I’d like to think I’m a fantastic traveler, cause I try hard to travel nicely. I’m extra polite to flight attendants, cause they’ve got some tough ass jobs. There is no way I could be cheerful if I were trapped in a box for 14 hours with screaming kids, drunk businessmen and all-around entitled people. I give them props. I also don’t put my seat back unless there’s no one behind me, which I know can be a hot-button issue when it comes to flying. I figured that the person behind me is cramped enough and there’s no reason to take up more of their space, eh?

Aside from having good travel etiquette, it can help to be armed with a few tips to make your trip run more smoothly. Using my experience, I think I have figured out a few ways to make the process easier:

Don’t dress like a slob.

You might be tempted to fly in your jammies, but flying is a privilege, goddammit. You paid hundreds of dollars to fly in a magic sky bird, so dress the part. Wear a pair of jeans that fit you without a belt (so you don’t risk setting off the metal detector when you forget to take it off at security). Wear a comfy pair of shoes that don’t look that gross (and can slip off easily). Also, you are more likely to get an upgrade to business or first class if you dress nicely. Think about it. Fancy people buy first class tickets. Fancy people dress nicely. Do fancy people want to sit next to someone in cargo shorts, flip flops and and a t-shirt of Calvin doing Hobbes? Not so much.

You usually don’t need more than two carry-ons.

Most of the time, you don’t need to bring a huge suitcase and check it in. I’ve only done it once on a trip: over Christmas, I went home and brought a half-empty suitcase to fill up with all the clothes I knew I would buy. I was so, so excited to actually find clothes that fit my size 14/16 ass! I ended up having to borrow my dad’s old Navy bag as well to fit all the shit I bought. I regretted this for about 15 minutes when I had to haul everything up to my 5th fl walk-up apartment.

And sometimes you might want to bring a swimsuit.

However, if you’re just going on vacation, and it is just you, leave the suitcase at home. Get yourself a nice traveling backpack and stuff everything in there. For a week’s holiday I usually bring about three pairs of jeans (or other type of pants, if you’re going somewhere warm. You will die in jeans in Thailand) and 4-5 tops. The only things you should bring plenty of are socks and underwear (one pair per day).

Controversial opinion here: Bring a large backpack for your carry on, NOT a rolling suitcase. Maybe it’s just because living in Hong Kong has made me sick of them, but I genuinely hate them. They take up more space in the overhead luggage bins and you’re more likely to be asked to check it on a full plane than if you have a backpack.

Organize your shit.

Print off all your travel docs – plane info, hostel info, etc. and file it in the order you will need it. Find a place for everything you want to bring. I’ve got a tiny bag for everything! As I mentioned before, you’re normally allowed two carry-ons (check your airline though, a lot of the budget ones might be stingy). You’re allowed one for the overhead bin and one to store under the seat in front of you. Store anything you think you might need on the plane in the handbag so you can avoid having to be that jerk who digs in the overhead bin mid-flight.

Here’s what I usually bring in my handbag:

Pictured (from left to right): Passport (in holder, along with printed flight/hostel info); Ziploc baggie with bobby pins, ponytails, deodorant, oil blotting papers and Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment (great for dry skin or lips); granola bar, mixed nuts and an empty water bottle to fill up at the airport; pen and highlighter; hairbrush; magazines; travel guide; wallet.

Just admit you won’t get any work done on the flight.

These days, long distance flights all have tiny TVs that let you pick your movie or show. Chances are, you aren’t going to much other than watch TV. I once tried to get some grading done on the plane and abandoned it once the crew turned off the lights and I saw I could watch The Mindy Project. Don’t bring any heavy reading – you probably won’t be able to concentrate hard enough to finish War and Peace. Planes are the prime time for trashy magazines.

If you have dietary restrictions, bring a snack.

I’m a vegetarian, and even though I make an extra effort to check “dietary preferences – vegetarian meal” when I book my flight, something always seems to go wrong. Count on something going wrong. Bring some granola bars or a bag of trail mix. It’s not a full meal, but considering that in-flight meals usually come with bread, fruit and dessert, you may be able to piece something together (for us veggies, at least). Thankfully, on my last trip, the flight attendant was also vegetarian and was sympathetic and ended up digging around in business class to find something for me to eat, but I can’t count on that every time.

If you’ve got any fun flight tips, share ’em! What’s the point of knowledge that isn’t passed on?


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