Everyone knows what flight conditions have to be met before a plane takes off:
- The plane has to be fuelled and checked
- The weather should be decent enough to fly
- A crying baby should be aboard
If any of those don’t check out, the plane doesn’t take off. Get these awesome flight hacks in a sweet checklist you can carry with you
Ok let’s get serious.
Like any true professional – there is a huge difference in the way travel freaks fly compared to the average passenger. They might share the same plane, but that’s pretty much it.
This guide reveals the greatest, weirdest & craziest flight hacks Travel Freaks are known to use. Grab a pen (or keyboard), start writing.
Get these awesome flight hacks in a sweet checklist you can carry with you
Don’t check in ANY luggage
A backpack/trolley (or the best of both worlds) holds the answer to all your problems – and it has enough room left to hold your stuff as well.
Stop packing your entire house every time you’re traveling. This is lesson number #1 in FlightHacker Academy (don’t look it up. It doesn’t exist, yet.)
When it comes to packing, aim to become a packing jedi – no less. I can’t even start explaining the difference between traveling with tons of luggage (and checking them… ugh) and traveling only with carry-on. I’ll just repeat what Ryan Bingham (aka George Clooney) said: “Moving is living”. You ain’t be movin’ too much with tons of luggage.
Seriously, this alone can make or break your trip.
Never again should you spend duty-free time in favour of luggage check in. Never again will you waste precious time waiting for your bag to pop out from baggage claim. Never again have the airline lose your luggage… Never again!Click To Tweet
Pack what you need, not more, not less. If you end up needing something you didn’t anticipate – you can always stock up on the road.
Your rule of thumb should be:
If it’s not absolutely critical ⇒ DON’T PACK IT.
Obviously there are times where there’s no way around checking in luggage such as when you’re moving to a different city/country. I’m not talking about edge cases here.
The bottom line is – you need a LOT less than you think.Pro Tip: Use the MoSCoW technique to help you filter out the crap from the necessary next time you’re packing.Note: This is obviously challenging when flying with budget airlines who are known of having strict carry-on policies. Make sure to check the airline’s carry-on limitations and take it into considerations when booking your flight.
Express check in: No more waiting in check-in lines
This is complementary to the previous tip. With nothing but your carry-on, you can skip those awful check in lines and roll your way through to the security check.
If you’re carrying a trolley – the only downside is that you have to carry your trolley around with you in duty-free shops. But it’s well worth the sacrifice, especially since the duty free excitement fades away eventually (sorry ladies).
But there is a solution for that as well –
Have a drink in the lounge
Congratulations. You just saved a ton of time waiting in line like some chump. So why not sit back, relax & grab a glass of wine?
Almost every international airport these days has a lounge. There’s no better than enjoying a glasses of wine (or beer, depending on your mood) before a long-haul flight. I usually enter the lounge when i’m traveling for business or if i’ve got some work to do. There’s nothing like a relaxing atmosphere, free drinks, snacks & WiFi to do some productive work.
“But don’t i have to fly first/business class or be filthy rich to access the lounge?”
Certainly not! Those days are over.
Many travel credit cards these days give you lounge access.Pro Tip 1: Your credit card doesn’t offer lounge access? No worries. You can get a Priority Pass which gives you yearly access to 850+ lounges worldwide. And because you’re such an amazing TravelFreak, here’s 10% off for your Priority Pass.
Note: A Priority Pass is worth it only if you’re a frequent flyer.Pro Tip 2: Not a frequent flyer yet? No worries, you can purchase a Lounge Pass instead, and get a one-time lounge access for as little as $20. Not too shabby.
Take off your shoes
This isn’t a luxury reserved just for first class passengers. Even us working class heroes can do this, even in economy/coach.
Feeling awkward doing this? Don’t worry, it’s economy class – it’s so crowded that no one even notices that you’re shoes are off. (Just make sure you’re socks don’t smell)
Go ahead – try it. You’ll thank me later.
It makes your flight a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. You can’t even imagine how a 12 hour transatlantic flight with your shoes off can make the experience a lot more fun & relaxing, instead of an intense, stressful one you want to forget the minute you leave the plane.
Put on a sleeping mask
Research shows that sleeping masks and earplugs help promote sleep & significantly improve our body’s ability to produce melatonin. In other words – it helps you fall asleep faster, and improves the quality of your sleep significantly.
Start using a sleeping mask on a regular basis. You’ll be surprised how much it can improve sleep quality & make you feel refreshed when you wake up. This holds true not just for travel, but for home as well.
