Secrets to Success

Travel Like an Expert

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Secrets to Success

Travel Like an Expert

Flight attendant Mary Ann Cortese ’20 shares travel advice for your summer vacation.

Summer 2023 | Jessica Walker

In This Article

Saying Mary Ann Cortese ’20 loves to travel is an understatement. An international business graduate, she works as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant based out of Chicago. But even beyond her professional life, she enjoys traversing the country and world, from Poland to Morocco. In fact, while talking with Franciscan Magazine, she was at an airport. Here’s her advice for having a more enjoyable time while planning for and flying to your summer vacation.

1. Protect your money.

“My number one tip if you like to travel is to invest in a travel credit card,” Mary Ann says. “I never use a debit card when I travel. It’s more prone to being hacked, and recovering fraudulent charges on a debit card is infinitely harder than on a credit card.”

You can also bring cash with you to use during your trip. In the event you do need to use an ATM overseas, avoid the ones in stores or on street corners and go to a bank.

2. Pack light.

Airports handle a lot of luggage, especially in the summer. Be sure to hold onto your baggage claim ticket until you have your checked bag in hand. Better yet, Mary Ann suggests packing everything in a hard-shell carry-on—and don’t expand it.

“I’ve seen so many people not be able to fit their carry-on in the overhead bin because they expanded their suitcase,” Mary Ann says. The extra space “might be tempting but trust me, you will overpack every time.”

Instead, put clothes in space saver bags where you can roll out the air. You can also always purchase toiletries or other incidentals at your destination since “there’s always a Walmart, Target, or H&M if you’re abroad.”

3. When going through security, first remove anything on you.

“Take off your shoes, jacket, belt, and put those in a bin before your bags,” Mary Ann says. “Then, while you’re waiting for your bags to go through, you can put your shoes back on.”

If you want an even faster time through security, she recommends getting TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Some travel credit cards may cover your application fee, but you’ll want to check.

4. Visit the airport chapel.

These hidden gems are the quietest places in the airport. Most are interfaith, but some contain a tabernacle or even offer Sunday Mass.

“I always find the chapel and spend a few minutes praying before my flight,” Mary Ann says.

5. Stay hydrated.

“The number one cause of air sickness is dehydration,” she says. “A flight attendant trick is to always drink 12 ounces of water for every hour you’re in the air to prevent nausea, headaches, and getting sick.”

6. Go wander.

Before your trip, download a Google Map of where you’ll be staying to your phone. But otherwise?

“Don’t be afraid to wander,” Mary Ann says. “The world is a lot nicer than it might seem. Ask locals what they recommend visiting or what good restaurants are in town. That’s how I’ve had some of the best adventures.”

Mary Ann Cortese ’20 (left) and Daniela Gonzalez '21 (right) visit Puerto Rico in 2022.

Mary Ann Cortese ’20 (left) and Daniela Gonzalez ’21 (right) visit Puerto Rico in 2022.

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