Climb Every Mountain (Paris Edition)

Every day, I am thankful to live in - as that song in "Hamilton" proclaims - "the greatest city in the world."  But that doesn't keep me from dreaming about and planning adventures to my other two favorite cities - London and Paris.

With New York City and much of the rest of the country currently in the deep freeze, it is a perfect time to reminisce about our trip to Paris last fall during an unseasonably warm (read: hot) September.  (Thanks for coming along!) 

We took an overnight flight out of JFK, and although I used a zillion AAdvantage miles to book business class tickets that had lie-flat seats, I never sleep well on planes.  Scott, fortunately, has no problem sleeping; thanks to the hum of the engines, he can be sound asleep as soon as the plane takes off.  

Based on my history of sleepless red-eye flights, I know better than to plan anything that requires sitting or standing still for more than a few minutes at a time for the day we arrive.  

So, after landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport before 7 a.m., victoriously speaking understandable French while going through customs and navigating the airport, we hopped the RER train into Paris.  We dropped our bags at the hotel, found a café to devise our game plan over coffee and croissants (bien sûr!) and headed straight up - literally - to Montmartre.  What better way to walk off the jet lag than to trek around this hill in the 18th arrondisement.

It is famous for the staircase leading up to the gorgeous Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.  People start out climbing very quickly, and slow down a bit as they approach the final stretches of steps.  If you want to cheat, you can actually take a tram (not visible here) up from the base of the hill (just use one of your tickets from the Metro).  But even if you do, you're still not off the hook, as there is not a level stretch of pavement in this neighborhood.  Which is fine - because wherever you turn, you will savor a million euro view - either of an adorable street, a long narrow staircase or a panoramic view of the city.

A few of my favorite views.*

Montmartre.jpg
Montmartre.jpg

And happily - big, dark sunnies hid my very tired eyes all day long.

AmySewell.jpg

Can you sleep on airplanes?  Show me your ways - please!

 

* All pictures taken by Scott, who is, quite simply, a much better photographer than I am.

Air Travel - Can't We All Just Get Along?

By now, you have probably read about - if not experienced - recent long lines at airport security checkpoints.  If news reports are accurate, these are only expected to get worse as the summer travel season heats up.

Combine that with oversold flights, crowded airports and cranky passengers?  Well, that's just a recipe for unpleasantness all around.

There's not much we can do about the lines - but much of the airport experience is entirely within our control. 

I have written a lot about how to plan and pack for a smooth travel experience, and I'm sure I'll have more to say throughout the summer (thanks in advance for staying with me!).  

Photo from Getty Images.

Photo from Getty Images.

Most weeks, I take anywhere from four to eight flights.  That means packing, rushing to the airport, checking in, going through TSA security, lining up and boarding, scrambling for overhead space - and trying to settle in for a productive flight - several times each week.

In all of that, I can stay pretty chill - even in the craziest of circumstances - because I have a routine and plan for the "unexpected."  A few tips for making the skies just a bit more friendly:

#1 - Create a "Happy Zone" Around You.

Decide before you leave the house that you will be friendly and pleasant to each and every person you see.  The ticket agent, TSA workers, the people next to you in line.  Say good morning, ask them how they are, wish them a good day.  Even if you have to fake it at first, you will make their day better - and you will feel better as well.

#2 - Get. There. Early.

No excuses.  If you have to plan to leave at 8 a.m. to get out the door at 10 a.m. for a 1 p.m. flight, do it.  Don't plan to leave at 10 a.m., not leave until 11:30 a.m. - and then be surprised that "unexpected" security lines and crowds made you miss your flight.  As Scott can tell you, when at home, I generally go to the airport three to four hours before a flight.  Sure, that means I spend a lot of time in airports - but I have never missed a flight because I got to the airport late.

#3 - Plan to Wait.

Plan to get stuck in traffic. Plan for long lines to check in and check baggage.  Plan for long security lines.  And - of course, plan to be the person randomly selected for additional screening (this happens to me - a lot).  Just assume that all of these will happen, so you can still make your flight stress-free with plenty of time to spare when they do.

#4 - Sign Up For PreChek (Maybe).

It should be a no-brainer for regular travelers to sign up for PreChek, and CLEAR (if it operates in the airports you frequent).  I am part of both programs, but they are not practical for people who only travel once or twice a year.  But even PreChek is not a guarantee you will speed through security.  In some airports, PreChek lines are sometimes closed, or only operate during limited hours.

#5 - Be Nice.

Have I mentioned this yet?  Make it a game if you have to - just do it. Smiles are contagious, and they will help you maintain a good attitude – even when faced with travel disruption.

Pack a Good Attitude - and Other Travel Tips

A big "thank you" to USA Today travel reporter Charisse Jones for including several of my travel tips in today's holiday travel article!

Since I fly more than 150,000 miles each year, I'm a big believer in controlling what you can - and chilling out about the rest of it. 

The article quotes me in several places, but here are a few more ways I stay sane and productive when travelling:

#1 - Create a "Happy Zone" Around You

Be nice to TSA workers, gate agents, flight attendants and other passengers.  Smiles and calmness are contagious, and they will help you maintain a good attitude – even when faced with travel disruption.

#2 - Book the First Flight of the Day

It’s not fun to get up early, but 6 a.m. flights generally depart on time.

#3 - Don't Book the Last Flight

If you absolutely positively must be there in the morning, you have no backup if the flight is cancelled.  Since I always do morning shows, this is a big one for me.

#4 - Expect Delays and Cancellations

Assume that your flight will be delayed and that you will spend time on the tarmac.  I always check flight schedules to have a back-up plan in case I need to make changes.

#5 - Pack Water and Snacks

Don’t depend on an in-flight beverage service, especially on short flights.  Buy a bottle in the airport, or bring an empty bottle to fill after security.  My carry-on always includes packages of mixed nuts, Larabars or an apple.

#6 - Have Something to Read

I usually have a pile of work to do, but also have a Texture subscription on my iPad so I always have People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and other magazines at my fingertips.  

#7 - Bring Headphones

Essential for listening to music or watching movies, but they also help tune out the chaos around you.

#8 - Let It Go

For me, the key to stress-free travel is recognizing that the entire process is outside of my control.  If there are weather delays, flight cancellations or other issues, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  Control what you can (see tips one through seven), and try to simply go with the flow. 

What other tips work for you?