Book your seat in the front of the plane
Besides being the quietest section (the crying baby usually sits in the back), it allows you to quickly exit the plane upon arrival without too much hassle. Of course this doesn’t make much of a difference if you checked in any luggage – you’ll be waiting for it to pop up at baggage claim just like everyone else (which of what the next tip is for).To find the best seats with quick getaways & extra comfort – check out seatguru.com. They show you the airplane’s seat map & provide helpful seat advice so you don’t suffer the whole flight.
Put your wallet & passport in your backpack
You heard me.
Having your wallet pressing on your ass the entire flight is not fun. Your ass should be stress-free.
Just make sure you put it in the bag without anyone noticing. If your carry-on bag is underneath the seat in front of you – i wouldn’t worry too much about someone putting his eyes on your backpack.Pro Tip: For the extra paranoid – You can do it in the restroom before you board the plane. Just make sure to keep your passport & boarding pass out (duuh, you still need to board the plane).
Put your backpack underneath the seat in front of you
Do NOT store it in the upper compartment. Your backpack contains your flight essentials – your iPod, iPad, laptop etc’. Make it easily accessible so you don’t have to bother getting up and opening the upper compartment during the flight (which can be tricky).
Plus, if you choose the right backpack (i’m a huge Swiss Gear fan) – the bag’s back-padding can act as a great improvised footrest.
Stretch your body
Yes, even us men (even though that’s a picture of a woman above). I mean it. My ex-girlfriend was a nurse and she used to always remind me to get up & stretch every now and then – especially in long-haul flights.
Apparently she was right: Reduced movement for a long period of time can cause DVT (deep vein thrombosis) – a blood clot to form in our veins. It has even earned a promising title – the Economy Class Syndrome – so you bet your ass it’s real.
Every few hours get up and just start walking on the isle. Add some stretching exercises to the mix.
Forget about the people thinking “Who the hell is that barefooted crazy man doing yoga in the middle of the plane?!” – If you notice people staring at you thinking “who the hell is this idiot”, just tell them about Ecomony Class Syndrome. They might get scared and end up joining you (happened to me twice already).
Carry an empty bottle in your backpack
We all know how airport security are strict with liquids, and require you to dump any liquids you’re carrying.
Don’t worry – there’s a workaround.
Just pass an empty bottle through security and later fill it in a water cooler in the terminal, or ask the stewardess to fill it for you on the plane.
Pro Tip 1: When you pass through security – make sure you take out the empty bottle and put it in a separate tray to avoid unnecessary hold up when your carry on is x-rayed.
Pro Tip 2: If you’re not sure if you’re allowed to carry a certain item – you can use the TSA’s (the US Transportation Security Administration) website to check if you’re allowed to carry it on board.
If you’re traveling with a partner – Book the left and right seats in the row
Then if the middle seat remains unbooked, you get the entire row. If not, you can ask the person in the middle seat to swap… he will most likely agree (unless he’s a jackass). Having an entire row for yourself – especially in transatlantic flights, is a mini heaven-on-earth…i mean sky.
Book the window seat
Window seat rocks! For several reasons:
- You don’t get bothered every time your seat neighbour wants to go to the bathroom.
- It’s easier to fall asleep when you lean your head on the window and keep your head from bobbing up and down.
- No matter how many times I fly, I always get blown away from the view. We’re all kids!
That reminds me. When you do book the window seat – make sure you:
Go to the bathroom before you board the plane
You don’t want to be that guy that forces his aisle seated neighbour to get up every time you want to go tinkle.
Besides, your time on the plane shouldn’t be wasted in the bathroom, or waiting in line to go to the bathroom. Try and minimize the risk of your bladder pressing the panic button during the flight. Of course shit happens (literally)…
Empty the chair pocket in front of you
Economy class isn’t known for it’s excessive space. Luckily i’m a small guy, but i often share my sympathy with tall guys sitting like sardines with zero leg room.
Removing those space consuming magazines and security instructions from the chair pocket of the front seat can free up some space for you basketball players.
You’d be surprised how much something so little can make a difference – especially in low cost flights, where more legroom can be the difference between hell & a more tolerable hell.
You’re already squished in your seat and have limited movement capabilities. Why add to the discomfort?
Dress casually. Avoid fancy pants, belts & buttoned shirts.
