Air Travel Tips for the Weary or Worried Traveler
Air travel used to be a glamorous event before all of the restrictions on what you could bring with you made the entire process quite the ordeal. Unfortunately it’s a necessary evil and one that truly is meant to keep everyone safe. That being said, it’s normal to feel anxious before a flight - anxious about the flight itself, about the trip to and through the airport, whether you’ll catch your connecting flight, will your bags be lost…?
Whether you’re a novice or an expert, here are some tips to help you through the process that I’ve found helpful. Let’s just say, I learned the hard way so that you don’t have to.
Let’s Start With The Airline: Book a Direct Flight
We all know that air travel is not cheap. There are many “budget” airlines like Frontier, JetBlue and Southwest that offer affordable options, but might not have as many direct flights available as would a United, American or Delta. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts:
DO use the power of Google for good and shop your flight with not only the budget airlines but give the bigger companies a whirl. Chances are they have many flights to your destination point so the cost is reasonable.
DON’T book through a third party website. If something should happen and you have to edit or cancel the flight, it will be harder to do so and you may lose out on a refund. Also, they don’t always have the best prices, no matter what they say.
DON’T fly Frontier. As of this date, Frontier has one of the highest cancellation rates of flights in the United States. Your peace of mind is valuable.
DO get yourself an airline rewards credit card, if you can. The United MileagePlus card as an example, earns you free miles, free bag check, discounts on amazing hotels and access to the United Club Lounge. The Lounge access in and of itself is totally worth it. Talk about NO STRESS…. excellent.
The Art of Packing
Seriously, packing for a flight is, indeed, an art and one that should be respected. When I say “packing” I mean both your checked baggage as well as what you’re carrying on with you. Your comfort level will be impacted by the quality and thoughtfulness of your packing. Here are some tips and suggestions:
DO get a roller bag. Roller bag sets are great, particularly if you are checking the bigger “main bag” and carrying on the smaller matching bag. Most airports make you walk miles to get to your gate - carrying a bag adds to your stress quite a bit, surprisingly enough.
DO find the RIGHT bag for you: Lay out everything you need to bring on the flight before you buy a bag. You’ll be able to see everything you’ll have with you so that you can find a bag that has easily accessible storage compartments for your needs.
DON’T ignore the size restrictions on your airline for carry-on luggage. Not every under-seat or overhead area on all flights and planes are the same, and if your bag is too big to fit they’ll ask you to check your luggage at the gate.
DO pack a bit more than you normally would: Extra shirts, an extra pair of pants, a comfy pair of shoes, just in case something spills, rips or breaks. But DON’T fall victim to overpacking either. It’ll be a burden you’ll be dragging with you throughout your trip.
Getting To The Airport
You’re booked and packed. Now it’s time to head off to the airport. The length of your trip will most likely dictate how you’re getting there, and at what time. I have this unnatural fear of missing a flight. It’s the ultimate inconvenience and if I checked a bag, I feel like my belongings are just… lost. I put a lot of importance into getting to the airport early enough where I don’t have to worry and nowadays the security lines can be incredibly long. Plan ahead and plan for the worst.
DO make sure to arrive at the airport at least two hours early. If you’re parking at the airport, add in time for AirTrains or inter-terminal transportation which can add up to 20 minutes depending on the airport!
DO plan ahead with your travel arrangements. I’ve gotten burned before a few times when attempting UBER to the airport: Either there were no drivers available in my area at the time I needed to leave, or the driver didn’t feel like taking the trip to the airport. Do what you can to make sure you’re not surprised.
DON’T travel on a Monday if you can help it. This is a huge flight day as many full time travelers choose to air commute coast-to-coast and city-to-city on this day. Everything takes longer on a Monday.
You’ve Made It! Here are some general tips:
If you don’t travel much or haven’t been in an airport for quite some time, things are different. Here are some things to note for security, and just some general thoughts:
No Liquids Allowed: No water bottles full of water, no drinks… Toiletries are okay as long as they fit in a standard “sandwich size” plastic baggie. Travel size shampoos and lotions that can fit in this bag are fine. Make sure to have the baggie visible when going through security.
Shoes Off: Most airport security areas require you to take your shoes off before going through the scanners. It’s probably a good idea to expect this and WEAR SOCKS. Regardless of what you’ve heard, people are looking at you and yes, they’re judging.
Be Kind: Look, no one is enjoying themselves through security. But this is the WRONG PLACE to lose your cool if you feel like actually flying somewhere. Be kind to the TSA workers as their main goal is to keep you safe even if it feels like they’re singling you out. They’re just following protocol - You’ll be out of there in no time.
Hand Sanitizer: Pick up a bottle at an airport shop, and it might even be a good idea to get some sanitizing wipes. Planes generally are poorly cleaned between flights and I’d bet they’re not sanitizing the trays and hand rests. This step helps prevent you from getting a cold after your flying experience, trust me!
Water on Your Terms: I always buy a small bottle of water before I get on a plane. I’d rather not rely on the flight attendants to keep me hydrated when I need it. Sometimes turbulence happens and they are unable to offer beverage service, and so it’s nice to be prepared.
Turbulent Times: I have a friend who is a pilot for a major airline and I asked him how dangerous turbulence is. He told me that basically, hands to the sky, even though it feels scary sometimes, the plane is absolutely fine and is built to withstand so much more than the worst turbulence you can even imagine. Relax as this will pass.
Get Up and Walk: If you’re on a long flight, make sure to get up and walk around. It’s good for you and prevents blood clots from forming in the back of your knees, which does happen often to seasoned travelers.
The more you travel, the easier it will be to figure out exactly what works for you in order to make the whole experience as smooth as possible. I travel quite a bit and still I feel like I have yet to find the perfect travel bag, and I feel like this is the last part of the puzzle for me. Otherwise, I abide by all of these tips above and it’s made air travel much of a non-issue for me.
Do you have travel tips of your own to share? Comment below!