Make the Most of Your Probably Miserable Holiday Travel Experience

Updated: Feb 11, 2015 00:34
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Recently, Stuart and Kate gave you some tips on how to travel cheaply which were all very helpful, but since I’m about to scoot off on a little holiday travel of my own, I thought I’d share some of my own cheap ways to get the most out of your travel experience and make your time in those generic airport chairs and airline seats a little more pleasant.

Choose seats wisely:

Assuming you didn’t wait to the last minute and you’re a normal human being who purchases airfare online, you probably have the option to choose your seats. And if you’re like me, you probably can’t ever decide between window or aisle. The nine-year-old in me always wants to be able to look out the window even on a cross-country redeye that I’ve flown half a dozen times and never once had a nice view of DC. The occasionally insightful adult in me wants to sit in the aisle in case I put down too many $8 large beers in the airport bar. Once I overcome that personal battle, I use this handy strategy to get the most out of my choice: If you’re going for a window seat, pick a row where someone has already taken the aisle seat. If you want an aisle seat, pick a row where someone has taken the window seat – people flying alone will probably use the same strategy and won’t pick a middle seat unless they’re desperate and the flight is totally full. If you’re lucky, the middle seat will be empty and you can stow your crap there and save precious legroom. We call this Broke Ass First Class.

Bring your booze:

I know what you’re thinking – you haven’t been able to bring liquids through security since forever. But let’s look back at the rules: nothing more than 3 oz in that little carry-on ziploc. Luckily for you the mini bottles that you usually sneak in to movies are only 2 oz. I like to pick up 3 minis of Bombay Sapphire for a reasonable $2.50 apiece because the blue bottles look like fancy hotel shampoos. Put them in with your facewash and mini toothpaste (free sample from the dentist, of course) and don’t make a big scene about it when you stroll through security. Just order your favorite mixer from the free beverage service. The good thing about gin is if you’re on a nefarious airline that charges $2 for soda (I’m looking at you, USAir), you can just ask for a cup of ice and make a very dry airplane martini.

Your laptop is your friend:

It’s no secret that the most of our domestic airlines are bankrupt, so many of the major advancements in in-flight entertainment technology haven’t quite made it to those aging fleets. Even Virgin America, the zenith of Broke-Ass travel, will charge you more than your Netflix monthly fee to watch a movie. But there’s still a plethora of options (legal or otherwise) you can use to save movies and TV shows to your hard drive to bring along with you. Make sure you’re charged up and turn off the WiFi radio if there’s no in-flight internet to get the most out of your aging battery. This also comes in handy when visiting grandparents who don’t have cable.

Loosely Related: Free Holiday Wi-Fi from Google.

Very Loosely Related: Medical Marijuana allowed at SFO.

Mini bottle image via:

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Andrew Dalton - Aggressive Panhandler

Andrew Dalton - Aggressive Panhandler

Andrew is an East Coast transplant from Virginia hamming it up in San Francisco without any intention of leaving. Having worked every typical job from Bike Shop Employee to Bartender to Ad Agency Hotshot, to Dotcom Layoff he now busts his ass covering the "weird things to do" beat for gracious local audiences at and rallies the Western Addy/Lower Haight/Panhandle neighborhoods into action at His work was published in a real, paper magazine one time. One day he might even figure out how to make money from it.


  1. Kate Kotler - DIY Diva
    December 18, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Awesome tips, Andrew! I wish I’d thought about that mini-bottles of booze thing prior to my 12 hours in airports this past Tuesday…

    Happy holidays from the heartland! (Better known as Ohio.)

  2. December 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Love your idea of the little bottles… this also solves the problem of airport bars that close early, leaving the stranded/delayed traveler with no options to take the edge off before heading to 40,000 feet… Cheers!

  3. December 22, 2009 at 11:20 am

    […] in the run-up to Christmas, maybe you could pop over to Broke-Ass Stuart and check out some tips to Make the Most of Your Probably Miserable Holiday Travel. (Yes, that’s really aggressive self-promotion.) In the meantime, twitter @ Derek and tell […]

  4. Andrew Dalton - Aggressive Panhandler
    December 27, 2009 at 11:15 am

    As a follow-up, I should point out that despite being completely patted down and having my bag rifled through by American Airlines employees before boarding yesterday (Thanks, Underpants Bomber!) there still wasn’t a problem with the mini bottles in my carry on.

  5. February 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Brilliant idea on the mini bottles! Especially ones that won’t get you all kinds of weird looks from the TSA folks. I will try it the next time I fly. Cheers!

  6. […] make you too antsy to sleep, avoid the sugar-laden mojitos in favor of, say, a gin martini. You can bring your own liquor, order a drink from the airplane bar, and/or take advantage of the in-flight beverage service. I […]