10 Things I’ve Learned About Flying and 5 Things I Never Will

2012 is the Year of the Tiger*, and also a year that I have found myself flying approximately all of the time. I have gleaned little wisdom to date, but what I do know I will share with you now, in the utmost confidence.

Go on, settle into the scratchy sky-high polyester seat at my side and let the unfortunate aesthetic of its muted geometric pattern wash over you. Buckle its alarmingly limp ostensible safety fabric around your waist and try not to feel weird about it. Here are 10 pieces of pseudo-advice and 5 pieces of not-advice for avid travelers and wayward sky-faring individuals of all shapes and sizes.

* not actually true

pairs well with klonopin

5 Things I have not learned and will never learn:

1. How to pack a bag more than 1 hour prior to leaving for the airport because it always works out okay actually, 100% of the time.

2. The right amount of coffee to drink that will get me to the airport on time without sending me flailing into an endless cascade of anxiety.

3. How to choose reading materials that I will actually care to consume and how to avoid the stuff that will just glare at me for the duration of the flight, riddling me with the guilt of the ill-read.

4. How to cope with the crippling public transportation OCD that prohibits me from rewearing any article of clothing that was on my person in-air once I arrive at my destination.

5. How to talk about my flying/travel panic without it being a humblebrag. (bcw just taught me the word humblebrag, so this one is sort of in progress)

the marine layer is my favorite mystery about LA

10 things that I have learned:

1. The TSA is wholly ineffectual. I have accidentally found myself on the other side of a security checkpoint with everything from hulking nalgenes full of suspect liquids to razors and (Boy Scout) knives. A close friend made it through by accident recently with an entire tin full of joints. Which is not to say you should try this. I think anything you do in an airport is a federal crime, so try to remain very still and do very little.

2. Never check a bag. You will not only save a ridiculous amount of time, but you’ll look extra hot, strong, and gay. And you’ll be building up invaluable arm muscle. You’ll need that later.

3. Airports make you sweaty. Never wear Tom’s on a flight. It just can’t be there for you — it’s time to bring out the the big guns.

4. Everything I ever told you about drinking and flying still stands [see the “In-flight Advice for Adventurers” section]. For bonus points, bring travel sized bottles of liquor and order a mixer on the plane (free!)

5. Tweet at the airport and check in on Foursquare. You’ll experience a sense of deep fullfilment that your life is otherwise devoid of. You will win friends and admirers, be the talk of the town, etc.

6. No one ever hooks up in an airport except in that one episode of Six Feet Under, unless I made that up too. It’s sort of unfortunate but also maybe a good thing.

7. In order to hibernate properly, you will need the following: a hoodie, fingerless gloves, over the ear headphones, wool socks and sunglasses. This is The Best. It’s like being an anonymous bear in an anonymous bearcave 30,000 feet in the air.

8. Are you going to a godless place without proper coffee? Pack a shatter-proof french press and some pre-ground coffee beans from your pretentious local roaster of choice. You can put it in your carry on and the interior of the french press will fit between 1-5 snacks. Your luggage will smell like euphoria.

9. Snacks! These Mojo Clif bars are the best even though I think they are terrible for you, maybe. Also: bananas.

10. “Two carry-on bags” actually means three for your average not-asshole. You have business class traveler assholes who just don’t give a fuck and wheel on suitcases of egregious proportions to thank for this. Smallish rolling suitcases are okay or whatever, but we’re all homos here.

Get yourself a proper duffel bag (ideally from a garage sale or Army Surplus store), a decent backpack, and something else small like a tote bag or a Crown Royal pouch slung around your beltloop, full of treasure. You are now Pro. You’re welcome.

Those are my things. Do you have things? Tell them to me.

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Taylor has written 136 articles for us.


