I’d like to think that I’m a pretty good flier at this point. That wasn’t always the case, though. The first time I ever traveled alone I was 18 and visiting my best friend in Texas and I had nothing short of a melt down before take off because I had a feeling that the plane was going to crash.
Now I know that “feeling” was just paranoia, but at the time I thought I was having a That’s So Raven moment.
Since then I’ve been on dozens of flights and at this point, I don’t experience any jitters at all. I might even venture to say I enjoy flying. Crazy, I know. I just got back from Cincinnati on Friday after a quick press trip with Proctor and Gamble, and since flying is on my mind I thought I could share my best tips with you.
This post is going to be a little long, but I want to walk you through having a great flight from start to finish so bear with me.
Before you go to the airport
- Book ahead of time. This one might seem like a no-brainer (or it’s impossible if you’re booking a last minute trip) but you can save a ton of money by tracking flight prices for a week or two or using SkyScanner’s Best Time to Book Analysis to find when you can buy the cheapest flights.
- Pack smart. There is nothing worse than being held up because you accidentally packed something that you’re not allowed to bring aboard the plane. I could go through and list what you can and can’t bring, but I won’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, check out the TSA’s list.
- Avoid caffeine! This might seem counterintuitive, especially if you have an early morning flight and you’re struggling to keep your eyes open waiting to board but trust me. There is nothing worse than having major caffeine jitters and no way to shake them off. Plus, we want to avoid using the airplane bathroom at all costs.
- Be prepared for TSA. My favorite part of flying alone is going through security without having to wait on anyone. For a smooth security experience I’ve got a few tips for you:
- Wear shoes that are easy to get on and off. If you’re going to have to sit down and struggle with clasps or laces you might end up feeling flustered and if you’re really unlucky you’ll have a not so nice TSA agent breathing down your neck.
- Pack all of your daily jewelry in a bag and put it in an easily accessible pocket on your carry on rather than wearing it to the airport. As soon as you get through security you can put it on without having to worry about it getting lost in transit. If you’re like me and feel naked without your usual jewels this is a lifesaver.
- Don’t pack your laptop deep in your carry on. You’ll need to remove your laptop and put it into a separate basket to go through the scanners and if you have to dig through and displace everything in your carry on you’ll hold up the line and ruin your A+ packing job.
- When you’re dressing for the day, be wary that things like watches, belts, and jackets will need to be removed before going through the scanners. In some cases, I’ve seen people have to remove their eyeglasses, too.
- Know that if for any reason you’re uncomfortable going through the body scanner it’s your right to ask for a private screening with a TSA agent of the same sex.
- Have your ticket on your phone (and remember a charger). Chances are you don’t go anywhere without your phone, but I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of people leaving their tickets at home so by having your ticket loaded on your phone you no longer risk that awkward moment where you’re at the airport but your airline ticket isn’t.
- Have your ID easily accessible. You’ll need to show your ID upon check in and during security so make sure that it’s easily accessible. I have a little pocket on my phone case that I keep mine in.
- Remember your carry-on essentials. These will vary person to person, but here are mine:
- Fuzzy socks – the second I get on the airplane my shoes come off. (Pro tip: Make sure your shoes/socks/feet don’t smell at all. Otherwise be respectful and keep your shoes on!)
- Ear plugs – airplanes are loud and I took enough audiology classes in college to be super conscious about that sort of thing. I use those squishy earplugs that you can buy a back of 24 of for 2 dollars at the drugstore.
- Snacks – airline peanuts don’t cut it for me, so I’ll try to bring a cliff bar or an apple.
- An empty water bottle – you can’t take a full water bottle through security, but if you bring an empty one you can fill it up after security so you don’t get ripped off by airline prices.
- Entertainment – I brought a book for my trip to Cincinnati, but for longer flights I usually bring a few things to keep me entertained whether those are books, journals, word searches, the works.
- Chapstick and a mini lotion – I know I’m not alone when I say airplanes dry my skin the heck out. I’ve also been known to rock a sheet mask during long flights. #NoShame
At the airport
Airports are…chaotic. Honestly, my best tip here is to keep your head and don’t stress out. Most travelers can say they’ve missed connections or sat at the wrong gate for hours (guilty of both) and they can also say that it’s not the end of the world.
