Top Travel tips for you International Flight

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The days of flying the glamorous skies seem to be gone forever, with of course the exception of flying in Business or First. In Economy class the seats are smaller, the leg room is more cramped and the airlines are charging extra for everything from luggage to snacks. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to resign yourselves to merely enduring air travel. In fact, there are plenty of ways to improve the experience of travel.

As long time travelers, we have had to travel with a lot of luggage when moving from one continent to another, but trust me, when we do not have to, we would actually rather not check any luggage in. The times when only a carry on and a second small bag are all we can bring, makes us truly enjoy our travel more. But we all know that is not always possible depending on your destination and reason for traveling.

In this blog, I will cover how you can have a better flight. Remember, the primary goal of each of the items on this list is to benefit you, the traveler, but these tips will also make the whole in-flight experience a lot more comfortable. There are even a few easy ways to keep yourself healthy, rested and entertained during your flight, which always makes for happier travel.

  1. Reserve a good seat

Even within the same class and fare, some seats are far superior then others. Consider an aisle or exit row for leg room, or a window if you want to sleep. Try to avoid seats near the toilets/lavatories, as other passengers will be accessing these regularly. It is common on long-haul flights for there to be queues, and people walking to or from the toilets may bump or knock your seat. Also keep in mind that the noise and light that escapes when the door is opened may be disturbing particularly when trying to sleep.

Use seat guru.com to make sure you select the right seat for you. If you are a tall person and need leg room, choose an exit row (bring an extra sweater, it can be freezing in flight). Some rows like those in front of the exit have limited or no recline. You may also want to choose a seat in the bulkhead. Those are usually held for gate assignment in case there are families that need to use a bassinet or for disabled people. While they have limited legroom, you do not have to deal with someone reclining their seat into your limited space.

But of course do not assume that your seat assignment is set in stone. Equipment changes happen all the time. You can always check with the check in agent or gate agent to see if your seat is still what you originally booked.

  1. Keep your carry on small and light

Most low cost airlines these days are charging passengers for checked luggage, regardless of weight. For the regular scheduled airlines, generally your first bag is Free and you will need to pay for the second one, unless you are traveling in Business or First. It is always a good idea to check with the airline website in question, to ensure you know their baggage allowances.

For your carry-on, keep it light and within the required dimensions, to make your check-in and security procedures easy-and of course easier for you to lift up into the overhead bin. One additional bag, like a purse or a laptop bag (but not both), is also allowed. It should fit under the seat in front of you and leave enough room for your feet.

Not only do these rules follow the official guidelines, but it will make you far more comfortable during flight, if you do not have a huge bag crammed in at your feet and a sore shoulder from lifting your overstuffed carry-on into the overhead bin.

  1. Check regulations before leaving

Airline regulations change all the time in this post-Sept. 11 world. One day, your bottle of travel shampoo is fine; the next, it’s confiscated for being over the size limit for carry-on liquids. I always recommend taking only a small amount with you of the needed toiletries because you can purchase them in the country you will be traveling to. In one airport, my tweezers were taken away, when they had gone through several other airports on that same trip.

Save yourself the headache of learning the rules too late by checking the web site of the Transportation Security Administration and the Web site of the airline you’ll be using to travel. The most up-to-date regulations will be there. Make sure to share them with your travel companions, too.

  1. Drink Water

The air in the cabin isn’t humidified, which leads to that all-too-familiar parched feeling. Lips chap, nasal passages dry out, skin feels papery and the likelihood of blood clots can even increase. Sounds great, right?

But the good news is that all these things can be mitigated by staying hydrated — simply drinking water. Start early, drinking as much water in the airport gate area as you can hold comfortably for about an hour. That’s about how long it typically takes for the seatbelt light to be switched off, allowing you to visit the restroom. Then keep drinking water, about 8 ounces (0.2 liters) every hour or two, while you’re in the air. Just remember that if you are going to have a coffee or that glass of wine with your meal that they will dehydrate you.

Even though flight attendants do come through the cabin with water a few times, I prefer to have my own bottle, simply because I drink a lot of water. Make sure you purchase the water after you have gone through security. So I prefer to have it while waiting for the meal service, or when I wake up during the night portion of the flight. Keeping hydrated is essential to good health on any flight. Do not wait until you feel extremely thirsty to ask, by that point you could already be on the road to dehydration and illness.

  1. Bring Hand Sanitizer

With planes flying on tighter schedules than ever before, there’s often no time for cleaning before a flight is turned around for the next group of passengers. Since cold and influenza viruses can live for days on surfaces, planes can become germ hotbeds. Watch out for seat pockets (where sick passengers may stash dirty tissues), tray tables (a study found that 60 percent of tray tables tested harbored the “superbug” MRSA.  Pack antibacterial wipes.

So before you pick up that sandwich because your stomach is rumbling, use the sanitizer on your hands and on the tray table. Airplanes have lots of surfaces that everyone touches, like arm rests, tray tables, overhead bin handles, in-flight magazines, light switches. A simple preventative measure, like using hand sanitizer, can help keep at least some of everyone else’s germs out of your system.

