Jokes about how crappy flying is these days are about as original as, well, something unoriginal, so we’ll spare you from that half-hearted intro. (Wait, did we?) Not to sound like your high school sports coach but these days, relatively painless, almost stress-free flying really comes down to proper preparation. So with that, let’s get you prepared shall we?
The Three Keys To Actually Getting Some Sleep
Whether you need a quick catnap or you got saddled on a redeye, getting some actual sleep in on a plane can be critical, especially if you’ve got a morning meeting post flight. While it can be tough, it just takes some practice and the right set up. The key is total sensory deprivation, especially if you’re on a redeye. A pair of noise-cancelling headphones makes the trip a lot more enjoyable when you can shut it all out. (Bose and Monoprice make our favorites) and are money well-spent, especially if you travel for work. Now that you’ve shut out the sound, swallow your pride and get an eye mask and a proper travel pillow. Even though you’ll be looking a bit like a Real Housewife, it’s key to establish some level of comfort and darkness. From there, any chemical or alcoholic sleep enhancers are purely up to you (be wary of that Ambien zombie hangover during your deck presentation) but we guarantee once you block it all out and get a few flights under your belt you’ll be catching z’s with ease.
Get The Global Entry or TSA Pre Check Immediately
TSA Pre Check is the single greatest thing to happen to travel in the last 10 years. While it’s not as big of a secret anymore it can still cut your security wait times by up to 75%, not to mention no stripping down and unpacking your bag. Even if you’re not a regular international traveler, being stuck in a long ass customs line just once or twice a year when you return to the U.S. can still be a huge drag. Global Entry, a program for “low-risk” travelers, gets you through the line faster. Along with a $100 fee (valid for 5 years), it requires a online paperwork, a background check (done by TSA) and an in-person interview for approval. It can benefit you in domestic travel too, since Global Entry makes you automatically eligible for TSA Pre Check. You can also apply for TSA Pre Check ($85) separately of course, and a few minutes of filling out online paperwork and a small fee, you will have instantly upgraded your travel experience immensely by taking out one of the biggest time wasters and stressors.
Pack Booze In Your Carry-On
As they say, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and who wants to pay $9 for a tiny plastic bottle of Jack Daniels? The good news: as long as you comply with TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids in carry-on luggage, you can bring alcohol – up to 140 proof – on your flight. That is, it must be in a three-ounce bottle in your one-quart ziplock bag. There’s no limit on how many bottles you can bring as part of your carry-on, as long as all your liquids fit in that single quart bag. It also has to be in its unopened original packaging so now you have an excuse to buy those mini bottles at your local liquor store. But, be forewarned though, technically you can only consume alcohol on an aircraft that a flight attendant serves you. Buuuuut, if you play it lowkey and act like you’ve been there before, you can probably get away with it.
Go Check-free and Paperless
Save for a multiple week trip, at this point if you’re checking anything you’re a travel rookie who is only adding stress and time to an already jam-packed minefield. Get everything locked in on your phone and in carry ons and you can hit the curb and jet right to your gate with the minimal amount of line-waiting as possible. Need another reason? Not to Edward Snowden you, but threre's actualy a ton of private information about you and your travel habits stored on that barcode on the paper boarding pass that you’ll just toss in the trash later.
Unless You’re A Road Warrior, Skip The Loyalty Programs
At this point, for the average traveler, loyalty programs are basically worthless, as limits and return benefits have been pushed so high that it’s rare that you’ll be able to garner anything worthwhile if you travel a few times a year. But this isn’t true for everyone. If you’re on the road for work on a regular basis (even once a month) it can actually yield some rewards. The trick is to research programs where you can move from basic status to premium or elite with just a few trips or stays, and pick brands that primarily serve the region you’re in or go to regularly. This is perfect for anyone with a job that will put them on the road a guaranteed number of days, which makes actually accumulating rewards pretty easy. If you’re paying for things on your own personal card and then expensing them through your company, get one dedicated, rewards-based credit card and use it exclusively for your work expenses. That way you can cash in on the points or dollars yourself all while running the expenses through your company.
How To Actually Save Money On Your Ticket
Shocking disclaimer ahead: airfare pricing is completely unpredictable and there’s no exact science to it. This is done purposefully so that buying a well-priced plane ticket can be as difficult as hitting a bullseye with a Game Of Thrones-style crossbow while riding a horse that’s in the back of a pickup truck driving 100 mph backwards. Still, there’s enough research available for the people who study these things to pick up on patterns when it comes to fare drops, which means an increased likelihood of knowing when you could score a major deal. Plus, there’s you know, crazy supercomputers and fancy algorithms to crunch the numbers before they become sentient and enslave us all. After researching more than a billion fares, Cheap Air found that buying your ticket around 50-60 days ahead for flights within North America was the sweet spot, but you should start looking at fares within a three-month window. Condé Nast Traveler says buying 176 days out is best. Get a Saturday flight, if you can, it’s the day of the week that you’re least likely to have airport delays and unfortunately very early morning flights are best, too. Also the old adage was that Tuesday was always the best day to purchase but that logic has shifted to weekends, as companies now estimate that most consumers aren’t researching and purchasing flights on weekends as they’re more likely to be out, you know, doing stuff. Who needs a life when there’s a chance you can buy somewhat of a cheaper plane ticket?