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People feel very differently about flying on a plane. Some avoid it altogether while others can’t get enough of it.
If you’re like me, flying on a plane (and sometimes just being at the airport) makes you a bit anxious. You feel guilty walking through security even though you’re totally innocent, and you worry endlessly about timing everything just right.
Whether you want to make the most of your plane tickets or need some pointers for a smoother plane ride, these travel hacks and tips for plane trips will help you stress less.
Here’s what you need to know before flying:
1. Try your best to fit everything in your carry-on luggage.
Whether you’ll be gone for a few days or a few weeks, you truly CAN fit everything in your carry-on suitcase. Making this work is half strategy and half creativity, but it’s totally worth it.
Fitting everything in your carry-on means not having to wait in line to check your bag AND not having to retrieve it from baggage claim when you arrive. Plus, there’s no weight limit for carry-on luggage, and you won’t risk your bags getting lost in transit.
So pack smart and swap out single-use clothing for items you can mix and match across outfits.
2. Bring a ‘personal item’ (like a purse or backpack) to carry your essentials.
Knowing what you can take on the plane is the best way to prepare for flying. Most airlines let you board the plane with one personal item — like a purse, backpack, briefcase, or camera bag — in addition to your carry-on suitcase. Your personal item usually gets stowed under the seat in front of you while your suitcase goes up in the overhead bins.
For easy access, pack everything you need during travel in your personal item. This includes things like medicine, eye drops, tissues, and things to do on the plane.
Non-essentials like clothing, shoes, jewelry, and hair tools are better off in your suitcase since you probably won’t need them during your flight.
If you’re traveling internationally, don’t forget to bring a pen to fill out immigration and customs forms on the plane. Flight attendants carry SOME pens, but certainly not enough for everyone on board.
3. Save suitcase space by rolling clothes instead of folding them.
This is a tried-and-true travel hack for saving space in your suitcase. Plus, it prevents wrinkles.
It’s also helpful to choose travel-friendly fabrics. Knits and stretchy fabrics like basic tees are less prone to wrinkles, and any creases will straighten out once you hang these items up. Woven fabrics like cotton and twill are more likely to wrinkle in your suitcase.
Check out these packing tips and tricks every traveler should know.
4. Use a dryer sheet as a travel hack to keep clothes smelling fresh in your suitcase.
When your clothes are packed in tight spaces, they tend to absorb moisture that can cause smelly odors.
Stick a couple of dryer sheets in your suitcase before you zip it up. This will keep your clothes smelling like fresh laundry while you travel.
5. Save and reuse hotel toiletries from past trips.
Most of those tiny hotel toiletries are under the 3.4 oz TSA limit for carry-on liquids. Plus, they’re free. You can even ask the front desk for more toiletries at no additional charge.
Always save your hotel toiletries for future travel plans so you don’t have to buy them every time you jet off. They make for great souvenirs even if you don’t use them later on.
Don’t have free hotel toiletries? Save on shampoo, soap, and beyond with these personal care coupons.
6. Pack a wellness kit with face masks, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes.
Taking the proper health and safety measures while flying has never been more important. It’s extra easy to catch germs during air travel, even without the added risk of a pandemic.
Your wellness kit for having a safe flight should include:
- At least two face masks (make sure they fit comfortably before you leave)
- Hand sanitizer for anything you touch at the airport or on the plane
- Antibacterial wipes to clean surfaces like tray tables, windows, and armrests
- Add bandaids, emergen-c, and other health items for added protection
7. Store moisturizers and makeup in a contact lens case.
Basically, your contact lens cases are just tiny storage containers. Even better, they’re under the TSA liquid limit of 3.4 oz for carry-on toiletries.
If you have an extra case or two, use it for storing tiny amounts of liquid, like eye cream, concealer, primer, moisturizer, and more when you travel.
8. Store jewelry in a seven-day pill organizer.
These small, seven-part containers are perfect for storing jewelry and small trinkets like earring studs, rings, and pins. You can find one on Amazon for $5.
