heels, and for a vacation in the snow, you don’t need sandals.
Planes: Get global entry (which comes with TSA pre check) and then get Clear. These two were a match made in heaven, and you will be escorted straight to the x-ray machine, without having to take off your shoes, or open your toiletries, or take out your electronics. Three minutes from start to finish was my average time. And if you hate the airport routine as much as I do, this will take so much stress off of you. TSA pre check, and Clear are only for domestic so far, but Global entry is expanding. You can see the airports they are adding on the CPB website. It is most useful for reentering the USA.
Toiletries for airplane travel…that’s a tough one. As someone who has a lot of makeup and creams, I say sample sizes are your friend, and make use of those hotel shampoos and conditioners. Because if the TSA takes your hotel shampoo, you’ll probably not feel too sad about it. Simplify your routine and don’t take doubles. Use makeup wipes since they don’t count as a liquid when you go through security, etc. Get a good clear container that matches airport security standards and practice fitting it all in at home. You don’t want to experience the moment where TSA takes good perfume or your favorite cosmetic!
What I’ve also found in airports regarding security is that if you follow directions, even smile at the TSA officers, or just have a calm, put together, and friendly demeanor, and are generally pleasant towards the people attempting to keep us safe (maybe even say “thank you” because that usually goes a long way), I tend to get a smile back, or at least don’t get hassled or strip searched. And because these folks have the power to detain you from your journey, I recommend not pissing them off in any way…even if they are doing something wrong to you. If something like that happens, cooperate with them in the moment, but fight it later, when you are out of their control. You want to get where you are going right?!? Just do what is going to maintain your sanity. And don’t be like the lady that blew past me, several other people, and a TSA officer. They may not be your favorite bureaucracy to deal with, however if you treat them with respect (saying “thank you for keeping us safe” I find is the way to brighten that gate-keepers day) you make the whole process faster and saner.
After you speed through security, head to the lounge…because you already got the credit card that corresponds with the airline you fly most (brand loyalty pays off here) and go find a quiet corner. All the airports I’ve gone through recently feature normal people looking homeless on the floor since there is not enough seating. Don’t be homeless on the floor of an airport. Go to the lounge. Eat something. By the time you’ve bought food and one adult beverage, it’s the cost of the lounge, so in my opinion, it pays for itself.
If you can manage it financially…upgrade. Especially if you are on a red eye flight. However…most of my life, I’ve been in what I fondly refer to as Steerage, and so then, try to choose a seat towards the very back of the plane because you might have no seatmates, and be able to lay down across all three and get some shut eye. I did this on the way back from a far away destination because I had a rehearsal right away (came straight from the airport to the studio) and needed to get some rest to be functional. It worked, and I was able to learn choreography on those six hours of shut-eye. If you are traveling for more than seven or eight hours going east, maybe break up the travel with a day in a city in between, if you aren’t in a rush.
Rental Cars: Shop around for the best deal. Don’t use a company that you think might be shady….they are. Take the insurance that covers the car. Certain credit cards may give you a better rate than sites like Travelocity. I’m also a big fan of Zipcar for one-day use or short (less than 180 miles) trips.
Taxis: In places that have metered cabs, just make sure it’s the right fare for the corresponding time of day, and that you are going the most direct route. Use maps/waze ahead of time to get familiar with where you are. Simple.
If you are in a place that doesn’t do metered fares, and there is no Uber or Lyft possibility, ask the driver ahead of time how much it will be, and if they charge for bags/per person, etc. That way, when you get to your destination, you aren’t in for a surprise!
Busses: Once I took a Greyhound bus from Austin TX to Cincinnati OH…on Christmas. THIRTY HOURS. NOPE. Never again. But for short trips like Boston to NYC, it can be a sensible and economic choice. Just don’t attempt the restroom at the back of the bus. Or expect to get home clean.
Trains: I LOVE TRAINS! They might just be my favorite mode of transportation at this moment, and overseas, they can be a really beautiful way to travel. Same as for the bus, a sensible and economic choice, with a little more comfort, and potentially less motion sickness. I have not much else to say because they are all around, a pretty great way to travel.
Ships: The giant floating cities that they are, cruise ships are pretty magnificent. I spent nine months aboard what was then the largest passenger ship in the world. As with everything, there are ups and downs to this kind of life. Your cabin will likely be small, your bathroom smaller. Motion sickness really doesn’t affect too many people I’ve spoken with since the ships are so large, you don’t really feel the waves. What you might get is GI, rendering you completely unable to get out of your bathroom. I got very lucky and never contracted GI, however it is quite common, so wash your hands, often!
Most people working on ships are sending the majority of their paycheck to family back home, and they also tend to be really lovely and kind people. So treat them well. I know that most cruisers go on cruises specifically to have everything included and taken care of, but this doesn’t mean you get to forget your manners and compassion. The crew has a huge set of rules that they must follow, especially regarding passenger interactions, and if you put them in an uncomfortable position, you might get scolded, but they might lose their livelihood. So don’t be that person! Treat them nice, and you have not only good karma coming to you, but maybe some towel swans waiting for you when you get back from your excursion to Tulum.
For me, it boils down to this: Be nice, be smart, say thank you, ask ahead, keep your wits about you, and some things like your sanity are worth paying for! So Bon Voyage Bette!
Bulletproof Bette shares her wisdom in the first ever Showgirl’s Guide to surviving and thriving in a city and industry that wants to eat you for lunch. Get exclusive content when you sign up below!