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Air Travel Tips

Updated on September 17, 2008

Air Travel The Low Down

Air travel can be a big concern for inexperienced travelers, but there is lots of great information out there to calm the reassure nervous air traveler prior to take-off. Even if you are not worried about flying a little bit of planning can make for a much more comfortable trip, grabbing the cheapest flight deal will not always give you the best trip, and sometimes it won't even save you money once you factor in food and airport transfer costs!

8 Tips for Planning Air Travel

Read on to discover some of the tips of the regular air traveller.

  • The ideal flight is one that combines a great airline, spare seats, good airports en-route and the cheapest price! Not always possible but here are some things worth considering when trying to get the perfect combination.

Birdsville Airport, Queensland, Australia
Birdsville Airport, Queensland, Australia

  • Choose your airport with some care, a decent airport can create a pleasant experience on departure, a nice stopover and an efficient arrival. Oddly, there appears no real correlation between the GDP of the country involved and the quality of their airports. The often quoted worst airports include LAX, Los Angeles and Heathrow, London, UK. The most often voted best airport in the world is Singapore's Changi which although not a new terminal seems to get the mix of facilities and efficient service just right. It makes you wonder why some airports struggle to offer showers for travelers where they can offer not only a spa-like shower for S$10 but also a swimming pool, gym, free movies and designated quiet zones for sleeping!

  • Look at smaller airports as a better option to avoid the congestion of major centres. Use he "show nearby airports" option when searching for flights on sites such as kayak.com and sidestep.com. Among the major booking engines, Travelocity also has a "compare surrounding airports" option.

  • Consider the date and time of flights. Flights are typically busy Monday morning's, Friday evening's and "convenient times" which depart and arrive in daylight hours.

  • Arriving late at night in a new time zone can make it easier to adapt as you can go immediately to bed. The downside can be lack of public transport from the airport forcing you to use an expensive taxi.
  • Alternatively sleep the night at the airport, if its the right airport, and then move on in the morning.

  • Consider if and where to break your journey. Often you will notice that your ticket is going to route your through an intermediate airport where you will have to change planes anyway so consider if you would like to take advantage of this and spend a night or two.

  • Before booking a budget airline over a full-service airline, consider that a long haul, full-service airline will include all food, drinks, entertainment and often alcoholic drinks. This not only makes the time go faster, but it can save you a heap of cash on a long-flight. You can easily spend $50 a head for a couple of meals and drinks - so that $200 saving on a round trip may not be that great. Also budget airlines tend to use remote airports which can add considerably to your transfer costs, particularly in Europe.

  • Anyone who has been SCUBA diving should not fly within 24 hours of their last dive because of the increased risk of the bends due to the low pressure in the plane's cabin. Snorkeling is quite OK.

11 Tips for Catching your Plane

  • Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the airport. Plan for traffic congestion or problems with a taxi or bus service. Expect there to be queues at airport security and check-in. Allow 2 - 5 hours for check in.
  • Call or check the airport's or airline's website for any last minute delays or alerts. If you flying at peak times such as Monday morning and Friday evening, or just before holidays allow an extra hour or two before departure.
  • Most airlines now give you the option to check in from home, over the Internet for at least domestic flights. This is great if you want to reserve a specific seat. Remember to print and take your boarding pass with you.
  • Many airports are now introducing touch screen, self-service machines where you can choose your seat and a boarding pass is printed. You then only need to take bags to the luggage counter - usually a great saving in queueing time.

  • Carry on liquids are now severely restricted so if you haven't flown for a few years check out the Security Resources panel to update yourself on the new rules

  • Where you sit can make a difference on a long flight. Some people want to be undisturbed and therefore prefer a window seat, others want the option to get up and move around which means an aisle seat might be better.

  • Those traveling with infants will have the option of a bassinet which fold from the bulkhead on some airlines and planes. Travelers without children should therefore be wise to avoid the first few rows near the bulkhead.

  • Using seat guru (see the More Information panel) will show you the detail for most airlines and the planes they fly.

  • At the airport be aware of the time and when you have to be at the gate. It may take an hour to clear security so don't leave it until the last minute. Normally there are retail and eating outlets past security so it might be best to clear security first.

