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I’ve been wanting to do my top travel tips for a while now.
Mostly because I finally got my mother to agree to come on a long deserved vacation with me in New Zealand for 3 weeks, but nonetheless!
These are my top travel tips for air travel, i.e. flying. There are very precise ways that I’ve found to have comfortable flights in economy class. Aside from upgrading to business-class or first-class, if you follow some of these tips, I hope you’ll be slightly more comfortable, too.
Keep your carry-on to one small, compact bag!
If you absolutely can’t get your luggage down to one carry-on bag (which I highly suggest but sometimes it’s not feasible) and you need at least one checked bag on long international flights, keep your carry-on to one small and compact bag. Find a bag, whether it’s a messenger bag or small backpack, that won’t be a hinderance to your leg space incase there’s not room in the overhead bin right above you.
My favorite is Arcteryx 19 liter packs or Osprey 18 liter packs. My usual gear website I use generally has great deals on Arcteryx here, and if you keep your eye out, you can get a great deal on a 19 liter pack for travel purposes.
It really helps if you can actually fit your entire carry-on into your checked bag when you arrive, too. Also, you don’t need a computer bag, a hefty purse, or any other random doohickey to burden you while you’re getting ready to hang out in a somewhat uncomfortable chair for the next 12 hours.
Pack a scarf and an extra hoody/sweater into your carry-on (or just wear the extra hoody and shove a few things in the pockets).
The sweater is for extra warmth on the plane when you’re sleeping. The blankets they give you are fairly thing and flimsy. Here’s a link to cheaper jackets that are great for traveling.
For the scarf, I use a shemagh but really, it can be any kind of thin fabric with a large circumference when unfurled and packs up very small. You can use it for a towel, a neck pillow, a lumbar support for your back, a strap to tie random objects you like to have handy to the back of the seat in front of you, and many other uses you can think of. I’ve even used it as a clothes hanger in the bathroom to hang clothes on while changing.
Pack some healthy snacks.
My usual snacks consist of assorted roasted nuts, granola bars, dried bananas, and a few other staples. Clif Bars are usually a staple for me and ordering online through their website by the box while you’re still at home is incredibly cheaper than buying them at an airport. Airline food is notoriously fatty and can definitely make for a rough flight.
Of course, you need a full meal when you’re on a 12 hour flight and they usually give you 2 meals, along with various snack that’ll bog you down, too. I usually eat my healthier snacks that aren’t going to upset my stomach during the duration of my flight until the meal closest to my arrival time arrives.
This will help you get a full meal right before you’re on solid ground, giving you enough energy to sift through various taxis and make it to your accommodations without the need to stop at the closest fast food place you see at your arrival airport.**Another neat trick is to opt for the Asian/Vegetarian meal option when you’re purchasing your ticket. You usually get served first, the meal is generally better quality since they make far fewer, and it’s hardly ever overly greasy or gut-wrenching.
Bring a two-prong headphone jack adapter for the plane.
Some airlines don’t have the connection for your headphones that a regular headset has, mostly to get you to use their headphones or buy a pair on the plane.
Or you can buy an adapter for four or five bucks back home and not have to worry about it. Trust me, kids screaming for 12 hours a few rows back without a way to plug in your trusty headphones is not ideal for your mental stability when you’re 30,000 feet in the air.
Try to ask the lady at the counter when you get to your gate to find you an aisle seat, if you don’t have one already.
Some people like the window and that’s fine. Being stuck in a window seat with two larger men sitting between you and the aisle so you can go take a leak makes for a challenging few minutes.
Tumbling over the 2 people sitting next to you, especially if they won’t move/asleep, disturbs everyone else around you, too. Don’t be that guy.
Don’t be afraid of the stewards on your plane.
They’re there to help you so if you have an issue, such as your headphones are broken that the airline gave you, just ask them. I’ve never had a purposefully nasty stewardess yell at me for a small complaint.
Also, be kind to the people waiting on you in the air. While you’re likely on your way to your vacation, this is what they do for a living. They’re working while you’re being hoisted across the planet and the more kind you are to them, the more likely they are to help you.
As a testament to this, I once had a flight that a very rude person was being extremely demanding about their seat options. They really wanted an aisle seat and wouldn’t settle for less so to mitigate the situation, I gave up my seat. An hour later, the stewardess came up to me and said that she found a whole row for me. She also gave me a complimentary cheese and fruit tray. An exorbitant $14 in savings for just not being a jerk!
Bring an e-reader, not a book!
There’s nothing more annoying to me when I’m sitting next to someone that insists on reading a book for 12 hours. Since they don’t have a handy e-reader, they always have their overhead light shining brightly on my face while I’m trying to sleep.
E-readers are getting cheaper and cheaper everyday and it’s much less cumbersome carrying around a small electronic device with hundreds of books stored on it than a few books that only weigh your bag down.
Sleeping mask and ear plugs
This next one is a must-have and also applies to the previous tip. Make sure you have a comfortable sleeping mask and ear plugs.
You can sleep incredibly poor on planes, or exceedingly well. Every time I have a bad night’s sleep on a plane is because I forgot either my sleeping mask, my ear plugs, or both. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT skip this one.
Bring a charger for your media device that has a usb plugin.
Usually the bigger planes have one usb port you can use to charge whatever device you brought with you. I usually just keep it in my pocket for easy access but storing it in your bag is fine, too.
Prebook an airport lounge.
When you’re going on long-haul flights that have a long layover somewhere, prebook an airport lounge so you have a quiet place with free food, beverages galore, and free wifi. There’s an upfront fee (around 40-50 USD) but there’s nothing better than looking forward to an airport lounge for that 10 hour layover you still have ahead of you.
I was generally against spending any extra money in airports for any reason, especially just to sit around in a lounge, until about 6 months ago. I got first class tickets through my miles (YAY travel hacking!) from Colombia to Miami–>Miami to Dallas–>Dallas to SLC for fewer miles than it usually would’ve costed.
I had to hang out in the Bogota International Terminal for 5 hours before my flight and was treated to everything that’s included with airport lounges, effectively changing my tune. To top it off, my flight was delayed getting into Miami, which made me miss my connection flight. That airport lounge saved the day again.Airport lounges usually have showers, too. Freshen up after that 10 hour flight! You deserve it. While you’re at it, take two of those free big water bottles for the road!
Change into your pajamas on long-haul flights.
And my last tip, which may be a strange one, that helps me stay efficiently relaxed traveling on a plane for several hours is to keep to your routine at home. If you sleep in pajamas, don’t hesitate to change into them instead of wafting in your regular clothes until arrival.
This will help tremendously when you’re trying to get some sleep, as a belt and a constricting flannel, that I usually wear on a daily basis, aren’t necessarily meant to sleep in. I also brush my teeth, floss, and read for a bit, just like I do at home before bed time. Many people have mentioned how strange this is but trust me, anything helps when you’re hurtling through the air half way across the world.
There you have it! I have loads more tips for travelers in the sky but I feel these are my biggest recommendations. If you have any other tips, put them in the comments! I’ll update the post as I see fit if I find a particularly useful tip from one of you.