Planning for a Smooth Flight

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crowd waiting in line at an airport

Airplanes are one of the most used forms of transportation when it comes to tourism and travel. For some, air travel is almost an everyday thing while others only fly a couple of times in their lifetime if any. Whichever is the case, why not make sure that you are as well prepared as you can be, either it is getting quickly through for a short flight or getting as comfortable as possible on a long haul trip. Here are some tips and advice to help ensure you have a smooth flight!

Get a Good Seat

This point is of course very obvious, but then there is the matter of which seats are good. Some like to sit in the front row or with a bulkhead in front of them. This can be great if you want lots of room in front of you and it is often easy to get in and out of your seat. If you have really long legs you might want to go with an emergency exit or standard exit row instead as the bulkhead won’t let you stretch your legs under the seat in front of you. Since there are so many factors to take into consideration when choosing a plane, such as plane model, your preferences (e.g. window or aisle) and even the airline’s policy I recommend that you visit sites as SeatGuru.com or SeatPlans.com. These sites let you enter your flight number or browse airplane models depending on airline which often gives you a detailed overview of which seats are preferred and which to avoid.

Aircraft interior
Image: Soon (CC BY-SA 2.0).

For short flights I prefer front row seats or back row if the plane has a back exit as I often travel light and want to get off the plane faster. For long haul flights I try to get a seat in the middle of the plane by the window as I find it easier to sleep with the wall to lean against. Keep in mind that the rear part of the plane can often be noisier than the front, and avoid seats near the galleys and toilets. Another tip is to sleep with your seat-belt visible so that the cabin crew won’t disturb you every time the seat-belt sign lights up.

Most airlines have started charging extra for exit row seats and bulkhead seats or they have set aside a section of seats with a little extra leg room and slightly larger seats. Depending on the length of your flight, it may be worth it to pay the addition fee if you are not able to use points for an upgrade. However, if it’s a short flight, the extra fee will not be worth it. Just bear with it for few hours and use that extra money when you get to your destination.

Carry-Ons or Checked Bags?

If you’re going for a short trip you will often not need as much luggage as you think you do. By avoiding to check in your bag your time at the airport can be reduced significantly as your time at check-in an baggage claim will be non-existent. Oh and by the way, if you can, check in from home. The lines at the check-in counters are often quite long. If you need to check in, look for a sign saying something like ‘Self Service Bag Drop’. Some airlines have it and you can print the baggage tags yourself at a kiosk, put the tag on the baggage, take it to the counter for weighing and off it goes. I have noticed that not many use it since it seems ‘unreliable’ or because they are afraid they are going to do it wrong. Don’t worry about that. It is very easy to do and I have personally never had a problem with it, and it really saves a lot of time. Remember to take into consideration the things you are allowed to take with you in a carry on compared to a checked in bag (e.g. fluids).

Baggage Claim
Try to avoid this if you can. Image: Mat Honan (CC BY 2.0)

Airport Security

If you are bringing a laptop through security, avoid packing it in your carry on bag as you will have to open the bag and retrieve it every time. Take a look at ‘checkpoint friendly bags’ for your laptop. These will let your computer go through x-ray without being removed from the protecting bag, and thus avoiding damage, scratches and the time it takes you to retrieve it from your baggage.

Stay updated on what you can or can’t bring in your carry on luggage. Fluids such as shampoo, hair gel etc. should be max 3 oz (100 ml) and in a clear plastic bag.

Security Queue
Image: redjar (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you have a jacket it will probably have to go through x-ray if you can’t pack it in your carry on. In that case, put the things you have in your pocket in your jacket’s pockets (such as cellphone, wallet, coins and keys). This way your things will stay protected from both scratches and snatchers and you just have to pick up your jacket. It is advised that you keep your passport and boarding card on you in person when going through metal detectors. Depending on where you are travelling and your shoes you might have to take them off and let them go through the x-ray. A solid advice is to wear slip-on shoes.

Remember to pack smart as well and if you have any liquids or electronics, make them easily accessible in case the security agents find it necessary to search your bag. Be patient with others in line and the security agents, they are often just doing their job.

If a government pre-clearance service available to you, such as TSA Pre-Check in the US, I would definitely recommend signing up for it. Typically these security lines will be much shorter or at least move faster than the normal security lines. In most cases, you can also leave your shoes on, laptops in your bag and your belt on.

Use Smartphone Apps

If you have a smartphone you should definitely look up the selection of apps dedicated to making your trip easier. I have compiled a list of eight free apps worth checking out: 8 Free Travel Apps For Your Smartphone »

Do you have any tips on this you would like to share? Please feel free to share them in the comments field below!

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