  • Don't wait to hear the boarding call - many airports are now silent so there are no announcements except in the gate lounge itself. If a passenger is called in a silent airport it means that they are very late and if not found soon will miss the flight. The unloading of their bags will probably cause the flight to be late too.

  • The main reason for missing passengers appears to be over-enthusiastic farewell drinks at the airport, make sure you have set an alarm or make sure a responsible adult is keeping an eye on the time if you are going to do this Also if you are too intoxicated when you arrive at the gate you can be refused boarding by the ground crew.

Singapore Airlines A380 Interior Cabin Tour

View from 30,000 feet
View from 30,000 feet

6 Tips for a Comfortable Flight

  • There always seems to be a rush to board, I never understand why myself. Unless you have far too much carry-on luggage on a full flight, and are therefore worried about getting into the overhead locker then why spend another 30 minutes stuck in a too small seat?

  • Modern jets fly with air pressures significantly lower than sea level. This can cause you to both dehydrate quickly and for alcohol to affect you more quickly. The standard advice is to only drink soft drinks and water. However I find a mixed drink, particularly Bloody Marys, allow me to sleep without pills and don't dehydrate me too much.

  • On a decent full-service airline, on an international route, even in economy, you will be offered drinks, including mixed drinks, beer, wine, fruit juice before lunch and dinner. You will also be offered wine during the meal. You can also request a drink at other times. If you have a long over-night sector a selection of snacks such as pot noodles, chocolate, ice cream will be offered quietly to those who are still awake. Although airline food on full-service, international flights, is a lot better than its reputation would have it, don't eat too much, remember you are not burning many calories stuck in your seat, regardless of how many times you get up to move around.

  • Wear loose clothing and shoes that you will able to put back on if your feet swell during flight. for light sleepers you may find it useful to brink a blow up pillow and eye mask (the latter sometimes handed out to passengers in flight).

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) has had some coverage with fatalities caused from blood causes by long periods of inactivity. In fact it's not restricted to air travel and has been noted in passengers on long car or bus trips as well. Compression stockings have been advised for those who are vulnerable and regular movement around the plane is a good idea - just avoid the times the seat belts signs are on for turbulence or meal service is in progress.

  • You will feel better if you do some in-seat exercises check here for some simple ones that work

Arrivals, Vancouver International Airport

WW2 Bomber, Cape York, Bramaga, Queensland, Austraila
WW2 Bomber, Cape York, Bramaga, Queensland, Austraila

5 Travel Tips for Arriving at your Destination

  • As you get ready to leave the cabin make sure that you have completed all arrival documentation that you were given and that you have your passport and baggage claim dockets handy.
  • Remember that countries that rely on agriculture exports and a lack of local pests are serious about their agriculture quarantine. Do not import food and similar products unless you want to cope a big fine - ignorance is no excuse and you could be hit with a large instant fine. This happens particularly in Australia and New Zealand.

  • If your luggage does not reappear on the luggage carousel, confirm that you are at the right carousel. Lodge a claim for the lost bag at the appropriate office before you leave the luggage retrieval area. Do not panic - most luggage is only misplaced, missed the connection rather than gone for ever.

  • As you leave the secure area you may have to brace yourself for the onslaught of taxi touts. The almost universal rule that anyone touting for taxi business at the arrivals area of an airport is not interested in giving you the best price for the trip. Try to use either a bus or shuttle service or a pre-paid taxi voucher, available at the airport which stops all argument regarding route and destination.

  • Before leaving the airport you will also want to acquire some local currency if you don't already have some with you.

Planehenge, South Australia
Planehenge, South Australia

Life as an Airline Passenger (Funny)

Summary of Air Travel Tips

So in summary, yes there is a lot that can go wrong with air travel, and it can be uncomfortable. However a little thought about which airline and route to take, traveling light, and remembering that you are after all on vacation should see you thru to a wonderful vacation!

The Author

Lis Sowerbutts has been traveling since age 7, and has so far,visited over 55 countries. She firmly believes that traveling is too good to be left to the young and you are never too late to start traveling A New Zealander, Lis currently lives in Perth, Australia.

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