9. Get creative with the pillowcase travel hack.
This genius travel hack is a big win-win:
If you can’t fit clothes in your suitcase, stuff them in a zip-up pillowcase instead. Close up the zipper and carry it on board with you. Not only will you free up space in your suitcase, but you’ll also have a comfy pillow to rest on during your flight.
Most airlines don’t count pillows as personal items, so you won’t sacrifice any space with this super-easy trick.
10. Find the best deals on luggage and toiletry bags at Walmart and Amazon.
Walmart suitcases include a variety of affordable suitcase brands like Rockland, Olympia USA, and American Tourister. They also run sales regularly and offer two-day shipping on orders over $35.
One of the best times to find luggage deals at Walmart is during their after-Christmas sales and promotions, which typically run from Dec. 26 through mid-January.
See all the best luggage deals right now.
11. Check in and use the flight tracker in your airline’s app.
Most airline mobile apps give you easy access to your boarding pass, seat assignment, and flight status, along with a plane tracker and options for buying in-flight extras. Plus, you can check in to your flight 24 hours ahead of time and avoid the extra line at the airport.
Download the airline’s mobile app one to two days before your flight to access all the travel tools you need in one place.
12. When you get to security, keep left.
Without consciously thinking about it, people tend to prefer the direction of their dominant hand. Since most people are right-handed, most people will turn right.
If you come to a fork in the security line and there are two lines to choose from, pick the one to the left. Statistically speaking, more people will go the other way.
13. Bring an empty water bottle that you can fill once you get past security.
If you show up at security with a full bottle of water, TSA will surely make you toss it.
But if you bring an empty water bottle, you can fill it up as soon as you get through security. Bring your own water bottle to stay hydrated and avoid paying the hefty markups on bottled water.
14. Download the myTSA mobile app
When you’re already rushing to catch your flight, there’s nothing worse than hitting extra-long lines or being randomly selected for a detailed search.
Don’t make assumptions about how long it will take you to get to your gate. Instead, download the MyTSA mobile app. It tells you how long the security lines are at specific airports, plus an estimate of how busy the airport will be based on historical data.
15. If your flight gets delayed or canceled, don’t wait at the gate desk.
This is a mistake everyone makes, especially if you’re already at the gate when your flight gets delayed or canceled.
If you need a new flight, your best bet is to contact the airline directly. You have a better chance of reaching a customer service agent before making it to the front of the line. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the same agent who just spoke with dozens of frustrated flyers before you.
16. Use Twitter to communicate with airline customer service.
Twitter is another great way to reach your airline’s customer service department. Send a tweet summarizing your concerns and mention the airline’s Twitter handle. You can expect a response from the airline within 30 minutes or so.
And always remember: kindness is key.
17. Don’t order coffee or tea on the plane.
This is the number one tip flight attendants share with travelers. The water served in drinks like coffee and tea comes straight from the plane’s water tanks. These tanks are literally NEVER cleaned — and flight attendants admit they’re dirtier than everyone thinks.
Even worse, the water tanks are usually located right next to the bathrooms. YUCK!
Play it safe by sticking with drinks from a sealed container, like canned soda or bottled water. This way, you won’t have to wonder what’s swimming in whatever you’re sipping.
18. Walk the plane aisle every hour to avoid swollen feet.
Sitting on a plane for long periods of time causes blood to build up in your leg veins. This is why your legs and feet tend to swell during air travel.
It’s a typically harmless symptom, but you can prevent it by getting up to stretch and walking around the cabin regularly throughout your flight.
19. Drink lots of water during your flight.
Ever wonder why you get so thirsty on planes?
Plane cabins have low humidity levels because half the air gets pulled in from outside. Plus, at high altitudes, there’s almost no moisture in the air coming in.
Remember to drink PLENTY of water during your flight to combat dehydration and avoid that dry, scratchy feeling in your throat.
20. Pass the time by getting productive.
The best way to make your flight “fly” by (get it?) is to stay busy.
Pull out your notebook, study guide, tablet, or laptop and get to work. When you distract yourself from thinking, “How much time is left?” you’ll hear the captain announce the 20-minute landing notice before you know it.