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Airplane Flight Travel Tips

Updated on April 1, 2013
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Traveling Tips

Delays, inconvenience, and long lines seem synonymous with air travel. Years ago, it was the hours-long check-in line. Now you can check in online, print your own boarding passes, and even pay for checked bags ahead of time. Today, the long lines are at security checkpoints where new TSA procedures can mean additional delays and hassle. And all of this is just to get into the terminal!

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to pack correctly, minimize your security delays, ensure you stay safe and healthy while traveling by airplane, and make sure you arrive at your destination well rested, clean, and fresh. You just have to do a little bit of research ahead of time, plan, and prepare. The advice I give below works and comes from my experience flying within the United States, multiple trips to Europe, and even a flight to New Zealand

Overhead bins can be small - check your flight's carry-on restrictions.
Overhead bins can be small - check your flight's carry-on restrictions. | Source

Air Travel Packing Tips

It is possible to travel using only carry on luggage, even if you're taking a week-long trip. It just takes planning and preparation. If you need a checked bag, bringing a change or two of clothes in a carry-on is still a good idea. When I was 14 I took a trip to Chicago with a friend. We checked our bags, went to the gate, and, after hours of delays, the flight was canceled. We were young and stupid - we'd checked everything, including our cash! We had to call my friend's aunt collect to ask for a ride and returned to the airport the next day, wearing the same clothes because our checked back was Un-retrievable.

The basic steps to successfully packing a carry-on and decreasing security checkpoint delays are:

  • Plan your outfits.
  • Pack correctly.
  • Look at carry on restrictions.
  • Wear slip-on shoes.
  • Take advantage of your 'personal item.'

By planning your outfits to eliminate unnecessary clothing items, packing your items in easy to scan layers, knowing carry-on restrictions, such as limits on liquids, wearing slip-on shoes that are easy to remove at the TSA checkpoint, and taking advantage of a purse, laptop bag, or satchel to maximize the amount you can carry on, it is possible to take even extended trips with only carry-on items. For more in-depth information on packing a carry-on and tips on saving space while packing, please visit my hub on how to travel using only carry-on items.

Make sure your quart bag of liquids can zip shut! If all items do not fit comfortably, TSA will make you throw items away until the bag zips.
Make sure your quart bag of liquids can zip shut! If all items do not fit comfortably, TSA will make you throw items away until the bag zips. | Source

Do you know TSA carry-on Regulations?


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How to Save Time at Airport Security

The biggest delays at airport security checkpoints aren't caused by TSA agents actually apprehending would-be criminals or investigating legitimately suspicious items. Delays are caused by unprepared passengers and difficulty scanning poorly packed bags. By preparing for security you can reduce your time at the checkpoint and help everyone behind you get through more quickly, too.

Empty your pockets while waiting in line. You might also consider removing any watches or jewelry. It is not actually necessary to remove jewelry when going through airport security, but I find it helpful. If you are wearing a lot of jewelry, it can and will set off metal detectors if you have to undergo a wand search. Most US airports use different screening technology today, but metal detectors are still in use in other areas and at non-airport security checkpoints, so, if you wear a lot of jewelry, getting into the habit of removing it at security can save you time and hassle. Consider bringing a small bag, such as a zip-lock bag, to empty your pockets into so you can keep these items easily contained and together.

Have your boarding pass and ID in-hand before approaching the TSA agent at the front of the line. Digging through your purse or wallet once you get to the agent wastes everyone's time.

Remove your shoes after displaying your boarding pass and ID to the appropriate agent. Even you cannot yet place them in a bin for scanning, this means you will be ready as soon as a bin and conveyor space are available.

Organize your items in the provided bins. Make sure to remove your quart bag of liquids, if you have one, and remove all laptops, tablet computers, etc. Do not simply throw everything into a heap. Separate your shoes, electronics, purse or other bag, quart bag of liquids, and any other carry on items. You are not limited to one bin - use as many as you need to ensure your items are easy to scan quickly. If you place too many things in one bin, the TSA agents will make you remove the items and take additional bins, so you might as well do it correctly the first time.

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Stay Healthy While Flying

The web is full of advice about germy items to avoid and tips for eating healthily while flying, but the very act of sitting still on a plane for hours on end is potentially deadly. Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is caused by a combination of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) and is directly linked to air travel.

  • Deep vein thrombosis is when a deep vein is either fully or partially blocked by a clot. This occurs most commonly in the legs.
  • A pulmonary embolism can occur when the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. PE is immediately life-threatening.

The risk of VTE is much higher when flying, when compared to other forms of travel. When taking a flight 4 hours or longer, your risk of VTE is 2 times greater than your non-traveling risk. Frighteningly, the increased risk lingers for up to two months after your flight! The first reported, flight-related cases of VTE date back to the 1950s. Air travel's characteristic complete lack of mobility make it more dangerous than traveling by car, bus, or train.

