Traveling – especially by plane – can be as stressful as it is relaxing, with delayed flights, missed connections or lost luggage to contend with. But with the proper tips from a professional frequent flyer, you can breeze through your next trip from the booking phase all the way to landing.
Julian Kheel, senior editor of online travel platform The Points Guy (TPG), gives us his top 10 travel hacks so you can fly relaxed and focus on soaking in the culture and having fun.
What to wear
When it comes to fashion-forward flying, anything goes these days. But with unlimited options, how do you decide what to wear?
“When you’re traveling on a plane, loose clothing is best,” Kheel says. “You’ll be more comfortable and you won’t have to worry about circulation issues.”
Tight clothes are not only restricting but can also affect your circulation, especially when flying long haul. You should also always remove your shoes, as leaving them on can cause your feet to swell, which will make it uncomfortable when you want to take your shoes off after the flight.
How to travel stress-free
There’s no doubt that traveling is stressful, but there’s one thing that can help ensure your experience goes as smoothly as possible. “Be patient and leave yourself plenty of time,” says Kheel. “When you’re in a rush, trying to catch a flight and something goes wrong, it’s more likely you’re not going to be able to handle it in the way that you want to.”
How to maximise your air miles
When you go on holiday, using air miles for your flight is a great way to save money. Sometimes the miles can be limiting, with flights unavailable on the dates you want to travel or flight routes starting in a city that is not necessarily where you want to travel from. But there’s a way around this problem.
“Points and miles are one of the most popular ways to fly for free,” Kheel tells us. “And if you want to use your points and miles to the maximum value, you don’t want to be collecting them from a particular airline, but rather using ‘flexible points,’ which are offered by the major banks such as Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate and Citi ThankYou and can be used on any flight with any airline.”
How your delayed flight might still arrive on time
Finding out your flight is late can be a real buzzkill, but you may have noticed that even with a short delay, you often still arrive to your destination on time. This isn’t always due to luck or ideal weather conditions, but is actually planned by the airline. “Airlines allot more time for their flights than what it says on your ticket,” Kheel explains. “It’s called ‘padding the schedule.’”
In other words, the airlines give themselves time to play with in case anything happens to delay the itinerary. So next time you’re running a big late, don’t lose the plot.
How to get through security ASAP
Kheel’s top four tips to get through security as painlessly as possible? Bag your liquids at home, don’t wear any jewellery, choose shoes that are easy to slip on and off and above all, apply for global entry.
How to respectfully recline your seat in economy
To recline, or not to recline? That is the question all economy travelers face and one that causes heated debate among even the most frequent flyers. Luckily, there is finally an answer that will keep everyone happy. “If you push the button and shove back as quickly and as hard as possible, you will be annoying,” Kheel explains. A more polite alternative is to “slowly and gently recline, maybe even halfway at first. This way you’re at least giving the person behind you a warning that you’re coming at him or her and are more likely to avoid a confrontation.”
How to beat jet lag
“Jet lag hits everybody,” says Kheel. “It’s somewhat unavoidable, especially on long overseas flights.” But that doesn’t mean you have to let jet lag be your ultimate holiday downer. Kheel, who flies around 100,000 miles every year, has the secret to beat the beast. “The best way to handle jet lag is to make sure you expose yourself to daylight as much as possible in the new location,” he explains. “Your body will tend to try to stay awake in the daylight and go to sleep in the dark.” So in other words, no matter how badly you want to nap, get yourself outside and moving.
How to get a better seat for free
Deciding whether or not to fork out the extra cash to select your airplane seat is always tough. Use this simple trick and you’ll never have to make that choice again. When it comes to the best seats on a plane – assuming you’re turning right into the economy cabin – Kheel agrees with many frequent fliers that emergency exit rows are the way to go.
The extra leg room on offer in those seats usually comes at a cost, as Kheel explains. “Most airlines charge extra for those seats if you select them before check-in, but if there are any left when it’s actually time to check in online, 24 hours before your flight, you can often grab them for no cost.
“Don’t choose a seat at all, wait until check-in or even as late as the gate itself.” Chances are you’ll get a better seat without having to dip into your wallet.
How to get your suitcase faster at the airport
It’s a nightmare scenario most of us have experienced. You scurry off your flight and make your way to the baggage claim only to watch bags of all shapes and sizes glide past you, except the very bag you are looking for. The best way to avoid this is “to not check a bag in the first place,” says Kheel. But for those of us who don’t have the self-control to pack like a pro who travels upwards of 100,000 miles per year, Kheel has shared an easier piece of advice to follow.
It sounds simple and even a bit silly, but Kheel swears by something your mother probably told you to do as a kid. “If you do have to check a bag, identify your suitcase with a ribbon or something similar so it’s easy to spot,” he tells Culture Trip. The bolder and brighter, the better. Why make your luggage really stands out? Kheel explains that one of the main reasons people wait so long for their bag is because “they miss it the first time around.”
How to make sure you fly on the cheapest day
Have you ever rolled up to the airport and found it so busy that you just wanted to turn around and go home again? Or maybe you’ve tried to book a flight for a weekend getaway only to find the prices excruciatingly high? It sounds like you are flying on the wrong day of the week. Kheel has a tip for you: “Midweek – specifically Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – tend to be cheaper than trying to fly close to the weekend.”
Aside from friendlier prices, the other bonus of non-weekend flights is that there will be fewer people traveling at the same time, which means you’ll benefit from a calmer airport experience.
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