Whether you’re leaving for a semester abroad or flying to Europe for a fun summer holiday, you have to make it through the ultimate ordeal of an overseas flight. It’s easy to spot newcomers to traveling. If you wear anything but sweatpants, physically print out your boarding pass or pay attention to the half-hearted safety demonstration before your flight, we know who you are, and we have important tips to share on how to make it through airport lines and long plane rides for the first time.
The absolute worst thing to deal with at an airport is the security line. Nothing can steer your journey the wrong way like getting randomly selected for a little extra check. Transportation Security Administration agents will assure you that it’s no big deal and that they’re just going to quickly sift through your carefully packed bag. But, be assured that all of your folded clothes and precariously rolled charging cords will be jumbled and tangled in your backpack by the end of it, and if you had any snacks to keep you going, you will most definitely receive a snide comment or sideward eye-roll. To combat airport security struggles, do yourself a favor and travel light. Make sure you have enough space in your bags to move things around comfortably — remember, your carry-on luggage isn’t a game of Tetris, and even if you’re playing, TSA isn’t.
Once you’re back to a larger-than-3.4-ounces-of-liquid-allowed zone, it’s always important to scout for sustenance in two key forms — food and fully charged devices — to keep you going on your actual flight. With a stroke of luck, you might find a working outlet at your seat on the plane, but it’s more likely than not that you will need to charge your laptop on solid ground to make it through the journey. While your airline might have a great movie selection or WiFi on-board to stream shows, if you don’t want to pay for internet or prefer your own selection of entertainment, consider downloading shows on the Netflix app or stocking up on e-books so you have something to do.
If security is the worst thing on the ground, food is its counterpart in the air. It’s common knowledge that airplane food is objectively terrible, and research suggests that this is because of dryness, lower air pressure and background noise in the plane, rather than the food just being plain nasty. Try to trick your taste buds by stocking up on familiar foods that you’re comfortable eating. You won’t be able to complain about bad food if you know it’s the same thing you eat all the time.
In addition, if you haven’t been on a long flight before, it’s easy to underestimate what people mean when they talk about how dry flights get. Take our advice and carry moisturizer, and remember to consciously hydrate even if you aren’t thirsty. Your skin will thank you a few hours in, and you won’t feel as drained when you land.
But, the ultimate insider tip to perfecting your airborne journey is to befriend the airline staff. It can be exhausting for them to deal with uninterested patrons and people arguing over food and drinks. In the process, we sometimes forget that the helpful crew members are real people who want this to be a seamless trip as much as you do. Make the effort to strike up conversation with a crew member on the flight, and be polite and considerate. Beyond the fact that this is obviously the right thing to do, it’ll probably earn you an extra drink or bag of peanuts — and if you schmooze well enough, maybe even a seat upgrade along the way.