How to have a seamless travel experience on an international flight
- Long-haul international flights can leave you stressed, drained, and sore, but there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure a seamless experience.
- From avoiding checked luggage (when possible) to drinking enough water, here are 14 tips to ensure an easy, comfortable, and stress-free international flight.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Traveling can be incredibly fun - even if it's for work - but if you're going somewhere far away, you have to get through a long flight (or several) before you can begin your trip.
Whether you're an experienced traveler, or someone about to take your first international flight, here are a few tips that can help you stay comfortable and have a seamless experience.
1. Check which airline is actually operating your flight - not the one you booked with
While you may have purchased your ticket from a specific airline, or seen that listed if you bought the ticket through a third-party website, there's a chance you're actually flying a different airline altogether.
Airlines operate partnerships and alliances that mean that you may end up booking a flight on an airline's partner without realizing it. That can lead you to go to the wrong airport terminal - not a great way to start your trip!
For example, even if you book a flight to Paris sold by Delta, you may actually end up flying partner airline Air France, both of which fly from different terminals at New York's JFK.
To avoid confusion, be sure to check your itinerary before heading to the airport. There might be small text under the selling airline that says "operated by:" that's the airline that you're actually flying.
2. Try to avoid checking a bag - just bring a carry-on, but make sure to check the size
Checking a bag can lead to all kinds of hassle, especially if you have a connection or your flight gets changed due to weather. Plus, airlines often charge extra fees for checked bags, even on international flights.
Instead, try and fit everything into a carry-on suitcase. Lay out all of your clothes for the trip, and try and cut the pile down to something that can fit in the carry-on. You can also roll your clothes, which helps you fit more and prevents wrinkles.
This way there's no chance of your bag being lost, and you won't have to wait around at baggage claim.
If you do end up checking a bag, make sure to bring some spare clothes in your carry-on - just in case.
The air that you breath while you're on a plane can be incredibly dry. Plus, when you're sitting for hours, it's easy to drink less water than normal without realizing it.
Before every long-haul flight, I buy a big water bottle in the airport. Along with the water that's served during the flight, that helps me stay hydrated and feel better when I land. Some anecdotal reports suggest that it can even help you get over jet lag.
4. Dress comfortably
Dressing comfortably is especially important on long flights, even if you're traveling for work and need to head to meetings right when you land. Performance workwear can be a great option. I usually try to wear comfortable sneakers that I can take off and put on quickly, and performance jeans with a bit of stretch.
If you tend to get cold, don't forget a sweatshirt or jacket, even in the summer!
Keep in mind that some foreign airlines don't have individual air nozzles and might keep the cabin warmer than you're used to.
5. Bring whatever gear you need to settle in and get comfortable
Whether that's a neck pillow, a big pair of noise cancelling headphones, travel-friendly moisturizer, or something else, try and anticipate whatever you'll need to stay comfortable during flight.
A crucial set that many people forget, but that can make or break a red-eye flight: an eye-mask and earplugs.
Melissa Vitale, a New York City-based publicist, always brings a pouch or small bag filled with essentials.
"A small pouch just for essentials needed on the flight," she said. "For me: my comfy socks, eye mask, face masks, lavender oil, CBD, lip balm, laptop, phone, and AirPods."
6. Don't rely on the in-flight entertainment!
Many airlines offer seat-back screens loaded with movies or shows, but relying on that for a long flight is a mistake, says Spencer Howard, a travel blogger at Straight to the Points.
"Download your favorite shows, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, or whatever to your phone or tablet the night before, he told Business Insider. "Sometimes in-flight entertainment is great, sometimes you've seen it all or don't find it interesting."
Plus, there's always a chance that the plane you're on isn't equipped with it, or that you end up with a broken screen and hours to kill.
"Also, don't rely on airport or lounge Wi-Fi to be fast enough to download what you want just before you board your flight," he suggested.
On a related note, bring a portable charger with you so that you can power your device in-flight, or simply make sure that your phone is fully charged when you land, suggested Charlie Barkowski, who blogs about travel at Running with Miles.
7. Bring any medications in your carry-on, not checked bags, and make sure to check local laws before your trip
If you do end up checking a bag, make sure to pull out any medications or equipment that you need and bring it with you onto the plane - just in case your bag gets lost.
"Pack all medicines and medical supplies you need in your carry-on, just in case there's a problem with your checked bags," Howard said.
Also, just because you have a prescription or buy a medicine over-the-counter in the US doesn't mean it's allowed in every country. Do a quick Google search before your trip to make sure that any medicines you're bringing are allowed.
8. Figure out your visa situation ahead of time
With an American or European passport, you can travel to many countries without needing a visa. In some cases, you can apply for, receive, and pay for a visa in advance.
Other countries, though, require you to apply beforehand, and can take weeks to process. Be sure to check visa requirements as soon as you book your trip in order to know exactly what you'll need.
9. Be mindful with the on-board booze
Passengers have been imbibing in the skies since around 1950, according to Air & Space Magazine. However, that doesn't mean you have to go overboard.
Aside from the obvious problems that can come from becoming intoxicated on a plane, you also risk becoming too dehydrated, or not sleeping properly.
Be aware of how alcohol affects you when you're flying, and keep in mind that it's often different than it is on the ground. Some people find a few drinks - and sometimes a few more - helpful on a long flight, some need to keep it to one, and some prefer teetotaling in-flight. Whichever way is best for you, be sure to drink plenty of the water you brought, too!
10. Enjoy the in-flight meals and snacks, but don't overeat
It's easy to eat too much when you're bored, and long flights can indeed be boring. While it's important to eat meals and snacks, you want to be careful not to overeat. It can be harder to digest during a long flight, so if you eat too much, you might end up bloated and uncomfortable for the rest of your journey.
11. Move around
Make sure to get up and take a walk at least every few hours, and to stretch your arms and legs periodically when you're sitting.
Long periods of immobility in a seated position can put you at risk of developing dangerous blood clots called deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), especially in your legs, where blood pools when you're sitting. The easiest way to prevent it is by simply moving every now and then.
12. If you're worried about motion sickness or get anxious during turbulence, snag a seat towards the middle of the plane above the wing.
The wings are the planes' center of gravity, so being above them can reduce the feeling of turbulence or motion throughout the flight.
13. Remember that you are your own best advocate
If something goes wrong - and the complicated logistics of air travel mean that sometimes, little things go wrong - try not to stress it. Delayed luggage or missed connections can be stressful, as can dealing with complex airline rules and policies, but a little patience can go a long way.
Be polite and informed when trying to solve problems. If you miss a connection due to a delay and you're on the line for customer service, pull up Google Flights and look for alternative routings. Having a suggestion ready might be helpful when you get to the counter.
If your luggage gets lost or delayed, it's an inconvenience, but chances are it will be found and delivered to you within a day or two. Buy whatever essentials you need, including clothing, and save all of your receipts to file a claim with the airline or your travel insurance company after your trip.
14. Enjoy the flight!
Long flights are what you make of them. They can be boring and monotonous, or they can be wonderful stretches of free time during which you can do all the things you can't normally find time for.
"When else will you have uninterrupted time like that," asked Joel Farran, a former executive from Chicago who's flown internationally dozens of times. "Bring a journal and write, make lists, plan or imagine your life."
Whether its reading a book that's been sitting unopened on your night stand for half a year, catching up on the magazine that have been piling up, or enjoying some quiet contemplative time to think, write, and daydream, long flights can be a wonderful break from our usual hyper-connected lives on the ground. With an approach like that, you'll almost be disappoined when it's over!