Because I have family in Japan, my mother and I fly over every two or three years to visit. I've lived in the states since the age of three, so I've been on my share of long-haul flights (that sounds so conceited, I apologize). I used to absolutely love air travel - the bustling airports, the plane food, even waking up at the ass-crack of dawn to catch our flight.
I haven't come to hate it per se, but the last few international journeys I've gone on, I've gone alone. As an adult, the less thrilling parts - like surprise baggage fees, getting stuck in the departure lounge for hours, sitting next to strangers - hits you full force. I know it sounds whiny, but my point is that traveling is always a lot less stressful when you're with family or friends. Well, that's sort of my point. I may not even have one, actually.
Here are a few tips that I'd suggest for all of you who fly or are planning on flying in the future. I'm no travel expert so let that be a disclaimer!
Tip #1. Use Orbitz
If possible, purchase your flight tickets through the Orbitz app. They give you a number of "Orbucks" through their rewards program, and if your ticket(s) end up costing you a hefty amount, you could get a decent return in Orbucks. They also have a promotion called "Zap That Bag Fee". After you check your bag, pay the fee and then send a photo of the receipt to Orbitz via the app, they'll give you $25 in Orbucks! Of course, there are certain terms you must meet in order to qualify so click the link above and check it out!
Now, there are other rewards programs out there, of course, but Orbitz is the only one I've really used and can personally recommend.
Tip #2. Sign up for an airline's mileage program
Pretty self-explanatory, yeah? Some may choose not to do so, thinking they'll never fly that airline again, but certain airlines are partnered together (e.g. Star Alliance) and miles accrued through one airline could transfer to another. Also, I'm not sure about you, but I feel super sophisticated and worldly when I open my travel wallet and see, like, five mileage cards in there.
Tip #3. Check seat availability
This may sound like the most pointless tip ever, but it's kind of fun ... or just pointless. This tip will say a lot about what kind of person I am, probably. If you book online, you'll usually get the chance to choose your own seat. My upcoming trip is through Delta so I've been going on their website once a week or so, just to see what's happening seat-wise on my two flights. One is an hour long domestic flight so seating isn't a big deal, but the second is an eleven-hour international flight. I'm content with the seat I initially chose but I still check to see if anyone's cancelled and vacated a more desirable seat. Because it is obviously of utmost importance for me to inch closer and closer to the front of the plane.
For Delta, you just log in to your account, click on your trip, then click on your seat assignment to be taken to the seating chart of that particular flight. It is probably different depending on the airline and I can't guarantee that this is possible for every one.
tip #4. Print a back-up boarding pass
In this age of technology, acquiring one's boarding pass electronically is commonplace. But trust me, scanning a barcode on a smartphone screen is not always fool-proof, so print out a boarding pass just in case. The last person you want to be is the person who's standing at the front of the line under the disgruntled gazes of a TSA agent and the people waiting behind you.
tip #5. Expect the unexpected
This tip sounds very vague but hear me out. I have flown with airlines that stop you after you've passed the gate and right before you get onto the plane, just to check your bags one more time. An extra security checkpoint, if you will. The last time this happened, a friend and I were flying from Seoul to Sydney. We had filled up our water bottles before boarding, thinking that since we'd passed security we would be good to go. We were not. The woman at the extra security checkpoint (there must be a more official name for it) emptied out both of our water bottles into empty ones she had on hand then gave us back our water-less bottles. It wasn't a huge deal because we could get water on the plane, but it was still unexpected.
tip #6. Forgo the app
There are a lot of great travel apps out there, but I'm still iffy about the ones where you can look up departure/arrival boards. If you've got plenty of time and you're not under any pressure to haul ass to your gate, then taking a gander at such an app isn't an issue, obviously. But in the case that you are under a time crunch and you have no idea what your gate is/when boarding time is/if your plane is even still at the airport, I'd recommend just stopping to look at the actual airport departure board. Scrolling and clicking through your electronic device and dropping it multiple times in your haste might just be a bigger time waste.
tip#7. Think about the outfit
Choosing a flight outfit is both a headache and a pleasure for me. I like challenging myself by coming up with an outfit that is fashionable but comfortable (the struggle of all fliers). I tend to imagine all of these great combinations befit for the stylish streets of New York City but then I end up wearing something completely different. My last trip I pulled on a pair of VS yoga pants, a pullover with my college logo emblazoned on the front, and Converse. Comfy, yes, but not what I had in my picky mind. This time, I feel confident that my trip to Japan will be THE ONE. The flight where I finally feel like a proper jet-setter.
My recommendations for all you ladies in the same predicament as me: a comfy sweater (thick or thin, depending on the season) with black leggings and either flats (with those little socks) or easily-removed boots.
Tip #8. Choose the aisle seat
I don't know about you but the very thought of getting trapped in the middle of a row or by the window on a long-haul flight wracks my nerves. I don't like bothering people or asking people to go out of their way for me so I absolutely loathe the idea of asking the stranger next to me to get up so I can use the restroom. I also don't like risking the awkward butt-in-face situation that happens when you try to inconspicuously climb over someone who's sleeping. Which is why when I travel solo and I'm faced with either a four-seat or three-seat row, I choose an aisle seat or ask the ticketing agent to place me in one. That way, I can get up as I wish. I don't mind getting out of my seat for other people, either, so it's a win-win!
Hopefully these are at least a little useful! Comment and let me know if you have any tips of your own! :)