As I head out tomorrow on my 5:30 am (boarding at 4:50 am) flight, I am thinking to myself, “WTF WAS I THINKING!!!” It always seems like a good idea at the time you book, but these AM flights are killer even if they do get you from the West Coast to the East Coast before dark. I would just caution you to really think through your flight times as well as your layover times before you book. If you are going to arrive tired and cranky or have to run through a crowded airport to make a tight connection, maybe rethink your flight plans.
If you haven’t already, download the airline app on your phone for whatever carrier you are flying on. Use the boarding pass on your app to get through security and onto the plane. Set up push notifications to your phone within the app for any change to your travel plans. Gates change, flights are delayed or cancelled, and you need to be the first to know. Heads up-more and more airports are not making overhead announcements so the notification on your phone from your airline might be your only warning. If you have a flight cancel or are delayed too long that you will miss connections, jump on the airline’s app immediately while walking to the customer service desk to rebook. If you are travelling with a companion, have them call the airlines customer service at the same time. You never know where you’ll get the fastest service, so you have to try several options simultaneously because everyone else on that delayed flight is also trying to reschedule. Below are my top 10 travel tips for flying, accumulated from personally travelling all over the world. Enjoy the journey!
- Try to get on the first flight out in the morning even if it means getting up early (but maybe not as early as I’m getting up tomorrow!). These flights are far less likely to cancel. Later flights are subject to weather issues and cascading flight cancels as delays cause flight crews to take breaks every 16 hours they work. Getting TSA Pre-check for US travel is worth the time and $78 expense. I would never consider travelling without it as I typically get through TSA much faster and without taking liquids out or shoes off. For frequent global trips, get Global Entry for $100 that includes TSA Pre-check. More info on these programs here: Official Trusted Traveler Program Website | Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov)
- If you have a major event to attend like a wedding, funeral or perhaps a concert, try to arrive at least a day or two in advance to allow for flight delays/cancels. Delays happen! If they do, try to buy a day pass to one of the airline member lounges if you don’t already have a membership. They offer comfortable seating (and even beds at some airports-see pic above of Thom reclining at Delta club in Paris!) and free food/alcohol. I spend extra to have this luxury (look at those big seats in pic above!) because it makes delays and long connections bearable when travelling. Tomorrow, I have a 3-hour layover in Minneapolis, and I’ll be checking out the new Delta club that I hear is fabulous.
- When booking, allow for several hours between connections. You may think that the airlines sites are showing connections that are 30 minutes when you do searches so it must be alright but that is not the case. Especially at large, busy airports and those in other countries that may require you to go through customs, you need three hours minimum between flights. Really anywhere for both foreign and domestic flights, allow 90 minutes at least between connecting flights.
- Always check out carefully where you are sitting on the plane. Don’t be near the bathrooms or in seats that don’t recline. Speaking of awful seats-see pic above of weird wall that was in front of my husband’s seat instead of a video screen on the seat back in front of him. This wall wasn’t showing when on the map when seats were booked. On overnight flights, try to be halfway between bathrooms and galley so that it is quieter. If you need to get up frequently, get an aisle seat. Want to lean while you sleep, then get a window seat and hug the wall.
- Being drunk on a plane is a federal offense so don’t overdo it. Jet lag is bad enough but jet lag+hangover will negatively impact your trip. If another passenger gets drunk and rowdy, discretely go to the flight attendant and let them handle it-they are trained and will be better equipped than you are to take care of any situation.
- If flights are full and people have to get bumped (yes, it happens and it’s not fair if you have a ticket, but it happens), the first people to get bumped are those who paid for the tickets not directly from the airline site. So, for example, you book your ticket through a third-party site like Expedia vs. a person who bought through the Delta site, then you, as the Expedia customer, will probably be bumped. Even better, if you are a loyal frequent flyer on one airline and get status, you have the edge over others with no status. Be loyal! Sign up for the frequent flyer program at the airline you will use most often. For me, it’s Alaska for regional travel and Delta for everything else. As far as the low-cost carriers like Southwest, you get what you pay for. Southwest has had multiple systemwide issue failures causing travel havoc. Save up and fly on a better airline.
- Don’t bring stinky food to eat on the plane. Not only will those around you hate you but the flight attendants will too. Don’t be that person eating the taco or tuna fish or a hardboiled egg. Yuck! P.S. Also bring along Lysol wipes and thoroughly clean off your tray table and armrests-you know the plane crew doesn’t probably have time to do a good job on every single tray table for every flight. I have a vivid memory of seeing a mother bounce her baby (clad only in a diaper) on the tray table to get them to calm down. Think about that-the residue left behind from that bouncing diaper-clad bottom….and clean, clean, clean before touching your tray table.
- Drink water to stay hydrated. Don’t get ice in your water or drink. Various studies show ice can be contaminated with bacteria. I don’t chance it. Your choice.
- Bring noise cancelling headphones OR listen to the guy next to you snoring or telling you conspiracy theories or the baby crying for hours. Also, some airplane still use the headphones with jacks to watch free movies. Carry a spare pair just in case.
- Dress in layers to fly. I always wear pants (shorts on a plane are just stupid-sorry), a l/s top, jacket and scarf. BTW, keep your shoes on while you fly. Please for the love of God. Wear compression socks to increase circulation and reduce swelling in your legs and feet. P.S. That’s not water on the bathroom floor on the plane in case you take your shoes off and decide to use the facilities.
I’m off to go to bed at 8 pm so that I can rise at 3 am and get to the airport for my unholy early morning flight tomorrow. The good news is that I probably won’t have a travel delay and I’ll get to Indianapolis for my family visit before it gets dark. I’m homeward bound to walk down memory lane.