Flying is by far the most efficient and convenient way to travel somewhere more than a couple hours drive away from you.
The downside is that flying also includes dealing with airports, airlines, and rude fellow passengers.
Since flight attendants have an insiders view to air travel that most of us can only dream of, we thought we’d get the inside scoop from them on how you can make your next trip more enjoyable and avoid the problems most people encounter.
We researched the best travel hacks and insider tips from flight attendants that can help make your next trip a great one. We organized them into this ultimate list of the 17 things you need to know.
Let’s get started!
1. Download things to watch to your Netflix, Amazon or other streaming service app
Flights can be long and boring. They feel even longer if you’re bored and have nothing to do.
While some airlines do offer in-flight entertainment, it can sometimes leave you with limited choices of things to watch. Some airlines even charge you extra to use their entertainment services.
One great way to get around this is to download things to watch on your phone or tablet before you leave home. Streaming services like Netflix allow you to do this as paying customer.
While this isn’t something you’d ever need to do at home, having a bunch of movies and shows downloaded and ready to go can make your next flight a piece of cake.
2. Bring noise cancelling headphones to wear
Airplanes can be loud. There are not only the sounds of the plane itself but potentially hundreds of other passengers cramped into the same small place as you.
Do you like the sound of random conversations, babies crying, and people chewing? I didn’t think so.
This is why you should consider picking up a pair of cheap noise cancelling headphones to wear while you fly.
Noise cancelling headphones let you completely ignore all those annoying sounds and noises which will let you read a book, surf the internet, or even sleep in peace.
3. Pack additional snacks
While more airlines offer snacks on flights, you might find the options to be very limited. They usually don’t include healthy options, either.
If you find yourself hungry for a snack, you might also have to potentially wait a few hours for the flight attendants to offer drink and snack service.
I strongly recommend you pack a few light snacks in your carry on or purse. This way you’ll have better (and potentially healthier) options that you can have whenever you choose.
Considering how often flights get delayed and that you might find yourself waiting a few extra hours for your next meal, having packed a snack can be a rea life saver.
4. Wear socks and shoes to the airport
This one should go without saying, but I’ve recently seen quite a few people travelling with flip-flops or sandals on.
Airplanes can be cold and dirty places. I’d strongly recommend you wear socks and shoes when you head to the airport.
This will make it far less gross when you have to go through security since you won’t be barefoot.
Not having on socks can also lead to being cold on the airplane. Wearing socks and shoes is the way to go to avoid this.
You also still have the option to take your shoes off on a longer flight to relax your feet and since you have socks on you won’t weird everyone out.
5. Bring slippers for long flights (free at your hotel!?)
Another option to keep you comfortable on flights if you don’t like to wear shoes is to bring a pair of slippers.
This allows your feet to stay warm while you get to enjoy the comfort of not having shoes on.
*Bonus Tip: You can usually get some comfy slippers for free from hotels. So, if you’re travelling make sure to ask at your hotel if they offer any.
6. Check in online (gate agents will thank you)
Most airlines now offer the ability to check in for your flight before you even leave your house (or hotel) to head to the airport.
You might have to download the app for the airline you’re flying with, but this is 100% worth it.
Being able to check in will make the entire process smoother and let you travel with less stress. It’s one less thing you have to do at the airport.
Checking in online before your flight might also help you get the seats you want. This sure beats waiting in a long line only to find out that the seats you wanted were taken by someone else.
7. Travel with only a carry on
If you are taking a short trip and can get away with not checking a bag, you should definitely do so.
Checking a bag can potentially create a list of issues for you to deal with including:
- added fees for the luggage
- wasted time waiting around in baggage claim
- your luggage getting lost
Every flight attendant we talked to said the same – if you can get away with not checking a bag, it’s worth it.
8. If you do check bags, your carry on should hold you over
This is a travel hack that I hope most people never have to learn the hard way.
If you are travelling and decide to check your luggage, make sure that your carry on has what you need for a day or two in the event your luggage is lost.
This means packing a set of toiletries, a change of clothes/underwear, and any prescriptions you might need on your carry on.
If you find yourself without your luggage for a day or two, you’ll be glad you planned ahead.
9. Buy luggage with colors and/or designs
We’ve all had this moment happen to us at some point in our lives.
You’re at the airport after a long day of traveling and need to get your baggage at baggage claim so you can finally head home.
Then, you find yourself in a large group of people all staring at luggage as it circles the carousel. Every time you think your bag is coming up and you reach for it, it turns out it’s someone else’s so you have to go back to the waiting game.
Even worse, some other tired traveler might grab your luggage thinking it’s theirs.
Avoid this by choosing luggage with some kind of design or a color that really stands out. I have a friend that buys bright pink luggage for this very reason.
While all the other luggage is black or navy blue, her pink luggage stands out like a sore thumb. Nobody is mistaking those bags.
