Air travel can be stressful but it needn’t be if you plan and prepare in advance. Read through these tips for flying and see how you can reduce the stress and increase the enjoyment of your next long-haul or short-haul flight.
Everything gets easier with experience but unless you’re a frequent flyer or just one of the lucky few who can jet off whenever they want, you probably only fly once or twice a year. This post is aimed at those infrequent air travellers and first time flyers who need a little reminder of how the simplest things can make all the difference.
Consequently, you haven’t had the time to develop the confidence and experience that comes from flying often, and each year you may forget those great tips you learned on the previous journeys and which you resolved to use on your next trip.
These tips for flying will reduce the risk of things going wrong and give you the chance to enjoy the whole trip, right from the moment you leave home and head to the airport to when you reach your ultimate destination.
“What could be simpler?“, you might ask. “Just book the flight, turn up at the airport, and go, right?”
Wrong! Your successful and enjoyable trip should begin with some planning and preparation.
1. Check your luggage allowances
First of all, check the flight details and familiarise yourself with the luggage allowances for both your checked luggage and your carry on bags. These vary from airline to airline but generally speaking, the further you’re flying, the large and heavier the bags you’re allowed. The carry on bag dimensions are as important as the weight as they have to fit into the overhead bins in the cabin.
The seat class will also determine your luggage allowance. First class passengers will obviously have a much larger allowance than those in economy seats. Passengers in Premium Economy, Club, or First Class can have a carry on bag and a handbag.
2. Chose the best seat for you
Next, head over to Seatguru.com and enter your flight details i.e. the airline, date of travel, and flight number, which you’ll find on your booking confirmation. Click the resulting link and you’ll see a seat plan of the specific aircraft for that flight. Note the seats to avoid. The same page will also contain tips and comments about the aircraft and the seats.
Having reviewed the seating situation on the aircraft, head back to your booking and choose a seat, if it allows you to do so. You may have to pay extra for the privilege but at least you can be certain of where you’ll be sitting and if you do so in time you’ll be able to choose one of the better seats. This is your chance to get a window seat, if you want it, or a middle seat if you want your friends and family around you.
The rows of seats just behind the bulkheads are often reserved for parents with small children, so if there is a screaming baby on your long haul flight, that’s probably where it will be. These seats have a fold down table for travel cots in front of them. Flight attendants will help parents position and strap in their infants securely.
3. Check in online
24 hours before the scheduled departure of your flight you should be able to check in online using wither the airline’s website or their app. Do this before you leave for the airport and print off a hard copy of your boarding pass and check to see whether you’re entitled to priority boarding.
4. Use the airline’s app
Download and install the airline’s app. Most airlines now provide one so that frequent travelers can use a digital boarding pass to speed up the processing of passengers through the airport security checkpoints and elsewhere. The app will send you notifications about airlines status updates, gate information at the airport when it’s been announced, reminders about the boarding time, and other useful information about your flight.
5. Pack the carry on bag essentials
Pack your backpack or shoulder bag with whatever you need to make the flight more comfortable; your own snacks, neck pillow, eye drops, eye mask, contact lenses, earphones, any motion sickness medication you may need, hand sanitizer, and all your devices for the entire flight.
You might also want to pack pen, notepad, toothbrush and travel sized toothpaste, breath freshner, and any other toiletries that will help to keep you feeling refreshed.
If it’s a long haul flight then there should be some inflight entertainment for you. Short haul flight aircaft often don’t have any and sometimes the flights are up to 4 hours long, so you may want to bring your own entertainment for the optimum flight experience.
6. Plan your journey to the airport
When to set off to the airport will depend on several factors, including the distance, the time of the flight, the weather, the time of year, etc. It can be stressful to be stuck on the motorway due to an accident, incident, or eco protesters blocking the road, with the risk that you’ll miss your flight if the traffic doesn’t start moving soon.
So check the status of the roads along the route and allow enough time to reach the airport, park, and get to the check in desk in good time.
When you get to the airport, remember where you’ve parked. Take a photo of your vehicle in its parking spot. If you’re using valet parking or a meet & greet service then all you have to do is put the receipt somewhere safe so that you have it ready on your return.
