Flight Tips for Better Travels

Flight Tips for Better Travels

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I love travelling, but I don’t actually like the travel part. Flights, waiting in airports, and trying to figure out where I’m going isn’t my favourite thing. If I could have the superpower to teleport myself around the world, I’d take it. I don’t have any teleportation superpowers, but I’ve spent a lot of time on planes and in airports. These are my tips, from personal experience, on how to make your flight awesome (or maybe a little better than it might have been).

Mentally Prepare Yourself

When I recently travelled to Madrid and Helsinki I did a bit of a milk-run route. First flight leg Edmonton-Toronto-Madrid. After a week in Madrid, my second flight leg was Madrid-Zurich-Helsinki. Then after a few days in Helsinki, my flight leg home was Helsinki-Frankfurt-Calgary-Edmonton. It was a little exhausting. While I had long layovers in several places (5 hours in Toronto, 8 hours in Zurich and 17 hours in Frankfurt), this type of flight route while being cheap might not be for everyone.

That was okay for me. I was prepared for layovers, and sleeping in airports (Zurich for logistical reasons…it wasn’t the worst night sleep I’ve ever had). My advice (and this would be when booking your trip) is to make sure you’re okay with all your flights and connections. Be sure you have enough time for connecting flights (and going through passport control and immigration if needed). Mentally prepare yourself for your trip. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Having a 17-hour layover meant I got a little time to see some of Frankfurt, like checking out the Römerberg district.

Bring Snacks and an Empty Water Bottle

Airports are pricey. Waiting for a flight I get bored, and then I find myself thinking I should get a coffee. I should buy some candy from that store. Suddenly I’m spending money at the airport that I could save for experiences (and better food) at my destination. Most long-haul flights will have meals included, but it’s always a good idea to bring a snack. Have some granola bars, trail mix, and an empty bottle (that you can fill up with water after going through security). Drinking water will help keep you hydrated and feeling better (also helps to eliminate jet lag). The snacks are a good backup plan in case there isn’t food on the plane. You don’t want to be hangry on your trip.

Bring Something to Do

You’ll want to bring something to do while you are waiting at the airport, and while you are on your flight. Yes, there might be in-flight entertainment, but there might not be, and you never know you could be sitting in the one seat where the entertainment system isn’t working. If you’re on a budget airline, there might not be any entertainment at all. Bring along something to occupy your time, whether that’s work to get done, or a book, or a journal, or puzzles, or a tablet or smartphone filled with music and movies (don’t forget your headphones). It’s always good to have an entertainment backup plan to give you something to do while you wait.

You can look out the window on your flight, but that’s only interesting for so long. Especially on a long haul flight so it’s best to bring something to do.

Get a Good Seat

Everyone will have their own idea of constitutes a good seat on a plane, and if you can afford business or first class and want that then go ahead. In economy, some people (like me) will wish to sit in the emergency exit row for the little bit of extra legroom. Other people will find the lack of being able to recline in that row a bit problematic. Some people will want a window seat for the view. Personally, I find the window seat too loud and cold. My pick is the aisle seat because I have long legs and it’s nice to be able to stretch them out a little (when the flight attendants are not coming by with drink carts). Also, I like being able to get up to go to the bathroom without having to bug the people sitting beside me. The only seat I’d say to avoid at all costs is the middle seat because you’re squished between two seats, you don’t get the view of the window seat, or the freedom aisle seat. Unless I’m on a short (2 hour or less) flight, I book an aisle seat whenever I can.

Don’t Drink (Kind Of)

Actually do drink, water that is, lots and lots of water. Ask for water on your flight instead of coffee, tea, alcohol, or any sugary drink (pop/soda, juice). Water will keep you hydrated (because the air inside the plane is very dry), it’ll help you feel better on your flight, and if you want to avoid jet lag drinking water will help as well. On my long transatlantic flights to Madrid and from Frankfurt back home I stuck with water pretty much exclusively. On a shorter flight, a glass of alcohol can be a treat (especially if it’s free – as I found out that it was on the short haul flights in Europe that I took). Just remember with alcohol 1 glass in the sky is like 2 on the ground. Pace yourself…no need to get stupid drunk on a flight.

Wear Compression Socks

On past flights, I’ve had issues with my feet swelling badly. It had gotten so bad on past trips that I’ve been forced to spend several days resting at my hotel because it was too painful to walk anywhere. That is a very lame way to travel.

There are things to do to avoid getting swollen feet. Drinking lots of water will help. As will avoiding sugary and salty food/drinks (including alcohol). Walking around on your flight every couple of hours, and avoiding crossing your ankles will all help. The best thing, however, I’ve found to combat feet swelling (along with using the other tips I mentioned) is to wear compression socks.

