Flying, the bane of many corporate warriors.
Initially, it’s quite fun, isn’t it. Travelling around the country and, if you’re lucky, around the world. It all seems so glamorous: sitting in airline lounges, nibbling on some snack at an airport-exclusive eatery or standing in the preferred boarding lane. Family and friends might also comment on how exciting it all sounds, how lucky you are to be able to travel.
But let’s be honest, it ain’t all that…
Between trying to find parking in the carpark, the pressing masses at check-in, the constant ear-piercing announcements, the worry if you’re gonna get the sky bridge or have to ride the bus, the worry if you packed everything (including the essentials, like your phone charger), annoying fellow passengers and the list goes on.
Fly enough from any major airport in the world, and the experience starts to lose its lustre. You go from enjoying every new experience to minimising effort and maximising efficiency. You build your fly-routine. Oh, what comfort it brings! Everyone who has to travel for business has one, a routine that reduces the stresses involved in soulless business travel.
I am a veteran of well over 100 domestic flights (though I suspect many reading this will scoff at my paltry tally 😜) and only 6 international flights. My father, on the other hand, eclipses my running total by a wide margin, having flown domestically well over 250 times not counting his 20+international trips (Dad, if you’re reading this, feel free to correct me). Aiming to alleviate the tedium of flying I, counting on my Dad’s experience and I contributing a technology angle, put together a routine and accompanying list of technologies that greatly reduce the tedium of flying from City A to City B. Paraphrasing Baz Luhrman, I will dispense some of that that wisdom now:
- Check in 24 hours before your flight. Almost every airline now offers this functionality through their website and/or app. Use it! You get to choose your seat which already alleviates some tension.
- Pack the night before your trip. This way you get to check that you’ve packed everything, even if it’s just a day trip. Don’t wait till the morning of your flight, that’s just not clever.
- If possible, avoid the red-eye flights. More often than not this might not be a choice you can make. When you do have the choice, avoid the early morning and late afternoon or evening flights as these are the busiest due to day trip business travellers that need to get to their destination early to start their meetings and want to get home the same day.
- Eat before you get on the plane, but don’t drink before you get on. Not because airline food is bad or because it’s expensive if you’re flying a low-cost airline. It’s more about avoiding the hassle of eating on a plane. Cramped space does not for a good meal make. Try to not drink too many fluids before you get on the flight, you’ll need to pee during the flight which is never nice. Do drink fluids on the plane, you can at least then pee when you land, which is better.
- Leave early for the airport. You never know what might happen on the way to the airport. Missing a flight will cause anxiety and wastes time.
- Park as close as you can to the main carpark exit/airport entrance. This one is dependent on the airport. The idea is to be able to pay for parking, get to your car and to the exit as quickly as you can to avoid the congestion of hundreds of travellers trying to leave the carpark.
- Even if you have checked in via an app/website, have a boarding pass printed when you drop your bag. Your phone’s battery dies or you drop it and the screen smashes, it gets stolen or you lose it, the screen is smudged and the scanner can’t pick up the barcode. Your biggest worry might be that you lost your phone, but anything can happen and it’s always good to have a back-up.
- Move through security after you’ve checked in. Don’t linger too long in the general departures area. The security gates can get crowded very quickly and lines tend to stay long as passengers have to remove electronics from bags and take off jackets etc.
- Go to the bathroom. Go pee or poo before you fly, as in a few minutes before you start queueing at the boarding gate. I personally find the plane loo’s a little cramped for my 6ft 1in frame.
- Get in the boarding gate queue early. Queue early, you’ll be standing for a few minutes, yes, but you’re gonna be sitting a while after this. It’s worth it. Reason being that if you board in the first lot of people you get to your seat first and have more time to extract your gadgets/magazines from your bag, stow your jacket and hand luggage and get to smile at all the sods who come in later and have to play “Will My Bag Fit Into That Space?”.
- Always reserve the same seat, the aisle seat if you can. 6C, that’s where I sit, an aisle seat at the front of the plane so it’s easy to board and easy to disembark. Quick to get on and relax, quick to get off and leave this soul-destroying place… Why the aisle? Yes, you may get a bump here and there from an inconsiderate lout who swings his backpack around like it’s an Olympic sport, but you have more room for your legs between in-flight catering runs, more space for your arms to move and most importantly, see the last point…
- Put your hand luggage above you, or slightly ahead of you. For obvious reasons. Don’t let anyone move your bag out of eyesight, except for an attendant.
- Once landed, occupy the aisle. Many see this as a no-no. I disagree. I made the effort to board early, reserve my seat and plan everything else to make the trip easier. Occupying the space next to your seat in the aisle as you wait to disembark, is a reward.
To finish off, a quick checklist of items I always have with me on any flight:
- iPad with 2 movies or 6 episodes of a TV show. Maybe stay away from Game of Thrones on a plane…
- Wireless earphones. Cables suck.
- Two magazines for when you have to switch off the electronics.
- Mint/menthol chewing gum.
- Music and an audiobook on my phone.
What are your hacks to make air travel bearable? Inc.com has a few tips here as well.
Happy flying. No, wait, may your flight be ever in your favour.