Skip to content

Avoid These Travel Traps

Reducing stress when you travel is both a matter of what you do and what you don’t. Sometimes a simple change can save you a ton of money. Sometimes it will just save you a few minutes of discomfort.

Don’t Check Luggage

We all know that airlines are trying to get all the money they can. Who wants to pay $25 to check a bag? But the probable, is then your lugging a suitcase through the airport. What do do?

Whatever you do, don’t check your luggage. Most flights are running very near full capacity. Airlines cannot fit all those roller bags in the overhead bins. Every flight I’ve been on in the past six months has done complimentary bag check.

IMG_1916

Save some cash and check at the gate for free.

Don’t buckle in

You’ve sat in the gate area for hours, you just want to get on the plane and sit; maybe sleep. Better yet, checking your bag got you bumped up to boarding group 2 and you get on just a little earlier. But, if you’re sitting on the aisle, don’t get too comfortable.

IMG_1962

You are going to get up at least twice. Save yourself some aggravation. Wait to buckle in.

Don’t lean back

You’re settled in. You’ve sat through the safety lecture. You’re now in the air. Do you lean back? Three words of advice. . .DON’T DO IT! Sure, if you’re in First Class or Economy Comfort there is plenty of room. But, back in coach, there just isn’t room. You might be in front of this guy.

IMG_1964

I know, I know. Even a few inches back makes a big difference. But, you get your comfort at some else’s discomfort. Don’t be that guy. . .or girl. . .woman. . .person.

Don’t stand up too soon

After the flight lands and the plane has taxied to,the gate, the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign. Now what? Go back to your book. You’ve got plenty of time. Typically if you are in the back half of the plane, you have ten to fifteen minutes at least. If you have the window seat and you stand up, you are going to be hunched over for those ten to fifteen minutes.

Enjoy your trip. Hopefully, these tips help make your plane trip a little less stressful.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Five Road Warrior Tips To Make Your Travel Easier

If it’s Monday I must be in a plane. It’s the story of my life. And it’s a good life. I don’t mind traveling. Over the years and hundreds of thousands of miles, I’ve come up with some travel tips that make travel a little easier. Especially if you travel a lot, these tips are designed to provide a little bit of extra comfort and convenience.

Double Everything

A successful trip starts before you ever leave home. If you are going to be traveling a lot, double everything. I don’t mean clothes. Double the stuff you take with you. This includes toiletries.

2015/01/img_1750.jpg

This is my travel kit. I only use it when I travel. The great thing about it, is I don’t have to worry about forgetting my razor or toothbrush or deodorant. By keeping it in a travel kit, I can throw it in a bathroom drawer until I need it and I only need to remember one going instead of a list. Just remember to restock when you get back from a trip.

2015/01/img_1969.jpg

I also have duplicate of chargers and USB cords. These just stay in my travel bag. I don’t have to remember to pack my cell phone charger.

TSA precheck

2015/01/img_1897.jpg

If you are going to travel very much at all, TSA precheck is a great investment. You go down to the airport prior to your trip, fill out some paperwork, and pay them $85. For that your life becomes one of privilege and prestige for the next five years.

You add your TSA id to your profile at the various airlines and when your boarding pass prints out it has a TSA Precheck designation.

2015/01/img_1970.jpg

What does your $85 get you?

– you get the short TSA Precheck security line
– you can leave your shoes on going through security
– you can leave your coat on
– leave your laptop in its bag
– leave your liquids in your bag
– go through the metal detector rather than the full body scanner

I got it last year and I haven’t taken more than 2-3 minutes to get through security in the last ten trips. That’s total time from when I first get in line until I’m headed for the gate. Even if you only travel once per year, I think it’s worth it. If you travel every week, it’s stupid to not get it. My company wouldn’t pay for it, but I didn’t even mind the money for the convenience it gives.

Keep the bottle

This
2015/01/img_1959.jpg

Or this?
2015/01/img_1961.jpg

That empty water bottle is worth a couple of bucks every time you travel. And with planes traveling at full capacity, if you’re in row 43 it’s going to be a while before the beverage cart makes it to your row.

Just remember to empty it before you get to security. Instead fill it up at one of any number of filling stations in most airports.

Layers

It’s a tough time of year to travel. It was fifty degrees when I left Utah and a blizzard which New York City’s mayor describes as “unlike anything to ever hit this city” is headed for the east coast. Knowing what clothes to wear the day you travel can be a challenge. I use a technique I learned from years of camping: layers.

