There’s a reason every single stand-up comedian has a bit about flying: everyone hates doing it. The food on the planes is bad. The food in the airports is bad. The seats on the plane are crammed. The seats in the airport are impossible to get comfortable in. Security is a nightmare. You get sick every damn time you get on board. Babies cry the whole flight. Kids kick your seat the whole flight. A passenger with an annoying voice gets hammered and talks too loud.
Flying, in short, is a nightmare. Here are some travel hacks to make it less terrible.
1. Exercise before going to the airport.
This isn’t always possible, but if you can, get in a good workout before leaving for the airport. It boosts your endorphins (making you less grumpy), boosts your immune system (so you don’t get sick), and also makes it easier for you to fall asleep once onboard.
2. Morning flights have less turbulence.
If you get motion sickness, it’s better to travel in the morning. As the earth heats throughout the day, the hot air rises, causing storms and winds. While storms can happen at any time, they are more likely to happen in the afternoon. So you’ll reduce your chances of getting a bumpy flight if you fly early.
3. You’ll feel the turbulence the least over the wings.
Turbulence is felt most in the back of the plane, and least over the wings.
4. If you don’t mind turbulence, then sit up front.
The air is fresher and cooler up front and warmer towards the back.
5. Be cool to the flight attendants.
This is just common sense. The people who don’t suck get taken better care of.
6. You can’t bring liquids through security. You can bring empty mugs with tea bags.
If you don’t want to spend on Starbucks or drink watery airplane coffee, just bring an empty travel mug with tea bags inside. The flight attendants will be able to fill it with hot water on the plane. If you prefer coffee to tea, you can just put your coffee grounds in a tea infuser.
7. Frozen liquids are allowed through security.
In a pinch, you can bring a bottle of frozen water (or tea or coffee) through security. This is only really practical if you’re going on a long enough flight for it to defrost, though — the liquids have to be frozen solid while you’re going through security. They can’t be half melted.
8. Stay hydrated — avoid alcohol.
If you can avoid the temptation, stick to water on the plane. Alcohol dehydrates you and makes it harder to get REM sleep, so while it might calm the nerves short term, it’s going to make you that much more exhausted and groggy when you arrive.
9. Don’t get ice with your drink.
Aside from giving you less drink, airplane ice cubes usually come from the water tank, which is often not clean and might be the thing that makes you sick.
10. Wipe down your tray table.
You’re more likely to get sick from what you touch than from just breathing the same air as someone who’s sick, and attendants don’t clean the tray tables and handles before every flight. If you’ve got space, pack disinfectant wipes and wipe down both the tray table and the armrest before touching them.
11. Keep the air on.
If you’re cold, just put on a sweater — the air blows germs away and also keeps your skin from getting too dry.
12. The blankets are basically biological weapons.
Unless you’re getting it out of a sealed plastic bag (which isn’t great for the environment), that blanket has probably been used and probably hasn’t been washed. Either shell out for your own blanket or just wear warm clothes.
13. Skip carbonated drinks.
If you have a soda at the airport, you might later experience gastric distress — the air can expand in your intestines, causing gas. This can happen if you have it on the plane, too, if the pilots need to change altitude.
14. Get out of that middle seat.
If you get stuck with a middle seat assignment, go to ExpertFlyer.com and set up a seat alert. If someone changes, they’ll send you a message and you can swoop in and take the new assignment.
15. If you’re traveling as a couple, book a window and an aisle.
This is a crapshoot, but if the plane is underbooked, no one’s going to sign up for a middle seat between two strangers, so there’s an okay chance you’ll get three seats for the two of you. If the flight is full, you can always ask to switch — most people will happily do so to get out of a middle seat.
16. Bring a comfy coat with lots of pockets.
Coats with lots of pockets can serve as a supplemental carry-on, and soft, comfy ones can double as a pillow.
17. At security, turn left.
People prefer to turn towards their dominant hand, so if you come to a fork in the security line, go to the left — more people will instinctively go in the other direction.
18. Use Spotify Premium while offline.
Airplane wifi is usually both expensive and patchy, so if you need music for the flight, it’s best to have it downloaded on your phone. The best option for this is Spotify Premium, as it allows you to put specific playlists or albums in “offline mode.” Once you select this, it downloads the entire playlist. Then, when you’re at the next airport, if there isn’t a ton of space on your phone, deselect the old playlist and select a new one. No syncing to computers, it allows you to avoid being hit with roaming charges, and you can listen in Airplane mode.
19. Rebook canceled flights through the customer service line.
If your flight has been canceled while you’re at the airport, you’re probably not going to be the first one to the counter to rebook. To avoid missing the next flight — and the next — just call the airport’s customer service line from your cell. They can rebook from there, and you can skip the line.
20. You can buy day passes at many airport executive lounges.
It won’t necessarily be cheap ($30-75), but if you want to have a slightly more luxurious airport experience, a lot of lounges offer day passes.
21. Get free wifi by sitting outside the lounge.
If you don’t want to pay to get in the lounge, you can still sit near it and poach the free wifi.
22. The quietest place in the airport is the chapel.
If you need a space away from the crowds, this is usually the quietest (free) spot in the airport.
23. If you need a charge, there’s usually a USB port on the back of TVs.
Don’t break any laws (or any TVs) obviously, but airports are usually chock full of TVs, so if you can’t find a charging station, see if you can find an accessible TV and plug your phone into the USB port at the back of it.
24. Sign up for TSA Pre-Check to avoid long security lines.
25. Don’t miss a plane because of security.
TSA offers an app that tells you how long lines are at specific airports. There’s nothing worse than cutting it close and then realizing you’re going to spend 45 minutes waiting to get frisked.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
100,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points