I was talking to my father this week about upcoming travel plans and came to realization that while I love travel and exploring new destinations, it’s the process I struggle with. The airport, the waiting, the uncertainty, immigration and of course, the flight. Even after 20 odd years of getting myself across the continents, I still struggle with the flight – regardless of whether I fly at the pointy end or in economy.
But over the years I’ve learned some things. I do have some hacks and strategies for making those flights – be they 40 minutes or…gulp…14 hours…more bearable whatever class you are in.
- Choose your seat wisely
Not all seats are created equal. This seems like a no brainer, but believe me, taking time to strategically plot your sitting position does pay off. Me, I like the aisle. I’m not such a fan of the exit row as the arm sets are fitted and the entertainment unit awkward. One thing I always take into account is the type of plane I am flying in. Qatar Airways publishes their seating maps on their website but you can also use sites like SeatGuru to find our important information (eg in certain planes some leg room is hampered by the inflight entertainment box).
2. Pack your carryon with precision
As I love a short and sharp getaway, I mostly try and travel with carry-on. But sometimes you have to check your luggage. This means you need to spend a bit of time on what your inflight essentials are. For me it’s headphones, my iPad, a warm wrap, some skincare essentials (all the moisturizer!) and yes, a change of underwear (trust me – you never know) and an eye mask. I’ve been getting some heavy duty usage out of this baby from Lo & Sons which is roomy enough for a laptop plus other essentials and looks fab as well.
3. Plan your meals and entertainment ahead
Airlines like Qatar Airways and Singapore Air allow their premium class passengers to book their meals ahead. Nothing is worse that missing out on that cheese plate to your fellow traveler. This isn’t a luxury afforded to economy class, but I do sometimes order a special meal (vegetarian, diabetic, raw vegan) etc which not only ensure you get your meal first, but also something a little different from chicken or beef.
I rarely get to the movies, so I use my flights as an opportunity to catch up with new releases and at least look knowledgable at dinner parties. As for entertainment, I have discovered the Qatar Airways Oryx One app, which tells you what is showing on board your flight and also allows you to download some magazines (like Newsweek) to read onboard. To double up, I also load up my iPad with books and magazines. With some airlines, like the excellent Norwegian Airlines, now offering in flight streaming of movies and TV shows, it pays to slip that device into your carryon. A pro-tip -charge your devices before you leave as not all planes are fitted with charging capacity or power sockets.
4. Check-in early
The last thing you need before your flight is to be panicking your way through a busy airport. Or to miss your flight. Checkin online and print out or save to your phone.
5. Active wear is your friend
Finally – a place where activewear as day wear is accepted! Trust me on this one. Keep it loose (or stretchy) and comfortable—you’re not here to impress anyone. Remember to bring layers for when it gets cold and also keep it neat.
6. If you can’t access a lounge – pay for it
Consider this a pre-game move. If your chilled pre-flight, then you are going into it with a better mindset. All airlines with a frequent flyer program offer lounge access for their elite flyers. But you can also get a slice of paradise before you fly thanks to Priority Pass. There is nothing better than being able to retreat to an airline lounge for a sneaky glass of freebie vino before a flight. A word of advice, this is a not a free app or service. Rather, you pay a yearly fee to access more than 1,000 airport lounges in 500 cities across 130 countries. Most international airports have pay-per-use lounges as well, so check ahead.
These are my basic moves for ensuring a better flight – what are yours?
Please read my small print.