Although no airline has yet labeled me a frequent flyer (and I am faaaaar away from that), I definitely am a regular at the airport. When you fly often, you develop little habits to speed up certain processes and, in general, make your life easier.
Because some cruel person decided that flights between London and my city in Poland are at some ridiculously early morning times, I was forced to think of ways to make my life as easy as possible. I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly awake at 5am, no matter what. Throughout the years, I tried and tested various solutions to the little airport problems and decided to share them with you.
So, off we go.
Bring an empty water bottle
Although you are no longer allowed to bring any liquids in containers over 100ml through security, you can have an empty water bottle with you. As it usually takes me a while to get to the airport, I leave the house with a full bottle, empty it just before security, then fill it up again once I’m through. Note: I have yet to find a way to fill my bottle with water that isn’t super warm at London Luton. (If you know of a water fountain there, let me know.) It’s also not advised to drink tap water in certain countries e.g. Egypt. You’ll be better off investing in bottled water once you’re in duty free.
One train/bus earlier
If you’re travelling to the airport by public transport, you never know what might happen. Buses sometimes don’t come, and trains are late. So if, e.g. buses come every half hour, it takes me 1h to get to the airport, and I have to be there 2h before the flight, I won’t leave 3h before the flight, but 3.5h. It will give you a bit of a buffer if all hell breaks loose and you will need to take a taxi. It will also help you avoid stress when the lines for check in are very long.
Ditch jeans and heels
Ok, I agree – jeans are generally super comfy. They become much less comfy, though, when you have to sit for hours on end, sometimes on the floor. And heels at the airport simply fascinate me. There usually is a lot of walking at the airport, not to mention dealing with suitcases, stairs, cabin luggage etc. Unless you’re on a work trip and going into a meeting straight from the airport, you really don’t need heels. Plus, if there’s an emergency landing and you have to go down a slide, you will have to leave them on the plane. Big no from me. Leggings, cotton t-shirt, soft shoes (ideally slip-on, in case you have to take them off for security) and a cardigan (because AC is sometimes cruel) are a way to go.
Be ready for security before you get to security
Whenever I fly, I see people get to security super confused, not knowing what to do, taking ages to take stuff out, then going through with coins in their pockets – and having to go back. Don’t put coins and metal stuff in your pockets in the first place (and if you do, remember that everything from the pockets has to go into a tray), have your electronics ready to take out (not at the bottom of your carry on suitcase), have the bag with toiletries in your hand, take your jacket/jumper/cardigan off, don’t wear a belt if you can avoid it (take it off before if you can’t). This will mean your trip through security will be much, much smoother. And, for heaven’s sake, take two trays, if you need to. They won’t have a tray shortage because of it, I promise.
Get your entertainment sorted
Short-haul flights offer exactly no entertainment, other than crying children and the sound of people eating crisps. It’s therefore very important to get it sorted yourself or you will die of boredom. I have 3 ways of entertaining myself: reading, podcasts and TV shows. Podcasts are a great choice because you can have your phone on throughout the flight, as long as it’s in the flight mode, and you can close your eyes while listening to them. I usually download a wide range and then just pick and choose. TV shows are a bit trickier, because you have to have them pre-buffered on your laptop, as most planes don’t have wifi (don’t count on airport wifi if you don’t know for sure it works properly). And don’t forget your headphones!
Get a luggage scale
You know that really scary moment when you put your suitcase on the scale at check in and pray it’s not over the limit? I’ve had way too many of those scary moments. And although I can now pretty much always say if the suitcase is over or under a given limit just by lifting it up, I have opted for a hand scale. I promise, it will save you a lot of stress. I have this one, and so far it’s working great.
Don’t get up the second the wheels touch the ground
Every time I fly, I have a massive giggle after landing. Because the second the wheels touch the ground, I hear people unbuckling their seatbelts, as if they were being suffocated by them, and getting up as soon as the ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign is off. Then standing in the aisle for 15-20 minutes. It’s completely unnecessary to stand up until the plane doors are open and passengers are being allowed off. Also, where are you rushing to? Passport control? The 40 minute wait for the suitcase? You’re better off enjoying your book.
There is plenty of food at the airport, granted. And if you’re in a mood for something warm, then by all means have food at the airport. However, food on the plane is a different issue entirely. There’s either very little of it (regular airlines) or none of it is complimentary (budget airlines), and the prices for those plasticky, disgusting sandwiches they sell on the plane are extortionate. My way to go is a Pret sandwich bought at the airport (when I’m flying out of London), plus small, but filling, snacks that won’t take too much space in my carry on: protein bars, dried fruit (I like mango best), nuts. Don’t take anything that can make your stomach hurt or will leave you dehydrated, so no fizzy drinks, salted nuts or crisps.
A cross-body bag is a life saver
I only discovered it last month and now want to share this tip with everyone. Honestly, there’s nothing better than a wheel-y carry on and a cross body combo. I used to fly with big handbags, and the number of times I had to dig through piles of stuff to find my passport/boarding pass/wallet/headphones/student ID/god only knows what else probably goes into hundreds. I once managed to lose a boarding pass between gate and plane – the flight attendant had to call the gate people to check if I actually was on the passenger list (I don’t know how else I would have gotten there, but whatever). Now, cross body is the way to go – all it really fits is a wallet, passport, boarding pass, phone and a small snack. So all you need to have at hand. And medicines. If you have any that need to be taken regularly never put them in your check in luggage – you never know, it might get lost.
You don’t need make up
I promise you, it really doesn’t matter what you look like on the plane. Unless the flight is a beginning of some blind date holiday (sounds like a terrible idea). You’re far better off just slathering your face with a double layer of moisturiser, as the air on the plane can be very drying. Also, bring along a lip balm, hand cream (see: drying air) and hand sanitiser – bathrooms on the planes are notoriously occupied, and imagine if you want to have a snack right in the middle of turbulence? Sanitising gel can be a real life saver.
Be ready to queue
Queues are annoying, especially if you’re struggling with a 30kg broken suitcase (me last month). But they’re just part of the airport life. You can’t avoid them, you can’t speed them up (because even priority lanes have queues at one point or another). All you can do is embrace them. Although the tips above will help you make your airport life easier and smoother, one of the most important things to take with you when travelling is patience.
I hope those little tried and tested tips will help you fly without stress. I know airports and planes can be intimidating if you don’t fly too often – with all their strict procedures and ways of doing things. But, truth be told, if you come prepared, it will not only be stress-free, but also… boring.