Sunday, November 20, 2022

Flying the (Un)Friendly Skies (Just In Time for the Holidays)

Thanks for joining us for Issue #3 of our Luxury Travel, FineArt & Books newsletter. Talk, tips and advice go hand in hand with a travel photo blog. Robert and I have not only travelled the world but lived all over the world. When you travel to a place often enough you learn a lot about it, but when you live in a place you learn a great deal more. Home for us these days is the Pacific Northwest in the United States, but we’ve also lived in Asia, Europe, many states in the continental US and the Hawaiian islands. This experience informs our travels and we hope, through this blog, yours.

For this issue, we wanted to give you some useful tips for making your holiday travel easier. If you're an experienced globetrotting international traveler, we hope you'll still skim through... Happy Holidays!

From William Robert Stanek's Art in Flowers Rare Masters Collection


These days when traveling internationally you may need a driver’s license, international driver’s license, passport, global entry card and more just for starters. Robert and I use a travel checklist. We literally print it out and check off the boxes for every trip. Sounds silly but it helps cut down on the oops I forgot this or that incidences.

International driver’s license? Yes, really, even in this modern age, especially in Asian countries, if not necessarily in Europe. AAA is the only company recognized and licensed appropriately for issuing one to US drivers for worldwide use, and you need to get it before you leave the US. 

$20 @ You need two passport photos as well.


For us, a drive to the airport is always an event. We live a good distance from the nearest airport, traffic is almost always a nightmare. Accidents, slow downs for no apparent reason, construction. It’s always something, so we always plan to get to the airport early. 

Bing Maps and Google Maps both do a good job of estimating drive time but only if you get directions for your drive according to the approximate time of day and day of the week you plan to travel. On a computer use the Options to change Leave Now to Depart At or Arrive By to set a date and time of travel. On a phone, after you specify where you want to go and get directions, click the Options button to the right of Your Location and then select Set Depart Or Arrive Time to set a date and time of travel. 

For a weekday drive in the morning or afternoon rush hour, we still add an hour to Google’s estimated drive time. Airlines say to arrive at least 2 hours ahead of time, 3 hours for international travel. We prefer to arrive even earlier.

Airport Shuttles…

We don’t always drive to the airport. Often, we take Airport Shuttles. Airport Shuttles are convenient but sometimes also very frustrating. Airport Shuttles ask for your flight number, flight time and desired arrival time separately for a reason. When push comes to shove, and it often does, most Airport Shuttles will try to get you to the airport to meet your flight, while completely ignoring your desired arrival time. Worse, if you forgot to check the little box that said you were on an international flight or the shuttle service completely misses that you are catching an international flight? This can lead to big headaches.

Booking a private shuttle? Don’t count on it. Your private, direct to the airport shuttle also may get cancelled and replaced with a shared shuttle with no or little notice. When this happens, and it does, the pickup time for the shuttle will likely change as well—by up to two hours to accommodate extra stops and traffic. Watch your text messages and voicemail.

Ticket Counters…

Your airline may not have a ticket counter open when you arrive. If the airport is not a main hub for the airline, you may find that no one is at the ticket counter until 3 - 4 hours before the flight, even for an international flight. Robert and I got stuck in Madrid airport for several hours one time because our US airline didn’t have anyone behind the counter until 3 hours before the flight. Even though a major airline in the US, our flight back to the US was that airline’s only flight of the day.


Each airline has its own baggage policy for carry-ons and checked baggage. To find your airline’s policy, type the name of the airline followed baggage policy in a Bing or Google search.

Generally, you are allowed one small carry on and one even smaller personal item, and should check in the rest. Please don’t be the people who try to get all their bags onto the airplane as carry-ons. You know the ones who show up lugging 3 bags each and then take all the overhead bin space from everyone else.

Don’t bother buying expensive luggage. It likely will get beaten up and look very used by the end of your very first trip. Airlines throw bags around and they arrive in baggage claim scratched, dented, with wheels missing and worse. Long gone are the days when you can get reimbursed reliably by an airline (and you may have better luck if you have travel/purchase protection on your credit card). 

For checked baggage, make sure every bag has a tag with your name, address and phone number. Ideally, this personal information should be hidden from view.

When checking bags, make sure baggage stickers are put on correctly and confirm the final destination. Watch your bags every step of the way. Make sure they have baggage stickers on them from the airlines and are headed somewhere on the right conveyor belt before you walk away.

For carry-ons, be sure to check the size rules for the airline before you pack, especially if you are traveling on a non-US airline. Rules in Europe are much stricter than in the US and the allowed carry on sizes are much smaller. The airline staff really will measure and weigh your carry-ons. 

We found it almost impossible at times to buy a carry-on in the US that met the strict European requirements while being big enough to be useful. Sure you can find a tiny little bag anywhere, but finding a bag in the US that is exactly or near European airline requirements so it’s actually useful? Good luck.

Also important to point out that if your trip has stops in Europe and you change planes, a carry-on that was okay in the US may not be okay in Europe.


Within the US, you will have to go through TSA security checkpoints. Outside the US, you will have to go through security checkpoints that are equally, and possibly significantly more, strict.

With TSA, there are many rules. None more important that the rules about liquids. You really do need to ensure you have no more than the 3.4-ounces (100 ml) of liquid in a single container and you really do need fit all your containers in 1 quart-sized resealable bag.