  1. “It’s like being an anonymous bear in an anonymous bearcave 30,000 feet in the air.”

    this is exactly what i aim for when flying

  2. I’d like to add-
    -A laptop with 30 Rock episodes to add to the bear cave. Tina Fey in your bear cave makes everything way better.
    -Fruit snacks.
    -A moleskin notebook with gridded paper. Great for notes, jotting down directions doodling obscene pictures, playing tic tac toe and looking like you’re doing something important.
    – If you are a person with no refined java taste like me and love you some giant chain store soy lattes a la Starbucks. Buy a Starbucks card. Register it online. Get the card app for your smartphone. Simply pulling your phone out of your back pocket, scanning the app at checkout and not having to dig around for money/cards/lint saves SO MUCH GODDAMN TIME. Also, your baristas will love you for not creating a traffic jam. Also also also, you’ll get your soy or syrup free with the card registered, and you’ll get free refills on reg coffee. *

    *coffee is an important part of my life.

    • notebooks when flying are awesome. for some reason flying always makes me go off into some kind of weird dreamlike zone and whatever i write ends up hilarious/insane, which provides later entertainment :D

    • Excellent points re: Starbucks card but fyi, some airport Starbucks are not actually company stores and thus do not provide points or perks for using your SB card. This happened to me recently at DFW. I was not happy about having to pay extra for my soy milk & also not getting any points for my purchase.

      • this happened to me! i was already having a bad travel day so the thought of not getting my free soy almost brought me to tears.

        it is possible that flying brings out a lot of feelings in everyone.

  3. As someone who is mildly afraid of flying, I have learned that two things make my trip much better:
    1. Booze
    2. Reading Salon’s Ask the Pilot column before the trip, especially the one about turbulence. During turbulent flights, you will find me reciting “turbulence doesn’t crash planes, turbulence doesn’t crash planes” quietly under my breath. It helps a little.
    Also, I allow myself to buy trashy magazines and junk food guilt-free in an attempt to convince myself that flying is fun.

    • this is very useful information to me, because i am getting on a tiny-ass plane to ithaca, NY in two days and turbulence on tiny planes terrifies me. thank you for the new mantra!

  4. #2 Never check a bag. This is paramount! I travel a lot and will take extreme lengths NOT to check a bag. Packing the bare minimum is worth the hour saved and being spared the crippling anxiety over thought of a lost bag. I’ve gone 10 days in Europe (3 times) with just a rolling suitcase (carry on size) big backpack (not backpacker, but a regular large bp). Fold up a day bag inside your backpack for the rest of your trip. I will go to any length not to check a goddamn bag.

    • Ditto, so one of my most-annoyed times was when the person checking boarding passes FORCED me to check (not gate check) my medium-sized, squishable duffle bag because he said there was no more space, only for me to find so very many empty overhead compartments on the plane. Clearly I’m having a little trouble letting that one go…

      • That’s why online check in is the best! They can’t see your carry on until you’re through security at that point. Also, my most recent flight taught me to ignore the “Be a good Samartian” call for gate checking bags when the plane is starting to fill up. They put my bag on the carousel instead of having it at the gate! Waiting for that bag to come through, combined with a 2 hour delay, got me home at 2 am. Rude.

    • I always check my bag because I have this totally stupid / unexplainable fear that I’ll board the plane and discover that all the overhead compartments are full. The rational part of my brain knows that in this unlikely event the flight attendant would just stow my bag somewhere else and everything will be cool, but the idiot part of my brain would rather pay $30 and wait an hour at the baggage carousel and risk losing my luggage just to prevent this total non-issue.

      • I’ve had that happen to me but It’s definitely not bad. My bag just got checked AND it was free. Sometimes if it’s a full flight they call for volunteers and I think you get priority boarding or vouchers or other goodies maybe.

      • Second that. If you bring a carry on size bag, and the plane is crowded (they all are), the airplane people will be so excited to gate-check your bag for free. Just put the stuff you want during the flight in your smaller carry on. This is what I always do.

