Tips for Flying

A post I have been meaning to write is Tips for Flying. I always thought I generally had a good handle on the practice but it was not until the past year that I really started to understand what works and what does not.

In less than a single year I have flown about 33,000 miles on 25 different flights visiting 6 different countries and 4 different time zones.

I have managed to save a nice chunk of change along the way so I wanted to share some tips for anyone unfamiliar with the definitely not dysfunctional airline industry. First tip:

Google Flights is your friend.

I have managed to plan and sometimes book almost all of my trips through Google Flights. There are however a few airlines that are not available through Google Flights. A notable exception is Southwest. I was booking somewhat last minute for my trip to the Grand Canyon and Zion so the better deal ended up being found on Southwest’s website. I wasn’t complaining especially with their 2 free bags policy. Google Flights also has a cool feature where you can put in the departing airport and then look at a map with prices for destinations across the globe.

A bonus tip I discovered recently using this feature is to try to change the departure airport to NYC if you are not finding a price you are comfortable with. I saved several hundred dollars by taking the train from Baltimore to Penn Station in NYC and then taking the subway over to JFK rather than flying from the DC area. Granted its more convenient to fly from somewhere close to home but sometimes the saving are significant. Second tip:

TSA Security is not your friend.

The best thing you can do when you know you have to go through security is to cut down on factors that will slow you down and increase your anxiety. You are already hungry and hot and sweaty from standing in line for so long. The least you can do is prepare well enough before hand so that you are not the one holding up the line.

Things to have:

  • Socks (you filthy animal)

  • Slip on shoes

  • Elastic waste band or a plastic belt buckle

  • All of your toiletries in a single plastic bag (do not bring the big bottle and argue there is less than 6 oz in it you weirdo)

  • If you are flying internationally keep your ticket and passport in your hand. Sometimes they tell you to put it in your bin at the last minute but I have had it in hand while walking through the scanner.

The pro tip here really is to pay for TSA PreCheck. I am CONSTANTLY walking by hundreds of people to be the only person in the PreCheck line and all you have to do once you get there is make sure everything that was in your pockets (phone, passport, wallet, keys) is in your bag, and walk on through. It is $80 and lasts 5 years. The third tip:

Hydrate

Carry a liter Nalgene or whichever brand of water bottle you prefer with you at all times. Most airports today have the water bottle fill up station so its easier than ever to always have water with you. You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to pay for water either in the airport or on the plane. Just make sure you pour it out before security. Most of the low cost airlines charge you for water these days. I made the mistake of running out of water on a Brussels Airlines flight to Copenhagen with a massive head cold, no water, and no euros to buy any. Which brings me to my next tip:

Head colds on a pressurized plane SUCK

If you have any kind of pressure in your sinuses or are in the midst of allergies or a cold a pressurized plane is not your friend. I came down with a cold right before my trip to Greenland and it wasn’t until we were landing in Lisbon that I understood the pain I was in for. It is excruciating. Thankfully I only had 3 more flights to go…Moral of the story. Bring water to keep swallowing and a Day quill or other pain relievers if you got them. Now my final tip for now:

Sometimes its OK to pay for premium

On my recent flight from Copenhagen to New York City I caved and paid for a premium seat as it was an 8 hour Norwegian Air. I can’t sleep on planes. I will manage to close my eyes for 10 or 15 minutes but that is the extent of my sleeping ability. Knowing I am going to be awake the whole time I knew I would be very uncomfortable after 8 hours sandwiched between strangers. Getting the first class treatment made the flight go by in a flash and I was fed and caffeinated getting off at what would be about 2am for my internal clock.

I will post a follow up to my flying tips in the future but for now let me know what you think? What are your own “flying hacks”? Drop a comment below.