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Off The Rock | How to Travel Like a Rock Star

Whenever I prepare to go on a trip, I like to think that I travel like a rock star. I mean, I don’t have to wear saucer-sized sunglasses to travel incognito, and I don’t have a posse to carry my luggage, but I tend to have a good time despite basically being in a aluminum flying bus for more than the recommended daily allowance. After spending pretty much my entire life in Hawaiʻi, where getting anywhere starts off with a five hour flight– I know that traveling can be an ordeal.

Even Rock Stars have to go through security. (Photo Credit Ben Popken under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Even Rock Stars have to go through security. (Photo Credit Ben Popken under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

For those of you who don’t travel that often, traveling like a rock star doesn’t mean TMZ is waiting at baggage claim when you land, or that you are greeted by the local Five-0 on the Jetway because you had a Amanda Bynes-style breakdown in Economy Plus when they ran out of Fiesta Mix. No, what it really means is traveling with little hassle or headaches, getting through security without feeling violated or yelled at, and maybe scoring a few perks along the way.

In the last five years I’ve gotten on a plane at least every six months, and have seen some pretty incredible places. I’ve been to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Seoul, Guam, Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Las Vegas, Orlando, Colorado and parts of the midwest and the south. Some of you may live and work in these great places– and some of you maybe saying, “why’d she go there?” But nevertheless, I’ve gotten on a plane and been thrilled to get off my rock. As I’ve traveled, I’ve been in more airports and on more airplanes than I’d care to remember, but it’s made me realize that there are a few things everyone needs to keep in mind in order to make sure your “rock star” status is secure.

You don’t want to be a bag lady

Sorry ladies, I have to single you out. I’ve noticed when standing in line through security and when I’m stowing my bag under the seat in front of me, that it’s the ladies who have the most stuff. Usually they have a rollaboard, a huge duffel bag, and a backpack. For your sake and everyone who you happen to be traveling with that day– don’t bring your bag lady shopping cart with you on the plane. If you need to have 50 lbs of clothes with you, please do a rock star move and pay for your bag to be checked. Believe me, nothing makes you feel more like a celeb, when you breeze through security with your one carry-on that doesn’t weigh a million pounds, and has enough entertainment to keep you busy for a long flight.

My travel bag and my Danskos- all I need on a flight. (Photo Credit Wendie Burbridge).

My travel bag and my Danskos- all I need on a flight. (Photo Credit Wendie Burbridge).

I know you’ve heard it before, but seriously, you need very little on a plane. They have bathrooms, they have food and drink, and they show you a movie. And if you take your Kindle or your Nook, you can entertain yourself for hours. You do not need a to take a pillow and a blankie, and even though Paris Hilton takes her own down-filled pillow for her pretty, empty head when she travels, you have a brain to entertain yourself, so just leave it on your bed at home.

Just be ready to bring your credit card (most airlines no longer take cash), bite the bullet, and pay for a snack box and enjoy the flight. Nothing makes a you feel more like a rock star than when you can enjoy a cocktail, take nap with your feet up on your carry-on under the seat in front of you, and know that when the Airbus lands, you just have to pick up your one little bag and hustle your cute self off to your vacation or back home.

You do not want to be lynched in an airport

Here’s the main reason you don’t want to take too much on a plane:  if you take too long going through security because you have way too much stuff or you don’t know the procedures—people (read: experienced travelers) get REALLY MAD. Yes, I’m using shouty caps, but I need to get this message across. You need to move through security without inconveniencing others and without making yourself a big bag of nervous wreck. And let me tell you, if the TSA folks don’t yell at you because you forgot the 3-1-1 rules, or to take off your shoes, or empty your pockets– someone in line will do it for them.

My travel kit includes my 3-1-1 bag which is removable from the rest of my toiletries bag. (Photo credit Wendie Burbridge).

My travel kit includes my 3-1-1 bag which is removable from the rest of my toiletries bag. (Photo credit Wendie Burbridge).

