17 Tips for Stress-Free Flying
Become an Expert Jet-Setter
Unless you are happy sticking to the confines of your own continent, if you want to travel you’ll need to fly. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself in an airport, baggage in tow and passport in hand, about to negotiate the hurdles air travel can bring.
Despite being far quicker than any other form of transport, getting from A to B via aircraft brings with it a whole host of extra worries for everyone from novice travelers to nomads.
Airports seem to be designed as elaborate exercises in stress management, turning normal human beings into anxious, irritable bundles of nerves. Between the lines, hidden charges and flying fears, prepare to have your patience and travel know-how tested.
To take the stress out of flying and make your journey go a little smoother, there are a few tips for flying you might like to know.
Roll your clothes to save on space and pack smaller items into your shoes. Put bulkier items like shoes and jacket at the bottom of your suitcase (by the wheels) to make it easier to roll when upright.
Use these tips for packing lighter to make the most of your space (and leave enough room for souvenirs to bring back!). Packing cubes are also helpful for organization and to condense items better so your suitcase will close easier.
Fly on a Cheap Day
If your travel dates are flexible, it’s best to fly out on one of the cheaper days for air travel. Depending on where you look, the cheapest days are usually Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Flights can often be up to 20% cheaper when leaving on these days, which is a nice chunk of change that can be used for other travel-related expenses. Plus, it’s always nice to know the inside secrets on how to get the best travel deals when booking your trip.
Check for Hidden Fees
Before the day of your flight even arrives, make sure there are no sneaky revenue-gathering traps set up by your airline. Booking the cheapest ticket is great, but be aware that budget airlines often charge extra for things like checking in at the airport, or even printing your boarding pass for you.
Seats, meals and checked baggage can all come at extra cost. The good news is you can usually add them to your booking beforehand. Sorting all this out a day or two before you fly saves you any nasty surprises at the airport.
Check In Online
Instead of waiting in long lines at the airline check-in counter, check in online where you can also pre-purchase checked bags if necessary. Check-in normally starts 24 hours in advance of a flight, but may vary for discount or international airlines.
Don’t forget to figure out whether you can store your boarding passes on your phone (usually in an app) or whether you have to print them out.
Pick Your Seat
While some airlines charge extra for picking your own seat, most of the time it’s worth it, especially for longer flights or red-eyes. To ensure you get to keep your carry-on with you, choose a seat in the back.
For a quieter ride, pick a seat toward the front of the plane, away from the engines, and on an aisle. To get more legroom, choose an exit row or Economy Plus seat.
If you are checking in at the airport, you mustn’t underestimate the power of the check-in team. If you know you would feel more comfortable in a window seat, or if you have a strong preference for an aisle seat, let them know. A polite smile and a friendly attitude can go a long way, especially if you are honest about being a nervous flyer.
Check Luggage Restrictions
Airlines rely on additional baggage charges. Make sure you have read the baggage allowances carefully, both checked and carry-on. If you have opted for carry-on only to save on the cost of hold luggage, check your bag against the size specifications to make sure you won’t run into any trouble at the airport.
Similarly, weigh any checked bags before you arrive at the airport to avoid the trauma of having to pay extra fees — or worse, to have to frantically repack in front of the entire check-in line. Showing a whole bunch of people your underwear probably won’t do much to help your stress levels.
Give Yourself Lots of Time
The key to keeping stress to a minimum in airports is to give yourself plenty of time to get through each step. Airports breed lines, and lines breed frustration and stress. Having a comfortable amount of time to make it to the boarding gate is the best way to make it through any lines calmly (and ensure you don’t miss your flight). Giving yourself plenty of time is a good travel habit to get into when it comes to any form of transportation!
Have Your ID Ready
Don’t be one of the people holding up the lines; have your passport somewhere you can easily get to it. You will need to present it over and over again, along with your boarding pass.
When deciding what to wear to the airport, think about both convenience and comfort. Convenience matters when it comes to going through security — notoriously one of the most stressful aspects of airports.
Wear clothes that are comfortable and aren’t full of metal. Unless you don’t mind taking off and putting back on your belt going through security, don’t wear one. Same goes for jewelry, scarves and pockets of spare change. The less you have to remove, the faster and easier you will get through security.
Comfort will come into play when you are waiting around at your gate as well as when you are on your flight. Anything that can increase your comfort level while on board should be a no-brainer.
Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing that’s comfortable enough to sleep in. While taking off your shoes is generally considered to be poor airplane etiquette, if you absolutely must, make sure to pack a pair of slippers or slipper socks in your carry-on. Then follow these tips for sleeping on a plane to drift off and wake up and paradise.
Whiz through airport security by applying for TSA’s Pre-Check program. For only $85 you can bypass the long lines, keep your shoes, jacket and belt on, and leave your liquids and laptop in your bag. As long as you’re a U.S. citizen or national and pass a background check, you have the privilege for five years at over 180 airports in the United States and its territories.
Know TSA Restrictions
If you don’t want to pay for Pre-Check, make sure you are familiar with all of the TSA restrictions before you go through security. Most importantly, remember you will have to take any laptops out of your bag. As well, any liquids, including cosmetics, over 100 milliliters will be tossed out on the spot.
Bring an Empty Water Bottle
Since you can’t pass through security with liquids greater than 3.4 ounces, bring an empty water bottle with you. That way, you can fill up with water from a drinking fountain, saving you money and keeping you hydrated on the plane.
Buy a VIP Lounge Day Pass
Pretty much every U.S.-based airline has a VIP lounge, which is normally reserved for those with high frequent flyer levels. However, most people don’t know that you can buy a day pass for these lounges, regardless of your frequent flyer status.
Aside from a comfy, posh atmosphere, most lounges offer a full bar, snacks and WiFi, with some even providing showers and business services.
Bring Your Own Charger
Although most major airports have designated charging stations for electronics, most of the time they’ll be overrun with people fighting for an empty outlet. Instead, bring a portable battery charger so you have your own rechargeable power source.
If you’re feeling generous or want to meet people, carry a power strip so one outlet can now power six devices.
Once On Board, Relax
Staying calm and relaxed is the way to go once your are on board. There is nothing to be gained from sitting tense and nervous in your seat, clutching the armrests with a grip of steel and focusing on the fact that there is nothing but a few layers of steel between you and thousands of feet of nothingness.
A lot of people are secretly nervous flyers. Whether your have a full-blown phobia or a twinging sense of unease, learning how to cope if you’re a nervous flyer can make the whole experience a lot more manageable.
Bring Disposable Entertainment
While most flights will have some sort of entertainment provided, it may not always be to your liking. Instead of taking up valuable space with electronics and the like, bring a few forms of disposable entertainment.
Things that don’t cost much and are easily replaceable fall into this category, e.g. playing cards, old magazines, Sudoku and crossword puzzle books, and even books you know you’ll never read again.
Leave them in your seat pocket or give to your neighbor when you’re done. You can even try using the fun online service Book Crossing, which allows you to label a book and track it as it makes its way around the world with different passengers.
Pack an On-Board Picnic
Stave off those hunger pains and avoid overpaying for food at the airport or on board your flight by packing your own picnic. Include items like mini or string cheeses, beef jerky, grapes or berries, nuts, potato chips and travel-sized dips.
Keeping it light will also ease your in-flight digestion and make it easier to sleep on board.