7. Stay hydrated
Anyone who has ever flown knows that it can be a tiring experience. From the long lines at security to the narrow seats on a cramped plane and seemingly endless delays, it’s no wonder that many people find themselves feeling fatigued by the time they reach their destination.
One of the best ways to combat fatigue is to keep yourself hydrated. Although it may seem counterintuitive to drink water when you’re already feeling bloated from sitting in a small space for hours, the truth is that dehydration can actually make you feel even more tired.
Drinking water helps to keep your energy levels up and prevents your body from becoming overheated, both of which are important when you’re sitting in a stuffy recycled air of an airplane cabin in reduced air pressure. Hydration can help alleviate jet lag too.
The time to star the process of hydration is before the flight so that you just have to sip water to stay hydrated in the dry air of the aircraft’s cabin. So drink plenty before the flight.
8. Book a room at the airport hotel
Poor weather, traffic jams due to holiday weekends, and other factors can also add to the stress, so sometimes the best option, particularly for long haul flights, is to go to the airport the day before and stay overnight in one of the airport hotels.
Obviously this incurs more expense but a single night at an airport hotel is well worth it if your flight leaves at any time in the morning, or even early afternoon.
Being able to complete the journey to the airport, park your car, and knowing that all you have to do is walk over to the check in desk the following morning is one more stage completed and out of the way.
9. Dress for comfort
Air travel can be a cramped and uncomfortable experience, especially if you’re not dressed for the occasion and you’re stuck in coach. While there’s no need to break out your Sunday best, there are certain items of clothing that can help to make the experience more bearable.
Firstly, it’s important to wear something comfortable. Loose-fitting clothes made from natural fabrics are ideal, as they won’t cause you to overheat or become uncomfortable during the flight.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to wear layers. The temperature on an airplane can be unpredictable, so having a cardigan or scarf to hand can help you to stay comfortable.
10. Wear the flight socks
We can all agree that they’re a pain to put on and they don’t look cool, but DVT is a reality and they help to reduce the risk. They are difficult to put on if you’re already aboard so if you can, put them on before you reach the airport.
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a condition that can occur when blood clots form in the deep veins of the body, usually in the legs. These clots can be dangerous because they can break off and travel to the lungs, where they can cause a pulmonary embolism, or PE.
While DVT is most commonly seen in people who are immobile for long periods of time, such as those who are hospitalized or have limited mobility, it can also occur in healthy individuals during extended periods of travel, such as during a long flight.
Flight socks are designed to apply gentle pressure to the ankle and calf muscles, helping to keep the blood flowing and reduce the risk of clot formation.
11. Check for lounge access
Once you’ve dropped off your bags it’s time to join the security line. If you have a priority pass you might be able to reduce the waiting time and breeze through the security checkpoint.
Once through airport security, now is the time to make use of that lounge access if you have it. Many airlines have their own lounges and your app may guide you to this. There are also general lounges at some airports.
Most airports have at least one lounge for those who want to wait in peace and quiet rather than walk around the duty free shops. There they can enjoy free food and alcoholic beverages while they wait for the flight to be called. Lounges and seating areas in most airports now have power ports for recharging laptops and smartphones.
12. All aboard
Whether your relaxing in the lounge or out in the shops, eventually your flight’s gate number will appear on the departures board. Double check this number as gates can be a few minutes walk away.
There’s no point in killing more time in the shopping area now, so it’s a good idea to head straight for the gate. Besides, there will be more seats there and it’s a quieter place to sit until you hear the flight attendant call your group number or seat number for boarding.
13. Join the airline loyalty scheme
It’s no secret that airline loyalty schemes can be quite beneficial for travelers. After all, who doesn’t love a free upgrade or a discount on their next flight? But what exactly are the benefits of using an airline loyalty scheme?
First and foremost, loyalty schemes can help you save money on air travel. By accruing points or miles, you can often get discounts on future flights or upgrades to first or business class. In addition, loyalty schemes can make traveling more convenient.
For example, some schemes offer priority boarding or access to exclusive airport lounges. And of course, let’s not forget the most important benefit of all: free stuff!
Many airline loyalty programs offer perks like free checked bags, complimentary meals and drinks, and even free tickets after you reach a certain number of points. So next time you’re debating whether or not to join an airline loyalty scheme, remember all of the great benefits that come with being a member.