Pre-Flight | Tips for an Enjoyable Flight Experience

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Brandenburg Airport Berlin - Main Approach to Terminal
Brandenburg Airport Berlin – Main Approach to Terminal. Taken from berlin-airport.de.

There are steps you can take to make flying more enjoyable well before the flight even takes off or you get to the airport. Here are some helpful tips and suggestions to maximize the convenience and comfort of your flight experience before your trip even starts.

Do what you can at home

Airports, by their very nature, are often chaotic places as travelers rush about. Save time and inconvenience by doing what you can at home, before arriving at the airport. The first and most common item would be to check in in advance; for most airlines, this is able to be done 24 hours prior to flight departure, so you could do it the night before, say. However, elite travelers and passengers on certain airlines or of business or first classes might be able to check in up to 48-72 hours in advance, giving you more time to choose a proper seat and such. And speaking of seating, choosing a seat in advance will save you grief – it ensures you definitely have a dedicated spot on the flight, while also enabling you to sit where you desire (aisle, window, away from lavatory, front of plane, etc.). Usually, most legacy carriers allow you to choose a seat at booking for no charge; budget carriers might charge a fee to choose a seat in advance, however. Also, research quickly the airport terminal and departure gate prior to heading off for the airport.

Ensure easy flight with appropriate items in carry-on

Especially for longer flights, ensure a relaxing or productive flight experience by preparing your carry-on baggage with the items that’ll enable such. A day before your flight, think of what you might want to accomplish – do you want to sleep during the flight? Are you trying to be productive? Pack the right items: headphones, earplugs, music device, spare batteries, eye mask, etc. Maybe even a travel pillow if you’re ambitious about getting some shut-eye. Pack a small zip-lock bag with some baby wipes in it to wipe the ick off your face that somehow accumulates as you’re flying. Oh, and don’t forget medications!

Charge electronics

This might seem self-explanatory, but remembering to charge electronics and batteries has a dual purpose: not only will you ensure that you have juice for the upcoming flight, but finding your batteries to charge also gives you the advance opportunity to make sure that everything is in order, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute with a cab waiting outside your apartment honking as you try to locate your iPhone charger. I suggest gathering these items together and getting them charged the night before your flight.

Expect the worst, but hope for the best

Flights are prone to having some aspect of it go wrong, so never expect it to go perfectly well. Flights depend on so many people, from the airline desk, the aircraft crew, security, customs and immigration, baggage team, ground crew, air traffic control, and staff at both the departure and arrival airports. Furthermore, flights can be delayed or cancelled for things out of the control of human hands, such as severe weather conditions. Don’t fret, because all these things are out of your control, as well. Take it easy – there’s nothing your anxiety can do to help.

Trusted traveler programs

If you’re a frequent flier, perhaps you should look into enrolling in a trusted traveler program. These programs take you through extra security screening once, and then you simply pay an annual fee and get to go through a designated line – much faster than waiting in the normal line for passengers to get through security. There are also several programs which let you leave the airport early upon arrival, helping you to avoid customs and immigration lines. Learn more about these programs here ->

Carry on as much as you can

Carrying-on luggage, rather than checking it in, can really add to the overall convenience of the transportation portion of your trip, especially if you are able to carry on everything. When you check in just the heavier items, sure, you’re saving some trouble by not needing to schlep that suitcase through the airport as you wait to board, and through the layover airport if you happen to have one and your baggage gets checked all the way through; however, you’re not really saving so much time and gaining convenience, but merely stalling it, as you’ll have to pay it back when you arrive at your final destination and must wait for your baggage at the carousel. Carry-ons are great, because first it means that you have packed relatively light, and you know how to do so. But also not checking anything keeps everything under your control, and there is less chance for any mood-altering experiences such as damaged or lost belongings.

Don’t carry on

Seems paradoxical after the last one, but sometimes a more relaxing flight can be had by throwing out cares of your future inconvenience and just checking all your belongings in. Sure, you might spend an extra hour upon arrival waiting for your luggage to come around the carousel, but sometimes the ease of not schlepping a carry-on suitcase throughout the airport as you await boarding is totally worth it. And if you have a layover somewhere, particularly one of several hours or more, it might be especially convenient to just reunite with your belongings at your final destination. However, remember to take the items you don’t want to part with, such as perhaps your camera, laptop, cellular, mp3 player, headphones, etc. Checking in also allows you to carry items you wouldn’t be able to in the cabin, such as liquids.

Travel light

Whether you decide to check your bags or not, traveling light is usually the easiest way to bring some comfort to your travel experience. Although you might not have the comfort of your entire wardrobe and dresser at your disposal, you’ll appreciate it when you start lugging the bag around on your trip. For a more in-depth look at traveling light, check out these two articles:

How to Pack and Travel Light
Why Travel Light? 10 Reasons to Pack Less

Mind the liquid limits

In most countries around the world, the limit for liquids in a carry-on bag is 100 ml (about 3.4 oz). Not only does that mean that you cannot bring anything more than 100 ml per container, but it also means that each container must have no more than 100 ml capacity; I’ve tried arguing that a 150 ml tube of toothpaste was clearly at its end, and thus no more than 25 ml or so, but agents wouldn’t have it – they threw it away. Also, make sure that each container is clearly marked regarding the overall capacity; if you bring a bottle of indeterminate size, they might have to discard that as well, as there is no time to weigh each traveler’s bottles when passing through security. If you need to bring a container that is holding more than the limit, either check it in or purchase it in a duty-free shop after security. Certain “vital” liquids may be allowed past security in an amount over 100 ml, but must be declared; these can include medications, baby formula, etc.

Pack with security in mind #1

If you’re taking luggage that’ll be checked in, you don’t know who (and how many) will have contact with your belongings between your departure and arrival destinations; it is prudent to invest in several small locks to deter thieves. Even if you are carrying your baggage aboard, locks that connect the dual zippers of the bag are infinitesimally more of an inconvenience than no lock at all – and who knows? – you might find them useful in situations where you’re alone and must park the carry-on outside the bathroom stall. Make sure that the locks are airline security-compliant; in the USA, the TSA has a special key that allows only them to access your baggage – otherwise they’ll have to break the lock and discard it.

Pack with security in mind #2

Not only must you keep your valuables and belongings safe, but there is another “security” that you must be prepared for – airport security. In this case, when I say “keep security in mind,” I mean that you know you are about to pass through the security checkpoint should you be taking a flight, so it is important to remember some points to make it easier for the agents and faster for you (and the people behind you). Those aforementioned liquids – they prefer if you keep them in a liter/quart-sized zipper lock, see-through bag, so that they can efficiently certify that each container’s contents within are indeed under the 100 ml limit. Also, if your carrying a laptop or tablet, it’ll probably have to come out of your carry-on when going through the scanner, so make it easy for yourself and others by packing it in the most accessible way possible.

Chew gum

Bringing a pack of gum to chew has two key virtues on a flight: It can keep your mouth feeling fresh after a meal or waking up from a nap, and it also helps to relieve pressure during ascent and descent.

Make luggage easily identifiable

If you’re gonna check your bags, it is a prudent idea to uniquely mark your luggage so that you can easily-identify it when it plops down onto the baggage carousel. Most people have black bags, and so even a simple thing such as a bright luggage tag may help you get out of the airport faster.