Remember that trip to Texas I mentioned? Coming home I had a connection in Dallas and by the time my first plane landed my second plane had already closed its gates and being that it was the last flight home for the night I was essentially stranded. I panicked, I cried, but at the end of the day, they got me to an airport an hour and a half away from home just a few hours later than I was supposed to be home in the first place. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a hiccup.
What I’m trying to say is that the worst that’s going to happen is you get to your destination or home a bit later than expected and that’s nothin’ to sweat.
I’ll get off of my soapbox, though, and share my best airport tips with you.
- Outlets = a life source. Once I find my gate I always hunt down open outlets. Even if my phone has plenty of charge I like to be extra cautious when I’m traveling in case I end up needing to use GPS or I get stranded and need to make calls.
- If you’re checking a bag and it’s too heavy layer up on clothes. This is only going to work if you’re a few pounds over (and it’s going to be a pain during security) but it’s a good way to avoid paying extra fees for heavy luggage.
- Don’t line up just because everyone else is. There is this weird phenomenon I’ve experienced every time I’ve flown where everyone decides to line up the moment they call group 1 and awkwardly let everyone in groups ahead of them go when they could have just been sitting down. Personally, I’m not a bit fan of hurrying up just to wait on a cramped plane so I stay seated until they call my boarding group.
- Some airports (*cough* San Francisco *cough*) have yoga rooms. If you’ve got a long layover and you need to stretch and unwind after a long initial leg of your trip these are perfect. O’Hare has one, too.
- Don’t crowd the luggage return at your final destination. Travel related or not – this is my number one pet peeve (I know, it’s a silly thing to let get under my skin, but here we are.). When everyone stands thisclose to the luggage return while waiting for their bag to come out, people whose bags are actually already out can’t grab theirs without throwing elbows. It makes more sense to stand 12 feet back while you wait and then step forward when you see your bag. (Pass this tip on. Pls.)
It’s the final stretch, y’all! Once you’re on your airplane you’re about as good as gold (unless you have to hurry to make a connection) but there are still steps you can take to make this
- Bring a treat for the flight attendants. My friend Cameron gave me this tip and said it’s a gamechanger. Bringing something like a bag of chocolates means getting on the FA’s good sides and can mean perks like an extra bag of cookies for you when snacks come around, or even an upgrade to first class if there’s an open seat.
- Feel out your plane neighbor. Whenever I finally get settled in my seat I usually will ask my neighbor why they’re headed to _____ and if they’ve ever been before. It’s a simple question but it’s a good one for gauging their level of chattiness. There is nothing worse than sitting next to a chatterbox when all you want to do is read your book, so try not to be that chatterbox for others unless they seem up .
- Skip the ice. When I was in a long layover a few years ago I found myself chatting to a flight attendant waiting for her flight. She was telling me all sorts of “secrets” but the one that stood out was do not get ice when they’re passing out drinks as everything is rather unsanitary. I don’t know if that was applicable for only her airline or a universal rule but since then, whenever beverage services come around I’ve asked for ginger ale sans ice.
- Earplugs are game changers. I know I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth mentioning twice. Flying with internally worn earplugs (as opposed to over the ear headphones) has been great for being able to completely zone out during the flight. Airplanes are super noisy and not the most comfortable so being able to block that out without having to fidget around with over the ear headphones is a game changer.
- When the plane lands, stay seated. A lot of times I see the aisle seaters stand up and move into the aisle, and then everyone moves over a seat eagerly awaiting the moment they’ll be able to disembark. And a lot of times it takes a long time to be able to disembark and now a third of the plane is stuck standing in crowded quarters. You might be excited to get off, but if you stay seated you’ll be more comfortable for longer.
- Bring sanitation wipes. Packing for this flight I couldn’t find mine and they were sorely missed. I’m a bit of a germaphobe and being able to wipe off my tray table, window, seatbelt, etc. puts me at ease. Planes usually just a get a quick once over cleaning between flights and especially this time of year you don’t want to put your immune system through the stress of all those extra germs.
No matter what your airport experience is – don’t let that hamper your entire trip! If you stress about the fact that you missed your connection and arrived 3 hours later you’re spending time focusing on the negative instead of getting pumped for the adventure to come. Plus, everyone has airport battle stories, and earning yours is a rite of passage.
Where is your next trip taking you to? I don’t have anything planned until Argentina in September, but I think I’ll try to squeeze in a trip or two between now and then!