10 Travel Hacks From Former Flight Attendants
You'll be able to fly like a true professional with these important bits of knowledge.
Everyone wants to be in the know when it comes to traveling. Whether you're a frequent flyer or an occasional tripper, it can pay to have the inside scoop on how to make your journey easier—especially when it comes to topics like getting through security as easy as possible or making sure you handle your checked bags the right way. And if you're looking for the best source of information for such knowledge, there's no better place to look than the crew that makes it all possible. Read on to learn more about which travel hacks flight attendants say they swear by.
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You might get cold on the plane depending on where you sit.
Getting comfortable on an airplane involves much more than having plenty of legroom and a decent amount of recline. Many flights can also become inexplicably chilly, no matter what time of year it is or where you're flying. Fortunately, experts say you can avoid the mid-flight freeze by picking the right place to sit.
"The coldest seats on the plane are window seats," Heidi Ferguson, a flight attendant with 20 years of experience in the commercial and private aviation industry, tells Best Life. "The vent system is right above the windows, and the air temperature is cranked down super low on most flights."
But even if you find yourself on a fully booked flight with nowhere to move, there's still a way to make yourself more comfortable. "I bring a pack of tissues with me and shove them in the vents for a far more comfortable experience. Just don't forget to take them out when you leave."
There's a right way to pack that can save you time and space.
Some travelers pack days ahead of time for their trips. Others opt for a more rushed approach. But if you want to make sure you can fit everything you want to bring along, there are a few simple tricks that can help you get everything into your luggage without having to kneel on top of it.
"If you want to carry on your luggage but you are packing clothes that are bulky, like jackets, try laying them flat right on top of each other at the very bottom of the suitcase. For lighter items like tees, try rolling them," suggests Tifsit Teferra, a Salt Lake City-based flight attendant for Delta Air Lines.
Picking up some specialty gear can also help keep everything in order. "Packing cubes are an easy way to help you organize your clothes by function and item, and when your clothes are dirty, you can use the same packing cubes to separate your dirty clothes. As for electronic cords, a small toiletry bag does the trick—just fold cords and then use Velcro tape to secure them," Teferra says.
Or you could avoid bringing along too much stuff altogether.
Planning to travel light is easier said than done for many people. But flight crews say that much of what we see as essential at home is hardly an absolute necessity on the go.
"Pack as little as possible," Ferguson suggests. "If you can bring everything with you onboard in a small roller board and carry-on bag, do that. It saves tons of time after the flight with waiting at baggage claim or with customs. Most people overthink and overpack for trips and only end up using half of the items they pack."
In many cases, you may be able to get what you need after you arrive, saving precious luggage space and added weight. "I've been around the globe many times and have never had a problem purchasing something that I forgot to bring or picking extra odds and ends for my trip. Pack light and buy where you land if absolutely necessary," Ferguson suggests
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There's one easy way to get on the cabin crew's nerves.
It's one thing to be an obnoxious, rude, or demanding traveler. But according to industry veterans, you can make one seemingly simple mistake that can draw the crew's ire.
"If you're curious about what annoys flight attendants, it's when passengers exit the lavatory and leave the door open," Sue Fogwell, a flight attendant with 22 years of experience, tells Best Life. "Usually, lavatories are very close to the galley, where food and beverage are exposed. Please do everyone a favor and close it behind you."
Make sure you know what you're paying for when you book your tickets.
Scoring a great deal on airfare can add to the thrill of traveling. But experts warn that sometimes those enticingly low ticket prices can be a very misleading tactic that can actually end up breaking the bank.
"When buying tickets, watch your airfare and what is included in your ticket price! Many carriers now offer budget class tickets, which is seemingly a good deal, but upon further inspection of the fine print is often confusing or hidden," Ferguson tells Best Life.
On a recent trip with JetBlue, Ferguson says she watched as people in the last two boarding groups who had paid budget fares were charged $65 apiece for their carry-ons to be checked at the gate. "Although overhead bins were far from full, it's simply just another cash grab from the airlines under the disguise of a lower fare. I can not stress enough to read every letter of the fine print before buying a ticket—and if you are still in doubt, call the airline," she advises.
Double down on cleaning up after using the lavatory.
Of all the potentially gross places on a plane, the lavatory is the one that arguably makes passengers the most squeamish—even though studies have shown that your own seat might carry far more microbes. However, even though using the bathroom gives you the one opportunity where you can—and should—wash your hands mid-flight, it's still best to double down on disinfecting.
"After leaving the lavatory, use a sanitizing wipe on your hands," suggests Fogwell. "You will have just touched the germ-ridden lavatory handle after washing your hands and then possibly touched a seat back to get back into your window seat."
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Pick the right time of day to fly if you want to avoid mishaps.
If this summer travel season has made anything clear, it's that flying is a bit unpredictable at the moment. Fortunately, flight attendants say there's one rule to follow if you want to reduce the risk of a scheduling nightmare.
"I always take the first flight of the day," Ferguson says. "In most cases, the plane has come in overnight and will be parked at the gate for the morning flight. If you absolutely have to be somewhere by a certain time, do yourself a favor and crawl out of bed early for the first flight out. Your chances of an on-time arrival are much higher."
And it's not just about when you fly, but also where. "Make sure your connections aren't through notoriously hellacious airports—I'm looking at you, Charlotte and Atlanta, just to name a few! Often, I'll research tickets on multiple carriers and pay a little more to avoid these devils' dens," she says.
There's a way you can help yourself if you feel queasy on a bumpy flight.
Bumpy flights are an inevitable part of travel. And while they are very rarely a cause for concern, they can still make your time in the sky less comfortable. Fortunately, experts say there's a quick remedy for anyone who feels queasy from being jostled around.
"Some passengers are not so afraid of turbulence, but really are afraid of getting air sick," says Laura Nottingham, an Atlanta-based Delta flight attendant. "If you feel yourself getting nauseous, contact a flight attendant and ask for an ice pack. Nothing cures nausea faster than an ice pack on the back of the neck."
Your smartphone can be the key to a smooth trip.
Technology has made practically everything about the way we travel more manageable, from being able to book tickets to staying up to date on flight information. That convenience doesn't end once you get ready to board your plane.
"Download and use the app of the airline that you are using," Steve Daniel, a flight attendant, tells Best Life. "From checking in directly on it to having all your information, the app will help you save so much time and hassle from having to go to the gate for questions and such."
It can also come in handy if something goes wrong with your travel plans. "If you are delayed or canceled, a chat function through airline's apps is one of the best ways to get a hold of customer service quickly," Sarah Guerra, a former Delta flight attendant of seven years and founder of InAirplaneMode.com, tells Best Life.
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There are certain beverages you should avoid ordering on a flight.
Beverage service offers a rare moment of refreshment during your flight. And while it's always best to avoid ordering too many alcoholic beverages, there are other soft drinks you may want to avoid.
"The 'potable water' used to make coffee—and hot water for tea—is from a large tank; it's the same tank that provides water in the lavatory sinks," Fogwell says. "Apparently, the tanks get cleaned once per year. However, there's a reason why bottled water is served on flights. My suggestion is to purchase coffee or tea at the airport before getting on a flight. If you need a caffeine boost on a long flight, order a Coca-Cola or Pepsi."