Do you hate flying? Tips to make getting from Point A to Point B more enjoyable.
When I ask my clients what their least favorite part about traveling is, the answer is often flying.
Flights can be long or delayed, and airports can be crowded and confusing. Getting to and from your vacation can definitely be the most challenging part. Although air travel is often a necessary piece of the travel process – I have a 7 tips to help transform your air travel into a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
1. If you can pack light - do it
I am and will always be a minimalist packer. I attribute it to being raised by a frequent corporate traveler attached at the hip to his Tumi carry-on. Of course, for families and people who like to have lots of wardrobe options, checking a bag is often a necessity, but if you can swing it, simply bringing a carry-on can definitely save you so much time and hassle. For one, you do not have to wait to check your bag or retrieve your bag from the baggage claim upon arrival – saving countless hours of waiting. Second, you have all of your belongings with you, limiting any risk of your bag being lost, stolen or damaged. Third, you have less weight to carry around and it is easier to fit your luggage into smaller vehicles when going from place to place.
The trick to pulling off a small bag with everything you need is to have lots of versatile clothing that can be mixed and matched, go from day-to-night, and repurposed throughout the trip. Some of my favorite brands for travel clothes are Athleta, Prana, and Anatomie – all with wrinkle-free, comfortable and quality options. Don’t have a great travel wardrobe? Well, that is a good excuse to do a little shopping!
2. Bring the right stuff on the plane
Having everything you need handy in a small bag that you can access while seated is critical for long flights. I find my list of essential items falls into a few categories:
My must-have items – have a go-to list of items you bring on every flight. Mine includes gum, ibuprofen, travel-size lotion and hand sanitizer, hand wipes, headphones, and a water bottle.
Something to do – my Kindle Paperwhite, pre-loaded with a couple good books to read, is my favorite travel companion. I can read in any lighting, store hundreds of books, and the battery lasts for weeks. Whether it’s a book, magazine or laptop – make sure you have something to keep you occupied!
Something to eat – although they serve food on planes, I always like to have some nuts, chocolate, and a granola bar just in case.
Something for sleep – sleeping on an airplane is hard, so finding the best sleep solution for you is important. I always have a face mask, ear plugs and a melatonin sleep aid. Sometimes I even bring a chamomile tea bag to drink before bed. Make sure to test out whatever sleep aid you are using before your flight, and consult your doctor. I have also tried a sleep swing, which actually really helped with circulation and was easily packable. If it is in the budget, upgrading to business or first class for international flights is a great way to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Beyond these items, make sure you have all your important travel documents, a change of clothes, and any medications with you and not in your checked luggage.
3. Join Global Entry (or if you are TSA Pre-Check download Mobile Passport)
If you travel internationally frequently, you can save yourself lots of time in line by joining Global Entry. The program allows for expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers when arriving back into the United States. The application fee is $100 and membership lasts 5 years. It is a game changer!
A second option is to apply for TSA Pre-Check. It is $85 and membership also lasts 5 years. You automatically receive TSA Pre-Check status with Global Entry, so advise to apply for that one first, but if you are already TSA Pre-Check, an alternative way to expedite the customs experience is to download the Mobile Passport app. The app allows you to go through a separate line at 26 airports, and can also save you hours of waiting at border patrol.
4. Invest in airport lounge access
I spend a lot of time in airports. Sometimes a long layover is necessary for the best route or the best price, but I have grown to enjoy layovers due to my lounge membership. There is nothing like escaping the crowds and chaos of the terminal for a quiet place with complimentary food, drink, wifi and often showers. Usually the best way to get VIP lounge access is through a travel credit card or airline status. My favorite is the Priority Pass membership that can be attained by certain credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card or the American Express Platinum card.
When you are able to start off your vacation by relaxing with a complimentary glass of champagne instead of waiting in an uncomfortable and loud airport terminal – you will definitely feel the difference!
5. Get expert flight support for complex trips
Mapping out a complicated flight route with unfamiliar airlines through hundreds of booking websites can make your head spin. With new fare classes that have been introduced and routes and prices changing daily – the airfare world is seriously complex. If you are starting to get a headache on Expedia.com, it is time to turn to the experts!
For flight research and booking I always lean on my trusty Brownell Airdesk team – a group of professionals who live and breathe air travel, and have been doing so for years. They know everything you need to know to get you booked on the right flight for you AND will be there to support you if things get bumpy along the way.
6. Always greet your flight crew with a smile!
One of the biggest complaints by flight attendants is not being treated with respect by the passengers whom they serve. It seems like common sense, but greeting your flight attendant with a warm smile and a genuine hello can make a big difference in the level of service you receive. There are many stories of upgrades, extra snacks and other perks (large and small) just for being a nice person. A smile and a thank you goes a long way, especially for someone working a long flight, so it is not only the pleasant thing to do but a win-win for everyone!
7. Opt for pre-arranged airport pick up and drop off
If you are traveling with a small party within the United States, it is often alright to rely on Uber or the local taxi service to get to and from your hotel. However, if you are traveling to an unfamiliar place, it is worth the extra money to have the peace of mind by arranging transportation ahead of time. Across my years of travel, I have learned (the hard way) that when you arrive in a new place, you are naturally lost and a little disoriented, and figuring out how to find safe and reliable transportation plus communicating where you are going is not always as easy as you think. Having someone waiting with a sign with your name on it and a smile on their face is the biggest comfort when everything else is unfamiliar, and is sure to start your vacation off on the right foot.
How do you make the flying experience more enjoyable? I would love to hear your thoughts or help organize your next big trip. Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.