I remember when I was a little kid, I was always fascinated by airplanes. Mostly because I had never been on one, not yet anyway. That little kid had no idea the traveler I was to become in the near future.
After my first few times flying and my first few 5+ hour flights though, I realized that airplanes aren't really all they're cracked up to be. In fact, I kind of hate them and flying in general. It's cramped, the food sucks, there's too many movies to sort through, there's always (ALWAYS) kids and babies that coincidentally are seated right next to you and did I mention it's cramped?
Don't worry though. With these 10 tips, you'll be flying like a pro in no time.
1. SCHEME FOR AN AISLE OR WINDOW SEAT
For some airlines, there actually isn't a lot of scheming involved in this. You can pick your seat when you get on the flight, or pony up some dough for the seat you really want. But trust me when I say that you DO NOT want to be sitting in the middle of a row on a 3-4-3 plane with a screaming, crying baby on your right and an overweight guy on your left.
For a lot of airlines, you have to get your boarding pass 24 hours in advance, so make sure you're ready to go at your computer or phone the minute that time window opens. That will help you get the best seat possible.
Other airlines only give you a boarding "zone." Looking at you, Southwest. There's pros and cons to this, but the reality is the same, be ready to go when your ticket is available. Make sure you don't dawdle at the gate either. When they make the first announcement for boarding, get your ass in line so you can make the mad dash onto the plane and claim that highly coveted window or aisle seat.
I also want to touch on the highly-debated window vs. aisle seat dilemma. I'm personally on #TeamWindow just because I like to look out and get the aerial view of my destination. It also helps to have the window and wall of the plane for sleeping purposes. I also like looking at clouds. Sue me.
I will say that I still appreciate the aisle seat, though. I'm a big guy and I like the extra leg room. Plus, there's the added bonus of "accidentally" tripping a flight attendant on the way down the aisle while you were "asleep" in your seat. No, I haven't done that...we should move on.
2. GO VEGETARIAN
We all know that airline food sucks. It's just a simple fact of life. However, there are a few ways to make it better. Pretty much every flight ever offers a vegetarian meal as an option. My flight to London offered a vegetarian pasta for example.
I've found in my travels that, most of the time, the vegetarian meal is better than whatever else they're serving aboard the aircraft. The other option offered when I got the veggie pasta was some British delicacy called "cottage pie." I had no idea what that was, so that definitely factored into my decision to get the pasta, but it also looked gross. Let's just say that the guy sitting next to me who ordered it did not seem happy with his decision.
Just go with the vegetarian option. I'm never the first one to suggest eating vegetables, but you and the airplane's restroom will be a lot happier if you do.
There's only one other way to make airline food taste better, and that leads me to my next tip...
3. DON'T SKIMP ON THE ALC
I'm serious. As someone who isn't the biggest fan of flying, this definitely comes in handy. This also obviously applies to international flights, where drinks are usually included and the drinking age is 18. While you're usually limited to two drinks, having some beer or wine on your flight can ease your nerves while you're in the air and can make that sixth movie you're watching all the more enjoyable.
Also, if you didn't know, you can actually take those little bottles of your favorite alcohol on the plane with you! They meet TSA requirements and you can put as many as you can fit into those clear, TSA-regulated-specific-size bags. You're welcome very much.
4. HAVE GOOD TUNES
While I'm personally more of a fan of running through all the movies I can on a long flight, having good music is still really important. Remember that unless you want to pay for Wi-Fi on the plane, you're not going to be able to use streaming services like Pandora, Spotify or Soundcloud. This sucks because in today's world, most people stream their music when they want to instead of paying for it.
So, just a friendly reminder to download music before you go, especially if you're on a long flight. Those tunes will definitely come in handy in between movies or when you're trying to catch some Z's, but more on that later.
