One of my favorite things in the world is traveling and experiencing other cultures. After starting my corporate job in 2014, I’ve been all over the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and China. And when I was living in Hawaii, I can’t even count how many trips I made back to the mainland. During my travels I’ve experienced the good and the bad and I’m hoping the following travel tips will help limit some discomfort so you can have the best air travel experience ever.
Planning your flight
- Beware of short connection times. If the connection time is less than an hour, don’t book that flight! You’ll be regretting it if your flight is 20 minutes late and you have to run clear across an airport to get to your gate.
- Choose your seats. Make sure you choose your seat ahead of time, or you may end up at the back of the plane in a middle seat that doesn’t recline.
- Sign up for frequent flyer miles. Don’t let those miles go to waste! I can’t tell you how many trips I’ve paid for by using miles.
- Get TSA Pre✓. This is basically a stamp of approval from TSA, saying they’ve done background tests and believe you are safe. To get TSA Pre✓ approval, go to the TSA government website to fill out an application. If approved, you’ll go to an application center with some documents, go through an interview process (basic questions), and pay a fee. As long as you don’t give them cause for concern, you’re all set! From then on, when you print out your boarding pass, it will say “TSA Pre✓” and you’ll be able to take the fast line at the airport, go through security faster, and you don’t need to remove your shoes or take anything out of your bag. If you travel a lot, it’s one more thing that takes away the anxiety of travel and totally worth it. Just remember there is a possibility you may be searched. It’s not a get-out-of-security-free card.
- If traveling internationally, make a copy of your passport and keep it separate from your real passport. If the real one gets lost, you’ll have a way to identify yourself and make the process of getting back home easier.
Getting ready for your trip
- Plan ahead for parking. Parking in the airport, though convenient, can be extremely expensive. If you’re leaving for more than a couple days, opt for an off-site airport parking company. Book online in advance for a better rate.
- Carry-On! I’m a big fan of carry-on baggage only, which I’ve been able to accomplish most of the time. However, once when I was flying home from Germany I had no choice but to check a bag. And my suitcase of personal items was lost. Not just for a couple days. FOREVER. And the $ they refunded me was not worth the countless phone calls, paperwork and stress. So if you can, avoid baggage loss and carry on.
- Maximizing Space. Roll your clothes to maximize space. Stuff underwear and socks in your shoes, and pack all liquids in a plastic bag, making sure they are under 3.4 ounces if you are carrying on. Buy travel size containers and refill them for each trip.
- Plan for lost luggage. If you do plan to check a bag, pack an extra change of clothes and other important items in your carry on, including toothbrush, glasses, phone charger, deodorant, jewelry, etc. If your check-on bag is lost, you’ll be able to get by for a day or two without too much of a hassle.
- What to wear to the airport. Wear shoes that you can easily slip on and off. Bring an socks, headphones, and a sleep mask and/or earplugs so you can sleep peacefully on the plane.
- Be aware of paperwork. If traveling internationally, make sure you are aware of any paperwork you need to bring with you to get back in the country. Hang on to any custom forms, baggage claim tickets, or boarding passes, until you’ve safely arrived at home.
Travel tips on the plane
- Baggage Etiquette– Most of the time, you’ll want to put your roller bags with the wheels towards the outside. Turn them on their side if you can so there is more room for others’ bags. If you have a backpack or small personal item, put it under the seat in front of you. When getting on a plane, the key is to move as quickly as efficiently as possible so people aren’t waiting behind you.
- Check for a headrest. Some planes have a headrest on each seat that can be pulled out. Many people don’t know about these so be sure to check your seat!
- Stuck in the middle seat? I love this rule about armchairs- the person in the middle seat gets both. I found this and many other travel tips in this awesome book- Pougue’s Basics Life: Essential Tips and Shortcuts.
- Maximize your time. One thing I enjoy about flying is my time to read books I’ve been wanting to read, learning something new, or practicing my (very elementary) Japanese. Bring your tablet, read some books, do homework, or just sit back and enjoy a movie or two.
- Charge all electronics. Some planes have chargers at the bottom of the seat in front of you so be sure to bring your regular 2 prong plugs. First class will most likely have USB inputs.
- Drink smart. While flying, avoid soda and alcohol, and drink plenty of water. Flying can dehydrate you and make jet lag even worse. If you need extra flavor, add a lemon.
- Move around. If you’re on a long flight, try and get up and move about every hour or two. If you don’t want to bother the person next to you, try to get an aisle seat.
Avoiding jet lag
- Know the rules. If it’s going to be daylight when you arrive in your destination, sleep on the plane. If it’s going to be nighttime when you arrive to your destination, try to stay awake on the plane. When you’re flying west, it’s easier to acclimate to the time change. If you’re flying east, it’s more difficult.
- Adjust your sleep schedule. Before you leave, adjust your sleep time. If heading east, go to bed one hour earlier for a few nights. If heading west, go to bed 1 hour later for a few nights. When you arrive at your destination, get synced with the new time as soon as possible. If you arrive in the day, don’t take a nap. Daylight can help set your internal clock so get out in the sun. And try to stay awake and go to bed at the new destination’s normal bedtime.
- Opt for overnight flights. Overnight flights work well for jet lag. You’ll most likely eat dinner at the normal time and sleep when you would normally sleep.
- Stay hydrated. Again, drink water and keep alcohol to a minimum, which will help to avoid jet lag.
- Eat healthy. Eat fruits and vegetables, and avoid fried or fast food. There are a lot of options at airports nowadays; you just need to be a little more picky with your choices. Consider bringing your own snacks for the plane; nuts or protein bars work well.
If you want to explore travel tips further, this website covers a TON of awesome tips for travelers…independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/air-travel
Book that flight already!
If you travel a lot, I hope these travel tips will help you on your next adventure. And if you haven’t traveled much, what are you waiting for? Traveling, especially internationally, has given me SO much joy, soul searching and an understanding for different cultures and people. It’s easy to get stuck in our daily lives and forget that the rest of the world doesn’t live as we do, and traveling puts things into perspective. It has certainly changed me as a person and I hope to continue to travel more and more. I hope you do the same. =)