Traveling long-term and full time comes with learning how to make my travel experience go more smoothly, more convenient, and easier. Along with traveling internationally so often, I’ve learned a lot from my own mistakes as well. I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks that I do for every international flight I go on.
From going to the restroom on the plane to avoid long immigration lines, to almost being denied entry at the airport and how to get around it, to being able to choose the best seats on the plane, I’ve learned a lot of handy tips when it comes to flying.
Below are some of the tips and tricks that will make your flying experience go more smoothly, more convenient, and have less chance of mishaps.
Turn to 24-hour time.
If you’re from America, you’re most likely not used to using 24-hour time. If you’re booking a flight and/or at the airport, confirm what clock system they are using for the time. You don’t want to mistake the time and miss your flight. Whenever I’m at the airport and they’re using 24-hour time, I always change my phone to reflect it so I don’t accidentally miss my flight.
Make sure you have the correct dates.
If you’re from America, you’re also most likely used to seeing your dates as month/day/year. A lot of places instead do day/month/year. Make sure when you’re booking your flight that you have the correct date.
This actually happened to my friend. We were all booked for one day, and she accidentally booked the wrong month since she got her month/day mixed up.
Use SeatGuru to get the best seats.
Before I choose my seats, I always look at SeatGuru to get the best seats. SeatGuru will show you which seats are defective. For instance, if the charger port isn’t working or if the chair doesn’t fully recline, etc. It’s a great way to make sure you’re not choosing a defective seat and so you can have a more enjoyable flight.
SeatGuru will also show you the layout of the plane so you can see where the baby bassinet is located, where the toilet is located, where the emergency exit is located, etc. Make sure to double-check as sometimes the layouts are different on SeatGuru than what the airline is showing you on their website.
Check your connecting flight.
If you have a connecting flight, make sure to check your ticket. Sometimes you will book one reservation, but the reservation will be for 2+ different airlines. You will need to check in with the other airline(s).
I made the mistake of not checking into my second flight and was almost denied entry (read below on my Zambia story).
Verify if your bag gets sent all the way through.
If you have a connecting flight, make sure your bag gets checked all the way through to your destination. If you’re flying different airlines or if you’re flying one airline, but entering a new country, you will have to pick up your bag and check it into the next flight. You can check with the airline if your bag will be checked all the way through or if you have to pick it up.
Make sure you have enough time during your layover for your bags.
You always need to make sure you have enough time during your layover for your connecting flight, but also to make sure you will have enough time to drop off your bags.
I had 1 hour and 20 minutes for my layover in Zambia. I thought that would be enough time to get my bag and check it back in, but it was not enough time at all. Different airports in different countries handle the luggage process differently. I even emailed the airline to confirm if it was enough time and they said it was. It was not. I ran and got my bag off the driving luggage cart, which I was not allowed to do. However, if I waited, I would have missed my connecting flight.
Check the baggage fees and dimensions.
Each airline has different regulations on its bag dimensions and bag allowances. If you’re flying budget airlines, you need to make sure the luggage dimensions fit your bag as they vary. You also need to confirm what you’re allowed to bring on the plane for free. Some airlines will only let you bring 1 small personal item.
Weigh your bag.
Even if you’re just using a carry-on, a lot of airlines, especially budget airlines, will weigh your bag. Make sure you are under the weight limit for your carry-on. I’ve had airlines even weigh my small purse to make sure it was under the weight limit.
Take a picture of your bag.
Take a picture of your luggage before you fly. If your bag gets lost during transit, you can easily show the airline or airport workers what your bag looks like. Sometimes they’ll ask you to describe it so having a picture of your luggage will be very helpful to use.
Don’t use black luggage.
People love using black luggage – it looks nice and covers dirt. However, everyone else also loves using black luggage too. There have been countless times of people taking other people’s bags because they think it’s their own. You should either use colorful luggage or use accessories to easily distinguish your bag from others. You can use ribbon, colored luggage straps, etc.
Check your belongings.
Make sure your bag doesn’t have anything that is not allowed to be checked in. This happened to my friend I was traveling with and she forgot she had a portable phone charger in her bag. It was broken so she didn’t think anything of it and completely forgot. When we got to the gate, they wouldn’t let her go on the plane because they found the portable charger in her checked bag. She had to quickly run to where the bag was being held hostage, get the item out of her bag, and run all the way back to catch the flight. She barely made it on the plane. So make sure you don’t check anything that you’re not allowed to, even if it’s broken.
Don’t forget to check in.
Please always check into your flight! It’s always best to check in to make sure everything is good to go before your flight. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way.
When I was flying from Dubai to Portugal, Turkish Airlines notified me to check in. When I went to check in, it wouldn’t allow me to. I thought to myself, “oh, I’ll just check in at the airport since I have to drop off my bag anyways.” For some reason, I had a gut feeling that I should call them and inquire why I wasn’t able to check in. Good thing I didn’t wait until the airport because Turkish Airlines actually canceled my reservation without notifying me. I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t try to initially check in. So always check in and make sure you get your boarding pass.
PS: Never fly Turkish Airlines… that’s another story for another time though. Seriously… do not fly with them.
Print your boarding pass.
Depending on your airline, you might be required to print your boarding pass. A lot of budget airlines in Europe and Asia require you to print your own boarding pass. If you don’t print it, they will charge you a fee for printing the boarding pass at the check in counter.
Check in your bag before the drop off deadline.
Most airlines have a requirement to drop off your bag 1 hour before departure time. Confirm what the cut-off time is. If you have a connecting flight and have to pick up your bag and drop it off at another airline counter, you need to make sure the layover time is enough time so you can drop off your bag by the deadline.
Remember my Zambia story above how I almost missed my connecting flight? Well, that was because I didn’t have my boarding pass since I never checked in and since it was taking forever to get my bag, I was about to miss the cut-off time to check my bag back in. At the Lusaka airport, you’re not allowed to enter the airport without having a boarding pass. I was begging the officer and he refused to let me in. Finally, after crying and begging some more, they let me through so I could check in and drop off my bag. Please learn from my mistakes!
Put your bag towards the front of the plane.
If you have a connecting flight or if you’re in a rush and there’s no cabin space near you, always put your bag towards the front of the plane. When you put your bag towards the front of the plane, you’re able to grab it on the way out. If you put your bag behind your seat, you will have to wait for everyone behind you to pass you so you can go back and get your bag. This will save you time if you’re in a rush.
Count your rows for an emergency.
I learned this tip from my friend. When you’re sitting down, acknowledge where the emergency exit is. Count how many rows the exit is from you. In case of an emergency and the lights go out, you will be able to find the exit by counting the rows.
Carry a pen with you.
Always carry a small pen with you wherever you go. If you’re constantly traveling, this is an essential thing to bring with you as you will be filling out a lot of customs and immigration forms. You don’t want to be always asking the person next to you if you can borrow their pen.
Always use the restroom on the plane before landing.
Use the restroom on the plane right before you land. This will save you a lot of time. When you land in a new country, you will have to go through immigration to get your passport stamped or get a visa. There is always a long line for immigration and customs.
If you go to the restroom after you get off the plane, which is what most people do, the line for the restroom always gets long.
Usually, airports have a few planes that land around the same time which makes the restroom line and immigration line even longer.
Either go to the restroom on the plane before you land or skip the restroom before immigration. This will help you avoid very long lines and can get through the immigration line a lot faster. Trust me, this will save you a lot of time.
What are some of your favorite tips and tricks when flying?
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