A couple of days after I booked my plane tickets to Bangkok, I started to prepare for my flights. Even if I am not leaving before 3 months (I wish I’d leave right now!). I know for sure that the earliest I prepare myself, the more relaxed I will be. How? Here are 9 little known ways to have a super relaxing flight (even on a very long flight, with a toddler!).
1 | Seat Selection
Seat selection is the first step to a relaxing flight. Of course, if you are very tall, you may even pay for a little extra legroom. But if you are flying coach, you can look for emergency exit rows: you’ll have more room to stretch and you will get out of the crashing airplane first. These rows cannot be occupied by infants on lap though, because they don’t offer an extra oxygen mask for your baby.
If security is your main concern, look at my 26 Best Tips to Survive a Plane Crash, and you’ll know exactly where to sit to survive! I always try to sit within 5 rows of emergency exits.
If motion sickness is bothering you, book the seats that are closest to the airplane’s wings. This is where the plane is the most stable.
Traveling with someone and you want an extra seat to lay down to sleep? Book seats that are separated by an unselected seat yet. Since that seat is in between people, maybe if won’t even be booked (who wants to sit in-between a couple?!). But if a solo traveler reserve that seat, you can always switch up with him or her so you can sit next to your spouse or friend. That’s what I just did for our trip to Asia: I booked 3 seats in a 4-seats row, and we are not next to one another. I am taking the guess: if someone shows up and claim that seat, we will move over. But it might stay empty and my baby girl will have 2 seats to sleep!
2 | Meal Selection
I have never selected my meals before. This is the first time I did it, and I think for this trip it will be worth it. Meal selection is not about having better food, but it’s about timing. You know when you are getting on your flight already tired, or you just want to watch your movie, and then flight attendants start to deliver meals, and you are starving, and it takes forever to get your food? Well, if you select your meal first, it’s not supposed to happen.
You could order vegetarian, or gluten free, or for diabetic. The point is: they usually serve special food first. So you eat first. So you won’t starve for long, you can watch your movie or go to sleep earlier. And anyway, you already know you won’t miss out on a succulent meal!
3 | Check-In Online
Check-in online within 24 hours of your departure is a must. You know now that ALL flights are overbooked. And who gets bumped when too many people bought the same seats? Economy travelers. So if you are just like me, and fly coach, please check-in before you get to the airport. Because when you are checked-in, they won’t bump you. They will bump someone who didn’t check-in the day before.
Usually you can check-in 24 hours before your departure time. So if your flight leaves at 10AM on January 17th, you can check-in online as soon as January 16th at 10AM.
4 | Look Up for Lounges and Airport’s Facilities
If you have long layovers, you can consider buying a one day pass to your airline’s business lounge. Almost all airlines sell one-day passes, and it can cost about $50 to have access to free soft drinks, free wine and beer, free hot food, couches, free wifi, showers, magazines, newspapers, tv, etc. If you think of how much it will cost you to eat at one of the airport’s expensive restaurant (because they all are, except for McDonald’s), buy a few magazines and pay for wifi, it will definitely be worth it.
Some airports even have lounges where you can also pay to have access. It’s about the same price, and you will have almost the same amenities. Be careful though, because some offers passes only for 1, 2 or 3 hours. So if your layovers will last 7 hours, well it may not be worth it to buy that pass.
You could even look at what’s available at the airport. I looked up at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and found out they offer a Baby Care Lounge, where I will be able to feed, bathe and allow my little girl a nice sleep in one of the seven bed cabins, which include comfortable seats for the parents.
You can look for play area for children, or where you could shower, get a massage or train in a gym.
5 | Gear Up
There are a couple of essentials you need on a long flight.
You need an eye mask, for the unwanted reading light from your neighbour.
You need ear plugs, to sleep like a baby even if you sit close to the restrooms.
A travel pillow (that you wear around the front of your neck, and not the back, so your head doesn’t fall down and the drooling goes unnoticed).
Your own headphones, if you want to watch in-flight entertainment, since yours are always better than the ones they give or try to sell you.
Your own favorite snacks, because the food served in the air is nobody’s favorite.
And finally a big bottle of water to stay hydrated, and you can ask your flight attendant to refill it so you won’t ask for 8 more tiny glasses of water during the whole flight.
6 | Ask for Free Things
Don’t be afraid to ask for free things, like an upgrade. You have nothing to lose. You are traveling for your honeymoon, or on your birthday? Say so. When you will get to the airport, even if you did your check-in earlier at home as recommended above, talk to the check-in agent or the cabin crew at the gate, before you get on the plane. Sometimes they look at who they will ask for a ‘favor’, like being ‘bumped’ in business class. If they know it’s a special trip for you, they might think of you first.
I will definitely try it on our trip, since I am traveling on my birthday. Can’t wait to see if it will pay off!
7 | Pick the Checkpoint Further to the Left
Research shows that most people are right-handed, and tend to turn right first. So at security check, or at any lines you may encounter at the airport, do the opposite and pick the farthest line to the left. It will probably go faster, and you will keep your energy for something else more important, like watching a third movie on your 8-hour flight to Bali!
8 | Get In Last
Let me tell you a secret. And I actually don’t suggest you follow my advice here, because not everyone can do it and it won’t be at my advantage.
If you don’t have a large carry-on, or you don’t mind where it will be stowed during your flight, and you want to get an extra seat to have more room and sleep more comfortably, get in the airplane last.
My husband does it all the time, and it bothered me a little bit at first, because I just wanted to get comfortable in my own seat and I usually don’t do something I am not ‘supposed’ to. But he often got an extra seat by doing so, since he can spot them easily when everyone is seated.
But we cannot all do it, because we will then have to fight with each other to be that very last person.
9 | Be Friendly
A smile and a thanks always go a long way. Especially to hard working flight attendants. By the way, they are not waiters and waitresses, even if they serve us food. Their main job is to keep us safe and they are well trained in case of an emergency landing. They work very long hours, standing up, sometimes with turbulence. So please be kind with them, very kind. Say please and thank you. So when you will ask for a blanket, they will be happy to bring you one. And you might make their trip a more relaxed one too.