Yo, I love flying!
Said no person ever.
Flying sucks. You know it and I know it. Two hours trudging through the airport, waiting in lines, having security nosy through all your bags and then sitting in a cabin with stale air for 12 hours – there’s no fun in there.
Unfortunately, I don’t really have any tips for making it fun, but I do have a few that can make it more bearable. If you’re going to be stuck in the air anytime soon, give these ideas a crack and see if they make a difference:
1. Mark your bags as fragile
On most airlines marking your bags as fragile is free. You can simply tell them you have a few fragile gifts or electronics and they should tag it for you. This means that your bags will get handled better by airline staff and not get thrown around like a box of old shoes. It also means your bags will usually come out first at the other end (I’ve also had them come out last, so it can be a gamble).
2. Request a special meal
If given the option I always request a special meal, usually the gluten free one. I do this for a couple of reasons – it comes out sooner meaning I get to eat before everyone else, and it’s usually better quality, probably because greater care is needed to make it and it’s produced in smaller batches. I also like to eat gluten free just for health reasons. Most good airlines now offer special meals – halal, vegetarian, low calorie etc.
3. Ask for more food
I don’t know about you but I’m always still hungry after those airline meals – a kid’s sized plate of food with salad and bread roll? That’s hardly enough to fill a grown man’s stomach. What most people don’t realise is you can just ask for another meal once you’re done. Simply buzz the flight attendant and ask nicely if they have any more meals left (they always do, usually because some passengers don’t eat and flight staff rarely eat their share). I do this all the time and I’ve never been denied a second meal. Sometimes I’ll even get the special meal, finish it, and then when the standard meals come around ask nicely for one of those as well. You usually have to wait until the rest of the plane has been served, but some hostesses are cool and will give you one straight away!
4. Check in online
I still forget to do this as I’m not good at thinking that far ahead, but checking in online will save you a lot of time and hassle. Rules vary between airlines but it’s a good idea to do it around 24 hours before your flight. Some good airlines will even email you a reminder which is nice. Once you get to the airport you can go straight to the online check-in counter (which is almost always empty) and drop off your bags, while everyone else waits in the huge queue at the normal check-in line. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 4 or 5 people waiting for the online-check in counter.
5. Request a better seat
When you check-in, the check-in staff usually just assign you whatever seat they want, and sometimes will give you a crappy seat down the back so they can save the good ones for frequent flyers and such. All you need to do is ask for a better seat. I usually ask for an aisle seat as close to the front of the plane as possible. It’s very easy for them to do and doesn’t cost anything, and they’ll usually print you a new boarding pass within 20 seconds, complete with new seat number.
6. Load your phone/tablet with entertainment
Flights are long and boring, and even worse if there’s a shitty movie selection or you don’t have a TV screen at all. Even then, the sound and picture on that TV is sometimes so shitty I don’t bother watching anyway. Instead, my phone is loaded with stuff to keep me entertained – I have my Kindle app loaded with books, a bunch of music, and also a few episodes of my favourite podcasts. I particularly enjoy Pat Flynn’s podcast and The Tim Ferriss Show. I also have a pen and pad for taking notes while I’m listening. I find it’s a good low stress way to do something productive on the flight.
7. Know the rules when flying budget airlines
Make sure you read all the rules and conditions when flying a budget airlines, especially the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet. Some particularly tough airlines will charge up to $100 for the pettiest reasons, like if you haven’t printed your boarding pass or if your baggage is only 1cm larger than the permitted dimensions. What’s more, these rules are often hidden in fine print to catch you out and squeeze a few more dollars out of you (Ryanair is particularly bad with things like this). Standard airlines are usually lenient, budget airlines are not. Make sure you read all the fine print at the bottom of your e-ticket and show up prepared!
8. Tag your luggage
Unless your luggage is custom made, chances are there’s someone out there with the exact same bag as you (I’ve seen identical backpacks to mine on multiple occasions). It’s a good idea to tie a piece of ribbon or something on it so you can quickly identify it as yours when it pops out on the belt. More importantly, it’ll stop some idiot taking your bag by mistake.
9. Take an empty water bottle
You can’t take water through security but you can take your water bottle. You can fill this up once you get past the checkpoint at one of the drinking fountains in any good airport. In some airports you go through another security checkpoint right before you board, in which case you can ask the flight attendant to fill it up for you with bottled water once you’re on the plane. That way you’re always hydrated and not continuously buzzing the hostess for water like me.
(A few premium airlines are actually giving out bottled water on board now, which is nice).
10. Wear pyjamas or take them on board
I don’t get why people dress up for flights. On a short flight I’m not too fussed about my clothes, but when flying long haul I always wear pyjama pants, a comfortable t-shirt and a hoodie. I’ll often fly in flip flops too, if I’m feeling particularly lazy. If you don’t like looking like a hippie while wandering through the airport, you can just stuff your lounging clothes in your carry-on bag and slip into them once you’re on board (just cover up with a blanket and do it!) If you’re sitting on a plane for 10+ hours it’s nice to be comfortable, and wearing homey clothes makes your flight much more bearable.
Got any other flying tips? Share them in the comments below!