When you fly, there are dos and don’ts to sharing very limited space with a bunch of strangers. Sky etiquette. Sketiquette, if you will. But even when you’re respectful of the rules of the air, travel by plane can be plain uncomfortable. So we put together our best tips and tricks for making your airport experience — from check-in to baggage claim — as easy and stress-free as possible.
Here are our best travel secrets and hacks:
You Have To Have Known Someone For At Least Three Years To Ask For A Ride To The Airport.
There is a stark difference between a drinking buddy and an airport buddy. The guy on your trivia team who makes you laugh? Skip him. Instead, ask the friends you spend daylight hours with—you know, the friends who you don’t necessarily have to have a drink or an activity lined up with in order to hang out. One exception: someone you’re dating exclusively. I’ve had boyfriends driving me to the airport at month four of exclusive dating. After all, what else are relationships for if not to avoid shelling out for an Uber?
Anyways, your mode of transportation sets the tone for the rest of your trip, so don’t start it off on an awkward note.
Check In Early.
For real. Lines happen. You will save so much grief (and panic about making your flight) if you can skip the long lines to print your tickets and just go straight to baggage drop-off. And thanks to technology, plenty of airlines have apps that make checking in as simple as hitting a few buttons on your phone.
So you can check in while being driven to the airport. Multitasking!
If You’re Checking A Bag, Keep A Change Of Clothes In Your Carry-on.
This is my gift to you, readers. Sh*t happens. Sometimes your bag doesn’t get onto your flight. Sometimes it goes to the wrong city. Sometimes you spill red wine down your front when the jabroni in front of you rams their seat all the way back without checking first. Regardless, sometimes you’ll be stuck with what you have in your carry-on. Having a fresh pair of underwear, socks, and a shirt in your carry-on will do wonders for your mental state if that does happen.
If you have a long layover or a long flight, add refreshing face wipes, a toothbrush, and toothpaste to the mix. Having a clean face and mouth do a lot for your mental well-being when you’re stuck somewhere above Greenland. In addition, having something similar to a night-time routine will help you trick your body into thinking it’s sleepy time.
Don’t Be That Person Who Waits ‘Til The Last Minute To Prepare For the Security Line.
This one is apparently controversial within the travel community, but I am a strong believer in (*Scar voice)* being prepared.
Look, we all know what is going to happen. Laptops out, shoes off. With very few exceptions, you will take your laptops out and your shoes off. Even if you’re new to flying, there are signs, there are other people taking their laptops out and shoes off, there are TSA agents yelling at you.
To make everything smoother and faster, prepare while you’re somewhere relatively far back in the snaking line of bodies. That means unlacing your shoes (and tucking them in if you’re worried about tripping), taking out your laptop and carrying it like a baby, taking out your baggie of liquids. If you do these three very simple things, that means less time scrambling while the TSA agent stares blankly and the woman behind you sighs deeply. Furthermore, if everyone starts preparing while waiting in line, security lines will move so much faster, making everyone’s lives easier.
Kill ‘Em With Kindness.
Yes, air travel can be stressful. And yes, many airlines seem to not really care about us little people. Delays seemingly without reason, rising baggage fees, the cattle-prod that is boarding. It all adds up to what can be a pretty miserable experience. But the people with whom you’re interacting—the gate agents, the people making your coffee, even the customer service representatives—are not the ones putting you through hell, and they definitely don’t get paid enough to be abused when you miss a connection due to a weather delay. There’s also something to be said about the fact that kindness lowers stress, anxiety, and blood pressure. So being nice to people will literally make your day at the airport better and will help you handle the unexpected stresses of flying.
Not that this is why you should be nice, but doing so often has unexpected benefits. Real world example: when a flight of mine was grounded due to weather, I missed my connecting flight and had to wait in a punishingly long customer service line. When it was finally my turn, I was frazzled, to say the least. And when the agent told me that the earliest she could get me to my destination was the next morning, thus guaranteeing I’d miss at least half of my event, I felt like I was at my wit’s end.
Instead of yelling at her, I told her I understood, and I thanked her for helping me. You know, like a human being. In turn, she asked why I was going to my destination, and when I told her, she worked her magic (and bent the rules a bit) and got me on a flight with a different carrier that left half an hour later. Kindness, y’all. It leads to miracles.
Eat Before You Get On Your Flight.
Whether you bring your own snacks to save money (I go for an Italian shorti hoagie from Wawa if I’m feeling saucy, nuts and fruit otherwise) or you cosplay Rich Uncle Pennybags and get a burger and a beer at the airport, eat before you get on the plane. Protein-heavy snacks preferred so that you stay sated.
The benefits are two-fold: you’ll be more relaxed and comfortable if you’ve eaten a decent meal, and you also don’t have to throw elbows at your seat-mate in order to chow down on an overpriced cheese plate.
Drink Water—Before, During, and After.
This is an underrated but essential tip. The nature of air travel — in a pressurized cabin tens of thousands of feet in the air, breathing in very dry recycled air — means that your poor little body, which is roughly 70 percent water, is turning into a raisin as you hurtle across the earth. And dehydration sucks (literally! ha!) the life out of you: it can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, headaches, fatigue. All the stuff that will have you walking off the plane feeling miserable.
So drink up, Johnny, and you’re guaranteed to feel 109 percent better than if you give into the dryness. It’s just science.
There are so many reasons you should wear socks when flying. Practically speaking, walking shoeless through security is one thing, but walking straight-up barefoot is gross. And when you’re on the plane, not only is it common courtesy to keep your feet to yourself—with 87 percent of people saying that your socks should stay on, according to a survey of international travelers—but it’s practical, as well. The difference between trying to keep warm while sockless and keeping warm while you have your little toesies covered is immense, to say the least. Extremities are essential to proper heat regulation, and keeping your socks on will help you fight the deep freeze that comes with being 32,000 feet in the air.
Not only will your neighbors appreciate you, but you’ll also be more comfortable.
At Baggage Claim, Stand Back, You Monsters.
Okay, people. We need to have a come-to-Jesus moment. All of you who crowd around at the carousel are ruining it for the rest of us. If we all stand back, it makes grabbing bags at a moment’s notice easier for everyone—no leaning over a stranger to pull your duffel bag out from the fray, no short passengers standing on tippy-toes to see, for the love of god, is my bag there yet? No missing your bag because some dweeb refuses to move when you tap him on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, sir, excuse me, may I just—I just need—.”
Think of standing back at baggage claim as the zipper merge that will save everyone grief and give you a sense of accomplishment.
Just Freaking Relax.
As Uproxx writer Zachary Johnston points out, “Cultures are too divergent for your ideas and subjective rules to ever matter. I’ve seen a whole plane worth of people sprinting across the tarmac to get a seat on a plane with assigned seats. You gotta be the one who hangs back from the line or the claim, knowing it’s all gonna be good, man.”
At the end of the day, the only thing you can control is yourself, so you might as well just relax. It’s easier said than done, but like we mentioned above, kindness and meditative practices (such as intentional breathing) lower your stress levels. So just chill. Take a deep breath, hang back as people crowd around boarding. Know that you’ll get to where you need to go, except when you won’t. In that case, bummer, but you can rest easy knowing it was outside of your control all along.