I know, seems very mean, but there was a time when I would show up in a the Gold security line (the one for First Class and/or experienced travelers) with my green eyed cherub faced child in tow and I would watch people stiffen when they saw him. But when my son– who has been flying nationally and internationally since he was five years old– would line up his bins, take off his shoes, his jacket, his hat, and be ready to get through security in a minute flat, the TSA agents would nod in approval, smile, and let that boy fly through the process.

That’s what happens when you know what to do– you get rock star treatment. Trust me, it can happen– you just need to know what to do and what is expected, and you need to move quickly and with a purpose. So here’s the breakdown in bullets (which is a word you should not say while going through security).

  • FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Believe me– less headache and less hassles when you do.

  • 3-1-1 means one quart sized clear plastic bag with bottles up to 3 oz. max. Don’t forget to take it out of your carry-on while it goes through the x-ray machine.

  • Dump your Starbucks and water bottles, and chug that bottle of pinot grigio you got as a gift, because you can’t have any liquids—even sealed—over 3oz.

  • The rules are basically, nothing in your pockets, everything goes through x-ray, take off your shoes, jackets, and hats.

  • New rules: children under 12 do not have to take off their shoes and all over 75 can leave on both shoes and jackets. But even babies and baby bottles still need to be checked.

  • Everything goes into the bins. So here’s a tip: if you are wearing a jacket, a cap or hat, or have anything in your pockets, empty them into your carry-on BEFORE you get to the TSA agent who looks at your ID and ticket. Don’t wait until you get to the x-ray machines to start doing this. Nothing is more frustrating than watching someone empty their pockets, take off their belt, and their shoes, as the line behind them stacks up as we wait for them to push their stuff through the x-ray machine.

  • Keep in mind you can put your shoes, your purse, and your 3-1-1 bag all in the same bin, but your laptop needs to go in a completely separate bin without anything covering it.

You want to be comfy but not Ho-zy

Be careful about what you wear, for a couple of reasons. If you are going to “opt out”– not go through the full body scanner, which several airports are still using–and you are wearing a low cut top or a tank top, TSA’s gloves can stick to your clothing (especially if it is cotton) and pull your top down if you are not paying attention. If you are going to “opt out,” you will be patted down, so make sure you leave your tube top at home.

When I travel—I wear jeans, Danskos (the most amazing shoe ever), a t-shirt, and a zip-up hoodie. I need to be warm, because it is freezing on a plane, and I need shoes that slide off quickly, and are comfortable. Danskos are popular with many flight attendants, so you know it’s a good travel shoe. They are very comfortable, but do not look like bedroom slippers. If you don’t like wearing jeans and prefer sweat pants, maybe wear yoga pants. On my last plane ride, I wore a Sugar Love long sleeve hoodie with jeans. I was comfy and it looked good. I always wear dark colors because if I spill my Bloody Mary on myself amid flight, I don’t want to look like a homicide victim, or a slob.

The best travel outfit for me would be Sugar Love's long sleeved hoodie and yoga pants. (Photo Credit Jessica Hancock).

The best travel outfit for me would be Sugar Love’s long sleeved hoodie and yoga pants. (Photo Credit Jessica Hancock).

Flight attendants and gate agents are usually really friendly and want to help people who look decent and dress appropriately. So don’t get on a flight wearing your fuzzy pink slippers and matching jammie pants. Leave your dad’s flannel long johns at home. And Uggs are too hard to take off in security. Sleeping is fine on a flight, just don’t dress like you’re ready to hit the hay once you hit 30,000 feet. Being comfy is okay, just make sure it’s the kind of comfy that is acceptable for being around people, not for hibernation. No one wants to upgrade a slob to first class. Nor do they want to sit by one.

And yes, I know rock stars tend to dress how they like, damn the man and all– but wearing jeans, t-shirts, and a cool pair of shoes, is pretty much par for the course when you’re on the road, right?

You want to travel—so do it

I love to travel. There are things about traveling that suck, I will not lie. But nothing beats getting off of my rock—whatever my rock is at the moment. My island, my town, my work, my household chores, my busy schedule—it’s all worth it to be somewhere else, meeting and seeing different people and places, experiencing different cultures, cuisine, and history.  I had no idea how big the world was until I started to see it. So take all of my tips, or make some of your own, even if you don’t get treated like a rock star, at least you know it won’t be something you will regret in the morning.