    • i agree wholeheartedly with not checking bags. i checked one for the first time going home for xmas last year and boy did i regret it. waiting around the carousel for a bag is the worst, particularly during vacation season when everyone has a bajillion suitcases the size of elephants and all i have is one medium-sized rolly which had to be the last thing to get fished out of the cargo.

      plus, traveling light means you can get from point a to point b faster, which means less time dragging/pushing stuff through airports and more time at fun destination :)

      • I like flying, but I hate hand carrying things from the Philippines to bring for my mom due to the fact that my check in luggage goes over weight. From Manila to Dhaka, I had to handcarry around twenty mangoes and cheesy breads. I was so paranoid about a gate agent “confiscating” that stuff.

        Thanks for all these tips. I usually sport a hoodie and shades. Man, the alcohol thing would be so awesome if they didn’t confiscate liquids. Because airports in Asia have like three security gates before actually getting on the plane. Like right at the gate.

    • I travelled two weeks in Europe and two weeks in Japan (separate trips!) on one bag.

      The times I’ve had to check bags (due to length of trip or the necessity to shove my wedding dress in my carry-on) mine has always been the last off the damn carousel. The worst was when that happened in LAX and the line to customs was almost all the way back to the frigging gate…

  5. There is something positively foul that oozes from my pores when I fly. I mean, we’re all familiar with how we smell after yoga, before sex, after sex, before a much-needed shower, after hanging out at your Parliament-smoking nan’s house all weekend, rolling around in the ‘free to a good home’ section of the Salvation Army… but when I get out of an airport I cannot begin to understand why I smell like the recycled farts that came from someone else’s asshole.

    It’s not fair.

  6. The key is also, be scary when you fly. Scary to the creepy business man next to you, but not the TSA. Like, think a little Lisbeth Salander, but pretending you dig authority or something.

    Did that make sense?

    Fuck, where is my travel sized whiskey.

    • Maybe go through security in a pink sundress or something, then change into a Lisbeth Salander ensemble in the airport bathroom once you’re through? If they don’t confiscate your travel razor you could probably give yourself an awesome alt-lifestyle haircut to boot.

  7. I swear every time I fly (which is about once ever 1-2 months) I sit next to a plane farter. Every. Time.

  8. 1. Packing: I found out if I pack the very day then I don’t feel homeless (like I do normally because I fly often anyways)
    2. Coffee and anxiety: I live to have a beer at the airport
    3. Reading: I guess the best is music magazines. They aren’t too intellectual so I can forget about work and not too stupid that I don’t want to read them.
    4. Dirty clothing: I normally take my hoodie and some jeans. Then I can just remove and wash it when I get home.
    5. Talking: I’m always very interested in knowing who I’m sitting with, I like to talk with the person next to me so that my anxiety doesn’t rise and I’ve heard many interesting stories that way!

    All in all, I totally understand how you feel!

    • Number 5) Totally. I had a very bad experience on the plane once but the 3 hr coach rides have been great. I’ve had some wonderful conversations. One thing that I do do is closet myself when traveling (if they get invasive and ask that kind of thing, usually they don’t). I’d rather have them asking me questions about my fake boyfriend and not leave myself open to annoyance at their possible ignorance.

  9. bringing my own in-flight alcohol in mini 3oz travel bottles is seriously the greatest tip i have ever received re: flying. via trial and error i’ve discovered that the best ones are the mini spritz bottles, because they come with little caps that keep them from spritzing. the ones with the push tops for gels always seem to spill inside my ziploc bags. if you don’t want to look like a lush in front of your seatmates you can also just rock a bottle of coke from the terminal and spike it.

    • Why have I not heard of this before?!? Also, why did I not know until 15 min before landing in Vegas that drinks on my flight were free? Eff.

    • also mini mouthwash bottles because they have a childlock on them and never ever spill.

  10. Some things I should remember the next time I go on an intercontinental flight:

    1 – bring one of those inflatable thingies to support my neck
    2 – bring something to protect the eyes, a 14 hour flight on a near new airplane and I sit under the one light that does not go out durng the night….
    3 – check clothing quality and prizes before leaving. Might save on space / bag / weight by buying on arrival (and give it away before leaving)

    • number 2 is why a hoodie is your friend. it’ll keep you warm in case of unexpected plunging temperatures/wayward air vents, and it’ll keep the light out if your seatmate insists on watching films/reading the entire night flight, or if you have the dicky lightswitch situation. also feels like hiding in a private space, as Taylor said.