Recently on my Europe trip, I tried out a pair of plain black compression socks from Dr. Segal’s. I would put the socks on about 20 minutes before boarding, and because they look like regular socks (albeit slightly thicker in the calf area) I did not feel self-conscious wearing them. When you order the socks online, there is a size chart that asks for your shoe, ankle, and calf size so you will be able to get a pair of compression socks that fits well and is comfortable for the entire flight.

Even though I flew for 24 hours during my two weeks of travel (broken up over about 7 flights) my feet did not swell up. I know these compression socks made a big difference. These are well worth investing in if you’ve got a long flight.

Make a Sleepy-time Kit

If you’re on a red-eye flight and need to try and catch a few winks of sleep, you will want to pack what I call “a sleepy-time kit.” These are things that I find useful to help me sleep on a plane or in an airport when necessary (like I did during my 8-hour overnight layover in Zurich). My kit includes

  • An eye-mask
  • Earplugs
  • My glasses case – because I don’t want to lose my glasses.
  • Melatonin – I don’t usually take any sleeping medication, but I use about 5mg of melatonin to help me relax on a flight.
  • Inflatable neck pillow.
  • A big scarf/shawl that doubles as a blanket
  • Face wash, moisturizer, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste – to help me feel like a decent person when I wake up.

I kept my kit in a reusable shopping bag in my carry-on, making it easy to access when I needed it.

Sometimes Splurging is Good

Similarly, you might want to splurge too. I’m not saying buy everything in the duty-free shop, but if there’s something you feel will make your flight better then maybe look into it. That could be buying that neck pillow from that airport store, or staying at a nice hotel on your overnight layover. If there’s a little splurge (that you can still afford) that will take your airport and flight experience from grumpy to calm and happy, then it might be worth it.

Be Patient

The last thing you want on a trip is to be at an airport, but it’s part of travelling. Be patient and calm, especially if there is a situation that’s causing problems such as a flight delay, a strike or bad weather. It’s also important to know your passenger rights (check with your airline carrier) in the case of delays, but screaming curse words at the flight attendants or gate agents won’t do you any good. Be calm, but assertive if you find you aren’t getting the help you need. I’ve learned with travelling that things don’t always go as planned, but you will get to where you’re going. Just breathe.

Looking out the window at the airport. Sometimes (as Tom Petty once sang), the waiting is the hardest part. Once you get to your destination the wait will be worth it.

Things To Know
I was provided with a free pair of Dr. Segal’s compression socks to review for this post. All opinions within this post are my own.
If you’re looking for a hotel stay for your travels (or for a layover instead of sleeping in the airport like I did in Zurich) you can book your hotel here.

What tips do you have to make your flight awesome (or at least a little better)?

12 thoughts on “Flight Tips for Better Travels”

  1. These are very useful advice. I also use compression socks. It helps a lot. I try not to drink much in the airplane. I always opt for window seat because I enjoy looking outside. I hate having to disturb the people beside me to go out. Then again, I make it a point to stay hydrated. I just drink enough. ?

  2. So glad that you found the benefits of wearing compression socks. The swelling can be a sign of DVT and life threatening! I’d suggest exercising – ankle rolls, point and bend your feet, get up and walk as well to avoid that.

  3. Great tips for long flights! I usually do all that, except for sleeping. I could never sleep on a plane. Not even when I took Ambien! For some reason, if I am not in a comfortable position I won’t fall asleep. As for the drinking part, I agree. It doesn’t help. Neither alcohol nor caffeine are a good match for long flights.

  4. Yes to compression socks! You just reminded me I need to buy a new pair. I also found helpful doing a little bit of yoga before and after flight to fight jetlag.

  5. Bringing snacks and water, something to do, and sleeping supplies is so important when traveling for long periods of time on long flights or multiple layovers. It helps the time pass by and makes the trip much more comfortable. Thanks for the post.

  6. Yes great tips. I tried to remember to wiggle my toes and bend my feet and such every half or so, as well as getting up and walking around when I could. It makes a big difference.

  7. I can’t say I ever sleep for very long on a place, maybe an hour or so at a time. I think if I was in those first-class reclining pod-type seats I might be able to sleep better on a plane, but the sacrifice for travel is worth it (usually).

  8. I do always love the view of the window seat, especially if I’m flying over somewhere with a great view, but I get up so much on a flight that I feel bad for disturbing the people beside me, which is why I usually take the aisle seat. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Highly recommend compression socks, especially if you’re going to be on a long flight or if you’re gonna be on several flights within a short period of time. They’re more expensive than just a regular pair of socks, but if you take care of them they last a long time and are definitely worth the investment.

  10. I am still a little broken from my last long haul flight, everything that possibly could be bad about that flight, was. I was so thirsty, but then the going to the loo thing was a real pain, we were not allowed to cue near them, we basically had to remain seated all the time. So I didnt drink the water. Love the compression socks, I wear skins and they help a lot. I think I will opt for drugs next flight. 🙂

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