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About Wendie Burbridge (15 Articles)
Wendie Burbridge is a Contributing Editor for Sweatpants & Coffee. She also writes the popular Hawaii Five-0 blog “The Five-0 Redux” for The Pulse, the online magazine for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Her fiction, poetry, and plays have been published several times in different literary journals and textbooks, most notably by Bamboo Ridge Press, ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal, Fat Ulu Productions, and Autumn House Press.

16 Comments on Off The Rock | How to Travel Like a Rock Star

  1. Hi Wendie!

    Though I’m not traveling as frequently as I once did, all your suggestions are great! There’s nothing like being prepared. I have an artificial knee and even though I’m ready w/the hospital issued card stating that, invariably the alarms sound and the looks on the faces of the people behind me are not so priceless! The looks are even better when I’m traveling w/my sis, who has an artificial hip! Talk about fire-works and death stares!!! Usually the agents are pretty quick and the people relax when they realize I’m not the uni-bomber!!

    I’ve learned over the years that less is definitely more. I haven’t been to any place so remote that I couldn’t buy the one thing I forgot or didn’t want to bring. It’s really a very freeing experience to not have to lug tons of stuff. I keep my 3-1-1 bag ready an updated so I’m ready to go at a moment’s notice (well, almost :-)!)

    You’re so right about dressing! Have some pride people! I cringe when I see some slovenly passenger because I just know that they’ll either be my seatmate or close enough for me to smell! UGH! I have a pet peeve that you didn’t mention! I hate when you sit behind some clod who just has to recline in your lap. Really! Have some courtesy folks!

    Traveling is great and I love it! All this talk has got me thinking of where my next adventure will take me! Oh, you take your Danskos (they’re great shoes!) and I’ll take my Clarks and we’ll meet in the middle!

    Happy Trails!

    • Hey Karen:) thanks for sharing your story about your travels! I definitely concur with “less is more” and don’t dress like a slob or like you’re ready for bed! I almost wrote a paragraph about how you can always buy what you forgot until once we went somewhere and we didn’t have a car and it was 2 bus rides and then a taxi to get to WalMart! LOL So, now if I know we wont have a car, I pack a few extra things in my suitcase. 🙂 I’ll have to try Clarks! I have heard good things about them as well:) Thanks for sending me searching for new shoes- like I need another pair! LOL Again, thanks for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

  2. Hi Wendie,
    I love this and laughed out loud when I read that sentence about Paris Hilton’s pillow and about your readers having a brain to entertain themselves. I’m not so sure that Paris would like your comment but she probably wouldn’t understand your implied message about those brains, anyway 🙂

    But seriously, I think I’ll reread this article when I finally get to travel again because you’ve given a bunch of great advice – especially for people like me who are sligthly “out of practice” at travelling by plane.
    Even though I absolutely love travelling (not to all countries and places though), I just haven’t been able to travel much for the past 10 years or so since I lost a better-paid job.
    But nobody can take the great memories away that I have from travelling to wonderful places in the past – like Australia, various places in the U.S. (where I even lived for a year) and, of course, Europe where I was born and still live today. I can totally understand why you love travelling and exploring new places – and I fully agree with that quote you shared on Facebook about the world being a book – It’s so true!

    Keep up your great writing – I particularly love reading stuff about travelling! And I hope you get to travel a lot in the future, too, so you can write about it and share your experiences and memories with us.

    Have a safe and wonderful trip wherever you may go next!

    • HI Angie-
      I am really hoping one day to come to your “neck of the woods” so to speak. I’ve never been to Europe and I really would love to see that part of the world too. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment- it’s nice to get your input as I was mainly going off of traveling within the US– but I do know that international travel can be different depending on the country. So thanks for chiming in and adding your experiences:) Aloha, Wendie

  3. Great advice, Wendie! I’m sending this on to the gal I went to Italy with- she actually bought another carry on for all the stuff she had to have on the 10 hour flight to London! I do have to say, though, most of her snacks were necessary as there wasn’t much she could eat on the plane’s menu, having a severe case of Celiac disease!

