15 Great Tips for Making Air Travel A Breeze
It isn’t enough to know where you’re going and when your plane leaves. There are several pieces of key information and planning required to avoid – as much as you can – unpleasant surprises along the way. Try these great tips to help make your arrival more pleasant and productive.
- Know the weather. Know ahead of time the prevailing weather conditions for where you’re going, likely variations, and current conditions. Know the weather between here and there. If you’re using an iPhone or iOS device, or any of several other smartphones, TripCase is a great tool for obtaining this information without having to clutter your regular weather apps. Use (and compare!) Accuweather and The Weather Channel from a laptop or desktop.
- Know your schedule. Determine whether there are any flight delays, and sign up for SMS notifications from the carrier. It’s worthwhile to establish frequent-traveler profiles with the major carriers for this, and other, conveniences.
- Know your companions’ schedules. If you’re traveling with others and you aren’t driving when you get there, ensure you have the phone number for a reputable local taxi company. If you’re using an iPhone or an Android-based phone, Siri and Vlingo are great voice-operated, location-based apps for obtaining a lot of things, and it integrates data from several other service providers, such as Taxi Magic and OpenTable. If you are driving, ensure your companions know your travel schedule and anything that may impact it so they aren’t stuck waiting without information if something occurs. Which brings me to the next tip:
- Store important phone numbers in your phone. It’s very irritating to have to look through your bag, notebook, or paper-based phone book to find the phone numbers of traveling companions when you need to call them to provide an update, call the hotel for a car, or call the airline or travel agent to make changes to your reservations. So store their numbers in your phone. Similarly, store frequently-called (and otherwise very important) numbers in your phone’s contact list. Calls that need to be made in a hurry are made much more easily when the phone number is readily available, and if you’re implementing GTD, you already know that the phone call is more likely to be made if the number is stored with the call task or appointment itself.
- Know your hotel. Take a look at my article on 15 Ways to Make Hotel Travel More Relaxing for more in-depth information about hotels. The bottom line here is know where it is and how to get to it (in case your driver doesn’t or wants to take the long way), know its neighborhood’s reputation, and see if it has any reviews on TripAdvisor. But take them with a grain of salt.
- Take advantage of plan-ahead amenities.Many hotels today email a confirmation again shortly before your scheduled trip, and they often contain a link to virtual concierge services. If you know you want extra towels or pillows or blankets, or even a larger quantity than the complimentary bottle water, take advantage of this service to request them. The request will be linked to your profile, which will save the hotel (and you) some inconvenience over calling directly. You can also utilize this service if you want fresh flowers in your room for a special trip (and you forgot to order them ahead of time), although not all hotels will honor this request by email; so, be sure to put in a direct-contact phone number if you try this.
- Buy a laptop briefcase or handbag. They fit under seats much better than do rigid-sided bags, even airplane-friendly rolling bags. Most have a drag-strap on the top that fits nicely over the pull-handle of a rolling bag, so you won’t sacrifice the ability to have it piggyback on your rolling bag. They’re also easier to lift onto the security line’s scanner belt. And, they have the added advantage of holding less typically than a rolling bag would, so your back will thank you immediately and down the road.
- Don’t carry a bag onto the plane. Really. I mean it. Unless you know how to follow instructions on bag sizes. It annoys the other passengers if you are spatially-challenged and don’t understand that the bag that you couldn’t get into the back of an SUV also won’t fit in the overhead bin on the plane. Here’s a handy tip to try at home if you really just can’t manage to travel without a carry-on (in addition to your laptop briefcase or handbag/purse): Stand your bag up beside your toilet at home. If any part of that bag is wider than the toilet tank, deeper than the toilet tank (from the wall to the front of the tank), or taller than the top of the toilet tank, it. will. not. fit. in. the. overhead. At least, not without seriously infringing on other people’s space.
- Be nice to the flight attendants. Be very nice. I mean genuinely nice, not fake nice. Their job is to take care of you on the flight and to help ensure the safety of the cabin. That does not, in any way, mean they should be subjected to abuse, even if you’re having a very bad day. If you don’t have anything nice to say, be quiet.
- Say thank you to the flight crew. If the flight deck door is open when you exit the plane, say thank you to the flight crew unless they’re obviously in the middle of post-flight checks or otherwise engaged. They did just navigate a large metal tube full of fuel and people safely through the air and back onto the ground. With you in it. A little politeness is definitely in order. If you fly with them very often, they’ll remember your gracious behavior, and being gracious about something automatically makes your overall memory of the experience better. It may not be original; it may not be elegant; but, I say “thanks for the ride” and I acknowledge the flight crew every time I get off of a plane, and I do it without breaking stride. There’s no need to stop for a conversation.
- Board when you’re supposed to. Get on the plane when you’re supposed to. That means if they board in groups and you’re in group 5, get on the plane when group 5 is called. Get in line behind group 4. Don’t stand in line right at the opening of the boarding lanes “just so you can be ready” if you’re three, four, or five groups deep in the boarding order. It will impair the boarding, delay the departure, and earn you some unpleasant stares. Likewise, if you’re in group one or two, board with those groups. Otherwise, everyone in your row will have to get up so you can be seated. Take advantage of priority boarding, if you have the opportunity.
- Prevent airsickness. If you’re prone to motion sickness, travel with a preventative. If you’re using motion sickness bands (the type that activate a pressure point in your wrists), be sure to find the pressure point and begin wearing the bands a couple of hours before your flight. Keep them on until a couple of hours after you’ve landed. You must give your inner ear time to adjust.
- Stay hydrated. Keeping hydrated is always a good general health tip, but proper hydration also helps prevent motion sickness, headaches, and nausea on airplanes, and dehydration impairs immunity. So, proper hydration also helps prevent colds and other upper respiratory viruses when you’re traveling.
- Avoid the noise. High-noise environments are proven to increase stress, and the noise combined with vibration on planes can really impair your ability to rest when you get where you’re going. There are several very effective models of noise-reducing headphones on the market (both active and passive), but even a high-quality pair of earbuds will significantly reduce the noise pressure on your eardrums. Take care not to play your music overly loud, especially with earbuds. Damage to your hearing can easily occur because of the increased sound pressure in your ear from the earbuds. So, turn down the volume!
- Take a variety of reading material. If you want to read on the flight, take along a variety of material. A couple of books of different genres, or a book and a magazine, or whatever combination appeals to your interest. The point is to have a couple of different “moods” of reading material available so you aren’t stuck with just one thing. And, if you’re like me, you have a Kindle or a Nook and an iOS reading device. Remember, you won’t be able to use them for the first and last 20 – 30 minutes of the flight. So, have something in a printed format so you don’t end up twiddling your thumbs.
This article is one of a series on tips to make travel less stressful and more productive. See the first article here:
Safe travels, and enjoy life,