Earlier this year, I wrote a column giving 12 tips for a better flight. At the end, I asked for your tips. I received thousands of responses and many great tips. The tips varied from interesting and common-sense to creative and funny. Here are some of the best.
General travel advice
• Make a note of where you parked your car at the airport. After a long trip, your memory will almost always fail you.
• Dump that hard-sided carry-on. A soft-sided bag has some give, so it can be crammed into tight spaces, but a too-big hard case will have to be checked.
• Put a unique marker on your suitcase so you can recognize it easily when it comes around on the baggage carousel. (Tip #2 in popularity)
• If your neighbor won’t stop talking, pretend to sleep.
• Stock up on zip-lock bags. You can use them for snacks, as doggy bags and as leak-tight carriers, and to protect important documents.
• Join the airline’s frequent traveler club even if you don’t plan to fly on that airline ever again. (Tip #3)
• Cross-pack. On a cruise once, I watched one poor woman run the ship in a bathrobe for days because the airline had lost her luggage. Had she cross-packed with her travel companion, she would have had half the clothes she needed for the week.
• Eye masks! (Tip #4)
• Never place any important document in the front seat pocket — especially not your passport!
• When confronted with a particularly nasty passenger, say “God bless you!” loudly. It almost immediately simmers people down. (Author’s note: I tried this on a flight and it worked very well.)
• Visit the restroom before boarding the plane.
• Drink plenty of water, and bring your own bottled water if you prefer it. (Tip #1)
• Dab a little antibacterial ointment in your nose to help protect you from the myriad airborne contaminants circulating in the cabin.
• Wear shoes to the restroom. Bare feet and bad aim are an unpleasant combination.
• Don’t eat chili peppers for breakfast. (I don’t know why, but I imagine it has to do with “Plop plop, fizz fizz.”)
• Take sanitary wipes or wet towels with you. You will always need to clean or disinfect something onboard.
• Match each alcoholic beverage with at least two glasses of water.
• Exercise and stretch. (I agree. If you exercise and stretch, you will have more energy, and you won’t feel as beaten up after a long flight.)
• If you are allergic to cats, bring allergy medication. Passengers often bring cats onboard or carry dander on their clothes.
• Use saline spray. I used to routinely get colds and respiratory illnesses soon after a flight, but since I started using a saline spray a few years ago, I have not once become ill after flying.
• Always, always check that there is a “barf bag” in the pocket in front of you. You might not get sick, but you never know about your seatmate.
• Pack a small toy or a bag of Goldfish or cookies in your carry-on — not for yourself or your kids to eat, but to quiet the screaming kid three rows back. Works every time and costs only pennies.
• Schedule your flight for the kids’ naptime, and keep the kids awake by any means possible until you get on the plane. The flight is so much more relaxing for everyone when the kids sleep through it.
• When kids are howling or staring at you from the seat in front of you, hand them a crayon and the sick bag with instructions to make a hand puppet.
• Bring dollar bills, and if a kid starts kicking your seat from behind, bribe him with money. Tell him if he’s good for the remainder of the flight, he’ll get $5. Works like a charm.
• Dress in classy but comfortable clothing.
• Wear comfortable slip-on shoes. (Tip #7)
• Unless you are traveling with children, always ask for an exit-row seat. You’ll get more legroom.
• When choosing your seat, ask the customer service agent where she would sit.
• Pack your favorite hot sauce. It can turn the worst in-flight or airport meal into a culinary delight.
• Wear noise-canceling headphones. (Tip #5)
• Ladies and gentlemen: Don’t wear thong underwear. (Not that I would know, but I hear it has to do with uncomfortable creeping. Aren’t the men’s styles called “banana hammocks”?)
• Forget how it used to be, and play by the new rules.
• Arrive early. (Tip #6)
• Practice patience, and be prepared to test it abundantly.
• Remember that people are people: They have feelings just like you. They come from very different walks of life. Some don’t like to talk, while others need someone to listen.
• Bring or form a mental picture of your “happy place,” be it that perfect sunset on your trip to the Bahamas or your special loved one. It will serve as a reminder of the good things in life.
• Be the person you would most like to fly with.
I received quite a few drug suggestions, everything from prescription medications to over-the-counter sleeping aids. For liability reasons I won’t list them, but I do question the few readers who recommended Viagra!
• Bring a pen and paper. Write letters, keep a journal or jot down ideas or to-do lists.
• Listen to an audio book. It takes up more time than the in-flight movie, and is better exercise for your imagination.
• Make up lives for your fellow passengers. Look around you: See that woman in the sweats, the one who looks tired, but eager? She works in an office all week and she has a bullying boss. She’s flying to see someone she loves, and is confident that he loves her, so she can wear sweats and be comfortable, because this weekend is all about comfort.
• Books! (I was scolded many times by my readers for not including this tip. After all, I’m a writer myself. So, now that you mention it, you should bring one of my books!)
• Put your favorite wine in a water bottle so you don’t have to pay the outrageous price for the onboard wine that tastes like cat pee.
• Be nice to the check-in staff; it’s not their fault airlines are inherently evil. (This is one of my favorites.)
• For those who hate conversing with the total stranger in the next seat: Wear a button that says, “I’m not being rude, I’m deaf.”
• Ladies: Take the batteries out of your personal massagers; otherwise, the security search could prove quite embarrassing.
• If you are from a particularly gassy family, don’t eat cabbage or drink weissen beer before flying. Trust me on this!
• Have great sex the night before you fly. You will be in a better mood and be more likely to sleep on the airplane.
• Hire your own jet and pilot. (Nice for some)
• Drive instead!
Thanks for all of the wonderful tips, readers. I’m sorry if I didn’t have room to list yours —maybe next time. I’m always on the lookout for new tips, so send them to me at the e-mail address below.
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 or . Visit !