Tens of millions of Americans are going to be traveling this summer for vacations short and long. Here are some tips to possibly make your next flight a little bit easier.
10. Learn To Pack
This may seem obvious, but it’s is always shocking to see the amount of sh*t people try to bring on the plane, much less carry on. [Note: I once saw a couple trying to board a flight with NINE bags between them. They were shocked when the air crew at the gate kindly reminded them they were only allowed two each.] Know what you’re allowed to carry on, check, and what you’ll have to pay to do so. It’s on you to learn this, don’t count on air crew to check your bag for free at the gate. That’s a big roll of the dice.
It’s actually pretty easy to travel light, particularly because you can buy literally everything you need in any city big enough to have an airport. Rick Steves reminds us to avoid bringing toiletries — you don’t need your favorite brands, just hit a drug store when you get to town. Also remember: You can do laundry everywhere you go.
9. Skip The TSA
The American TSA is legendary for its inefficiency. Generally speaking, security lines are not a problem outside of America. Either you’ll find gate point security, which is much more efficient, or you’ll find central point security that is amazingly efficient.
If you’re already shelling out to fly somewhere, why not also pay to be in a program that allows you to skip the lines?
8. Consider Lounges
Another way to skip the lines, or at least avoid the worst of them, are airport lounges. Most business class lounges will allow single use access with a prepaid voucher. Once inside the lounge you’ll be treated to an open bar for food and drink, free wifi, and private restrooms (which often have showers). You’ll also have a scheduler that will assure you make your flight on time, and more often than not, a private security line near the lounge.
A Single Visit Pass for a Delta Sky Club is $59. A one day pass for American Airline’s lounges will set you back $50. You were probably going to spend that much at Chili’s anyway. It’s a small price to pay for comfort and peace of mind.
7. Bring Your Own Food (And Water)
If you don’t go to a lounge, think about eating your own food. Airline food is generally not what you want to be putting your body at 35,000 feet (unless you’re in first class). Also, you may not want to rage too hard. Sure, have a few glasses of wine or beer to unwind, but don’t over do it.
Pack a sandwich and some fruit (but do consider their odors and the fact that you’ll be eating them in a can in the sky). You’ll feel a lot better with fresh homemade food than anything you’ll get served on board. Pack a small reusable water bottle and fill it up after security. Drink it. Then fill it again before you get on the plane. If you forget your water bottle, buy one — water is the key to life, especially the life of the traveler.
6. Earn Miles
This is the best way to be treated better when you fly. Pick an airline (and group) and stick with them. Miles are what make you a good customer. Airlines love good customers.
Miles can be used for free upgrades, hotels, car rentals, free tickets, free lounge access, and tons of merchandise. Some even have a cash back program. Read: They’ll literally give you cash. Be loyal to the airline, and they’ll reward that loyalty.
Tracking miles is one of those habits that’s inexplicably hard to pick up (chalk it up to human laziness), but once you start seeing the dividends, you’ll kick yourself for all the miles you’ve ever missed out on.
5. Shop Prices
There are lots of ideas floating around out there when it is best to buy a ticket, but these algorithms are evolving constantly and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. There is no one set time when tickets are going to be magically cheaper than any other time. Here’s the basic rule: plan ahead and you’ll save money.
Check Kayak and Momondo and compare fares. Start six months out and watch the trends. Sign up for email alerts. Sure, finding the best price takes a little work, but if you’re savvy, you can save a lot of money.
4. Know Your Airport
We all have our home airports. Knowing where they are, what it takes to get to and from them, and what they have on site is crucial. Then do a little research and look into the airport you’ll be landing at.
Let’s say you don’t have time to pack your own food. Don’t. But know where to eat or get food and drink at your airport. Maybe your TSA-PreCheck hasn’t come in yet. Look at the choke points for security at your airport. Maybe there’s a terminal that has fewer gates and a shuttle to all the other terminals you can access, thus allowing you to go through the smallest security line. Lastly, know where you can relax. If you’re not into the lounges, find a quiet corner and make it your home. Major hubs always have areas near the ends of terminals with large lounging chairs or even couches (Heathrow T5, Changi, and Schiphol are especially good with this). Rest when you need to rest, and know where you can do it.
3. Make Friends
Here’s a shocking bit of advice. Don’t be an ass. Befriending the cabin crew is probably the best tactic you can employ. Don’t ask for frivolous bullsh*t to be brought to you immediately. Let them do their jobs. Stay out of their way, smile, and keep it simple.
If you have your own food, mention it when they bring the first drink. If you want to sleep the whole time, let them know and they’ll leave you alone. Communicate with them, and they’ll make your life easier on the plane.
2. Exercise And Rest
A lot of bad things can happen to us if we stay seated for long periods of time. We’re not saying to bust out a yoga mat and dive into a downward dog here (although, if you do, please send pictures). But stretch in your seat. Get up and do a lap around the plane (especially on long hauls).
Learn to sleep on planes. If you’re flying long haul, you need to rest. Try to book tickets for overnight flights heading west to east. You’ll get on the plane tired, they’ll dim the lights, and you’ll land in the early a.m. If you can sleep, this will be your jam.
1. Have A Jet Lag Plan!
Too many vacations become a miserable slog through restless nights and dreary days. It can make or break a trip. Jet lag is a pain in the ass, but it is easily avoidable with a few simple practices.
When flying west to east, turn off the screen when the lights dim on the plane, and bring a pair of sunglasses. Generally, wear them from the time you land for the first four-ish hours. Then wear them again two hours before the sun goes down. If you do that for two days, you should have zero jet lag. When flying east to west, you’ll want to bask in light. This can be very difficult in the winter months. But you’ll want to do some sun bathing early in the morning and before the sun sets. Some people will go to a tanning bed for a 45 minute session in the morning and before sunset. You’re resetting your body’s reaction to light, so you have to be diligent. It works 100% of the time. It was devised by NASA to allow astronauts to overcome jet lag while flying around the planet to different bases. So, yeah, it works.