A polo shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, a scarf and a leather jacket. The scarf might be superfluous, but the rest of it allows me to add or remove layers as
needed. Airplanes are strange environments. Sitting on the Tarmac in Salt Lake City in fifty degree weather, I was opening up the air vent to keep from getting too hot. At 33,000 feet the outside temperature is about thirty degrees below zero. At that altitude, you absolutely rely on the heaters to keep you from becoming a flying popsicle.

But there is just one problem with my layering strategy. It’s near,y impossible to take off your coat packed into the middle seat. Here’s what I’ve found works for me. Pull your coat up over your head. Continue until your entire coat is bunched up in front of you. At this point, it looks like you have your coat on upside down and backwards. But, it’s also simple to pull your arms out and you’ve successfully removed your coat.

The same strategy works when you are driving, but I couldn’t recommend that in good conscience.

Neck Pillows

2015/01/img_1781.jpg

These are the strangest inventions in travel. They look like something you would put on a life sized version of My Little Pony. But, if you are going to spend hours cramped into a 17″ wide seat, they are literally the opposite of a pain in the neck.

2015/01/img_1951.jpg

Hopefully these tips help make your next trip a little easier. Do you have a travel tip? Leave it in the comments.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Five Hundred Stories

Today marks a turning point for this blog. As longtime readers know, I don’t often talk specifically about blogging.

Going forward I have some exciting things planned. At least they are exciting to me. And I appreciate all of you lending me a few minutes of your day each Monday through Friday to attempt to entertain you. Hopefully, we’ll share a writer/reader relationship for a long time.

Okay, what’s new?

First, I’m moving to a themed layout. Not the actual layout of the blog, I don’t plan on updating that for at least another year. Instead, I’m planning to pick a topic or theme each week to write about. One week might be devoted to business travel, another one might be devoted to coaching employees. Still another might be focused on interviewing.

I attempted this a couple of times with pretty good success in the past.

Up until now, I’ve kind of written whatever took my fancy that day. I have a list of topics I draw on if I have a total brain cramp. But, most times I pick something that has happened the previous day that I can blend together with an IT topic into a single post.

This format has worked pretty well. Starting next week I’m going to put a little more structure around the process. I’m hoping this will make reading this blog less of a kinetic experience, where today you read about running a rafting company in Wisconsin and tomorrow I delve into the intricacies of the ten data areas of the Professional Project Management process.

My goal is to create a more cohesive narrative. One that is more entertaining for you and easier to repurpose into a longer form. That’s scared writer-speak for “I want to start collecting these scratchings into books.”

Don’t worry, I still intend that each day’s entry will be completely self contained. You don’t have to worry about needing to “catch up” if you miss Monday and Tuesday’s post.

Why?

You might wonder why I’m doing this and why now?

First, I’m following the Howard Tayler career path. Howard is my friend who writes the award winning Schlock Mercenary web comic. I admire Howard for his success in transitioning a hobby of drawing comics while working full time for a computer company, into a full time cartooning career.

When Howard started out, he by his own admission “didn’t draw well.” Later, he self deprecatingly described his skill as “less bad.” The fact is that he is very, very good at both drawing and storytelling. However, when he started out he simply drew what he found funny. The story moved forward, but in a somewhat random manner. After a couple of years, he started to organize his stories into “books.” Each story had a beginning, a middle and an definite ending that stretched over several months.

It was only after he started writing more complete stories that he turned his comics into books. Howard has released 11 books so far. He envisions as many as 18 in this current series. At that point he will end the story of Schlock Mercenary.

What does that have to do with me? After all I’m not a cartoonist.

It occurred to me that the first two years of this blog are a lot like some of Howard’s early work; consistent, hopefully well written, but lacking in direction. I realized that I can make the experience better for you the reader by applying some thought, structure and planning.

Do I expect to someday quit my day job and write full-time?

Ask me when I’ve been doing it for a few years.

Finally, why now.

Since March 2013 I’ve updated this blog every Monday through Friday. There are some posts that appear sporadically prior to March, but starting in March it’s been regular as clockwork. Today marks the 500th blog post. It seems like a good spot to pause, take an assessment and think about what I want the blog to become.

So, thank you for your readership. I’m continually amazed and humbled that my thoughts and writings provide some measure of entertainment or usefulness to so many people I’ve never met in person.

I’m grateful you are here as we start What’s Next.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Thank You For Breaking Our Systems?

Great job on solving today’s problem, Rodney.

Yeah, Rodney you really saved us on that one.