Staying healthy while you’re traveling involves more than killing germs, however.

  1. Bring Healthy Snacks

Save yourself some cash, probably some heartburn and even some time on the treadmill by packing your own healthy snacks rather than relying on airport and airline food.

Simple, cheap snacks can keep you healthy and prevent your blood sugar from dipping too low during a long flight. Crunchy snacks like carrot sticks, celery sticks and whole-wheat crackers are satisfying and require a minimum of fuss to eat in your seat. Granola, nuts and dried fruit are also great choices, but they often have more calories than you might think, so check the labels and serving sizes when you pack these items.

  1. Move around

This is especially important on long flights, to prevent your body from aching due to poor circulation. At your seat you can do exercises like circling ankles and stretching arms. The long mid-flight stretch on overnight flights is an excellent time to take a stroll up and down the ailse a few times. There is usually room to do some back stretches at the back of the cabins. This also alleviates the occurrence of blot clots.

It is extremely important to walk or move around every now and again, doing so keeps your circulation in good shape, avoiding serious medical complications. Also while doing your walk around, take the opportunity to use the lavatory, you never know when the flight will encounter turbulence.

  1. Bust the boredom

Most international flights have a pretty good arsenal of movies, music and television programming that can distract you for hours. After all, if you can sit on your couch for a whole evening watching a movie on TV, you can do it at 35.000 feet. Getting into a good movie can really help the time fly. Another suggestion, bring along that book that you have been meaning to read or a kindle if you prefer; and an ipod.  Bring your own headphones because those available on the plane (whether for purchase or for free) are usually of poor quality.

Track your progress:  On the same seatback monitor that you would be watching your movies, many airlines also have a GPS tracking systems, showing you the route the plane is taking, the plane’s current location and the cruising altitude. This is one of my favorite diversions.

  1. Luggage

Learn the three letter code for your destination and make sure that is what you see on your luggage tag at check-in, especially if your destination has more than one airport. Cities with multiple airports can cause problems if passengers do not know which one they are flying into. When checking the codes on this website link, you will see two codes listed. One Is the IATA code which is the one that will be indicated on your baggage tag, and the ICAO code which is used by pilots. IATA is responsible for air transport, and it regulates ticketing and that sort of thing….they use three letter codes for all airports, ICAO which oversees Civil Aviation that is all airports, and all flight operations, not just commercial ones, and so there is a lot more airports, and facilities that must be included, so they put a country letter id in front of the IATA three letter code. When it comes to ticketing and booking and that kind of thing you use the three letter codes, which are regulated by IATA, but the flight plans, and all of the flight ops stuff uses the 4 letter codes, because that is all regulated by ICAO…

The ICAO airport code or location indicator is a four-character alphanumeric code designating each airport around the world. These codes are defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

ICAO codes are used by air traffic control and airline operations such as flight planning. They differ from IATA codes, which are generally used for airline timetables, reservations, and baggage tags. For example, the IATA code for London’s Heathrow Airport is LHR and its ICAO code is EGLL. Most travelers usually see the IATA code on baggage tags and tickets and the ICAO code is used among other things by pilots, air traffic control and flight-tracking services such as FlightAware. In general IATA codes are usually derived from the name of the airport or the city it serves, while ICAO codes are distributed by region and country.

ICAO codes are also used to identify other aviation facilities such as weather stations, International Flight Service Stations or Area Control Centers, whether or not they are located at airports.

Check out World Airport Codes

  1. Other tips:

  • Know the difference between direct and non-stop flights, and always opt for the latter. Unlike non-stops, direct flights can touch down at other airports on the way to their ultimate destinations. And while stops are built in to the total travel time, the potential delays they can cause aren’t.
  • Dress comfortably and practically. Dress in layers so you can adapt to the temperature changes. Sometimes it is freezing especially by the exit, and sometimes it can be quite warm. You want to be prepared for either situation.
  • Wear shoes to the bathroom-I always see people walk into the bathroom with socks or god forbid barefoot. I am not a germaphobe, but really, would you like to step on a floor that has bathroom by products and then put your shoes on?
  • Always have an extra pair of socks, underwear in your carry on. You never know when your overnight trip will turn into a multi day event due to flight cancellations or delays. It is always great to have the essentials on you so you can adapt to anything that happens. And in the case you do make a mistake and walk on a wet bathroom floor, you can throw on a fresh pair of socks.
  • Bring a toothbrush and anything else that you might need to help freshen up at the end of a long haul flight. Brushing your teeth, combing your hair, freshening up your face makes a world of difference.
  • If you cannot sleep sleep very well on aircraft, my other recommendation is to purchase some ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones and a eye mask. A travel pillow is also essential as it enables you to lean your head to one side to sleep almost upright.

Flying certainly is the fastest way of getting you where you want to go but the condition you find yourself in upon arrival makes a lot of difference in the first few days of a trip. Prepare well and take good care of yourself in flight to get the most of your vacation!