No matter how much advice you read and how many travel articles you browse, all the various tips on flying can be disseminated to a few essentials. If you know the essential tips on flying, the less consequential ones should follow as a matter of course. Read on for the definitive tips for flying.
1. Checking in
If you don’t have any bags to check, definitely take advantage of online check-in prior to your flight. This way, you can print your boarding pass (usually an option about 24 hours before flight time), and avoid the longest lines at the airport, which are at check-in. Airlines, such as Southwest, even offer early boarding for those who are checked in, so if you’re flying a “first-come, first-serve” airline, flying through check-in will allow you your choice of seating. If you show up at the airport and haven’t printed your boarding pass, choose to check-in through a self-service kiosk, rather than queuing up. It’s still faster than waiting in that long line, and the self-service options often include signing up for standby, checking luggage, changing seats, and sometimes even upgrading on the cheap. This is one of the essential tips for flying because check in is where your trip really starts.
If at all possible, don’t check bags. Prior to your flight, always do your research to find the dimensions and weight permitted for your carry-on, and try to stay within those limits. Carrying on will always save you time on both the front end and the back end of your trip. If you’ve no bags to check and you’ve taken our advice in the first tip, then you’ve printed out your boarding pass, and can head straight to security. This means you may only need to arrive an hour prior for domestic flights or two hours for international trips. That’s an hour of savings according to official recommendations. If you are checking a bag or two, photograph your luggage in case it’s lost by the airline, and also print off your itinerary and contact info and place it inside each piece of luggage just in case. If your luggage doesn’t arrive with your flight, the airline will be able to find it and return it to you much easier. Also, make sure your luggage stands out, either with a sticker or a ribbon or something colorful. It will better help you to spot it on the carousel.
3. Airport Security
Most frequent fliers know the deal – you’re not allowed to carry on liquids or gels that are more than 3-oz, so prior to your flight, prepare for this by placing your stash of hotel shampoos and lotions in a Ziploc bag. Most airports worldwide require that you remove your shoes, so it’s best to wear easily removable slip-ons, rather than your favorite boots that lace up to the knee. Also, to avoid the big pat-down, wear as little metal as possible so as not to set off the metal detector. When you're nearly to the conveyor belt, remove your jacket and your shoes to help the line move along. Also take your laptop from your bag. Once you’ve arrived at the conveyor belt, remove everything from your pockets, except your boarding pass and passport, and you should be good to go. Most importantly, be patient with those who aren’t as savvy as you.
4. Seat Selection
Know yourself and select the seat that suits you. Got a small bladder? You might not want to choose that window seat, as your seatmate will certainly get fed up with being disturbed every hour of a 14 hour flight. Need to lean in order to sleep? There’s no leaning in an aisle so you’d better choose the window so you’ve got something to lean up against. And whatever you do, reserve your seat whenever you possibly can, in order to avoid being the middle man or sitting near the lavatory (ugh, the smell). You can use sites like SeatGuru.com to find a plane’s worst rows. If you can’t reserve and you end up with a bad seat, you might be able to switch at check-in or at the gate or on the plane.
This is one of the tips on flying that first-timers often don’t know. A plane journey is not exciting after the first half hour! If you’re in for a long flight, take charge of your own entertainment. Think ahead, prepare your reading material, and charge all iPods and Kindles. You only have that small seat, so make your flight as comfortable as possible for yourself. Though most airlines, especially international flights, offer food, entertainment, pillows and blankets, these things may cost extra, so if you don’t want to get sucker-punched with catastrophically high prices mid-flight, carry on your own snacks, movies and neck pillows. Flying is only what you make of it. You might actually be able to get a surprising amount done on that 14 hour flight from Seattle to Beijing, so put in a bit of preparatory time and get your money’s worth.
Always place your carry-ons in an overhead compartment ahead of you and not behind, especially if they’re large or clumsy. This way, you won’t have to wait for everyone behind you to go in order to retrieve it, and you won’t be holding up those clamoring to get off. If you’re disembarking from an international flight, speed-walk. You may feel silly to be racing through the airport, but streaking past the rest of your fellow fliers on the way to the immigration checkpoint will allow you to beat the crowd, and avoid waiting in a long, tedious line.
7. Always Be Prepared
After passengers have boarded, flights have been known to delay at the gate for three hours or more, due to weather, plane maintenance issues, or other such causes. Always be prepared for this delay by going to the bathroom prior to boarding, and by making sure you have all you need available to you. Otherwise, you could be in for an even longer and more tiresome wait.
Following these tips on flying will help you appear to be a travel pro, even if you’re a novice. They should also pave the way for an uneventful journey and no-hassle travel. Do you think there’s a more essential tip I haven’t included?