10 Holiday Travel Tips

MotoGP world champion shares his frequent-flyer tricks for getting from one place to another comfortably.

Nicky Hayden asleep on a plane

This time of year, airports are crowded with people heading off to visit loved ones for the holidays. The prospect of air travel can be downright daunting, but veterans eventually develop tricks that make the process more bearable. While racing the MotoGP circuit over the past 11 years, Nicky Hayden has logged too many air miles to count, so if you want to arrive at grandma’s with some holiday cheer still intact, read on for the 2006 world champ’s best advice.

1. Ride red: They're not for everybody, but if you're someone who's able to sleep on planes, give red-eye flights a try. The way I see it, you've got to sleep anyway, so flying overnight just lets you kill two birds with one stone.

2. Lighten up: Pack light—and I'm talking to you, too, ladies! If you're only going away for a week, it's not necessary to bring your whole closet. In addition to the excess-baggage fees, hauling a ton of stuff isn't worth the hassle, especially if you have to ride trains or shuttles, or if you're booked in an old European hotel with no elevator. Colin Edwards has this down; I'm not sure how he does it, but I've seen him at airports for back-to-back races outside Europe with only a carry-on. I'm not saying to run the same underwear the whole time—I normally get my laundry done at the hotel—but I do go for black and gray T-shirts, as you can get more days out of them than, say, red. There's nothing like coming home from a month-long trip and having to spend half a day unpacking three gear bags!

3. Limits to loyalty: Depending on the day, most of the airlines' service is about the same—even with the companies I love, sometimes I'll get an old plane or a bad crew. When possible, I'll fly Star Alliance or OneWorld because those points add up, but I pay more attention to things like the route.

4. Transition mission: I look for transfers that aren't too tight or too long, and I also consider the airports; I've had to spend a few unplanned nights in Atlanta, whereas internationally, the German airports tend to run smoothest. Also, if I have a choice, I'll go for the transfer that's closer to my destination—for example, for Valencia, I'll choose a transfer in Barcelona over Paris. That works better when all else fails and you have to drive.

5. Food fails: Once you've had food poisoning while traveling, you start reevaluating what you eat on a plane. I got salmonella once on my way back from a PR event in Russia, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it home! I was curled up in a ball from Paris to Cincinnati, and I was so out of it when I came through security that I took my computer out of my carry-on and forgot to pick it back up off the belt on the other side! Now, I try to eat before I get on a flight, especially when I'm going to a race or a test; if I'm on my way home, I might live a little more dangerously, but I definitely stay away from fish.

6. Class act: I'm fortunate that I generally get to travel in the business section, but that's not always the case. Of course, it's best to be up front when you can, but truthfully, business can be a bit overrated; a lot of times, there's not really that much difference for the price—especially if you're asleep!

7. No skinny jeans!: Assuming you're not headed to a job interview, you don't have to impress anyone. Obviously, you don't want to look like a slob, but if you've got to be on a plane for hours and hours, you might as well wear comfortable shoes and pants.

8. Room for improvement: I'm not really picky with hotels, but I prefer a room that's not right next to the elevator, as there tends to be a ruckus there. It's also nice to have a gym, which isn't always easy to find in some parts of the world, but the main thing is a comfortable bed. Speaking of which, I'm not a fan of the rice pillows that some of the hotels in Japan have. For those trips, I just take along the oldest pillow off my bed and then leave it in the hotel when I come home.

9. App-propos: If you're traveling abroad, I definitely recommend WhatsApp, Viber or Skype, because international calling and texting can run up your phone bill in a hurry. As long as you can find a Wi-Fi connection, you're basically getting free phone calls.

10. Charge it: Some people download a bunch of books and movies for flights, but I don't like to carry bags full of electronics and adapters—usually just my phone and computer. I always charge my phone up completely in the car on the way to the airport, as there's nothing like starting a trip with a dead battery. By the way, if you're reading this while killing time in an airport and have your own tip, let me know. You're never too experienced to learn a new trick!

Nicky Hayden will race a Honda RCV1000R for the Aspar Team in MotoGP next season. Keep up with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Another hotel, another room-service breakfast.

In line for morning coffee...

Hayden with his father, Earl.

Travel motto: Hurry up and wait.

Hayden follows the Army's advice: "Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep."