Quick disclaimer: I'm not a vulgar person but my vocabulary can be colourful. My life is R-rated and my website occasionally reflects that. Be aware of some frank language. (All my photos are PG, but please read blogs before sharing with kids).
All photos taken by lotzacurls unless otherwise stated.
Your travels to an exciting new destination, or to a familiar one, could start your vacation on either the wrong or right foot. Regardless of where we are heading, a lot of travel elements are completely out of our control. Here are 26 things (within our control) that could help make our journey as pleasant as possible.
BUY YOUR TICKET
1. Be careful with third-party bookings Years ago, I’d hunt for deals on third-party websites (such as Expedia and FlightHub), but the major discounts and good customer service have since disappeared. If you flight delays/cancellations or problems with luggage, many airlines won’t help you out if you booked through a middleman. For my flight to Croatia, Expedia and GoogleFlights both quoted higher prices and less favourable routes (2+ stops) than the Lufthansa website. We booked straight with Lufthansa and when the Covid outbreak cancelled our trip, they refunded us fully within the month. That doesn’t mean I avoid third-party sites, but I always compare their prices with airline ones.
Skyscanner and Kayak are two flight search engines that rift through all the online prices (both airline and third-party) and spit out your best options. Skyscanner has a great feature: Type in your closest airport and the month of your departure, click on ‘Explore Everywhere’ and a slew of flights to international cities will pop up. Kayak offers a similar ‘Explore’ feature that shows deals leaving from your home city. Helpful and pretty cool.
2. Maximise your flight time For domestic flights, I usually catch a red-eye. That way, precious family time doesn’t get used up to fly, especially as I can usually snooze on an aeroplane. Actually, I try to book red-eye flights across the Atlantic whenever possible. Provided I get some shut-eye, I usually land at my new destination in the morning and can better adjust to the new time zone.
3. Choose a window seat whenever possible You won’t have to get up for others and you can lean against the window to sleep. Skip the coffee and minimise your intake of liquids so that you don’t have to scoot across your seat mates.
4. Or, choose an aisle seat If you’re tall or if flying leaves you feeling claustrophobic, choose an aisle seat so that you can indulge in the occasional sprawl. Even better, you won’t inconvenience anyone when you get up for a stroll down the aisle.
5. Pre-order special meals Vegetarian/vegan meals (or any pre-ordered meal) are usually served first. Vegan meals are often lighter and filled with vegetables, which might make you less prone to bloating from creamy and/or meaty meals.
PACK YOUR CARRY-ON BAG
6. Bring extra clothes/toiletries This has saved my ass several times now. In my carry-on, I pack tiny toiletries, undies/bra, trousers, top/bottom, and sandals or shoes/socks. When I flew to Ireland, the airline lost my luggage for 3 days; exploring rainy and humid Dublin (and shopping for clothes and toiletries) would have royally sucked without those extras.
7. Keep electronics and liquids accessible You’ll be taking these items out for security, so make sure they’re easy to find in your carry-on. Place liquids in a waterproof bag.
8. Keep sleep stuff handy Your inflatable neck pillow, earplugs and eye mask should be easy to find in your carry-on.
9. Bring a collapsible (or at least reusable) water bottle Fill it up after passing through security. Drink sparingly if you’re sitting by the window.
10. Bring a power pack You won't always have access to a working USB charger, so this will come in handy.
11. Pack healthy snacks Fresh hard fruit (not bananas, which could get squashed) or dried fruit, pretzels or popcorn, fruit bars, crackers or rice cakes, protein bars, jerky, even a tea bag. As much as I love nuts, I’d really rather not accidentally provoke an anaphylactic reaction; I can live without my favourite snack for a day.
12. Bring a few antibacterial wet wipes Wipe down your tray table. Wipe your hands after using the bathroom.
13. Bring a small packable bag in your carry-on After security but before boarding, I transfer everything I’ll need during the flight itself (sleep stuff, laptop, phone/earbuds, books, pens, snacks) in a small bag under the seat in front of me, and keep my actual carry-on bag stowed overhead.
YOUR CHECKED BAG
14. Wear your heaviest clothing on the flight to minimise baggage weight Even to a tropical destination, a coat/sweater can warm you up in a chilly cabin or be bundled into a pillow. Same with a scarf/wrap. A hat can cover your face and block light out during a flight.
15. Tie on a luggage tag or colourful ribbon Useful if you’re checking a standard black suitcase or backpack.
16. Photocopy tickets, passport, bank cards, health cards/forms and travel VISAs Email copies to yourself, and bring them in a folder. My mom has electronic copies, in case something needs to be provided to an embassy. Having proof of your first-night accommodation is a good idea, as well as copies of your return flights. Some countries require «proof of exit». Ex: New Zealand required printed proof of my ticket OUT of the country, which I had purchased (and showed them online) but hadn’t printed. I came close to having to buy a second return flight at the gate at the risk of being denied boarding, until a kindly agent allowed me to print my return ticket directly from his desk at Heathrow Airport. Close call; I’m not sure I’ll ever be that lucky again.
17. Take a photo of your checked bag You can send it to the airline if it gets lost and it’ll be easier for them to find it or identify it.
ENJOY YOUR FLIGHT
18. Wear minimal jewellery through security It could set off security sensors and it’s just more stuff to take off and put back on. Keep all but your most valuable jewelry in your checked luggage.
19. Set your watch to your destination time Plan your first day's meals and sleep accordingly, and you’ll adjust to the new time zone all the more easily.
20. Download airline apps before boarding The free Air Canada Rouge app allows you to upload tons of free movies to watch using your own device. Make sure said devices are fully charged before boarding.
21. Make a fun, new playlist Create a music playlist that matches your destination country. Get pumped up for a fun tropical holiday, upload some new rockers or discover cool DJs. While researching Iceland, I discovered the amazing Icelandic rock band KALEO.
22. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks Download something funny or inspiring. Here are Time Magazine’s 50 Best Podcasts To Listen To Right Now.
23. Get lost in an exciting new book or an old favourite I usually pack one of Bill Bryson’s books; they are worth their weight in giggles and amusing anecdotes. Bring sudoku puzzles, do some colouring. Whatever floats your boat.
24. Bring your own headphones Watch a new movie, download a series from Netflix or listen to your favourite tunes, but don’t get caught having to pay for low-quality earbuds on the flight.
25. To recline or not to recline A huge debate has erupted online about this, which I find embarrassing and nonsensical. Here are the non-emotional facts: Most personal seats recline on planes, and you are absolutely within your rights to use them. As is everyone else. You are also within your rights to use your tray table, to use your overhead light and air vent, and to watch a movie on your personal screen. I recline my seat once during my flight and I tend to leave it that way until the plane is ready to land. I take care to recline it gently, so as not to startle the passenger or jostle items behind me. I travel more than almost anyone I know, and people have reclined the seat in front of me countless times. If it inconveniences me, it’s my problem. If the person next to me is reading with their overhead light on and I didn’t bring a sleeping mask, it’s my problem. If my neighbour opens their air vent and I didn’t bring a sweater, it’s my problem. If I want more leg/elbow/head room, I must purchase a roomier seat or I must suck it up. Period. Let’s keep emotions out of it and deal with life’s inconveniences in non-Neanderthal ways. Common sense goes a long way here.
26. Lastly, be smart and travel-savvy. It’s not their problem, it’s mine. Repeat this mantra in your head if need be. Rescheduled or cancelled flights are a pain. Unexpected charges (for heavy bags, for instance) are a pain. Regardless of whose fault it is, and how frustrating it is, this is the bottom line: That airline employee behind the desk holds all the power to make or break your trip; to cancel your trip outright or to book you on another flight without charge. Your flight attendant is the one handling your food and beverages. So be intelligent about controlling your temper and your attitude; passengers yelling or losing their cool at airline employees or fellow travellers always look amateurish and unworldly. Always.
Enjoy your flight, and see you out there.
A few more articles to enjoy:
The Arrival Thing