No matter how much we love to travel, getting to a destination is often a chore we would rather avoid. Flying these days has lost much of its glamor and can be a real challenge, even for seasoned travelers: cramped spaces, packed and oversold flights, limited amenities, extra charges for everything and often times cranky travelers. But don’t be too discouraged, here are some tricks that can take the drudgery out of “getting there”.
Choose Your Seat Early and Wisely
A window, aisle or bulk head seat can make a big difference no matter what your preference. When booking your flight, try to reserve your seat immediately for the best options. Most airlines offer seat maps for their flights and aircraft or you can check out sites like SeatGuru to help you identify seats with extra legroom, location of power outlets or bathrooms. Make sure you choose wisely: exit seats might come with extra leg space, but they often don’t recline. If your preferred choice is not available, check back 48-24 hours before your flight when airlines tend to release more seats and if that fails, again when you arrive at the airport to check-in. As a last resort, try to move to a more favorable seat when you get on board and ask your flight attendant for help. Unless the flight is completely booked, you might be able to get that coveted aisle seat if you don’t mind moving further back.
Splurge for Extra Leg Room or Business Class
Extra-long flights, particularly those overseas or over-night are killer and can leave you exhausted instead of ready to start enjoying your vacation. Not everybody can afford to fly business class, but if you have frequent flyer miles, saving them to use for an upgrade on those long flights is a great way to put them to use. If this is not possible, consider paying a slight premium for extra legroom, especially if you happen to be on the taller side. Those extra dollars might be well worth it to start your vacation off on the right foot.
Limit Your Carry On
Many people swear by a “carry-on only” to avoid extra charges and the potential for lost luggage, but this can be hard to do for longer vacations and it makes flying, especially if you have connecting flights, more challenging. Consider checking the majority of your belongings and only bring on board a small bag or a backpack with the things you need during the flight, any medication or valuables and perhaps a change of clothes for the unfortunate possibility that your bags do get delayed (they very rarely truly go missing). You will move through the airport and security much easier, be much more comfortable without a large bag by your feet and won’t have to worry about injuring your shoulder by lifting a heavy bag and trying to stuff it into a packed overhead bin.
Up Your Comfort
If you cannot influence your seat size or your leg room, there are still ways to make yourself more comfortable during a flight. It may go without saying, but be sure to wear comfortable clothes and dress in layers, cabins are often too hot or too cold. For longer or overnight flights, bring a neck pillow, an inflatable footrest or a small blanket. A pair of slipper socks is great for walking around the cabin. A large shawl or a wrap is a great accessory which, when rolled up, can double as a mini pillow or as a blanket if there isn’t one available on board. And don’t forget to bring with you a few toiletries: moisturizer, lip balm, tired eye drops, face mist or wipes and even a toothbrush and toothpaste can make you feel like you are (almost) flying business class.
Tune It All Out
To deal with the stresses of flying, it is often helpful to create your own small personal oasis. Pack an eye mask, earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, whether you like to listen to the music or simply drown out the noise from the surrounding environment. These come in especially handy when traveling overnight, you are trying to catch some sleep and fellow passengers are very chatty or use reading lights and bright electronic screens. For some, simply reading a good book, watching a fun movie or playing their favorite video game is the best way to tune it all out and pass the time while in the air. If this is you, make sure you pack them in your carry on and bring an extra battery in case electrical outlets are not available.
Bring Your Own Food
Even if you are not a picky eater, airline food is, at best, tolerable if available at all. Flight delays are also a common occurrence, often times leaving passengers sitting at the gate or on a tarmac starving in addition to being annoyed. Bringing your own meal or some snacks is a great idea whether you pack it at home or purchase at the airport. Consider something that is both enjoyable and healthy and avoid things that require refrigeration, are messy to eat or have a strong smell (out of respect for your fellow passengers). On shorter routes, a few dark chocolate truffles or another favorite treat, can make your flight more enjoyable and go by faster.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Aircraft cabin air is very dry, often leading to that parched and tired feeling. Every flight attendant or those who travel frequently will tell you that their #1 trick for feeling better during and after a flight is to drink a lot of water. Start early and hydrate even before you board the plane. Once on board, try to skip alcohol, no matter how tempting or free and ask for a glass of water instead. Better yet, bring along your own bottle of water, either purchased at the airport or a refillable one from home, so you don’t have to wait until the next beverage service comes around.
Another benefit of drinking a lot of water is that you will be forced to use the bathroom and move around. This is especially important on super long flights and will not only prevent muscle aches and cramps, but it is also an important health consideration for many fliers. Unless you are sleeping, try to get up once an hour even if you do not need to use the bathroom to stretch and increase your circulation. Your body will thank you.
Keep the Kids Happy and Occupied
Traveling with kids is fun, but not always easy. Savvy parents know that kids get cranky or bored even on short flights and the best defense is to come prepared: make sure to pack their favorite snacks, coloring books and pencils, movies or video games. A small surprise toy or a special treat will go a long way, pun intended. Keeping the kids happy and entertained makes the flight better for everyone, parents and fellow passengers alike.
Travel with a Positive Mindset
Last but not least, getting to the airport and on the plane with the right attitude makes all the difference. Keep in mind that even if you are facing long hours in a plane, fight delays or inconsiderate fellow passengers, you are eventually getting to your destination and this is definitely a reason for good mood and celebration. Try to exercise patience, consideration and courtesy. A positive mindset can be infectious.