You’d think I’d be grateful. My boss and my coworkers were telling me what a good job I did resolving a nasty technical issue. I’d just spent two days working with my engineering teams to do an emergency install of a redundant backup system that had failed when we tried to use it the day before.

But, I wasn’t feeling particularly worthy of their gratitude. I was the technical project manager. The word “technical” is right there in the job title. I had run this project. I had vouched for the validity of the technical solution. The very same technical solution that had failed to work the day before.

Every project is a series of tradeoffs. You never have all the resources and all the time and all the features you want. You have to trade off. It’s called “Risk Analysis.” And during the project we identified the risks around our backup solution. The project team considered the issues, weighed the risks and we made our choices.

And when things started to go south the day of the rollout, the risks we had evaluated as low turned into high risks. So, I was looking at the problem and recognizing the choices we could have made months earlier that would have prevented our current outage.

Was I responsible?

Partly.

There were also technical issues that had led to the outage, but I couldn’t get past the decisions we had made months earlier. The risks that we had noted and dismissed. I didn’t feel like they should be thanking me. If they had accused me I might have felt they were more justified.

I wanted to have properly prioritized the risks.

As I was leaving after a 12 hour day with the last of the technical issues finally resolved, the site manager thanked me again.

Great job today Rodney.

Thanks, Derek. But as the technical PM, I figure I’m the one who should have prevented it in the first place. Not feeling really brilliant. . .or competent.

You don’t get it, Rodney. Stuff goes wrong. It’s why we have jobs. But, look at the last two days. When stuff fell apart, you didn’t. You kept your head. You put together a contingency plan. You put in long hours and you led the engineering teams in building a solution. At the same time you managed the client and kept our management team informed. You aren’t being thanked for causing the problem. You are being thanked for the professional manner in which you resolved the problem. That’s valuable. And people noticed. Nice job.

Thanks, Derek.

I really hadn’t thought of it that way. Everyone makes mistakes. How you handle yourself when the system falls apart defines you.

You are at your best when things are at their worst.
Starman

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Tomorrow is Another Day

2015/01/img_1888.jpg

Somedays it just doesn’t pay to be me.

I’m a project manager. But what happens when the project doesn’t go as planned? People react differently when things go badly. How you react to a blown project can either build credibility and lay a foundation for solving the problem, or make the problem worse.

1. Stop

First thing to do when things go bad? Stop. Don’t make a bad decision worse by rushing into a solution.

2. Evaluate your options

What choices do you have? There are always options. Doing nothing is an option. Retrying your previous solution is an option. As a project manager sometimes I get to pick the options. But, more often it’s the engineers who will tell me what my choices are.

3. Pick a solution

After evaluating your choices at some point you have to pick one and go. As a PM, I answer to my stakeholders. I will evaluate the solutions and if the decision is a big one I’ll take it to my stakeholders. They expect me to not only recommend a solution but to identify the benefits and risks of each solution. While I have my preferred solution, ultimately the stakeholders have to believe in the solution. They get to pick.

4. Execute

Finally, act on you solution. Again, as a PM I can run a project, but I need engineers to actually make it work. The hardest part of this step is to wait. It’s tempting to pester the engineers, but if you have done your research properly, the key in step 4 is to let the workers work.

It’s easy when you are in the middle of crisis to run to the first solution that presents itself. The pain in a crisis can be excruciating. All you want is for it to stop. But, if you keep your head, you can turn a crisis, if not into a win, at least into less of a loss.

And remember that as bad as your crisis was, as terrible as today may have been, the sun will come up and tomorrow is another day.

Make it a better one.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Back To School

Milan stared at the screen and wearily clicked NEXT. One more online class. This one was about network applications. He had three more sections to complete tonight.

I didn’t choose to go into computers, into IT. IT picked me. (Back Where It All Began) I always seemed to move from one job to the next, WordPerfect, Microsoft, consulting. But, I have to admit there was no grand plan.

The problem I ran into was the training. I guess every job has it, but computers and networks change so fast that like trying to go up the down escalator, if you are not constantly learning, constantly trying to get ahead, you are falling behind.

During the time I spent working for a large non-profit, I assumed I had found my last job. The company was incredibly stable. They had a pension, they were so old school. I focused on the job and didn’t worry about certifications or keeping up on the latest technology.

Getting laid off was a surprise. And I realized that I’d stood still on the escalator. I was several steps back of my peers and no competitors for the job openings. For the first time in a long time, I started to focus on my career. I did three things to try to catch up.

First, I started to read. While I love business books, I also started reading blogs. I started to try to identify technology leaders and follow them. I started to research technologies, security and servers.