I personally go for Tropical House mixes and other relaxing music that you can download directly off SoundCloud. It helps me relax and fall asleep, but get whatever music floats your boat. Want to listen to what I'm listening to on a long flight? Check it out and see if you like it:
Also, please invest in some nice headphones. Watching you have Apple earbuds on for an eight-hour flight hurts MY ears, so please don't do it. I recently received the Beyerdynamic DT-770-PRO 32's as a gift, and they're the best headphones I have ever owned so far.
They're not gonna break the bank too badly either, so if you travel a lot some good cans are definitely a good investment. I'll make another post about headphones though in the near future, so I can help you out if you don't know where to start.
5. MOVIES, MOVIES, MOVIES
I talked about this a little bit already, but I'm a huge fan of movies and TV shows. Oh, you've seen something I haven't? Sorry, that's just not true. Anyway, long flights have basically they're own Netflix where you can search through different movies and TV shows to watch while you're soaring through the clouds.
The selection isn't always the greatest, but you should be able to find something you haven't seen before pretty easily. While I did spend some time watching about five episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm on my most recent flight, I usually opt for movies just for the simple fact that they take up more time.
It's great because you'll most likely end up watching something you wouldn't see otherwise and you might be pretty pleasantly surprised to find that you actually like one of the stupid comedies you decide to watch.
My decision to watch Let's Be Cops turned out extremely well for me.
6. PILLS, PILLS, PILLS
Let me make myself extremely clear here. I am in no way at all condoning drug use and/or abuse. Additionally, I have never actually used any of the products I mention in this section. I'm simply going off of sources. All of that being said, if you really have a ton of flying anxiety or a hard time falling asleep, this may be a path you want to look into discussing with your doctor.
Over-the-counter sleep aids like ZzzQuil, or a Melatonin supplement can be really helpful for this. Alternatively, if you are prescribed by a doctor something stronger for anxiety or a sleep disorder, feel free to use that but please, please, please do not then take my advice from number three and drink alcohol with it!
Talk to your doctor before you go to see what the best options are for you.
7. TRACK YOUR FLIGHT
If you're sick of watching movies and TV shows (IMPOSSIBLE), consider checking out the other elements of your in-flight entertainment. I personally really like the flight tracker map option, where you can see the plane's path and other stats like how high up you are, the current temperature at your altitude, how far away you are from your destination (in miles and time) and how far away you are from where you started.
It might not be the most interesting thing in the world, but it's something else to check out to help waste some time.
8. WALK AROUND
This one is great for when you're flying with a group of people you know, like my high school senior class trip to Denmark. If your friends are on your flight and the seatbelt sign is off, feel free to walk around the plane and go talk to your friends for a little bit. I guarantee they're just as bored as you are. Just make sure you don't bother everyone else on the plane too much by talking too loudly or moving around too much.
If you don't have friends on the flight, sorry you don't have friends but walking around the plane is still a good way to stretch your legs. Just try not to bother other people in your row by getting up too much if you are in a middle seat. Walking around the plane on a long flight can even prevent blood clots, so it's definitely worth a shot.
9. MAKE SOME FRIENDS
Don't have friends on your flight? No problem! I'm not personally one to chat it up with strangers, but if talking is your game, then go for it! You also should be aware though that other people in this world like to talk too. You may unfortunately be seated next to or near one of those people. If that's the case, be nice.
They're probably just nervous about the flight and they probably don't have any friends on board either. If they're really bothering you, say something. But be polite, ease your way out of the conversation, put on your headphones that I demanded you buy earlier in this post and at least pretend to be watching or listening to something.
It's the least you can do.
10. GET SOME SLEEP
This is most important. I can't sleep on airplanes. It just doesn't work. I can't find the right position, I'm all cramped, I get hot and then I get cold and then I get hot again, I can't seem to figure out those stupid neck pillows, it's just not a good situation or a pretty sight.
You still need to try, though. Otherwise, it's going to make adjusting to the time difference when you get to your destination much more difficult, I guarantee.
Next time you have a long flight, remember these tips to take it to the next level. No pun intended. Ok, it was kind of intended.