WANDERLUST: Tips from frequent flyers

Does the thought of airports and flying give you nightmares three months in advance? Are you that passenger who nervously grabs the armrest whenever there’s a single unexpected sound or jump? Well, this article is made just for you!

Personally, I’ve taken off and landed in a plane a good number of times in my life, I lost count. To add to the experience, I also studied aviation and how airports and planes work, although, that doesn’t stop me from having a mini heart attack every time there’s a sudden drop as the plane flew into something that’s called an ‘air pocket’ (this is absolutely normal and very common, it’s just a form of turbulence).

Me and a couple of my fellow international friends, consider ourselves frequent flyers – although only a few of us have an actual frequent flyer card – and we would like to share our recommendations and tips on how to secure a smooth and calm journey from booking a ticket all the way to landing.

 

A common tip, which you can find on the internet, is to book your flight on a Tuesday afternoon to midnight, that’s when the prices are the cheapest. Also, booking 7 weeks in advance for short-haul flights will get you a good deal as well.

Chewing gum. Always have a packet of gum with you, especially on long flights. After several hours without brushing your teeth, you will really enjoy the minty taste of a gum. If you don’t need it, you can still offer one to the person sitting next to you who forgot his and really should have one. I mean REALLY should have one. It also helps when you need your ears to pop.

– Kim Dohmen

Check multiple unbiased travel websites, e.g. skyscanner or hopper, for an overall summary of all the flights.

  • If you can, don’t look for a set date, the price differences between days can be quite significant.

Don’t instantly click on the first (and cheapest) flight, they often contain a bad combination of transfers, either an unprotected transfer when choosing a low cost airline or two different airlines from different alliances (if your first flight is delayed or cancelled and you miss your connecting flight, you won’t get a refund or get booked on a different flight), or a long, overnight transfer at the airport.

 

If your ticket doesn’t include a checked-in luggage (hold luggage) buy it online (if you need one), where it’s much cheaper than at the airport.

Check in online before you get to the airport. It doesn’t matter if you’re flying short distance with only hand luggage or long distance with checked in luggage. It guarantees that you are checked into the flight and have a boarding pass. It would even save you that extra hour at the airport that your dad insists you have to have “in case of”. 

– Emelie Pousette

  • If you don’t know which seat to choose, check out: seatguru.com

I’m not sure if this is a rule, but budget airlines allocate seats in order of check in. If you check-in as soon as you get a notification, you’re most likely to get a seat in the last row. On the other hand, if the flight isn’t fully booked, most people will pay extra just so they don’t have to sit in the last row, meaning you could get the whole row to yourself.

On long distance flights, you will most likely to fly on a larger airplane. These usually don’t happen to be fully booked (except for that one airline which had quite a show with overbooking recently, wink wink). As passengers get the option to check themselves in online, they most usually try to grab the first rows of the airplane. No one wants to sit in the back. Most people just want to get on and off the plane ASAP, even if it means being crammed in a middle seat. Getting yourself a seat in the back actually gives you a great chance of having the WHOLE ROW to yourself. You will always have the toilet nearby and you can always go for a chat with the crew who leave non-alcoholic drinks at the back for anyone.

– Ali Derjabina

Get a portable luggage scale, so you can keep track of how heavy your bag is before getting to baggage drop off and being told it’s overweight and having to pay a fortune (or awkwardly repacking your whole suitcase in front of a massive queue of people).

Go offline, download everything you need to use at the airport and on the flight, playlists, boarding pass and movies (you can do that on Netflix now). Use the airport Wi-Fi and go on flight mode. It will save your battery power and make things smoother.

– Emelie Pousette

 

If the flight is full, the staff may ask you if you want to check in your cabin bag free of charge (because of a high number of cabin bags, which will all not fit in the overhead bins). This will save you having to fight for the tiny bit of space in the overhead lockers. You’ll get your bag back after landing on the conveyor belt with the rest of your luggage. Just make sure you take any valuables and your laptop out beforehand.

  • In winter, swap your laptop for your massive winter jacket, so you don’t have to carry it around the airport.
  • If you’re travelling with cabin baggage only, it’s up to you if you want to wait for your bag after landing.

Queue left, somehow, I always end up choosing the wrong line, no matter how short the line is it always ends up taking the longest time. Research shows that since most people are right-handed they will naturally prefer the right line. So, go left!

– Emelie Pousette

Often, airlines put on ‘last call’ even when they’ve just started boarding to get all passengers into the gate and the plane ASAP. If there’s still a lot of time (over 40 minutes) to take off, it’s probably the case.

During the flights, long and short, the temperature in the airplane can change quite a lot. It is advisable to carry a light jacket or a scarf with you even if it is summer and 35°C outside. There is nothing worse than shivering with the crew telling you that they can’t put the temperature up (regulations, energy).

– Ali Derjabina

Depending on your seat, choose when to board. If you’re sitting right at the back, try to board first. If you’re sitting closer to the front of the plane, board with the last passengers.

  • If the plane boards from both front AND back, again, consider where you’re sitting. If you’re in seat 8C, you wouldn’t board through the rear steps.

 

Choose your socks and shoes wisely! It might not seem that important but choosing the right kind of shoes is crucial to maximize your comfort when travelling by plane! What does that mean? Well, you might know that security asks you to take off boots at the security check. On short flights, I try to avoid that by picking sneakers instead. On long flights, however, boots are my first choice as I can quickly take them off on the plane. That means I can curl up on the seat comfortably!

Bring thick woolly socks! Again, I only do that on long flights because the struggle of taking off/putting on my shoes isn’t worth it if I’m only flying for an hour. On long flights though, chilling with cosy socks is the best thing ever.

– Kim Dohmen

 

 

Carry on essentials:

  • An eye mask. There is nothing more annoying than when you want to sleep and the lights are on full blast.
  • A water bottle. Everything is so expensive at airports, and it’s stupid to have to pay more for a bottle of water than a McDonald’s meal. You can fill your bottle after security using water fountains or on tap in bathrooms (make sure it’s drinkable though!).
  • A snack. You’re allowed food through security, so you might as well take advantage of that! You’ll save money buying it beforehand, not getting disappointed by the airline’s food selection AND it’ll give you something to nibble on.

– Emelie Pousette

Authors: Gabi Kaufmanova, Emelie Pousette, Kim Dohmen, Ali Derjabina
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