You can lower your risk of VTE by taking some precautionary measures.

  • Pick your seat, if possible, and choose an aisle seat that gives you the option of stretching your legs and getting up to take a walk down the aisle.
  • Extensive research reveals that wearing mild (10-20 mm Hg) or moderate (20-30 mm Hg) compression stockings prevents VTE. None of the test subjects wearing compression stockings developed life-threatening VTE, which is a pretty good reason to buy and wear a pair on your next plane trip!
  • Taking aspirin is not associated with a lower risk of VTE or DVT and is not recommended. Small studies suggest pre-flight heparin may lower risk of VTE, but results are not conclusive. As a result, pharmaceutical use is not currently recommended for VTE prevention.

While both are travel-sized, the pillow on the left is far better for air travel because it offers greater neck support.
While both are travel-sized, the pillow on the left is far better for air travel because it offers greater neck support. | Source

How to Stay Clean and Arrive Fresh After a Long Flight

Staying clean while traveling is difficult. After just a few minutes in an airport, my hair smells like exhaust and my skin feels grimy from touching surfaces used by so many others, fast food grease, and who knows what else. However, most of us want to look presentable at flight's end. Staying clean while traveling helps you feel more human after a long flight. Whether you are flying for business and need to look pulled together to meet with a potential client, are meeting friends or family, or just arriving for vacation and want to feel your best, staying clean while traveling helps you feel more like yourself.

  • Carry on a change of clothes. Wear something comfortable on the flight and then squeeze into the airplane lavatory, or just wait until you can use the terminal restroom, to change into a fresh set of clothes. Even if you never sweat and have learned how to sit so you don't wrinkle your clothing, you never know when someone else might spill their refreshments on you. This may not be necessary for shorter flights, but can help your self-presentation after long trips.
  • Bring flushable wipes. Flushable wipes aren't just for babies! You can use wipes to wash your face, or even take a little 'sponge bath' to clean away some of the travel grime.
  • Brush your teeth. Today, you can clean your teeth without even leaving your seat! Many different disposable toothbrush brands exist, but the Colgate Wisp is my favorite. They are available at most airports, but you'll pay a lot less if you stock up ahead of time.
  • Get some rest. Years ago, airline pillows and blankets were easy to come by. These days, it's better to bring your own. A travel-style neck pillow helps you sleep, even if you don't have a wall to lean against. If you get cold easily (I do!), consider bringing a small blanket. A pair of earplugs and a sleeping mask complete the sleep gear ensemble to ensure you can catch an in-flight nap. Even if you don't plan on napping, a pair of earplugs can help you enjoy your flight - propeller aircraft can be noisy, and you never know loud your seatmate's earphones might get. For increased comfort, select a brand of earplugs designed for sleep wear. My favorite are called Hearos. They are incredibly soft and have the highest decibel rating of any earplugs I've come across.
  • If you wear contacts, bring along a contact case with some solution so you can remove your lenses in-flight. Whether or not you nap, air blasting in your face will dry your contacts and irritate your eyes. Removing your contacts for a few hours can make you look and feel far more refreshed.

By getting some sleep on a long flight, changing out of your travel-worn clothes, and freshening up with a mini-'shower' and teeth brushing, you can arrive looking pulled-together and confident. From family members to business partners, everyone will wonder what your secret is!

Enjoy your Flight!

Nothing is worse than starting a vacation or business trip stressed out. Luckily, by planning ahead, packing correctly, avoiding security delays, and taking care of yourself at the airport and in-flight, you can make your trip a breeze.

Do you have any other flight travel tips? I love traveling and would be happy to hear any additional suggestions you have!

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    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      This is a well thought out hub, and filled with valuable tips when traveling. I like having the tips in one place to read. You did a great job in organization. Voted UP.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! Organization isn't always my strong point, so I really appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Liz Walmoth 4 years ago

      This hub makes me want to take a trip and try these great tips! Excellent suggestion on wearing compression stockings on longer flights.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      A really good travel-tips article that is useful and markedly different from all the same-old same-old you see in magazines. This is great. Thanks Natashalh.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Instead of bringing a blanket, I fly with a large pashmina-style shawl. It folds up small in my backpack, but I can spread it over myself (and one of my kids!) as a lightweight blanket if necessary. I can also fold it or roll it up to use as a pillow. Then, if my destination is cold, I can wear it during my trip as well.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Great tips for anyone not familiar with air travel and good reminders for those of us who travel often but forget to take contact solution with us...

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for stoping by, everybody!

      I'm glad you found it unique, theraggededge.

      That's a great idea, brainybunny! I've brought sweatshirts before, but they just don't cover enough to keep me warm. I'm very cold natured. A shawl is a really good suggestion, though.

