The Travel-Pajamas Backlash and Other Travel Tips

Are you fretting over the difficulties of international travel? Longing for advice from a cosmopolitan traveler?  Take it from a tourist:  it’s absurdly easy.   Half of it is showing up; the rest is a willingness to look ridiculous.

HOW TO BE SUPER-COOL IN AUTOMATED AIRPORTS.  Where have all the people gone? In the last few years, everything has become automated. Now you check your own luggage and scan your own passport. But don’t panic.  If you have difficulty with tech, they wave you through a special line where you interact with humans.  (That, in my opinion, is super-cool.)  You soon learn by osmosis to do the tech stuff.  You’re proud of your unpaid airport-processing skills, but wonder what happened to the workers.

TOO MUCH CANNOT BE SAID ABOUT WHAT TO WEAR ON PLANES.  That’s because you love travel fashion “do’s” and “don’t’s.” You pore over the charming articles in magazines, but  you probably won’t wear the darling $500 pajama-style outfits recommended (possibly facetiously) by Vogue  or the $450 leggings in Travel and Leisure which look exactly like all other leggings—one only hopes they have superpowers.   

FASHION “DON’T’S” CAUSE PANIC ATTACKS.   How do the fashion experts know  the “don’ts” in your wardrobe?  Actually, you just learned they are “don’t’s.”   But do not heed the columnist who insists that jeans are worn only by the ugly American. Relax. People of all different nationalities wear jeans on planes.  All casual clothes are appropriate for airports, in case you find yourself jogging across a terminal late for a flight because you were frisked during a random security check.   Note:  it will be the last gate.

HOW TO PLAN YOUR ITINERARY.  What you do depends on who you are.  You do not have to follow an itinerary in a guidebook.  My advice: Make a list of 20 things you want see.  If you check off all the items (which is unlikely), make another list.  There are so many must-sees I hope never to see.  I will never ride the Eye in London, a giant ferris wheel from which you can see the whole city (or something). It would make me sick.  Nor do I feel the urge to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  If you love dizzying heights, you’ll want to do all these things and possibly some rappelling.  

And that’s why our itineraries are so different.

Reading on the Plane: Where to Park Your Books

The demise of the Elizabeth Bowen during travel.

On a recent plane trip, I could not keep track of my books. I had stuffed two paperbacks into a carry-on bag:  Elizabeth Bowen’s Friends and Relations and a mystery.  One of the other would keep me occupied on the trip, I thought.

The bag was a tight fit under the seat.  I had to crouch in the aisle to drag it out.  With much flexing of knees, I managed this triumphantly.  The Elizabeth Bowen, however, was not in a zippered compartment marked BOOKS. It was with meds, toiletries, and a cardigan sweater.  

Once the book was out of the bag, it was out for the rest of the trip. Usually there is an empty seat next to me, and I fling the book down when I don’t want to read.  This time the plane was full.  And during the multiple meals and snacks that keep us from going crazy on planes, the old paperback became more and more brittle. I tried holding it on my knees under the tray. It emerged bent.  During a later snack, I stuffed it into the pocket on the back of the chair.  A corner of the cover tore off.

Turned out this book was no longer meant for reading.  The type was dim against the tan, crackling pages. I alternately had to hold it close to my face or at arm’s length. That’s the beauty of bifocals:  you are both near-sighted and short-sighted at the same time. 

I finally read my mystery, which was perfect for the plane.  I can’t recommend Patricia Moyes’s The Curious Affair of the Third Dog too strongly.  I  am so thankful I didn’t bring Proust, which I had originally considered the ultimate vacation reading.  (Not on this plane.)

The Bowen fell apart completely the next day in a cafe.

Anyone have good travel tips for plane reading (and for keeping books in one piece)?    I’m thinking about buying a tablet case, which would give the books some extra protection.  And it would fit in my bag.

I returned home with some new sturdy paperbacks.  They were unharmed by travel.

Would a tablet case do the trick?