  11. 1. DRY SHAMPOO. I order mine from Etsy, and I don’t need conditioner with it, which means I now have room for nail polish in my tiny ziploc bag. Or lip gloss, or a tiny pot of blueberry jam, or whiskey.

    2. After the last time I travelled, I swore to myself I was never going to travel without at least two pairs of shoes and a pair of flip-flops, no matter the length of the trip. I keep reading travel things that are like “You only need one pair!” but those travel things are lying liars that lie, and if you listen to them you will find yourself spending half a day of your vacation crying from frustration in Primark because none of the shoes fit, and then you buy three-pound slip-ons from the men’s department and they fall apart within the week. Trust me on this one. :(

    3. Get a clipboard to put all your flight info, hotel bookings, travel insurance coupon, etc in. When you pack your backpack, pack the clipboard against the side with the zipper, pack the other side with your clothes, then slide your clipboard in so it’s resting against the front or back. When you get on the plane, put your backpack under your seat with the clipboard side up, and now you have an awesome foot rest (and all your important info’s tucked safely away under your feet). And when you’re camped out at your gate, you can use the other, non-zippered side that’s padded with clothing as a pillow.

    4. Before you go, check the airport’s website to see if they’ve got a layout up there. Most do, and if you’ve got a tight connection you can see how far it is from where you’re landing to where you need to be (which is inevitably as far away as possible), and if you’re stuck at the airport for hours, you can make a note of where you can eat, because otherwise you might wander around in a state of confusion while you look for somewhere with a decent non-meat option, going ‘screw it’ and eating at McDonalds, and then spending your next flight crying with stomach pain from an ungodly combination of greasy food and jet lag and being really, really impossibly high above the earth.

    5. Do not think about how really, really impossibly high above the earth you are.

    • I second flip flops as a must-have item! I don’t care if it’s winter in Reykjavik, schlepping around a hotel/hostel/your friend’s bathroom barefoot is gross. Plus, they’re light and take up just about zero luggage space so you really have no excuse.

  12. I have a habit of ignoring the nice flight attendants and just keeping my iPod in and on and all times. I figure someone must have done it before, and it didn’t crash the plane then, so it shouldn’t crash now.

    Also, NEVER MAKE A JOKE IN THE SECURITY PLACE. Assume THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND SARCASM and EVERYTHING YOU SAY IS LITERALLY TRUE. I nearly got arrested for making a joke about my friend’s luggage. And the security at Luton airport have guns. BIG. GUNS.

    • I will totally report you to the flight attendant and we can spend the rest of the flight glaring at eachother. : P

    • One time on the flight back from Mexico, my grandmother joked that an unrelated family friend who came on the trip with us was “someone we picked up on the street”. My grandmother now gets pulled out and searched every time we travel. TSA does not fuck around!

    • I think you can add ‘do not fly from Luton airport’ here, too. I have never had a good experience there!

  13. I have flown a lot internationally and now I fly between London, where I go to school, and North Carolina, where I am from, at least once every 3 months and I always felt like dying on the overnight flight because I could never get comfortable enough to sleep.

    Before I went home over Christmas I bought this travel pillow: http://www.amazon.com/TravelRest-Travel-Pillow-Reinvented-Blue/dp/B001DYDAEK/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1330472888&sr=8-1-catcorr

    I thought that I would look really stupid, but seriously, it is worth it, I have never slept so well on a plane. If you do long distance, especially overnight flights, it is amazing! So much better than the weird neck pillows and it deflates and rolls up to be super small so it doesn’t take up room in your bag.

    • that looks awesome. i usually fold up the plane pillow and stick it between head and shoulder which is almost the same except the potential for pillow to go shooting off at the person next to me when i move. er. yes.

