THE INFREQUENT FLYER
TIPS FOR A BETTER TRIP
There are any number of websites dedicated to frequent flyers — but not everyone flies 200,000 miles a year, gets first dibs on upgrades and has access to clubs and lounges. We thought it might be useful to put together some tips for the occasional traveler. These may help you enjoy your flight, save money and avoid arriving at your destination in a state of exhaustion.
- Check the carry-on size and weight requirements for the airline you’ll be using. It’s best to assume that if they say you can only carry on two items they mean it. Frequent flyers in the USA and some European countries will tell you that space is at a premium on many flights these days and there is often not enough room for everyone’s bags. This means cabin crew will sometimes “gate check” bags for the last people to board — and watch carefully for anyone with bags that are larger than the permitted size or who may be carrying extra items. Bottom line: Follow the rules or risk being parted from your bags!
- It’s always better to get dropped off at the airport — or take public transportation. Airport parking can add a substantial amount to your vacation budget.
- You can’t take drinks through security but you can bring your own food (and purchase water or drinks one you are through security). Out of consideration to other passengers, avoid strong smelling foods — but consider packing yourself some snacks, fruit, nuts, some cheese and an apple, or a sandwich. On most airlines, if you are traveling in coach, your snacks or packed lunch will be superior to anything you are offered.
- Rules on the amount and size of cosmetics and hygiene items such as shaving foam, toothpaste or deodorant that passengers are allowed to take through security vary by country. Look them up and purchase appropriate sizes.
- Consider buying a set of sound-canceling earbuds or headphones. The best cost about US $400 and are made by Bose. Some airlines are offering loaners at no charge to passengers — especially in the premium cabins — so check your airline’s website.
- Neck pillows. At US $40 or less these can make the difference between sleeping and staying awake — or waking up with a sore neck. Check reviews before purchasing and don’t wait until you get to the airport where you’ll probably pay more and get a lower quality product.
- Comfort items. If you are going to be spending more than five or six hours in the air you may want to bring along a small tube of toothpaste, a few mints, extra socks, lip balm and an extra sweater. Some frequent flyers will not travel without hand sanitizer since planes are notoriously bacteria and germ-laden. In addition, the air in planes tends to be dry and it can get cold on a long flight — especially near doors on smaller planes and at the rear of planes. Some airlines, — Singapore Airlines comes to mind — are notorious for keeping their planes extra cool.
- Dress. Many people prefer to wear loose fitting clothing for long or overnight flights.
- Get the app! Even if you don’t fly much it is worth downloading the airline's app. This can be the quickest way to check for delays, find gates or see gate changes and much more. Delays and gate changes sometimes appear on the app before they are announced.
- Think about the weather. Most flight delays are the result of bad weather and a storm, high winds, or ice in one location usually has a cascading effect since each grounded plane was likely to have been flying to several cities over the course of the day. This obviously means you are more likely to be delayed by ice in the winter months and tropical storms, hurricanes or high winds can cause delays in the summer. Plan accordingly.
- Selecting seats. http://www.seatguru.com is the place to go for airline seat diagrams and reviews on just about every plane in the sky. When it comes time to select a seat you can enter the airline name, flight number and date of travel and learn which seats travelers prefer — and which they avoid.
- Keep your expectations low! Thanks to competition and lower fuel costs, the cost of air travel is a bargain by historic standards. That said, airlines struggle to make money and have become adept at flying with a full load of paying passengers. Over the last decade or so they’ve tended to install more seats and introduced a variety of extra fees for baggage, window seats, alcoholic drinks, food and more. This is especially true in coach where seat widths seem to be designed for a 5’10/178cm, 180lb/80kg passenger. If you are obese or tall it may be prudent to purchase a premium economy seat or at least an exit row seat — though even this varies by airline.