Even when i flew a lot for business and had to rush straight to a meeting in town – i would change to formal clothes in the airport after landing, just to avoid dressing up in advance and suffer throughout the entire flight. It’s just not worth it…
Plus, when you try to fall asleep – you tend to move around a lot in your seat to find the perfect position. Position-seeking when you’re wearing limiting clothing sucks the fun out of it.
Wear a jacket
You should always carry a jacket with you on the plane. A jacket is almost always a necessary item of clothing (unless you’re traveling to Rio in the middle of the summer. Lucky bastard). If it’s hot, simply wrap the jacket around your waist.
Carrying a jacket with you has several main benefits:
- It saves you a huge chunk of luggage space
- It spares the need to pack a heavier coat
- You won’t freeze your ass off when the air-conditioning on the airplane is working in full gear. Shivering the entire flight with that thin*ss blanket they give you is not fun.
- You can easily cover up your seatbelt with the blanket, and the stewardess might wake you up for it! (If you still cover yourself with a blanket, make sure the seatbelt is visible)
Pro Tip for Men: For men i highly recommend this North Face Denali jacket which also has a sh*tload of pockets and can therefore save you a lot of space and the need to reach out for your bag for every little thing. I store my passport in one pocket, my itinerary & other documents on the other, and my phone in my hand pocket, and still have plenty of room left.
A cheaper alternative is this Northfield jacket which is also pretty good.Pro Tip for Women: As for you ladies, this North Face Apex Jacket received great feedback.
Get noise-cancelling headphones
No more crying babies! Nuff said!
Put on your headphones, even if you don’t plan on listening to music
This has 2 main benefits:
- It helps you fall asleep (instead of buying earbuds).
- It helps mute the crying baby.
I need my peace.
Protect thy laptop
Avoid unnecessary scratches and unwanted accidents (waitresses behold!). I always dress up my precious MacBook to protect it from other people’s clumsiness – especially when they inspect it in airport security (i’ve seen accidents happen, it’s not a pretty sight). I use this sleeve to protect my MacBook Pro. For you Windows people – this sleeve looks like a good alternative.
Keep digital copies of your passport just in case
Does this form look familiar?
If you’ve ever entered the US – it should be.
Your passport, wallet and other documents are in your backpack (remember tip #6?). The hell will i take out my footrest (aka backpack) & get my passport just to fill out some form!
Well does this mean you should memorize your passport number just for this? No (unless you want to).
Keep a digital copy of your passport, as well as for the rest of your travel documents (e.g Visa, Esta, your itineraty…). Shit happens. Better be safe than sorry.Pro Tip: I keep copies in Email, Evernote & Dropbox (this is probably too much, but you get the idea). Make sure you save your digital copies locally – so you don’t need internet access to open them when in need.
Prepare your entertainment gear before sitting downIf you haven’t realized already – your goal should be to avoid unnecessary attempts to grab something out of your footrest (your backpack in case you haven’t gotten it by now). You can barely move anyway (unless you’re flying first class/business) – so why bother shooting in the dark?
Take out your headphones, iPod, iPhone, iPad, books, charger – everything you need for the remainder of the flight that will keep you from reaching for your bag, and put it all in the front chair back pocket (assuming you removed all the useless magazines beforehand – you now have room for your own stuff!).
Pro Tip: Use a travel case to store all your gadgets & chargers in one place instead of trying to remember what to take out every time.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices)
Don’t worry i’m not pitching my startup to you.
The point here is simple – Don’t expect a lot from in-flight entertainment units (you can only find them on long haul flights, plus they suck anyway). Your entertainment devices of choice beats the one built for the masses everyday of the week.
Bring your iPod, iPad, ebooks (don’t bring hard cover books) etc’ with you, and enjoy your flight.
Charge your devices in advance
This is VERY important(!!!).
I once charged my iPad the entire night before my flight the next morning, only to realize on the plane that for some unknown reason it DIDN’T CHARGE, and i was left with 6% battery in a 10 hour flight!
Avoid unnecessary heart-attacks, and make sure you charge your stuff in advance.Pro Tip: This incident resulted in me buying an mobile battery charger which i carry with me at all times. I’m finally at peace…(of course make sure you’re mobile charger is charged)
Carry a small toothbrush & toothpaste in your backpack
Flying for 12 hours ⇒ a lot of bacteria gathering up in your mouth ⇒ bad breath.
This is necessary to stay clean, and avoid that awful long-haul-breath.