Second, I started to write. It was during this period that I started this blog. I wrote every chance I got. I wrote research papers. I wrote white papers just because I had an interest. And writing led to more reading.

Third and finally, I looked at the certifications that existed in my field. I identified three and put them in priority order:

Project Manager Professional (PMP)
Six Sigma Black Belt
Certified Scrum Master

I started one the first one. I had the experience but I took a class to help me with the exam. After two months and a lot of coursework, I sat for and passed the exam. Next, I looked at the Six Sigma certification. I was just starting it when I went to work for my current company.

Over the coming year, I have several goals related to work. I still plan to get the Six Sigma. I also plan to write for more places. I’ll also be turning some of the better blog entries into a longer format. And of course, I continue to read voraciously.

I don’t think IT is that unique. My brother is a CPA. He goes to school every year to learn the new tax laws. He’s becoming an expert on the Affordable Care Act since it will impact taxes so much.

Never think you are done learning.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Dogs and Cats. . .and Babies

Magdalina. That was her name. And she was four months old. I met her and her slightly stressed mother in Minneapolis. I had seat 8A. Mother and daughter were in 8B.

You’re welcome to have the window if you’d like.

You don’t mind?

Not at all.

Magdalina didn’t really say much. Well, she was vocal, but I think it translated as “Feed me!”

Some people stress a lot about babies on planes. And it’s not always the baby’s parents who do. I’ve never been a nervous traveller. And I like to think that I have a more than usual share of empathy. Having survived traveling with 13 children will do that for you.

My wife and I travelled to India ten years ago to bring home a daughter. Our daughter was 18 months old at the time. She was fine if my lovely wife held her, but would absolutely howl if I held her, or even if my wife put her down. It’s easy to understand why. Two strangers who speak a different language and look different from her show up and take her away from everything she ever knew.

The trip from New Delhi, India to Seattle, WA took nearly 36 hours total. The longest leg in the air was 15 hours. Think about that. Fifteen hours with an infant that will not allow you to set her down. We flew Singapore airlines who provided a bassinet that attached to the bulkhead. Our daughter wanted nothing to do with it.

She finally fell asleep after several hours and we were able to lay her very carefully on the seat next to us for a few hours of rest. So the prospect of sitting next to Magdalina for a 2 hour trip from Minneapolis to Richmond, VA didn’t bother me a bit.

The Twin Cities to Richmond was actually the second leg of my trip. The first was from Salt Lake City to Minnesota. As we were queuing in the jet way I overheard another passenger,

I’m terribly allergic. I cannot believe they allow it.

Well, she’s typically no trouble and. . .

Well, I’ve been on other flights and it’s caused an issue!

Imagine my surprise when I ended up as the middle seat between these two women. And the point of contention? A cat. One woman was transporting her cat.

I’ve never seen a cat on a plane. Even today, I still haven’t seen it. The cat never left the duffle bag carrier. I barely heard the cat.

So, do you drug her before you fly?

I used to, but then I forgot to one time and she acted exactly the same.So I quit.

The allergic lady ended up switching seats with someone further back. I like cats, but it wouldn’t have mattered since the woman could have been transporting a bag full of books on cats for all the fuss the actual cat made. The guy on the aisle asked her about the cost.

So, do you have to pay extra to bring a cat?

Yes. Actually it’s quite a bit more. It used to be $75, but they recently raised it to $100.

Apparently she travelled with the cat quite a bit.

The dog last month wasn’t nearly as inconspicuous. I was coming back from my friend’s wedding in Seattle when a guy came walking down the aisle with a dog. This wasn’t a “pocket dog.” It looked like a Chesapeake.

2015/01/img_1911.jpg
(Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com)

He and his owner had the seat behind me. There were plenty of bumps on the back of my seat as the dog got comfortable. I thought, “Oh, boy. This is going to be a challenge.”

Nope.

It’s 90 minutes from Seattle to Salt Lake. That dog didn’t make a peep. He didn’t seem to move a muscle. As we touched down in Salt Lake and taxied to the gate several of us commented on what a good traveller he was. Looking over my shoulder I added,

I rarely lean my seat back any more. But, today especially there was no way I was going to.

I can’t raise my hands right now. But, if I could, I’d high five you.

Travel is stressful enough. When someone needs to take their baby, be they human, feline or canine, the least I can do is try to make it a little easier for them. Especially since it doesn’t cost me a thing to be a little accommodating.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,009 other followers

%d bloggers like this: