As an American expat living in Asia, I find myself on flights at least four times per month. Whether it’s a 90-minute hop or a 13-hour long haul across the Pacific, through trial and error I’ve created my travel routine to maintain my sanity throughout the journey.
Summer is the season of family vacations and lots of exchange program travel, and I thought I’d share my go-to air travel survival tips with you!
1. Check your documents twice.
Before you leave the house, make sure you have your necessary travel documents including a government-issued photo ID and proof of your flight. I like to check my documents again once I’m in the car on the way to the airport… it gives me extra peace of mind!
2. Be aware of baggage restrictions.
Nothing makes my stomach sink faster than realizing my carry-on or checked bag is too heavy! Fortunately, this is an avoidable situation. Check your airline's baggage policy, then pack accordingly. Weigh your bags at home to give you total confidence.
3. Dress in layers.
Airport and airplane temperatures can range from Antarctica to the Sahara Desert, making it wise to dress in layers. You may be sitting down for hours on end, so anticipate what will make you the most comfortable. I always carry a large but lightweight scarf because it can double as a blanket.
4. Pack snacks and a water bottle.
Bring a few small snacks to avoid getting hangry and to dodge crazy airport prices. If you’re traveling internationally, it’s best to finish all of your food before you land so that you don’t get hung up at customs. Another thing I always have is an empty water bottle, which I fill up after going through security.
5. Download your entertainment.
There’s nothing worse than starting a long trip only to be told the in-flight entertainment or wifi system is down. With today’s tech, it’s easy to come prepared by downloading your favorite movies to your tablet and phone before you leave home. E-readers are another option, as is having podcasts and music available offline. Don’t forget to store your chargers in your carry-on in case long delays wear down your batteries.
6. Keep cash and cards on hand.
Some airlines only accept cash while others only take cards, and you never know which one you’re going to get. Make it a point to have both cash and a credit or debit card available to ensure you can buy whatever snacks your heart desires.
7. Keep an eye on the time!
If you’ve got time to spare while waiting for your flight, make a plan for exactly when you’re going to head to your gate. I like to find my gate first, then explore the terminal. You can even set an alarm (or two!) on your phone in case you get caught up in the moment.
8. White noise is golden.
Airports and airplanes can be loud and hectic, especially if you’re trying to catch some z’s. One way to combat this stressful environment? Have a ‘sleep’ playlist that’s saved offline on your device. Mine includes a few versions of white noise as well as meditation music.
9. Use scented hand sanitizer.
The reason to use hand sanitizer while traveling is obvious, but why make it scented? When food is served at 35,000 feet, the smell can be overwhelming. If you’re feeling a little green, put on your scented hand sanitizer and breath deep. I recommend this instead of lotions or perfumes, as you don’t want to overwhelm your fellow travelers in case they’re sensitive to scents.
10. Be patient and go with the flow.
Travel can be stressful, but it can also be enjoyable if you let it. Being patient with your fellow sojourners and airline staff will improve your own experience. Remember that in the scheme of things a 15-minute delay is no big deal! If you’ve got a noisy patron nearby, put on your meditation playlist, and you’re good to go. And if a gate changes at the last minute, go with the flow and move on. There’s nothing you can do about it anyway!
I hope you enjoyed reading my go-to travel tips! I’m sure you’ll come up with your own as you embark on your many adventures. Bon voyage!
Joy is a huge advocate for cultural exchange. She's lived across the USA, then moved overseas to London and Sydney. She currently resides in Jakarta, Indonesia, giving her a unique perspective on working and thriving in a culture not her own. Joy graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Marketing and started her career in the au pair industry. She works on the blog and social media for the Au Pair USA program.