By James Wysong Travel columnist
updated 11/10/2008 9:31:49 AM ET 2008-11-10T14:31:49

There are a multitude of expert tips on how to get the most out of your whole flying experience. But what about small tidbits that hardly seem worth mentioning?

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Sometimes, it’s the little things can have a big impact on your flight.

Here are a 11 trivial tips that, once you are aboard a multi-hour flight, could make the difference between a smile and a frown:

1. Cushion the blow. Bring a soft fluffy jacket every time you fly, whatever the season. It’s not considered carry-on baggage, the deep pockets could be extra storage, and now that the airlines are stripping both blankets and pillows from the seats, your jacket can be used as both. We all know that the temperature in the cabin can fluctuate quite drastically and even though it may be summer, many times the pilots will over-compensate and make it feel like the arctic.

2. Make some space. Take out all the junk like magazines, headphones, etc. from the seat-back pocket in front of you and give your knees a little more wiggle room. OK, it may seem like only a puny inch and a half, but as we all know, that could make all the difference in the world.

3. Save yourself. If you are in business or first class and someone offers you a pre-departure glass of champagne, give it a miss and wait for the good stuff in-flight. The sparkling wine they offer to you on the ground is usually the low quality stuff and served in plastic glasses. If you ration the number of drinks as I do, resist immediate gratification and drink out of a proper wine glass with some better wine.

4. Feel the warmth. Don’t throw away that bottle of water when it’s empty. Take it to the back of the airplane and fill it with hot water and you have an instant hot water bottle. The flight crew won’t look at you strangely, as we do it all the time. When you get cold feet, this is a life-saver or at least a foot-saver.

5. Play the hygiene game. With a positive frame of mind, hygiene can be fun. When using the lavatory, first thing you should do is to grab a paper towel, then use that as your barrier. Try to avoid touching anything directly, including the door lock on the way out. Look on it as a challenge. It’s not as easy as you think.

6. Time your water. We all know that it is important to keep hydrated during the flight, but this doesn’t mean you have to drink gallons at the beginning of the flight. Pace yourself, or you will find yourself in the line for the lavatory for the entire flight. Also, make a habit out of using the lavatory in the airport before you board the airplane. It’s roomier, tidier, and you will avoid the onboard traffic confusion.

7. Meal choice. Whether you have to buy it onboard, or if it comes as part of the service and you don’t know which choice is better, ask. Flight attendants eat those meals too, and know exactly which is the better choice, and which to avoid. Remarkably, the least popular selection is generally the tastier meal.

8. Hang loose. Wear clothing that is one or two sizes on the big side, or apparel that can comfortably stretch. I mean everything from shirt, pants, belt, shoes, and especially under-garments. I won’t go into detail but there was one 12 hour hell flight where I was riding uncomfortably high the entire journey. Fashion and comfort are often two completely separate things.

9. Trail-blazing. Always carry a bag of your favorite trail-mix with you. Whether stuck on a runway, airport, or a flight with no catering, you never know when you’ll get caught ready to devour your seat cushion. The number of times that I have been saved by this tip is countless. Also, be sure to replenish it as soon as possible so you have it available for the next time.

10. Book it. Keep a book somewhere on you at all times, otherwise you may be stuck reading the dreaded in-flight magazine over and over again. Technology is great but your book will never run out of batteries or suffer a mechanical breakdown.

11. Plug’em up. I am sure you expected me to include earplugs as my favorite travel item. They are small and cheap but will make the world of difference. I never leave home without them. A word of warning to all you frequent fliers out there who fly business class and expect to find earplugs in the amenity kits: some airlines are getting cheap and omitting them, so bring an extra pair just in case.

I hope these tips they can make a difference on your next flight. Now it’s time to send me yours. I will print them in a future column and top entries win a signed copy of my newest book.

James Wysong has worked as a flight attendant with two major international carriers during the past fifteen years. He is the author of the "The Plane Truth: Shift Happens at 35,000 Feet" and "The Air Traveler's Survival Guide." For more information about James or his books, please visit his Web site or e-mail him.


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