Advice from my 30 Years of Air Travel

Unlike most people, I find flying to be extremely relaxing. I was not always this way, but over the years I’ve developed some habits which remove all the stress from any trip I take. I’ve finally decided to write them down, and share them below.

To tell you a little about me – I fly all the time. Fifty two flights in the last four years, and I’ve been traveling at more less the same rate for 30 years. Several of those flights each year are trips longer than 20 hours to Asia where much of my family lives.

Please let me know if you have any other tips in the comments below and I will add them (if they are good) with credit to you.

Baggage and Packing


(Photo edited from Suitcases v2 by Malias under this license).

  1. I avoid waiting for baggage at my destination – instead I pack a carry on which fits in the overhead bin, the largest standard size is a 22 inch suitcase (but inside the US you may be able to fit a larger one). I greatly recommend a 4-wheel carry on, they are more maneuverable, and hence need to be carried less  (I personally use this one). For example, a 4-wheel carry on can be wheeled down the aisle of a plane, a 2 wheel one cannot.
  2. Whether I just bring a carry on or (on the rare occasion) check in baggage, I attach baggage tags at home before I get to the airport. One less thing to think of while I am there. These are cheap and work well for me.
  3.  I pack a sweater and a light travel blanket in my carry on. Nowadays, most airlines do not give out blankets except on ultra long distance flights, and I always prefer not to be freezing over a long journey.
  4. For longer flights, I pack a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste in my carry on. I also pack my pajamas for anything overnight. Being able to brush my teeth before I sleep on an overnighter helps me sleep better, and being able to brush on arrival helps me feel fresh and energized when I arrive at my destination. Pajamas also make all the difference in my quality of overnight sleep, and leave my clothes fresher for arrival.
  5. I pack a change of clothes in my carry on for any flight longer than 6 hours, it’s always nice to put on fresh clothes before disembarking or during transit.
  6. Always pack a phone/laptop/tablet charger in your carry on. Flights get cancelled, and you may find yourself stranded in a place you never expected. (Thanks Thomas McCall in the comments below)

Before Leaving the House

  1. I check in online as early as I’m allowed to (normally 24 hours). Most US airlines and  some international ones assign your boarding zone based on when you check in. So the earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board.
  2. I weigh my luggage before I leave the house. Knowing when my baggage is overweight before I get to the airport avoids awkwardness and pressure in-airport to repack while other people are standing in line behind me. Talk about airing dirty laundry. This scale makes weighing luggage a lot easier on the road and at home.
  3. I put on lots of lotion – This may be an odd one, but the air in airplanes is very dry, and my skin often gets itchy. This is more the case on trips longer than 15 hours. I find if I put on some extra lotion before hand, then my skin stays moisturized for the whole trip.
  4. I wear lots of layers – I often wear a t-shirt, then a sweater, then a light jacket. This is because I have no idea in advance how what the temperature of the airplane and the transit airports will be, and it easy to put on and take off layers.
  5. I avoid caffeine and drink lots of water – Caffeine makes you go to the bathroom more often than necessary, which is a pain while on a plane trapped in between other people. On the other hand, it is easy to get dehydrated while on a plane because of low humidity, so I make sure to drink lots of water.

At the Airport

The dramatic wood ceiling of Madrid Airport
Madrid Airport
  1. I put anything metallic into my carry on before I get in line for security. This includes my belt, wallet, keys and cell phone. That way I can breeze through security without any rush to empty my pockets, and I don’t have to worry about losing anything.
  2. I keep my boarding pass and ID easily accessible during security. This is another place where people often fumble and stress, I just keep both in my back pocket while going through the line.
  3. Because I’ve checked in online early, I have early boarding and will avoid being stressed when finding a place to put my bags.
  4. I avoid alcohol – Drinking alcohol on the flight may seem like fun, but because of the low air pressure on the plane I pay double afterwards in terms of hangover.
  5. I put earphones on – Often, I don’t want to talk to the person next to me. I find the most effective way of doing so is putting earphones on whether I am listening to anything or not.

Hopefully these tips can help smooth your trip. Bon Voyage!!