Some Travel Tips for Flying

10 09 2007

While flying gets us to our destinations faster than any other way, most people don’t relish being squeezed into narrow seats next to inconsiderate fellow passengers breathing canned air.  However, as many travelers know, a little planning goes a long way toward a smoother trip.  Below I have compiled some basic tips to maximize your peace and comfort and make the best of air travel.  Some of these are obvious, but for the sake of completeness I have included them.  Long haul flights, like the 21 hour flight we are doing soon (14 hour flight, then 2.5 hour layover, then 4 hour flight), deserve special consideration and preparation!

Pick the best seat available on your flight.  Look up your reservation on your airline’s website.  Airlines usually provide the type of aircraft and what kind of food service to expect.  Armed with this information, you can then go to and look up your seat.  This great website displays the location of your seat, tells you where the bathrooms are, and includes comments about legroom, computer power ports, and other important information.  If you are seated in a poor seat, request a seat change.  Nowadays you can usually just change your seating assignment online, or if that doesn’t work, ask when you check into your flight.

If possible, don’t check your bags and pack light.  This is, of course, not possible for some trips and is difficult for people with lots of liquid/gels/lotions.  However, with lines everywhere and the security situation these days, not having to wait in line to check your bag or pick it up is a serious time saver.  For people like myself that have lots of toiletries, you can get little plastic jars from Art stores (used for paint pigments) that are spill-proof and stick them into your plastic zip top bag.  For business trips, this is a must.

Get comfortable.  With more travelers than ever these days, there are a TON of travel products out there that are designed to make travel a little less miserable.  The number 1 item for those that want to sleep on their flights is to get the ubiquitous neck pillow.  They are several kinds out there, from the type that inflate to ones with beads to super fancy tempurpedic pillows that also double as back support.  Also, bringing your own is more sanitary because at least you know where your pillow has been.

Bring entertainment and snacks.  This is obvious but worth mentioning.  For the long hauls, there are lots of travel size games out there that minimize space and maximize fun.  Travel Scrabble, chinese checkers, playing cards are just a few examples.  Books obviously.  An ipod or equivalent can do double duty playing music and discouraging chatty neighbors.

Maximize your laptop usage.  Look up wireless access availability at the airports beforehand.  This is pretty straight forward – just google your airport’s website.  For in seat laptop usage, you can buy a power adapter for airplanes.  Don’t forget to make sure that your assigned seat has a power port.  With a laptop, you do not have to be a slave to the airline’s entertainment choices.  Instead, you can watch the DVDs that you bring, play games, or catch up on your work.  Several airlines are looking into adding internet on flights, but none have yet.  This is definitely something to look forward to!

Check out your airline meal in advance.  Then you can decide if you should bring your own food or not.  Again, first check your reservation online to determine if a meal will be served or not, and whether you have to pay for it.  Then go to  This fun website features pictures taken by passengers of their airline food.  You can look the meals up by airline.

Got a layover?  Explore the airport and surroundings.  This will take a little extra research, but if your layover is over 3 hours it is probably worth it.  Google your airport’s name with the word “layover” and see what pops up.  A great example is this definitive website on layovers at Narita:  Actually the mall in Narita is pretty good for an airport mall.  If you are thinking of leaving the airport, however, make sure you know the exit and entry requirements.

Get an upgrade!  Just kidding.  Well sort of.  If you can afford it, many say this is worth the price for long-haul flights.  Having never sat in anything other than economy (or First Class on Southwest Airlines), I can’t tell if it’s worth it or not.  But I would love to one day sit in this part of the airplane. 

And the last tip is… please have your ID and boarding pass ready at the security gate and don’t clog up the lines at the security checkpoints!!! 




4 responses

11 09 2007

last i checked, singapore airlines let you text message people for free. 🙂

12 12 2007
MJ Klein

great article Sandy. i’m going to reference this article in my next one in the series on this topic. you’ve covered it so well that i can skip these entirely!

12 12 2007

Thanks MJ. I am really enjoying your travel tips series of posts!

12 12 2007 | Diary of A Professional Traveler: Boarding

[…] Sandy has written an excellent article on travel tips for flying.  I suggest that you read her article for other good […]

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