It’s no secret that I love credit cards, and not just for miles and points. Credit cards often provide a variety of other benefits and consumer protections that make me prefer to use a credit card over any other form of payment, like trip delay insurance or return protection.
I usually don’t have occasion to take advantage of benefits like return protection or purchase protection because I just don’t buy that many non-consumable goods, but I recently decided to order some clothing online. Buying clothes online is always challenging because you often don’t know how they fit, and one of the items I wanted was final sale, so the store wasn’t willing to accept a return. But I figured that I’d use my Amex SPG for the purchase, which I know offers return protection. Return protection essentially says that your credit card company will cover you if the store doesn’t accept the return, provided that you call within 90 days of the purchase date and limited to $300 per item and up to $1000 total per year (see full benefits details)
Turns out that the final sale item wasn’t a great fit, and when I tried talking to the store’s customer service line, they said that they wouldn’t accept the return because it was final sale (and outside of the store’s 30-day return window). So I called 1-800-297-8019, which is the Amex Return Protection number, and asked to file a return protection claim. I reached a helpful phone agent who asked for basic information like the date of purchase, the items purchased, the total amount charged to the card, etc. And the next morning, I received an email saying that my return protection claim had been closed, and I saw a credit on my statement for the full value of the item I wanted to return. I didn’t even need to send the item to Amex. Pretty awesome, right?
Return protection is one of many reasons why I love credit cards. Obviously, don’t abuse protections like this, but it makes it easier to shop (especially online), when you know that your credit card company has you covered.
This is probably less relevant for people who have the pleasure to fly business or first class exclusively, but for the rest of us frequent travelers who are sometimes (or often (or always)) in the back of the plane, I highly recommend reading/watching “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. Actually, scratch that, this should be required reading/watching for everyone, regardless of who you are. The text comes from a commencement speech that he gave to Kenyon College in 2005.
Essentially, you shouldn’t ever be the person who’s like “do you know who I am”. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, the world does not revolve around you, and people do not exist merely to stand in your way. You have the ability to reframe how you think, and you can choose to reinterpret the world around you. As I’ve internalized this change in perspective, flying has become infinitely more enjoyable, which is part of the reason why I travel so much more than I used to.
Get Global Entry (or Nexus, if you’re a Canadian).
When I last wrote about Global Entry, I praised it because it makes clearing immigration and customs a breeze when coming back to the US. I can literally get off the plane and be in a car going home within 10 minutes of landing.
But Global Entry has become so much more valuable to me ever since members of Customs and Border Patrol’s Trusted Traveler programs became eligible for TSA PreCheck. This makes domestic travel so much easier, in addition to the international travel benefits. (If you’re unfamiliar with TSA PreCheck, it essentially makes airport security like what it was before 9/11. Shoes stay on, no need to remove anything from your bag, and you just need to walk through a metal detector.)
While lines can be longish at busy airports (at SFO and IAD, I’ve seen the TSA PreCheck line be longer than the normal security line), the line moves extremely quickly since people don’t need to place their items in separate bins and get groped. In addition, ever since I included my Trusted Traveler number on my flight bookings, I’ve received TSA PreCheck every time I’ve been eligible. And now, for many airlines, you can see on your boarding pass if you got TSA PreCheck for that flight, so know that you don’t need to leave much time for clearing security.
With this added benefit, Global Entry is definitely worth the $100 application fee. Heck, I’d pay for it even if it were $100 per year.
I think getting Global Entry is the single best thing a traveler can do to make the air travel experience more pleasant. Sure, being United Global Services or American Concierge Key probably makes it better too, but getting Global Entry is much more practical for the average traveler, and it can save you from so much of the pain that people associate with air travel today (namely, the TSA).
Bring ExOfficio underwear (this one’s for women).
True story: I only brought two pairs of this underwear to Europe for my 10-day trip, and I’m sure I would’ve been fine with only those two pairs for a much longer trip than that.
The general idea is that you wash one pair in the sink and let it dry while you wear the other pair. And then you switch and repeat. This underwear is super comfortable, odor resistant, and quick drying, so it works out great if you’re trying to conserve space for other things. You just need to remember to wash the other pair every night.
Get the following three products:
- Eye mask
- Neck pillow (I definitely recommend getting one that’s inflatable since it packs down smaller and you can adjust how firm you want it to be)
- Ear plugs
Travel has become so much more pleasant after I discovered this sensory-depriving trifecta. Before, I’d get intermittent spurts of sleep, waking up because my head jerked down or some baby started crying or my neighbor’s screen was too bright; now, I’m able to sleep for upwards of 5 hours continuously on flights.
Alternatively, you can try getting an Ostrich Pillow, but I don’t have any experience using one of those. They also seem slightly bulky/I think people would be a little freaked out when you slip it on.
If all else fails, I’ve also used Benadryl and Dramamine in the past to help me sleep, but I much prefer my above non-drug combo. What are your favorite tips for sleeping on planes?