Anything that can be smeared or spread is considered a liquid. This includes your holiday pudding, cranberries, turkey gravy and any other wet food. Any questions can be answered here:

To speed your way through security, Robert and I definitely recommend you use either TSA Precheck or Global Entry. You don’t need both. TSA Precheck is a US-based program. Global Entry includes all the benefits of TSA Precheck within the US as well as expedited service through US Customs on the way back to the US from other countries. Many good travel credit cards will include a free membership to TSA Precheck or Global Entry every few years.

Get TSA Precheck…

Apply for Global Entry…


Airport lounges can be oases inside the airport. Although most are not high class or high standard these days, they usually are quiet and clean. You’ll also find free food and beverages, perhaps also snacks to take with you on the plane.

Many good travel credit cards will include a free membership to Priority Pass, a membership service for airport lounges. Robert and I have used our lounge pass all over the world. We’ve found the experience internationally can be much better than the experience within the US.

Not a member:

Already a member: Install the Priority Pass app on your phone.


Boarding is almost always a mess. Your ticket class can get you priority boarding, as can your airline loyalty program membership. In the US, those needing special assistance, those with small children and others needing extra time also can board early. Part of this is courtesy, part of this is due to laws for those with disabilities. Flight attendants may or may not make a related announcement. Often, if they don’t see anyone in a wheelchair or anyone with small children, they won’t make the announcement. You still have the right to board early whether they make an announcement or not. The same is not necessarily true outside the US, where laws for those with disabilities may or may not offer the same protections.

When I travel with my daughter who has Down Syndrome, we don’t have a problem boarding early. Everyone seems to understand whether she is using a wheelchair at that moment or not. However, when Robert and I travel, even if he is in a wheelchair, we often have trouble. People don’t use wheelchairs because they want to get on airplanes early. They use them because they need to at that moment in time, even if they later don’t need to use a wheelchair. 

And if they’re not in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean they are perfectly abled either. Disabled don’t need to wear stickers that label them or explain their disabilities. What they need is courtesy, understanding and for people to mind their own business. This doesn’t always happen.


In overhead bins on the same side as the plane’s windows, carry-ons go wheels in, on their side. This helps to fit the maximum amount of carry-ons in those bins.

In interior overhead bins (those facing away from the windows), your carry-on is likely to waste a lot of space as you have to put it in lengthwise. It may not even fit in the first place.

Don't worry 2/3 of those boarding planes don’t understand this either. It works though...


The era of friendly skies is long gone. Now you have the dilemma of whether you dare use the armrest at all, if someone you don’t know is sitting next to you, and the dilemma of whether you dare recline at all, if someone is behind you.

True story, on an 8-hour flight into Seattle recently, the people in front of Robert and I put their seats all the way back as soon as they were permitted to adjust their seats. One of these people, then moved seats for almost the entire flight and never put the seat upright, though they came back to the seat multiple times for a few minutes.

Robert is 6’ 2” so the seat in front of him literally touched his nose if he moved at all, so he put his seat back slightly to avoid this, about ¼ of the way and I did the same. The woman behind Robert immediately called the flight attendant to complain. The flight attendant stated there was nothing they could do, the seat wasn’t even back a few inches. This happened three more times during the flight.

About an hour before we landed in Seattle, the woman started punching the seatback over and over. When the pilot later announced that everyone should put up their seatbacks and tray tables, Robert and I did immediately. The woman behind Robert didn’t see this and called a flight attendant over again, stating loudly that Robert hadn’t put up his seat. The flight attendant replied the seat was fully upright, to which the woman screamed “no it’s not, look how close this is,” as she slapped the seatback. The flight attendant responded by telling the woman, “it’s time for you to put your seat up” and walked away.

And yes, the woman who was complaining and complaining and complaining about reclining was reclining… Unfriendly skies abound. Stay safe.

Passport control…

When you are leaving the US or entering the US from another country, you must pass through customs and passport control after landing. This can take a long time. You likely will be asked questions about your stay, be prepared to answer.

If you have Global Entry and are returning to the US, look for the Global Entry kiosks before you get to passport control. Use the kiosks even if no one else is.

Baggage Claim…

Most airports don’t have anyone checking to make sure people who pick up bags own the bags. Get to baggage claim as soon as possible and watch for your bag.

What's Next...

Next up we have a feature on Portugal that we think you're really going to love. As most know, Robert is not writing technical books anymore. Robert's does have a new release for the holidays though... We hope you'll check it out...

About Hui Cha Stanek

Erstwhile Photographer and Long-time Publisher Hui Cha Stanek has always been the woman behind the scenes. She has managed the day-to-day operations of Stanek Media for the past three decades. Her work has been featured in a number of gallery shows and recently in a career retrospective with her husband. She prefers candid street photography and photography of people (though not traditional portrait work). One of her most famous works, Tip Toe I See You, is shown below.

Others, not to be missed:

Salt Water Taffy

Let Me See Too

My Hair Day Too Mom

Where Did it Go

You'll find these fine art photography works and more at:

About William Robert Stanek

Seattle-based Photographer and Artist, William Robert Stanek, is a combat veteran who supports other veterans, is also a vocal champion of books and libraries. Not only an artist, he wrote nonfiction for over three decades as William Stanek and fiction as Robert Stanek. Find his fine art photography and prints from his original oil paintings in his online studios:

360 Studios -

1North Studios -

Studio 24 -

Robert Stanek Studios -

Connecting to his roots in his work is important to Robert. The beautiful fine art print that follows is a view of Mont St. Michel in Normandy France, part of Robert's popular, limited A Day at Mont St. Michel photo series. Special to Robert as this is the region where his French ancestors are from--an ancestry Robert has traced back from Quebec Canada to its origins in France.

Find William Robert's books at


Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Apple iTunes


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