I have been traveling on a lot more flights these days, and for me, air travel has been increasingly unpleasant. I think I used to enjoy it more, but now I’m not as much of a fan. But since I am still on a planes a good amount, I’ve tried to do random little things to make traveling better. I am by no means an expert traveler, so these are just some random thoughts and tips on air travel.
You need to get TSA Pre. TSA Pre costs $85 for 5 years ($17/year). That is worth it considering how much time and frustration you will save on the security lines. I got it a while ago but I don’t remember the process being too difficult. You don’t have to take out laptops, and take off shoes, it’s a lot easier and faster. Sometimes the lines aren’t always running or it varies by airports, but most US airports I’ve traveled at seem to have it. Many times it takes just a few minutes and almost all the time below ten minutes.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
I had been using the default iPhone headphones for a while because they were small and easy to travel with. But on flights it really doesn’t block out any of the background noise. Also I don’t think I really realized how loud the background noise from the engine is, because I would always need to turn the volume up all the way just to hear it. I got a pair of small in-ear noise cancelling headphones and they have been really good for flights. They are small and really do block out a lot of the noise. Not perfect but still way better. Also if you are listening to something you don’t need the volume all the way up. The issue is you need to charge these and I have forgotten to do that sometimes which defeats the purpose. Here was the one I got.
In the last year or so ish I got an iPad and that is really great for air travel. Some airlines have tablets or TVs but it varies very widely by airline and trip and airplane so it’s not really a consistent thing. Some are good, but most really aren’t. And then there are just random movies. iPads are pretty nice for travel because they aren’t very heavy, generally good battery life, and are nice for watching movies or TV. If you have Netflix or Amazon prime you can download some episodes or movies in advance and that makes it pretty easy to use on a plane.
I have switched on flights between trying to sleep, or read a lot, or watch TV or movies or work on a computer… but if you want to read on a flight a Kindle is a nice thing to have. A lot of times I do have real books but those do get heavy and take up a lot of space. Also it’s nice because you could always have a few books you want to read on it.
Traveling with a Computer
Right now I’m traveling with a newer Macbook Pro 13 inch 2017 and it’s a pretty bad travel computer. The battery dies in about 3 hours of usage on the flight so way less than the 10 hours advertised. Also most flights I’m on don’t seem to have a battery charger. I will probably switch back to a Macbook Air which is lighter, and has a better battery life, though generally I’m not using computers too often on flights (though I am writing this on a computer on a flight).
Phone Charger Case
The phone charger case is crucial. I have one of the iPhone charger cases which is supposed to give extra charge time. While again the battery life stated on it has not really worked at all as advertised it does extend the phone battery compared to without it. I find this is helpful when traveling because I am often using google maps and location which is pretty battery intensive.
Every now and then I’ll listen to podcasts, I use the stitcher app for that and try to download some in advance.
Most of the time I don’t use plane internet, though sometimes I do. If you are using a flight with gogo I would recommend buying the day pass before the flight because they increase the price to an absurd amount during the flight. Also, the day passes don’t expire for a year, so you have some time.
I think one of my better travel habits that I have gotten into is trying to pack pretty consistently. I have a backpack with a bunch of pockets and many things always go in the same place and that makes it easier for me not to lose things. I always put my keys in the same pocket when I’m traveling. I put headphones in one pocket. I put chargers in one pocket. I have computers in one pocket.
For a backpack I have a black backpack with a lot of pockets and a computer pocket. I like having a lot of pockets while traveling to help with organizing.
Something that I find handy to have is a travel pack list that you always use. I find myself rushing to pack and so to not forget anything I have a small check list. I used to have it as just a piece of paper, but moved it to a google keep note. Then I can just copy it and check things off. The way I’ve set it up to be most helpful is write all the things I would need on any trip. Then in the case it’s not the kind of trip I need it then I just check it off quickly. But this helps in cases where I’d usually forget the right thing to bring.
I’ve broken it down both in terms of things to pack but also actions. The reason actions is helpful is because then I remember to charge things or download things. I used to forget to download anything before and then you can’t really do that easily in most airports. Some sections I have in my travel list are
- Tech (includes things like chargers or iPad)
- Airplane (things I might want on the flight)
- General Travel
- Action Items (charge phone, download things, etc)
I find it’s helpful to have small adapters — but that depends on the type of devices you have. For example now there is the weird lightning cable and regular headphone jack and those don’t go together.
I find it really helpful to bring extra chargers. So I bring a bunch of different USB-type chargers, but only one computer charger.
Temperature on the Plan
Most planes I find not that comfortable. Sometimes they are hot, a lot of times they are really cold. I like to wear a sweater, but also I think it’s helpful to bring a jacket if it’s really cold. For example this flight I was on started off freezing. Also a jacket or similar could be used as a pillow if you need it.
I’m a window seat guy. I think many people are also aisle people. I don’t know many people who want the middle seat. It seems that they just keep making regular airport seats more and more cramped in terms of legroom. So if you can get extra space that is great. What I try to do is book a seat on a window. If you can get the exit row, those usually have the most space and don’t cost extra.
I think just drinking a lot of water is probably one of the healthier things to do on a plane or travel day. So I try to drink before and during. I used to bring a water bottle but that doesn’t work well because you can’t bring water through security and airports don’t reliably have water fountains. I usually buy a bottle of water for a price-gouging amount in an airport store. Sometimes I’ll get a gatorade or coconut water. I think since I started thinking about this more actively since a friend mentioned it, that has made a difference while flying.
Airplanes and airports are pretty dirty and gross. And it’s easy to get sick. I have tried to be better about this but it is very challenging. Security lines are gross, airport bathrooms are gross, there are sick people on planes. So you are kind of trapped. What can you do? You could get hand sanitizer. You can put your jacket in a bag so it doesn’t ride on the security conveyor directly (those are just really, really gross).
I travel with a carry-on bag. I have tried lots of other versions but this is what has worked best for me so far. If you can keep it with you, that is preferred for lots of reasons. I’ve had checked bags get lost for a long time which is not fun.
So those are a bunch of random air travel thoughts and tips! What do you do to make flying more pleasant? Also I just think there is so much opportunity to do airlines better. I think they do pretty much everything wrong from a user experience perspective but we are stuck with a pretty bad oligopoly.