In 2011, I had a lot of air travel on my calendar. Airport check-ins, security checks and getting yourself a good seat can get challenging at times. And when you do the process a couple of times, you seem to pick up hints and better your experience the next time. So here are a few tips for flying which I would like to share and hopefully make your journey a better one.
Before you leave for the airport
- Personally, I always like to reach the airport a good 2 hours before departure time for international flights. Airports can be crowded at peak time and with all the waiting for check-in, security and immigration you will have very little time to browse the duty-free or grab a bite if you intended to do so.
- Check and double-check your documents. I know a friend who’s actually reached the airport without the passport booklet which had the visa stamped in it.
- If you’re the types who travels heavy, then check your baggage weight before you leave home. I find it really messy to open up bags and re-shuffle the weight to keep the baggage within limits. As a back-up put in a carry-bag which you can use to dump stuff if you’re luggage is over-weight and not worth the excess baggage fee.
- Keep a bottle of water and some gum with you. The journey to the aircraft is going to be a long one and you’ll need it. And bottled water at airports is a bit expensive at times.
- Travel documents – keep them handy in a bag pocket which is easily accessible. And don’t forget a pen, you’re going to need this a lot.
At the airport
- Airports can be crazy, crowded places. So keep your cool and be calm. If you’ve arrived in time, you have no reason to break the line or rush. Everyone will be boarded, relax.
- Let the elders and families with kids get their way, they need it.
- Before you reach the check-in counter, make sure you’ve filled up any necessary forms and have all the documents in your hand. It’s irritating when you see people opening up multiple bag pockets to find a pen or visa copy at the check-in counter.
- Smile and sweet talk with the check-in counter staff. You’ll be surprised, a free upgrade could be yours without the asking. Of course, my dad and wife both believe in making an attempt – And most often they get it.
- Make a seat request. If you know it’s a scenic flight route, then ask for the window seat. But if you’re like me who likes free access to the aisle & toilet, then it’s the aisle seat for you. Thanks to the tip provided by Chris Brogan, I am using SeatGuru on my next trip.
- Make sure all your check-in baggage has been accounted for and necessary baggage tags are with you.
- The most painful part is the almost undressing ritual for the security check. So plan yourself well if you’re going to be travelling a lot.
- Before the approach, I usually dump all my belongings in my hand-bag. Which includes my belt, watch, pen, mobile and wallet.
- The laptop gets into a tray with my jacket, then the bag follows.
- Shoes. Some airports make you put them in too. But I usually get away since I wear only leather shoes without any metal in them.
- And before I throw away the water bottle I take the last sip.
- Once done, make sure you’ve got everything off the machine – laptop goes back into the bag. And then I look for the nearest toilet, get fresh and get out all the essentials from the bag – like my phone and boarding pass.
- Make a quick note of your boarding gate. See the airport map/guide, calculate the distance you have to cover and then plan your walk around the duty-free shopping area.
- Most of the international airports give you estimated walking time from Point A to Point B. So that helps.
- Remember you are at the duty-free shopping to kill time not to shop to your heart’s fancy. So keep an eye on the watch and get to your boarding gate in good time.
In the aircraft
- Locate your seat and search for some space in the over head compartment.
- Before you put the bag up there, make sure you have your essentials – book, music player, hand lotion, medicines etc.
- I am not a very good sleeper on flights, so I carry an eye pad to get some forced rest. Besides that I prefer reading or watching movies.
- I also keep a pen and notebook with me, to make notes – blog post ideas, todos and others which need action when I am back on land.
- As a rule – I don’t have more than 1 beer or a glass of wine. Liquor kept to the minimum on flights is better. Meals – I eat just enough to keep the stomach filled up.
- A good tip – keep an eye on the landing time, try and use the toilet at least 40 mins prior. Because as soon as the pilot makes the descent for landing announcement, people rush to the toilets and then it gets really crowded.
- If the airline has been kind enough to give you the arrival immigration card, you should fill it up while in the flight itself. This way you just rush to the counter and get going.
- If you’re landing at an airport for the first time, look for directions and ask if there is a confusion. Especially if you’ve got a connecting flight to catch.
- Like Chris mentioned, it’s a good idea to pick up a bottle of water here and keep it on you for the journey to the hotel.
- Before you head out of the airport make sure you have all the essentials on your hand – driver / taxi name & number, your local phone is activated and you have the necessary address to locate your hotel.
I hope some of these tips can help make your next journey a bit more comfortable. Have you got a travel tip that you would like to share with me and my readers? Please leave your tips in the comments section.