There are no two ways about it, long flights are brutal. Planes are cold and dry and managing your possessions as well as a timeline can be very stressful. But it doesn’t have to be! Just preparing a few simple things can make all the difference and turn flights into a downright pleasant experience.
1. Get the airline’s app
These days pretty much every airline has an app and they can be a serious game changer when it comes to efficient travel. Download the airline’s app ahead of time to check in as soon as you can, get up to date messages about flight delays and download your boarding pass right to your phone. If you’re traveling with carry-on only (which I highly recommend), you can entirely skip the check lines or kiosks.
2. Screenshot your boarding pass
You know what’s really awkward? When you get up to the security line and the TSA employee looks bored and your arm is stuck in your backpack and your shoes are already untied for the security check and you can’t get your app with your boarding pass to load fast enough. Awkward. And can easily be avoided with a screenshot of your boarding pass. You won’t have to reload it every time someone needs to look at it and you can leave it open on your phone so all you need to do is a quick swipe. It’s small but it makes a difference.
3. Bring a refillable water bottle but fill it AFTER security
You know what really grinds my gears? Paying for a plastic water bottle. Waiting for a flight attendant to come around with the baby-serving of water. Being in a plane that’s dry as the Sahara and looking like SpongeBob in that one episode where he thinks he can overcome his need for water. Spoiler alert: he can’t. And neither should you. Combat dehydration with a water bottle! Make sure it’s empty before going through security (they will make you go through again, I’ve done it, it’s very annoying) and fill it once you’re on the other side. I prefer to fill it before I get on the plane by using one of those nifty water bottle fountains or by asking one of the restaurants with a bar to fill it for me. You can also ask (as politely as humanly possible) one of the flight attendants to fill it in the back for you. I tend to avoid doing this since before takeoff flight attendants are busy helping passengers to their seats and preparing for the journey ahead, they don’t need another thing to do.
As far as a brand is concerned, I highly recommend Hydro Flask. The bottles are metal and a bit heavy but so worth it because they’re durable and keep your water mountain stream cold. Just try not to drop it, it makes a very loud CLANG when it hits the tiled floor of the airport…not that I’d know…
Planes are CHILLY! But your departure point may not be. Keep a scarf, some kind of wrap or sweatshirt and a fresh pair of socks in your carry-on and layer appropriately throughout the flight. I also recommend getting a scarf that has the biggest dimensions you can manage without it being bulky. I often double my scarf as a little blanket when I’m trying to sleep on a flight. Just check to make sure ahead of time that it won’t get fuzzies all over your leggings, I’ve made that mistake more times than I’d like to admit.
5. Hand Sanitizer Is Your Friend
Airports are gross. And nothing sucks more than making it to your destination with a persistent sore throat. Use your hand-sanny before you eat your free peanut pack and your immune system will thank me.
6. Immune System Boosters
On that same note, bring packets of Emergen-C or Airborne in your bag. The second you feel that scratchy throat – and frankly, even if you don’t – own one of these packets. Like I mentioned, nothing sucks more than arriving at your tropical destination with the sniffles.
7. Freshen Up Kit
After being on a plane for a few hours, you’ll likely start to feel a little gross from breathing that recycled air and touching the germy sides of your seat. 40 minutes or so before you arrive at your destination, grab you freshen up kit and hit the bathroom! What should you keep in your kit?:
- Face wipes/body wipes – wash your face, your armpits, and anywhere else you feel less than fresh. It makes a huge difference!
- Face moisturizer
- Lotion (apply this throughout the flight to avoid dry hands and nail beds, ow!)
- A change of undies (because feeling fresh is totally worth it)
- A travel-size deodorant or all-natural equivalent
- Eye drops
- A tangle teaser – It’s small and a quick run through your hair can help you arrive feeling almost quaffed!
8. Eye Mask and Flight Pillow
If the flight is long or a red-eye, you’re going to want to at least try to sleep. A great way to do that is with an eye mask and flight pillow. I’ve had more flight pillows than I can count. My current favorite is inflatable. It has a tiny hand pump built-in so you don’t need to huff and puff to inflate. It also rolls up and is very compact for easy packing. Unfortunately, I got mine in Japan and their website is obviously entirely in Japanese. Here is a similar one!
As far as eye masks are concerned, any mask that properly blocks light and has an adjustable head strap is more than fine. And you definitely want that adjustable head strap, a strap that’s too tight can give you a brutal headache when combined with cabin pressure and one that’s too loose will slide right off your head.
9. Exit Row for Leg Room
Most airlines have upgrades available for extra leg room. Try requesting these seats when purchasing your flight but you can always ask at the counter before boarding if there’s one available. If you risk it and wait until you approach the counter, you can sometimes snag the exit row without paying the extra fee. I actually don’t do this myself because I am very short and don’t need the room. I’d rather let a taller fellow traveler snag the room since I know it makes a huge difference for some people. If you’re one of these people, always ask! It can make a big difference.
10. Walk about the cabin
Being cramped up for several hours can be brutal on your joints and terrible for your circulation. Remember to get up every hour or so and walk the length of the cabin. It can do wonders and can make you feel much more comfortable throughout your flight.
11. Airline Credit Card
Airline credit cards have tons of benefits like building up miles that can help you go on even more adventures! I like the AAdvantage card but have heard great things about the Jet Blue card as well. These cards are set up for travelers and include benefits like double miles for flight purchases with that airline and no foreign transaction fees. Many of these cards even offer priority boarding to cardholders so there’s never a risk of having to check your bag at the gate. The only drawback of these cards is that the interest rates are CRAZY high. You do NOT want to carry a balance on these cards, anything you buy with them, pay it off the same month or you could be paying some serious fees.
12. Charge and Download Ahead of Time
Charge everything ahead of time, you want every electronic you have to be fully charged when you get on the plane. You also want to make sure that you download any media, whether that be movies, podcasts, TV shows, books before you even leave your house. Airport internet speeds are terrible, if you rely on it to download the last-minute Stephen King novel, you could be out of luck. That being said, a good old fashion book is always reliable. Grabbing a last-minute best seller from the gift shop is always a solid back up.
13. Check out the type of plane you’ll be flying on ahead of time
You can find blueprints and spec’s of any type of plane out there! Check out what you’ll be flying ahead of time to see if they have accommodations like TV’s, plugs, more rows with extra legroom, etc. This can help you prep for entertainment for your flight.
I am very guilty of hanger. For those of you aren’t familiar with the term, this is when you are so hungry that you hulk out and get sassy with everyone around you. To prevent my friends, family, and mostly my husband from becoming the victims, I pack extra snacks. Clif bars are my favorite because they really fill you up but dried fruits, nuts, and other breakfast bars are great alternatives. Pack something healthy and filling to assuage your inner Hulk.
15. Have a good attitude
At the end of the day, things will absolutely go wrong. I’ve spilled a full coffee on myself during takeoff, sat in front of two little kids who cried and kicked my chair the entire flight, had flights canceled 10 minutes before boarding, and had all my electronics die with zero backups for an 8+ hour flights. Please remember these things aren’t anyone’s fault, parents with cranky kids, flight attendants, the TSA are all doing their best to get through their day. Be patient and be kind, it will always get you further whether it’s through an airport or through your life.