  14. Relevant: I flew to SC for President’s Day weekend and I may or may not have seen a very cute, queer-looking TSA agent at the security checkpoint. Alas, I was struck mute when I actually walked past her (maybe because I was sans shoes and trying to hastily zip up my backpack and put my hoodie on at the same time) so we’ll never know. Unless she reads Autostraddle!

  15. My personal cross country travel checklist!

    Packing: ARMY ROLL EVERYTHING. You can make that full, 20 lb bag a full, 48.9 lb bag, instantly.
    Dress: Hoodie, the shirt I slept in because there’s no room in my luggage (see above), my biggest hiking boots.
    Entertainment: apps, that same book I’ve been reading all year, $20 noise canceling ear buds
    Food: sugary snackums, non-threatening trail mix, water bottle filled at the airport

    Anti-social conversation evacuation kit: obvious erotica novels, medline/jstor PDFs, sedatives

    • Yes, sedatives. Xanax plus hoodie and all of a sudden the balding fat man spilling over into my seat was such a non-issue.

    • Sedatives are the only thing that stop me from puking everywhere on long haul flights.

      (so in other words I’M GOING TO BE LOTS OF FUN AT A-CAMP)

  16. I have never thought to bring my own booze. For some reason it seemed impossible. Turning 21 and flying Alaskan that gives you free beers on certain flights and then all the liquid restrictions… But how did I forget you can buy mini boozes somewhere other than planes?

  17. “How to cope with the crippling public transportation OCD that prohibits me from rewearing any article of clothing that was on my person in-air once I arrive at my destination.”

    Yes I basically stuff my in-air outfit into a plastic bag like a specimen from another world post-flight and if a traveling companion suggests i wear something i wore on the plane i’m basically horrified, BUT I WORE THAT ON THE PLANE!

    also usually I spill something on myself during the flight, so it’s always a good policy in that regard, too.

  18. the booze in 3oz bottles idea is perfect, I wish I had known about this tip before I spent 8 dollars on a beer at the Chicago airport today.
    Also it will be perfect for my trip to A Camp!

  19. I actually love flying. Maybe not the airport thing, but the actual flying bit, take-off is my favorite. And pictures out of an airplane window are the best. [Marilyn Bridges anyone?]
    Anyhoo, my flying rituals:
    – Wear a little rectangular clear plastic pouch on a lanyard that holds id and boarding pass.
    – By now I know that I will not read on a plane, or do anything really. Something about that environment takes me from person to zombie in .65 seconds. I don’t even watch things, that’s how little motivation for any sort of action I have. So my time consists of trying to sleep as long as possible and staring, sometimes thinking, mostly not.
    – Book a window seat over the wing. Views can be skewed but this is the safest place.
    -Do not drink anything (or only one of those tiny cups full, with ice) on the plane or even at the airport, unless I am sure to have proper time to go to the bathroom and ensure an empty bladder. I do everything in my power to NOT get up during a flight, b/c usually by the window. (Though I have a friend who gets aisle seats so she can get up when she pleases).
    Wow, that was long. Best Travels!

  20. 1) If you are not an unaccompanied minor, flight attendants do not appreciate your mimicry of the Plane Safety Talk. When you’re five, it’s adorable and impressive that you have memorized such a long spiel (and also a bit sad, because that means you’re flying back and forth all the time ALL BY YOURSELF). When you’re twenty, it’s offensive because they assume you’re mocking them. (though that might just be that after puberty, my face froze into a constant expression of disdain and sarcasm)

    2) Do NOT get the middle or aisle seat. Someone will inevitably fall asleep on you/climb over you/spill drinks on you/hit on you creepily. And the flight attendants will run into your elbow with the cart EVERY TIME THEY PASS.

    3) If in the window seat for a flight longer than three hours, it doesn’t matter how much bladder control you usually have. Even the smallest sip of onboard complementary beverage will ensure that you have the urge to repeatedly rush toward the back of the plane– signaling to others that, not only are you a fine bet to win for Passenger Derby, but also that you are an extremely rude seat mate. Your need to pee will be the thing that ensures that the man/woman/dog/tuba next to you finds you extremely obnoxious– and may cause them to poison your water bottle while you are on your sixth trip to the lavatory.

