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

WANDERLUST: Travelling on a budget

When it comes to travelling, being a student can be both, a major advantage as well as a restricting factor. Semester breaks oftentimes seem endless and give you an amazing feeling of freedom. I often remind myself that once stuck in a nine to five job, it will be much harder to squeeze an adventure into the busy work schedule, which is why I should travel NOW. However, while time might be on your side, your bank account will probably seem like your biggest enemy. Let’s face it; students are always broke. So what can you do to have a great time travelling without being in major debt afterwards? These 5 tips on how to travel on a budget will help you to make the most of your time and money.

 

  1. Don’t go abroad

Wait what, I thought I’d get tips on travelling and now you tell me to stay at home? Wrong. The first thing to remember is that a great adventure is not measured in kilometres you travel, but in experiences you make. If you cannot afford to fly around the world, look for exciting places in your own country that you haven’t been to so far. Go to remote Scottish islands, explore the highlands or visit a city. Did you know that you could live above a small vintage bookshop in the picturesque village of Wigtown for free if in return you run the shop by yourself for the duration of your stay? You can read more about The Open Book project on their blog (theopenbookwigtown.tumblr.com).  See, opportunities are everywhere, just go and look for them.

  1. Don’t go the easy way

Transport will, of course, use up a big chunk of your travel budget, which is why you should think about different possibilities to reach your destination. If the timing of your trip is not set in stone you can make some great deals when booking flights. Browse flight search engines like kayak or skyscanner for special offers and sign up to a few airline’s newsletters in order to not miss any great deals anymore. Oftentimes you get the best inspiration for your next trip when stumbling over a really cheap flight to a destination you otherwise wouldn’t even have considered. Also, travelling with hand luggage only will save you a little fortune! However, flying is not the only way to make your way around. Interrail Passes allow you to see up to 30 countries in Europe with only one reasonably priced train ticket. Community marketplaces like BlaBlaCar.com allow you to search for cheap ridesharing and carpooling possibilities.

  1. Look for alternative accommodation

Yes, it is important to feel safe and comfortable at the places you are staying during your journey. However, that does not mean that you have to book a crazily expensive hotel or hostel rooms. If you browse the Internet for alternative accommodation you will see that you have lots of other (cheap) options. Airbnb is a platform that showcases hosts from around the world who rent out their private apartments, holiday homes or spare rooms. This is not only a great way to safe money, but also to experience a more homely accommodation and get an authentic inside into local living. House-sitting, as offered by platforms like TrustedHousesitters, follows the concept that travellers watch someone’s house and care for any pets while the owners are away. In return, they can stay for free! Another way to sleep for free is Couch Surfing. As the name suggests, this website will help you to find people that will let you sleep on their couch, which is also a great way to meet locals! You can also work in return for a place to sleep and food – check out wwoof.net to learn more about volunteering on organic farms around the world.

  1. Step out of your comfort zone

I promise you will make the best memories when you step out of your comfort zone and connect with the places, culture and people surrounding you during your travels. Reach out to travel communities, such as the Travelettes Facebook page where you can get in touch with locals, ask questions and get inspiration for your journey. Ask your friends and family for contacts they might have and simply chat them up to learn more about the place and its sights or attractions. This is the cheapest way to get to know an area as it will safe you lots of money you might spend on travel guides and rip off tours for tourists.

  1. Be creative

Travelling is a fantastic opportunity to do fun activities that you cannot or would not do at home. However, lots of attractions and sights are really expensive so it is important to plan ahead. Set yourself a daily budget to spend on activities and see how much you can get out of it. Lots of cities offer free walking tours that will take you to famous sights and hidden spots. However, it is always nice to tip the guide of course. Many museums around the world are free during certain times of the week so do your research before planning your days! Spending money on public transportation can also add up, so try to walk as much as possible – this is also a great way to see more of the area and explore it off the touristy paths. When it comes to eating, try to avoid the touristy areas and eat like a local instead. Having meals at local farmers markets, cafés and restaurants will not only make your bank account happy but expose you to unique culinary experiences.

What are you waiting for? Start planning, pack your bags and see the world.

Author: Kim Dohmen