10. Take an empty bottle through security to fill up
We all know that you aren’t allowed to bring a water bottle through security at an airport.
But what you *ARE* allowed to bring is an empty bottle.
This is a clever hack since you can fill the bottle as soon as you get through security and now you’re back to having water whenever you want just as if you packed it with you.
Traveling tends to make people thirsty. Having a water bottle with you instead of having to wait for someone to bring you a glass of water will make your trip go so much smoother!
11. Take the stairs between flights
If you have a layover between flights and have to travel between gates or even entire sections of the airport, you should try to walk instead of taking elevators or escalators.
One reason is that after you’ve been stuck on an airplane it will feel great to stretch your legs out and get some activity in. This helps you prevent feeling worse later on in the day when you’re on that next flight.
Another reason is that since everyone else will take the elevator or escalator, you’ll be walking amongst a very slow moving group of people. If you’re cutting it close on time this can lead to you missing your flight.
You’ll typically get where you’re going much faster in an airport if you just walk at a brisk pace.
12. Looks at the people in line at security
When it’s time to go through security at an airport you’ll usually have to make a choice of which line to get it.
The smart way to handle this is to look at who is currently waiting to go through security in each line.
Try your best to avoid lines that have people that will typically take longer. Examples of this include senior citizens, people with small children, and those who seem to be very confused tourists who have never been to an airport before.
Instead, try to get in the line that has younger people and those dressed like professionals even if the line is slightly longer.
Experienced travelers will typically get through security quicker and safe you the frustration of being in line being people that take forever.
13. The Headrests are adjustable
One thing that passengers often overlook on an airplane is that the headrests are adjustable.
Comfort is priority #1 while flying (especially on long flights) so any small adjustment you can make to make yourself more comfortable is worth it.
In this case, adjusting the headrest can be the difference between a comfortable flight and a nap instead of facing forward and waiting for the flight to be over for hours on end.
14. Choose aisle seats for longer flights (especially if you’re tall!)
For many passengers, the go-to seating choice for a long flight is a window seat.
The logic is that having a window seat means you’ll generally be left alone by other passengers for the duration of the flight.
While this is generally true and leads to less instances of having to get up to let someone out of the row, you are also stuck in a cramped space for a long period of time.
A better alternative for a lot of people (especially tall people) is to take an aisle seat. While this does create more distractions and having to get up more often, you’ll also get another huge benefit.
You’ll be able to use the aisle to stretch your legs out as well as get up to stretch in the aisle without bothering another passenger.
This can prove invaluable and make the overall flying experience significantly better. This is also my go-to strategy since I’m 6’1 and tend to get cramped up on long flights.
15. Be Kind to the gate agents and cabin crew
Flying can be very stressful. But, you’re not the only one who feels that stress. The entire airport (and your flight) can be full of people that are stressed out, tired, and anxious to get where they’re going.
This often leads to passengers being rude and mean to the cabin crew.
Gate agents and flight attendants are just doing their best to get everyone to their destination safely as quickly as possible and don’t deserve the abuse they regularly get from passengers.
Not only is being kind to the gate agents and flight attendants the right thing to do, it can also work out in your favor.
If there’s the opportunity for an upgrade, or if you need a favor at some point during your travels they are much more willing to do you a favor if you’re courteous and professional.
16. If you flight is delayed or cancelled try to call the airline from your cellphone instead of waiting in the line everyone else is in
This one actually happened to me not that long ago. I was at the gate waiting to board for a flight to Portland, OR when we were told that there was a mechanical problem with the airplane and that the flight was cancelled.
A wave of worry and anxiety swept over the 100+ people that were all expecting to board the plane in the next 20 minutes.
Then, the entire crowd made their way to the nearest ticketing agent and formed a line to get booked onto a different flight. Picture over 100 people in a long line all waiting for one of two ticketing agents. That’s not a wait I have the patience for.
So, despite being in the airport just a few feet from employees of the airline, I called the 800 number for the airline.
I talked to a live person, booked a new flight, and was off to my new gate in 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, that line had barely moved.
That’s how you should handle situations like that if they ever happen to you.
17. Learn the stretches on an airplane (and even in the bathroom!)
Sitting on a cramped airplane can get pretty uncomfortable. It’s not uncommon to get cramps, body aches, and tight muscles.
One thing that you can do to prevent this is learn some basic stretches you can do while on an airplane. There’s a wide assortment of options that can be done at your seat, in the aisle, or even in the bathroom.
Take a moment to look through this list and make note of the ones you’d like to do on your next plane ride.
This can be the difference between getting to your destination in pain or showing up feeling like a million bucks.
While air travel is an efficient way to travel long distances, it can still be uncomfortable and inconvenient.
However, using these insider tips can help make your experience much more positive and save you from a lot of wasted time and annoyance.