    4) Okay, again with unaccompanied minors: It is okay for a small child to go to the cockpit and talk to the pilot. It is NOT OKAY for anyone else. You may get arrested, and thrown off the plane.

    • i have to disagree with the aisle seat judgment – it’s great for people with long legs, and if people need to get by to pee you can just stand up and avoid their ass in your face (in my experience usually they poke you hoping that that will happen anyway because clambering around is just as awkward for either party). plus you can then feel free to drink as much as you want :)

      • I also like being in the aisle seat on long haul flights. given the choice of being the climber or the climbed on, i prefer the latter. (twss)

    • #3 is so true. One of my proudest travel moments was flying from New York to Hong Kong (16hr flight) and only having to get up for the bathroom once. Of course I was traveling alone so I had no one to high five about this Major Accomplishment when we landed.

    • During the safety talk I am always hearing George Carlin’s airplane skit in my head, so I find it rather amusing.

  21. Rule #1 of Travel: do not try to make friends with people around you. Unless you are the most beautiful person in the world, do not try to make small talk with me on the plane/train/bus. If I wanted to talk to you, I probably wouldn’t be wearing headphones and pretending to read a book.

    Don’t try to offer me food either. A few weeks ago I was on a train and the lady seated next to me pulled a platter of mini-hot dogs wrapped in biscuits out of her bag, turned to me, and said “would you like a party dog?” I absolutely did not want a party dog, and I was wildly uncomfortable for the next 8 and a half hours.

  22. If you’re flying international long haul:

    – Check in as far in advance as possible. If you’re lucky, you can get the seats with no one in front, so you get a lot of legroom and you’re the closest to the toilets and you get served food first. On the other hand, if you are disorganised like me, you might find yourself stuck for 13 hours at the back of the plane with no legroom, or overhead storage, or room to put the seat back.

    – Bring a sleeping mask, earphones, and/or music you can fall asleep to. Herbal sleeping tablets or melatonin might be good. Those pillow things probably are too. I used to take Ambien on international flights but then realised it did more harm than good.

    – Layer. Sometimes you’ll be shivering with cold, sometimes you won’t. Dress for it.

    – Drink alcohol. Enough said.

  23. 1. Bring a liter of scotch to share with friends(Remember to hide from stewardesses).
    2. Sing patriotic icelandic songs the whole way.
    3. Don´t drink the foreign coffee its shit.

  24. For the germaphobe or those who get sick just thinking about someone who’s sick…

    Bring anti-bacterial wipes with you. Keep them in a zip loc bag either in the front zipper compartment of your backpack or a jacket pocket – whatever’s easiest to get to quickly. When you board the plane & get to your seat, wipe down EVERY hard surface you can – seat belt latch, arm rests, recline button and for god’s sake def the tray table. I promise you that thing hasn’t been cleaned since they first put the plane into service and there’s a lost CDC experiment living on it. If you’re lucky enough to be sitting in a non-cloth seat, wipe that fucker down too. Then get out a fresh wipe or hand sanitizer and wipe your hands. Personally, I use hand sanitizer at various times throughout the trip especially before & after consuming ANYTHING.

    Next, try not to sit in the back of the plane. The air in a plane is recycled (at the front) and guess what the back is getting? All the germs collected from the front throughout the plane until it gets back there. You’re getting all the coughs, sneezes, farts, etc. back there not to mention the lovely fumes from the lav, i.e. 30,000 foot porta-potty.

    Better yet, pretend you’re in Japan and wear a breath mask. This happens to double well for the stay-the-hell-away-&-don’t-even-think-about-talking-to-me look you might be going for.

    • From here:

      What they say: It’s easy to get sick on an airplane because germs travel through the re-circulated air.

      The truth: “It’s OK to breathe airplane air,” said Anne Banas of SmarterTravel.com. The Web site received so many questions on the topic that it commissioned the help of Dr. Abinash Virk, director of travel and tropical medicine at the Mayo Clinic, for advice. Airplane air, Dr. Virk said, “is more HEPA-filtered than even hospital operating rooms.”

