I wouldn’t call myself a frequent flyer (and I have the lack of points to prove it), but over the last 15 years I have been on dozens of flights ranging from your regional ‘puddle jump’ to your long haul, other-side-of-the-world, 16-hour doozy and everything in between (like this 12.5hr flight from PHL to DOH). Over the course of all of those trips, I like to think that I have air travel somewhat figured out. So, here are my tips to make your flight better.
Pick the right clothing for the trip
When it comes to clothing, I have two guiding principles.
If the flight you are taking is for vacation, then wear your most comfortable clothing (that you are okay being seen in public with of course). The reason being is that you are likely not running on a critical schedule and can afford to be in that outfit for longer than the duration of your flight. Wear something that doesn’t restrict blood flow, allows you to move around, allows your skin to breathe, is cotton, etc. Wearing tight clothing that restricts the above can lead to general discomfort after a long flight and can even result in deep vein thrombosis which is a serious condition that can be triggered by lack of movement or blood circulation when one is cooped up on a long flight.
My second guiding principle relates to traveling for business. When I first started traveling for business, I always checked my bag and wore jeans, a t-shirt and some sneakers as I pretty much always fly in the day before a meeting so I can get a good nights rest before meeting with clients. A few months ago, I was on a business trip from Albany, New York to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and that trip made me rethink my entire process for business travel. After landing at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee I learned that my bag was stuck in Chicago and did not make the trip with me to Wisconsin. I ended up having an impromptu 2AM shopping spree at a local Walmart where I purchased an entire outfit, down to the socks and dress shoes.
Had I been wearing business casual clothing on my short flight, I would have been okay for the first day (my bags arrived at my hotel the following evening). I now have a slightly smaller suite case which I bring as a carry-on and travel sized hygiene products like toothpaste and deodorant so I don’t get stranded without those as well. Lessons learned.
Splurge on a neck pillow
Whether you are taking a short trip or a long haul flight, having a neck pillow is a major benefit. On especially long flights, many airlines will provide a sleep mask, socks and even toothpaste. However, no one provides a neck pillow. I used to use a hoodie or sweater rolled up as a makeshift pillow. However, after experiencing a proper neck pillow, going back to such a setup is now tough. It is like going back in time to wagons on the Oregon Trail. Neck pillows help keep your spine aligned so you don’t end up like the hunchback of Notre Dame when you get off your flight.
Invest in good headphones or ear buds
Noise cancelling headphones, if you’ve never tried them, are a thing of beauty. The headphones that airlines hand out are super cheap 1994 Walkman type and are ‘on-ear’ (but just barely) which results in you hearing virtually everything around you while you are trying to block out sound while enjoying some entertainment or, as I sometimes do, listening to ambient sounds from my phone while I try to sleep.
Keep in mind that most airlines require a special adapter to plug your wired noise cancelling headphones into their entertainment system. You will need to purchase an adapter such as these on eBay or Amazon in order to full enjoy the in-flight entertainment otherwise you will end up with only one headphone working. And that’s no fun.
If you travel for business often, you may want to go one step further and get yourself a nice pair of wireless noise cancelling earbuds. I have a set of Jabra Elite 65t‘s that do well for this purpose as well as allow me to take calls when not in the air. A two-birds-with-one-stone type deal.
This might be self-explanatory and common sense to most of the flying public, but it needs to be said. Be nice to your fellow air travelers (actually, just be nice in general wherever you encounter other people).
There are certain ‘unwritten rules’ of the air. For example, during meal service, avoid reclining your seat. Otherwise, always check behind you before lowering your seat back. Avoid hogging the interior arm rest or otherwise spreading out forcing their fellow row mates to sit uncomfortably. Be nice as you never know. You may actually meet someone interesting that may lead to other things (life long friendship? job opportunity? business idea?).
Keep the blood pumpin
Aircraft cabins contain less oxygen so over long periods of time passengers may experience fatigue, headaches, dehydration, etc. The best way to combat this is to keep your blood pumping by getting up and stretching those legs. I was once on a flight from Doha, Qatar to Miami, FL (16hrs) which resulted in a world of hurt. The passenger next to me passed out from a couple of drinks and, trying to follow my flight etiquette tip above, I didn’t want to wake him. As a result, I could barely walk when we landed in Miami due to my knees feeling like they were about to explode from not moving for many hours at a time.
If you are unable to get in and out of your seat regularly, you can attempt non-intrusive exercises such as stretching your legs under the seat in front of you, rolling your head/shoulders and doing ankle stretches.
Find something to pass the hours of time
We all like a good binge-worthy show or a good read. I make sure I have my shows or movies download for offline viewing. Some travelers bring their favorite book(s). Others still will do work while in the air. As my job is less spreadsheets and more system, I don’t often work in the air. I do occasionally fire up my laptop and answer emails which send once I land.
Snacks, who doesn’t love em?
Unless you are flying first class with one of the premiere airlines, airplane food isn’t a five star dining experience. So, I like to pack my favorite snack(s) (see what I did there?) to help deal with the munchies that sometimes come abruptly. Make sure your snacks aren’t particularly crunchy or aromatic (remember, flight etiquette). For me, I like to snack on things like Goldfish crackers. Delicious.
Invest in a battery pack
In today’s highly technological world, we all travel with at least one electronic device that we probably can’t be without. For most, it’s a smartphone. For others, like me, its a smartphone, a GoPro, Bluetooth ear buds and even an iPod. Not all airlines have quite caught up to the times though and outfitted their jets with in-seat USB ports. As a result, I highly suggesting having a battery pack on hand. I carry two with me. They are pre-charged before I leave the house and help keep my devices charged. Have to be ready for whatever my travels throw my way, right?
Those are my tips to make your flight better. What do you do when you travel? Do you have additional tips and/or tricks that you’d like to share? Tell me in the comments below!