Those that fly frequently soon learn the 'tricks of the trade'. Therefore it's good to learn from them rather than find out the hard way.
This page is a collection of hints and tips submitted by frequent flyer OSCAR users about planning your journey, travelling to the airport, checking in, choosing your seat and making the most of the flight. Further submissions and comments are welcome (Contact OSCAR).
Planning your journey
- For helpful hints about packing, see packing
- For customs considerations, see customs
- New restrictions for carry-on items mean that it's worth checking the regulations of the country/airport/airline before you get caught out at the airport.
- Write to the station manager requesting excess baggage allowance as a non-profit a week ahead of travelling. Usually they will give you 15 kgs extra.
- Create a sense of being in good time. The key is to plan and do everything possible to have a sense of not being in a hurry-having time in hand. Take time to think through the journey and imagine the various stages in order to time the various parts well. Of course, this is the ideal and often there are unforeseen delays and interruptions.
Travelling to the airport
- Make arrangements to arrive at the airport in good time. This is not only neccessary nowadays for the extra security measures, it can also set the tone of your whole journey.
- Try to abort ongoing responsibilities earlier. I reach a "cut-out" stage in the office/home during the "getting ready period" when I start aborting tasks, which I know I must leave until later. You can still take some urgent work to do on the trip. I find making a list of the people I want to write to, along with a summary of their addresses and basic content of a return letter, enables me to keep working en route. This saves taking the original papers. I find the extra time in planning these areas really helps to be less rushed on the travel day.
- If you have an assistant/colleague, who can travel with you to the airport, then this also helps. Such a person can take notes and action things for you after you have taken off. This kind of "back-up" I find very useful, as I often think of important things en route to the airport, which of course varies in length.
- Wherever possible only take carry on luggage, when you are away only for a few days. This means you can clear immigration and customs before everyone else, avoiding the long queues (check current hand luggage regulations, though).
- If you are connecting with another flight ask at the disembarkation point if your flight is still available and for them to phone ahead that you are coming. Otherwise you will arrive after running to be on time to see the flight backing out. Murphy's law operates internationally.
- At the check-in, take time to be friendly to the counter staff, they have some very difficult times and meeting a considerate and kind person goes a long way in establishing relationships. This can lead to other blessings too, during the boarding procedure and seating allocation.
- Take the minimum of hand-baggage items. As much as possible, organise your luggage. Put as much in the hold as possible. It is amazing the difference that this makes. You have less to be concerned about and are much freer to move around. If you can arrange for a Priority sticker to put on your luggage, this can be a great asset at the other end. If you are a Frequent Flyer Card-Holder, then this can usually be arranged - especially if you are tightly scheduled and have made good friends at the check-in.
- In some countries, the upgrade price is not too much. Thus if you have a fair amount of excess baggage it can be better value to up-grade and then the weight is taken care of and you can enjoy the extra space and service.
- Checking-in early enables you to be free of your main luggage and gives time to do whatever you sense would be best in the remaining waiting time. Some possible pursuits:
- Spend time visiting parts of the airport that you enjoy
- Maybe using the internet
- Listening to music
- Visiting a restaurant
- Spending time in a quiet corner
- Spending time sharing with new friends
- Maybe have an interest at the airport such as collecting timetables etc.
- Evaluate the airport environment, procedures and services to report to Customer Services
- Spend time checking out the Interactive Information Computers
- Make a courtesy call to the Public Relations officials or an airline's management
- Survey where your boarding lounge is located
- Visit one of the Duty Free areas
- Take a free tour of the city - if in transit
- Move towards the boarding lounge at just the right time
Choosing your seat
Be conversant with the various seating configurations of the different aircraft. These are often printed in the timetable books. Your itinerary print-out usually designates the type of aircraft. Choose the seat you prefer and have 2 or 3 alternatives. Sometimes it is worth seeing the supervisor as they often "blockout" a variety of seats to assist people like you, who take the trouble to ask. This is often not known by the check-in. The seats appear taken. Check out www.seatguru.com
The right seat for your comfort is one of the most significant factors in travel:
- For connecting flights: when you are in a big hurry at the other end, (especially if you have short connection times and the flight is already late) the best seat is up front as they are usually the first to get out (or near a disembarking exit).
- Window seats: good on overnight flights, as you can rest your head against the side panel and get some sleep.
- Aisle seats: good on day flights, as you are able to stretch your legs in the aisle; not good on night flights unless you definitely don't want to sleep.
- Next to emergency exits: only available to able bodied adults (no children) but often have more leg room than other seats. Sometimes they don't fully recline.
- Bulkhead seats: these are the rows at the front of the cabin and before the kitchen area. You often get more leg room and don't have seats reclining into you. Some airlines reserve these seats for people with babies as there is often room for 'sky cots' or baby beds next to these bulkheads. Unfortunately these seats often get a poor (or no) view of the TV screen and they can be noisy.
- Smoking section: very few airlines still allow smoking on flights, but if they do and you don't smoke, try to avoid the last few non-smoking rows near the smoking section.
- Close to toilets: avoid these on long flights, unless you are suffering from `Traveller Trots'. This area is often congested with constant restless queues and can be quite noisy (from the doors banging, I might add!).
- Empty seats: it's always nice to sit next to an empty seat, unless you have an inflight evangelism ministry! One of the best ways of getting an empty seat is to ask for an aisle seat in the middle section, as this is usually the last to fill.
- Middle rows: if you're on your own or travelling as a couple, the middle seat of a middle row isn't the best. However, these seats are good for families on long flights as the kids can stretch across laps and you usually get a good view of the screen.
- Last row of a section: these seats don't usually recline.
- Three-seat group: if you're a couple, try asking for the two end seats and you may end up with an empty seat between you if the flight isn't full. If that doesn't work then just ask to swap with the person in the middle.
- Other people's children: never ask to sit well away from children, you will always get them behind you and they kick your seat, bounce on their table, waking you up and screaming.
- Rowdy groups: ask if there are block booking of football teams or tourists. They always hype each other up and create pandemonium. Sit well away.
Making the most of the flight
- Take regular walks on the flight and have plenty to drink often. I find talking with the cabin staff is a restful occupation too. Sometimes you can even join them in enjoying some of the First Class cuisine.
- Pray for the nations and cities over which you fly. Have with you what you need for the journey i.e. books etc. Listen to music or watch a film. On Long-haul flights newspapers and magazines are normally available in the overhead compartments of the first seats in economy class. Take advantage of this service if you can - if they have run out, ask the cabin staff who can normally find a copy or two from First Class.
- Have with you all the information that you might need to fill in the arrival forms during the flight ready for disembarkation. This enables you to go straight to the Immigration Counter.