I got bored a few weeks ago and made a list on my computer of all of the travel I’ve done. In the past three and a half years, I’ve completed 42 one-way flight routes, or 53 flight segments (with some form of a layover or a stopover). If we include the flights I’ll take in the coming month, that becomes 46 one-ways and 57 segments. I’ve spent a lot of time in an airport, and even more time in an airplane. I’ve seen virtually everything, including a bomb scare at the airport metro in Paris, a guy with a cardiac machine with a lot of wires in a box at the security desk (at the time, no one knew that it was a cardiac machine, all we could see were wires), lost luggage, exploded luggage, stupid long check-in lines, cranky airline attendants, emergency landings, RyanAir, crying babies, drunk old ladies, and people without enough deodorant.
So basically, don’t be that guy.
1. Let’s start with the basics. Get to the airport on time.
This is what your mom has been telling you for years. Leave with enough time to have the train suddenly get stuck between farms in Belgium, because it will do exactly that. A general rule of thumb is to plan to spend 2 hours at the airport for domestic flights, and 3 hours for international flights. Some people will say you need more, but I’ve never missed a flight following those rules. I’ve also never been bored enough to chew my leg off.
With all of that said, if you have a RyanAir flight, get there early. Early enough to avoid the lines and the REALLY cranky, underpaid desk agents. Better yet, don’t take RyanAir.
2. Fold your damn clothing.
Yes, I am an Ouija board, and yes, I am channeling your grandmother from the grave. The one time you don’t pack your clothing like a proper human being is going to be the time that the x-ray machine makes your toiletry kit look like a portable meth lab. While we’re on the topic of packing, weight limits. Flirting with the desk agents will only get you so far over the weight limit for free, and you’ll look ridiculous if you can’t carry your own suitcase.
3. Security lines. Get your shit together.
We all know what is going to happen in the security line: shoes off, laptop/tablet/camera/Google Glass/personal robot servant goes in the bin, as do keys, change, beepers, belts, and anything else that sets off a metal detector. Metal stuff. It goes in the bin. Water bottles should be empty or non-existent. This stuff is standard. Keep things moving, or else everyone will hate you.
4. Boarding passes and passports out during boarding.
I can’t believe this one actually requires a spot on the list.
5. Don’t drink at the airport, wait until you get on the plane.
You chose the wrong airline if there’s no free alcohol on board.
6. Window seats are your friend.
But work on your bladder skills first. Don’t be that guy.
8. Order the vegetarian meal, given the option.
This one is serious. For one, we all know how amazing the meat is in airplane food. Unless you’re into dog food, I recommend skipping it. If you’re into dog food and you eat meat on an airplane, your dog is hanging his head in shame. Second, specialty meals are usually served first. You’ll be eating 15-20 minutes before everyone else.
9. Use and abuse your movie privileges.
Free movies! No commercials!
10. Drink a lot of water.
See, some of these tips are actually useful. Listen to this one, you’ll thank me when you can still breathe out of your nose and your skins isn’t flaking off.
11. Don’t fly RyanAir.
You’ll sleep on the floor of the airport in Madrid, on the benches of the airport in Málaga, and you’ll still end up with an emergency landing in BackwoodsOfNowhere, Belgium. There’s a whole slew of other reasons not to take RyanAir that you should already know by now.
12. Coffee and alcohol are both your friends, depending on your flight time.
And as mentioned above, they should both be free. If they aren’t you need to rethink your airline choices.
13. Frequent flier accounts.
Have one. Or many. Keep in mind that within an airline alliance (such as Star Alliance), you only need one account – the points will work with all of the airlines. I suggest keeping an account with each of the major alliances, that will keep you about 90% covered. The points really do add up.
14. Do. Not. Nap.
Yes, we all have that little voice of self control that says “take a thirty minute nap! The rest of the day will be so enjoyable!” That’s the same voice that tells you that your college professor won’t notice that you used Wikipedia as a source. It’s lying. Don’t nap, it will only aggravate your jet lag. Just charge through the day, drink as much caffeine as you need, and keep busy. You’ll be on schedule the next morning.
15. Be nice to the flight attendants.
This should go without saying. It’s basic courtesy. They’re the ones who are going to save your ass if anything goes down. Also, they’re the ones who decide just how much free alcohol you get. Keep that in mind.
16. Deodorant, guys, this isn’t difficult.
You are in a metal tube full of recycled air and 250 of your nearest and dearest. Every time you get on an airplane without deodorant, a puppy dies.
17. The doors don’t pop open the second the plane touches down.
Cool it. You will get off of there eventually. If you have a quick transfer, talk to the flight attendants beforehand.
18. Get your suitcase and move right on.
There is nothing worse than an entire family standing at the luggage conveyer belt and blocking the whole damn thing.
19. Do not come into US Customs if you don’t have all of your paperwork together.
Sorry foreigners, we have some really nasty customs agents.
20. If you flap your wings, the plane will get you there faster.
Trust me, I’ve tried.