      LauraGSpeaks - I've had some pretty unpleasant trips because I forgot to bring contact solution! Especially after having air blasted in your face from that little overhead nozzle, air travel can really irritate the eyes.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very detailed and informative. You did a great job, Natasha, of setting this hub up. If I ever get to travel again in this lifetime I will remember these suggestions.

      Well done as always.

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I'm sure you'll get to travel again! That's exactly how I felt for a few years, but look at me now. =) I'm going to Hawaii in the morning.

    • penlady profile image

      penlady 4 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      This hub provides some really great tips for travelers. You’ve done a better job than the magazines devoted strictly to traveling! Voted up and interesting.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow - thank you! That's pretty high praise.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Natasha,

      This was a totally incredible hub on flight tips! I agree with penlady 100%! Way more informative than travel magazines! I never knew of the VTE condition you mentioned. This hub is very detailed, and you make several good points. Even saving a little bit of time here and there is greatly beneficial for everyone's flight experiences. I have not flown as much as you but have had my fair share. And I can say that you covered this topic very well with great informational advice!

      Thanks for sharing Natasha!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you very much! My family believed that having kids shouldn't keep you from traveling, so I started globetrotting at 18 months of age. You're right - time saved helps everyone. If everybody could just gt through security quickly, think about how much easier getting through the airport would be!

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great suggestions! I love my neck pillow, a real necessity for me when I travel.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      It is very difficult for me to sleep anywhere, especially traveling. The last time I flew I'd just gotten myself comfortable with the seat back tray ahead of me when the guy in the set decided to suddenly lean it back! It was quite a surprise and my seatmate started laughing. Ah well.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Great info Natasha & really well written...and such important tips for traveling...lots of votes...cheers

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you!

    • Helena Ricketts profile image

      Helena Ricketts 4 years ago from Indiana

      This is a fantastic hub Natasha! I've been flying more than usual lately and really wish more people would read this before they go to the airport.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks =)

      It annoys me when I see/experience people that are no good at lines. If kindergarteners can do it, why can't adults?

    • Lovelovemeloveme profile image

      Lovelovemeloveme 4 years ago from Cindee's Land

      well written, detailed hub. thanks!

      ps. I read before, the safest seats on an airplane is back case stuff goes down. lol just thought id share.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Intersting - thanks for sharing that tidbit!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      Wonderfully organized and useful hub! Bringing only carry-on luggage makes traveling much easier.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, tipstoretireearly!

    • danielmcbane profile image

      Daniel McBane 4 years ago from Berlin

      A lot of these tips can be found in inflight magazines, but you actually did a better job. You should see if some of them might want to use your tips instead of the ones they currently have.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you!

    • boomer19 profile image

      Andrew 4 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      This is the first time that I've heard about dvt or pe. To me it sounds very unlikely for this to happen. I will look them up to find out more.

      I often travel back and forth between U.S and Brazil and tsa can really take long, so hopefully people will read articles like this and come prepared to speed up the process.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Unlikely if you're healthy, but the risk is real. Here to brazil shouldn't be a long enough trip to be risky, though.

      Lines are held up too often by folks that don't know the regs!

    • profile image

      Softseattravel 4 years ago

      Great travel tips Natasha, many not covered anywhere else.

      I would add drinking lots of water and getting an aisle seat, especially on an overseas flight where you won't see much but ocean out the window. The aisle is great for the occasional stretch and walk.

      Nicely organized, well done

      Thanks

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Yes, hydration is very important! In fact, dehydration is a major cause of jet lag! Being near the aisle can encourage a person to drink enough without worryif about climbing over others to reach the restroom, and the movement can help stave off DVT.

    • profile image

      mauvemoo1 2 years ago

      I just found your article pinned to Pinerest, and I echo earlier comments - well-written and well-organized. One comment: I rarely wear more than my wedding ring & perhaps a small pair of earrings when travelling, but for those occasions when more is needed/wanted - how about stashing in an easily accessible pocket in your carry-on and don it after the security check, while you're waiting for your flight?

      Also, I'm begging for suggestions. I have long-ish, curly, frizzy hair; my shampoo, conditioner & defrizzer cream are all must-haves. Any suggestions to have enough to last 7-8 days & be able to fit it into the quart-size bag along with my must-have "I burn in 20 min" sunscreen? Suggestions I've some across: 1. See if my travel partner can fit some in his/her quart bag; 2. Buy some on the other end. However, not all products are created equal in other countries...Thanks for any/all tips!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Putting on jewelry after security is always a great idea! I'm actually about to go through airport security in just a couple hours, myself, and may do that.

      As for your questions, I'll check with my sister. My hair is super low-mainenance, but she just flew to Hawaii with her thick/wavy hair and a carryon bag. I'll see if she has any advice and will leave another comment if she has any tips!

    • profile image

      mauvemoo1 2 years ago

      Thank you, Natashalh. I hope your trip went well & I would appreciate any suggestions your sister has. : )

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