While I’m far from being a “diamond” level frequent flyer—ya know, the ones who travel well over 100,000 miles per year—I’ve learned a thing or two about deftly navigating the airport as a frequent travel columnist.
The first is that the big metal tubes that jet us around the world in hours (as opposed to months that it used to take) are downright awesome—the first world-wide web and easily one of the greatest modern inventions of our time. The sooner you appreciate this, the less miserable you’ll be while traveling.
The second is that a little pre-planning, shortcutting, and forward-thinking can greatly improve our enjoyment of the mostly friendly but sometimes hostile skies. To make the most of your next domestic or international flight, consider doing all of the below:
Pre-register to bypass lines. While most readers probably already print their boarding passes at home through an airline’s website or phone app before arriving at the airport—which by itself can save significant time and hassle—those who travel more than a few times a year should really consider upgrading to TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or the TSA’s free Mobile Pass (where available). For less than $20 per year, the first two save hours in security lines, while the latter two save similar amounts of time when re-entering the country from abroad. In short, these are all game-changers.
Never check a bag. While this is more easily accomplished on shorter domestic trips, I’ve gone “carry-on only” on many long-haul and longer stay international trips as well. Why? Because packing light lets you save even more hours from additional security, bag claim, taxi, and other time spent waiting in lines. On top of that, carry-on only frees yourself from all of the mental baggage associated with taking a lot of stuff on your journey. The sooner you realize this truth, the less likely you’ll encounter Murphy’s law and unwanted stress.
Sync your device beforehand. While in-flight entertainment and wifi have greatly improved in recent years, they largely remain unreliable. So before every flight, take a few minutes to download movies, books, games, and important work documents to more effectively and quickly pass the added amounts of idle time while flying. This act alone can make travel seem like a break instead of hassle. The only way to embrace that opportunity, however, is to sync before you get stuck offline.
Accessorize wisely. By this I mean taking modern technology with you such as noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds, memory foam neck pillows, and smart-stretching apparel that is more comfortable and convenient than traditional clothing. But it also means carrying low-tech items such as noise-muffling ear plugs, light-shielding eye masks, and a life-giving portable water bottle to stay hydrated at a very dehydrating 30,000 feet.
Feed on the right foods. Speaking of intake, if you want to feel like crap while traveling in airplanes, keep on reaching for the same, fast, high-sodium, and addicting comfort foods that are so readily convenient in airports. Otherwise, get in the habit of drinking lots of extra water, reaching for high-protein foods such as red meat, yogurt, or chicken, avoiding simple sugars such as white breads, alcohol, sugar water, or candy, and going out of your way to ingest as many fiber-rich fruits and veggies as you can get your hands on, which are sure to help with airplane-induced constipation that affects nearly all of us.