travel tips

Get ready for The Girl’s exhaustive list of travel tips! There are a lot. She should be sorry, but she’s not.

Be prepared.

  • Make sure your ID will work – in the US, RealID; for international travel, check that passport expiration date!
  • If you’re a nervous flier, talk to your doctor about anxiety medication. It can make a world of difference.
  • Know what you can and can’t take with you. For those traveling in the US, the TSA’s website has a search bar that allows you to input the item you’re unsure of and gives you a definitive answer.
  • Pay close attention to your email and/or, if you downloaded it, the airline’s app. The Girl once had a flight moved four hours forward, to 7 am, less than 24 hours before it was supposed to take off.
  • If you take regular medication, make sure you’ll have enough for your trip and keep the medication in its original packaging. If you don’t, call your pharmacy or your insurance.
  • Don’t consume alcohol or caffeine 24 hours before your flight. They’re both dehydrating, which can make jet lag worse.
  • Going somewhere nobody speaks your language? Learn, or write down on a slip of paper to carry with you, some basic phrases — where is the bathroom/train station/bus stop/hotel name/major sightseeing location/taxi, please, thank you, sorry, can you take my photo, I’m allergic to _____, it hurts (and you point to the relevant location).
  • Bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport. Most have bottle refill stations or at least drinking fountains. Stay hydrated in-flight and you’ll feel better when you land.
  • If your flight arrives in the morning local time, it’s worth it to try to sleep on the plane.
  • Put a little travel-size mouthwash and some toothpaste in your personal item. This can go a long way toward making you feel human after a long flight!

Pack smart.

  • When you get into your seat, use a surface disinfecting wipe on everything before you touch it. The trays might be wiped down, but is that done with bleach? What about the armrests? The inside of the seat belt buckle? The overhead buttons? Catching the travel crud puts a serious damper on the beginning of a vacation.
  • Keep a change of clothes in the bottom of your personal item. If you or your checked bag is delayed you’ll be really glad you have this. Plus it’s padding if you’re traveling with a laptop or tablet.
  • Leave your prescriptions in its original packaging in your carry-on.
  • If you’re checking a bag, put the heaviest items like shoes on the bottom, where the wheels are. It helps keep balance so you don’t have to hold the bag upright while juggling your ID and boarding passes in the bag-check line.
  • Get one of those bag straps so your stuff doesn’t go everywhere/vanish entirely if a zipper breaks.

Get comfy.

  • Noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.
  • The middle seat gets both the armrests. This is non-negotiable. Don’t be a jerk.
  • Use an unscented moisturizer, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin. If your hair is prone to drying as well, use a leave-in conditioner too.
  • Wear your coziest lounging-around clothes. The Girl goes for a baggy pair of sweatpants, a tank top, a light sweater with a hood long enough to cover her eyes, and slip-on shoes. Wear layers! If you’re really concerned about keeping up appearances, keep your nicer clothes in your carry-on and change when the flight lands.
  • Braid your long hair. It’ll keep it from getting tangled and staticky and/or all over your neighbors.
  • If you have a long layover, do yourself a favor and walk or at least stand for as much of it as possible.
  • See if your airport has a lounge. Even if you’re in economy class they may let you in (for a fee), and they could have snacks, treadmills, showers, or massages. Set an alarm on your phone or watch, or ask the staff to help you keep an eye on the time.
  • Bring snacks for the plane. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it doesn’t have a strong smell. On that note…

Be polite.

  • Pay attention to the safety briefing even if you’ve flown a thousand times. People make mistakes when they panic, and people who know what to do are way less likely to panic. You could save lives in an emergency by shutting up and leaving your headphones out for ten minutes.
  • The middle seat gets as many armrests as they want. One? Fine. Both? Fine. They have the middle seat. Give them this one, small comfort.
  • If you need to get up, push yourself up off the armrest rather than pulling yourself up with the headrest of the seat in front of you.
  • Be nice to the airline staff and gate attendants.  If your flight is late and they haven’t said why, they don’t know why. Harassing them will help literally no one.
  • Say hi to your neighbors but don’t be that person who won’t shut up on the plane. As fascinating as your stories undoubtedly are, your neighbor may have just had a 14-hour layover after another flight and could be too polite to tell you they don’t care.
  • The space between your seat and the seat directly in front of you is yours. The space under the seat diagonally in front of you and to your right is not yours. That is your neighbor’s. Do not put your feet there.
  • If the person behind you is extremely tall and keeps nudging or bumping your seat every time they move, just deal with it. They can’t help it, and turning around to snark at them only makes everybody cranky. You’re uncomfortable, they’re uncomfortable; you’re all sardines.