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 AccessSure, 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.
Get a Monthly WiFi PlanI'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 JerkI 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.