5 Simple Ways to Make Air Travel More Fun

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the last year or so, I have traveled somewhat extensively. While I'm not one of these people who spends a majority of the year on the road, by the end of 2013 I will have amassed more than 50 hotel nights (mostly at the same chain) and roughly 20 to 25 roundtrip flights.

The travels reaffirm several obvious points: Try to stay at the same hotel, as to become a regular; buy a solid pair of noise-canceling headphones (I have Bose ear buds); don't take red eye or early morning flights (they can make you less productive); and, as much as you prefer a window seat, never sit anywhere but on the aisle (I like to pee freely and stretch often).

But then there are other not-so-apparent and, admittedly, not quite as useful tidbits of randomness you pick up along the way. But that doesn't disqualify them as meaningful. They matter, particularly if you want to enhance what can be a major beat-down of an experience. Or take advantage of modern conveniences and the wonders of our technologically-advanced society.

Pay for Special Access

Sure, the airlines might be screwing us, particularly if you remember the days when first class merely meant a better meal, not a better life, but you're not changing the industry so play the game.

I risk spoiling myself because, when I travel on my own dime, I usually still spring for the perks, but toss caution to the wind.

Here's how I rationalize paying for Main Cabin Select upgrades and the occasional first class upgrade on Virgin America.

My company pays for my base fare in a regular coach seat. I don't think it would be right to charge them for any extras so ... I figure, because I am not paying for the ticket, I can drop a couple extra bucks -- typically less than the cost of the fare -- on the upgrade. And, these days, at least on Virgin, an upgrade means more than a better seat. In fact, the better seat is really not even the headline.

More legroom and free food across the board is fantastic, but priority access through airport security and first-on, first-off privileges at boarding and deplaning make any price an airline decides to charge worth it. The preference at security literally allows you to leave 30 to 60 minutes later for the airport. And, without doubt, it's easier to get work done in a better seat, particularly when in first class.

Get a Monthly WiFi Plan

I'm sure others exist, but GoGo seems to be the most popular and widely accessible company providing in-flight WiFi access.

It seems, however, that on every flight I take the a la carte options change. Five bucks for an hour, $20 for an entire flight and so on. I don't even remember what I pay for my monthly, unlimited access GoGo subscription, but it's worth it. No hassles. No deciding which plan to go with. I just fire up my browser, log-in and I'm online for as long as I need to be.

Don't Be a Jerk

I shouldn't be surprised, but a considerable number of flyers are complete jerks in the airport and/or on the airplane. They show zero respect for the crews who work the gates and aircrafts. In fact, I've seen such annoyingly horrible examples of rudeness recently I had to put every ounce of restraint I have into not calling out the perp or perps.

Anyway, be nice to people and you might receive direct and/or indirect air travel-related karma.

Case in point: On two flights in a row this past summer, the crew at the gate called me to the podium to ask if I would mind switching from row three to row 10 (these are the two Main Cabin Select rows on Virgin America) so a family could sit together. On each occasion, it took all of half a second for me to say "sure, no problem."

The crew member, most expressively the first time, seemed stunned that I was so cooperative. In fact, he couldn't say enough about my gracious, immediate and no-questions-asked response. That got me, without even asking, a $100 travel credit.

I didn't do anything to deserve the $75 delay credit that mysteriously showed up in my account after being grounded in San Francisco for a few hours last month, but I'm convinced it was some sort of cosmic reward for not complaining and grumping around like so many other passengers were that day.

Keep Your Shoes On

The number of people who take their shoes off on flights is out of control these days. It's not simply that a person decides to remove his or her shoes, it's the brazen display for stinky, disgusting, dirty and/or worn out socks and stockings that quickly becomes the issue. Quite a few even commit the same or similar offenses in bare feet.

This doesn't fly in restaurants, bars, on public transportation or in taxi cabs so I'm not sure why we have come, as a society, to think it's perfectly fine while flying in a compartment of recycled air and poor temperature control.

I state that following this directive can "make air travel more fun" because your fellow passengers will not look to you -- without saying a word in most cases -- as part of the problem in air travel these days.

I've Finally Found a Use for Klout

It's still the biggest waste of venture capital in the history of Silicon Valley, but I finally found something that makes the Klout app somewhat worthy of your time.

Consistent with the vainglorious name dropping and status pumping that defines Klout, at least this feature kills some time, plus it works in conjunction with the excellent Foursquare app. And I don't recall having to set it up; for better or worse, Klout and Foursquare appear to connect automatically.

When you check-in at a place, Foursquare lists Klout users who are also or were recently at the same place. This works best at airports. I presume big ones, such as JFK, LAX and SFO where I have most often killed time by looking at the rundown, complete with Klout scores, of people also on my turf.

Most recently, I felt the presence of big-time venture capitalist Fred Wilson at JFK and, coincidentally, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley at SFO, I think.

Bonus: Refrain From Redeeming Points

By sticking to one airline and one hotel chain (or loyalty program) as much as possible, you accumulate tons of points. It's damn tempting to blow them prematurely. Don't do it.

Several years ago, I had a ton of American Airlines and Marriott hotel points I couldn't resist spending. When I started traveling frequently again, I had to start from scratch.

Now that I have "status" with Virgin and the realistic possibility of hitting 1,000,000 points in my hotel club by the end of 2014, I want to keep collecting points. With points come rewards, personal perks you never expected (often at check-in) and more points. They add up. Fast. And, if you're patient, hoarding points now can lead to an epic vacation or free travel if you ever lose your job later.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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