    One thing I can suggest thanks, to personal experience, is to be mindful of leaving the blingy tops in the suitcase until you arrive at you destination. My story (of course I have one!): I’ve been through security umpteen times and have learned to almost completely disrobe before going through the scanner. I’m very good at it by now. Except last summer – island hopping from Kaua’i to Oah’u – it was hot and I put on a nice little print tank top for the short trip. Go through the scanner -sirens go off! Do it again, more sirens! Very nice TSA lady takes me to the side, gets out her wand, smiles and tells me I’m good to go, but next time keep the rhinestone studded top in the suitcase! Boy, did I ever feel stupid!

    Another courtesy on a plane-be mindful of stinky feet when you take your shoes off during those long flights! After 2 weeks in Hawaii, my husband’s Sanuks were just a little ripe. I almost keeled over when he took them off during the 6 hour flight to Seattle. Sad thing was, he was sitting in the middle – I don’t think the girl sitting on the other side of him enjoyed her flight very much!

    Thanks for all the great suggestions! I’m going to have Rock Star status the next time I travel, for sure!

    • Hi Lynnette!
      What great advice! I never thought about the blingy top being a problem. Great tip:) And as for the feet… I’ll have to keep that in mind for me and my family when we travel next.
      As for snacks- if you have a food allergy or special diet, by all means make sure you have what you need- I have no problem with that.. and some folks think the food is terrible or too expensive, so bring your own- I would just suggest be careful that it’s not fish or something that can smell up the whole plane LOL
      Once on a flight to Narita a local Hawai’i family brought bentos with fish cake and salmon and all kinds good smelling food- but very fishy smelling- and many people complained. The flight attendants were not happy because on international flights you don’t pay for your meal in economy like on domestic flights in the US. So they didn’t need to bring their bento lunches! But they just didn’t know- it was their first time flying anywhere except for an occasional interisland flight. So- you live and learn right? I’d take a smelly lunch, and even smelly feet over anything more dramatic (and scary!) happening on a flight:)

      Thanks Lynnette! Love your comments and your support! Aloha, Wendie

  4. Wendie, Wendie, Wendie…how I so enjoy your writing! Whether you’re providing great instructional material like this or breaking down an episode of H50, it’s always such a pleasure to take a few minutes to read what you’ve put together. I laughed out loud so many times while reading this piece [the Bloody Mary homicide victim was a priceless moment for me:)] I am definitely keeping this in a safe spot to break out the next time I’m traveling because I know it will come in very handy. Thanks so much…and keep up the great work!

    • HI Gina;)
      Thanks for liking my sassiness- it comes in handy when you are writing a “list” of things to do- which could sometimes be boring. Such fun to write about traveling and hear about other peoples own experiences. Thanks so much for enjoying the piece and for commenting:) Aloha, Wendie

  5. Okay, okay, I’ll try the Danskos!
    Thanks for all the great tips, you are my travel role-model. 🙂

    • Hi Kathy Lynn-
      You must try them! I love them, and if you wear them with pants, they look like boots. All my friends say, where are your boots? They are so cool and sturdy and comfy. I can’t express my love enough! LOL Let me know when you do and what you think. Thanks so much for liking the tips and for reading:)
      Aloha, Wendie

  6. My friend Karen @huntress62 sent me a pick of her cool travel bag- It was a present from her daughter.

    She packs this for a flight as her only carry on and she says it fits under her seat nicely:) She says “I pack it light for air: small make-up bag, brush, netbook, external HDs, iPod, book, snack & spare shirt.”

    And I love the skulls!

    Thanks for the send Karen!

    Aloha, Wendie

  7. Hi!

    I loved your post. It was so thorough and I am checking out the shoes now. Could you tell me where you found your toiletry kit and the brand? I have been looking for one with a detachable section like that.

  8. Where did you find your travel kit? I really like the efficient design!

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