My Favorite (Plane) Travel Hacks

Have you ever read such a clickbait title? You must be so roped in! That's what clickbait titles do, right?

But for real, I've been spending a good amount of time each night planning a trip that may or may not end up happening because I'm a travel nerd and it makes me happy. As a result, I've been thinking quite a bit about the various tricks I've used over the years, and it's time to consolidate them all into one place. I also may be suffering from mom brain because I can't remember if I've already written this exact same post before. Oh well! 

Will this be useful to anyone else? WHO KNOWS. At least I'll have it for my own reference, I guess. You know...in case I forget how to get from point A to point B without a guide.

Here we go.

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1) Don't check bags.

Unless you absolutely have to, checking bags is a waste of time and money. Most airlines have a pretty reasonable suitcase size allowance for the carry on bags, and if you use a backpack as your "personal item," you've got yourself a lot of space to work with. If you pack smart and compact, you can totally make that work. Exceptions to this rule are allowed if you're traveling for a long time or you need to bring something crazy like an evening gown, but otherwise...no. Honestly, this is probably not a "travel hack." It's just common sense.

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2) Traveling alone? Play the plane seat lottery.

If the only good seats that are available are the ones that come with an extra charge, just don't pick a seat at the time of fare purchase. This is a bit of a gamble, but oftentimes if you get a seat assignment when you arrive at the airport, all the other passengers will have gone through the seat selection process already and filled up the bad seats. Since you have a fully paid ticket and the bad seats are full, they'll stick you in an open seat, INCLUDING the extra space, extra legroom, bulkhead, etc. options. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's awesome. And having done this a number of times, I'd say it is successful more frequently than getting stuck in the middle.

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3) Or pick a seat in the back row.

Most people avoid the back row because of some assumptions: people keep walking past you, seats don't recline, and the bathrooms are in the back. I am here to tell you that all of these assumptions are pretty much false on bigger planes. For almost all transatlantic flights I've taken, the bathrooms have been in the middle, the seats DO recline, and the only people walking past are the flight attendants. That's not a bad thing - it's much easier to ask for extra water when you're right next to the spot where it's stored. The other advantage? Everyone else doesn't want to sit there, so most of the time, I end up with at least one (if not two) empty seats to myself. It's like a pauper's version of first class. Practically luxurious! And especially grand when sporting a 5-month pregnant belly. I can tell you that from personal experience.

4) Bring water.

While you can ask for a million tiny bottles of water, it's MUCH easier to a) not get up to ask for it and b) have a large bottle. Either bring an empty water bottle with you and fill it up at the water fountain once past security (so it doesn't get confiscated), or buy yourself a nice big one at the overpriced Hudson News stand in the terminal.

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5) Hunt for the best airfares.

This probably also goes without saying, but unless it's absolutely required or you're traveling last minute, don't purchase a plane ticket immediately. Fares fluctuate often, so use the tools available to help yourself get a better deal. Sites like Airfarewatchdog and Scott's Cheap Flights are especially good if you want to get email alerts for low deals. If you have flexible dates, use a fare calendar (JetBlue has a really awesome one, and Google Flights is not far behind). However, my personal favorite trick is to buy departing and returning tickets separately, rather than round trip. I'll usually compare the round trip to the separate options, and sometimes they're the same. But often, unless I'm going super budget (hey there, Wow Airlines), separate legs = better prices.

 Living my best life...in Economy.

Living my best life...in Economy.

6) Window seats are your friend.

This one is 100% personal preference. But if I'm going to sleep on a plane - and almost all international flights from Boston are overnight - a window seat is where it's at. Just give me a neck pillow (worn sideways so my head doesn't fall forward), a probably-gross plane blanket, and maybe a stuffed up jacket, and I'm as happy as an overtired clam squished into a slightly-too-small shell for the next six hours. Which, for being on a plane, is to say I'm a pretty contented clam.

7) BYOP(harmecy)

After experiencing a variety of ailments while flying over the years, I've collected a small assemblage of over the counter drugs that are always with me on a trip. Headache? Would you prefer Advil or Tylenol? Stomach upset? I've got both ginger pills for nausea and Gas-X for...other discomforts. Runny nose? Here's the Sudafed. Heartburn thanks to pregnancy? Let me give you some Tums. Oh, and after traveling with a baby, you'd better believe that I now include Purell, regular wipes, pacifier wipes, and baby Tylenol to round out the stockpile. Travel with me and you will be fit as a fiddle from take off to landing.

 

I think that's it! If this is all redundant information, I apologize. At least I don't claim to be a travel writer. Happy travels!