Ask for a specialized meal if you’re really hungry
Were you in a rush and couldn’t grab something to eat before boarding? Try asking the flight crew for one of the specialized meals – they usually get served before the rest. It could be a kosher meal, vegetarian, gluten-free etc’. If the flight crew is nice and they have a few special meals lying around – they might do you a favour.Pro Tip: You can also try the more honest approach and simply tell the flight crew you haven’t eaten for X hours, and if they can perhaps serve you a little sooner, or at least give you a few snacks to calm your stomach down. There’s a good chance they’ll agree.
You’re lips become dry during the flight – especially on longer flights. A little chapstick can do wonders (i personally had an ego problem with this for years, until i finally got over the fear of appearing girly when putting on chapstick)
Make sure to drink water every now and then to remain fresh. Try not to push it tough so you won’t be running to the bathroom every few minutes – especially when you’re in a window seat!Pro Tip: Don’t forget to fill the empty water bottle before you board the plane.
Move your media to your device’s local storage
In case you didn’t know – these are all cloud-based services. The irony is that when you’re up there in the clouds, you usually don’t have access to the cloud. So make sure you move all your media & pieces of entertainment to your mobile/tablet’s local storage in advance.
All of the services i mentioned above (and any other modern service that respects itself) allows you to do just that.
Live the moment – forget about millennial tasks
Even for a a frequent flyer – flying is still quite exciting, at least compared to the average day at the office.
Don’t waste precious air-time doing boring stuff. Instead, read books, think of new ideas, set new goals… Fill this time with fun, non-work related stuff (unless you absolutely have to work on your presentation).
If you need a quick dose of inspiration – just look outside the window (you booked a window seat right?).
Avoid coffee & tea when you’re tired
This is quite intuitive right? Why even mention this?
Because it’s a lot harder to decline a hot cup of tea/coffee – when it’s free. As a caffeine addict, i struggle with this every time. I always end up taking the damn coffee, and later i end up regretting my decision. Don’t follow my mistakes.
But you shouldn’t forbid it entirely. It obviously depends on your flight duration and your flight plans.
If you’re planning to do some work or read a book in the next dew of hours – then why not, have at it. But if you’re planning a good-night-sleep in the next 2-3 hours, don’t drink the stuff (or ask for decaf).
It’s hard enough already to fall asleep on the plane. You don’t need an extra dose of caffeine running through your system.
Use a neck pillow
To be honest, i never really got used to them. But facts don’t lie – many travelers seem to refuse to go to sleep on board without it.
I personally find it a lot easier to fall asleep by leaning on the window (if you booked it) with the pillow from the plane, than by leaning your head backwards on a neck pillow. But if it works for you – then who the hell am i to say otherwise?
I you choose to give it a shot, try this inflatable pillow. At least this way you’ll be saving some space in your backpack.
Take off your glasses/remove your contact lenses
“Never fall asleep with your contacts on” – my ophthalmologist.
Not a problem – glasses it is.
But what if i want to sleep? Where do i put my glasses without breaking them (been there already)?
That’s easy – have your glasses’ case within reach (remember – take out the essentials before you’re seated) in the front chair’s back pocket.
In long haul flights – time gaps between meals are often between 4-6 hours. So be prepared at all times.
For the sake of staying healthy – i recommend avoiding too much unhealthy junk – especially when you fly frequently. Try sticking to (dried) fruits, protein snacks & granola bars for quick appetite suppressants.
Plus you can always make yourself feel warm & fuzzy by sharing your snacks to break the ice with your seat neighbour.
Put your devices in airplane mode
i know the captain asks you to. But you don’t always listen, do you?
Well, if not for safety reasons, at least do it to save your battery. When flying, our phones waste a lot of battery in trying to find a carrier nearby to connect to. Switch to airplane mode and save your battery from death.
Keep your itinerary close to you at all times
When you have multiple flight connections, you will need to take a quick look at your itinerary at least a few times.
Have it in your pocket at all times, or use a digital version of it to avoid wasting time and energy searching your backpack for it.
Pro Tip: I highly recommend downloading the free TripIt mobile app. It stores your itinerary for you and allows you to access your itinerary offline access when you’re traveling WiFilessly.
“That’s great, but how the hell will i remember all of this?”
You don’t have to!
I prepared a checklist for you with all these wonderful flight hacks.
You can grab it from the link below. Make sure you save it locally on your mobile device so you can give yourself a quick reminder before you’re next flight.
Let me know in the comments which of these flight hacks you liked best, or if you have any other flight hacks I might have missed here, let us know and we’ll add them to the list!