      Bottom line? Airplane air may not be the germ-cloud you thought it was, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be exposed to a boatload of germs before you’ve even settled into your seat. Planes are very confined spaces, so if someone seated nearby sneezes, airborne germs can reach you, just as they can on a bus, in a classroom or at the office. Germs can also live on tray tables, armrests, lavatory fixtures and handles on overhead bins. So bring sanitizing gel with you and don’t be shy about wiping things down.”

      Of course, the bit about the lav is absolutely 100% true. Also you have a bumpier ride in the back.

      • My dad is an airline pilot and the “don’t sit in the back because of recirculated air” came from him. Believe what you will but that comment about the air being more filtered than an operating room is pure bullshit. Last time I checked, there aren’t 150 people in an operating room and of the 3-10 (exaggerated max) that are in there, not a one of them are sick. It’s not allowed. They’re also covered and scrubbed clean at least from elbow to fingertips & wrapped in latex. So, 1 cycle air filtration in a sterile room that’s pumping in fresh air with no sick people in it vs. 10 cycle filtration of the same air over & over in a confined unclean space with 150+ people in it, 10% of whom are sick &/or children (petri dishes) – I’ll take the operating room any day.

        Totally BS misleading comparison that that doctor made.

        • More *filtered*, not cleaner!

          Airplane air isn’t the problem – it’s being shoved in a box with 200 of your new best friends.

  25. When flying long-haul:

    – Get to the airport super early and check in, and then go and find the nearest eatery and eat properly. After 5 hours on the plane you are not going to want to eat the airline food, and if you picked up food in the airport to take on the plane you’re not gonna want to eat that either. Your sandwich from x shop will look supremely unappetising.

    – Get a proper folding pillow, not of one those inflatable ones. YOUR NECK WILL THANK YOU.

    – When packing roll all of your clothes and put them in ziplock bags and then squeeze the air out. You will have so much more space for those extra shoes you will inevitably need! (look, you never know when you’re going to try to walk to the beach in italy and it turns out to be four km away and your shoes fall apart and you are so glad you packed a spare pair).

    – This is going to go against everyone’s instincts to hide and ignore whoever is in the seat next to you, but: be nice to the person next to you for half a minute when you sit down. It solves a lot of awkwardness if you need to get past them to go to the bathroom etc etc.

  26. My problem with trying to never check bags is my laptop. I need to be gifted a macbook air or something cos I can’t even contemplate going somewhere without it. That’s why I love budget airlines that give you more carry-on allowance. (Thereby shafting the ground staff, I realize. Sorry, comrades.)

    Aisle seat EVERY time, except if it’s for a short hop. I can’t stand the idea of crawling over folks when I just wanna get up and wander around. If it’s only an hour or so you won’t get anything else done so you might as well have a window to look out of.

    Long-haul: drink. You’re gonna feel crappy when you get there anyway.

    Check in online as early as you possibly can. It astounds me how many ppl still don’t do this, and that it’s still possible to avoid major queues at the bag drop-off by doing so.

    http://www.seatguru.com will give you tips on the best seats in the plane. eg watch out for the back row of the section cos you’ll sometimes get a seat that won’t recline. Some boeing layouts have a back section with only 2 seats together instead of 3, etc.

  27. The coolest thing to bring on a plane: a slinky.

    No, really! During take-off (and before the plane even actually lifts off), if you launch a slinky from the front of the plane, it will slink all the way down to the rear :D

    More usefully, I always bring my own satin eye-cover thingy, cause the ones they give you on the plane are always super scratchy, and that’s the last thing I want in my eyes while I’m tryna sleep!

  28. I was once on a 17.5 hour flight, and for ~14 of those hours the heating system was completely broken.
    You can’t imagine how cold a plane is that high in the air.
    I almost cried for a few hours because I was too cold to sleep.
    Now I wear so many damn layers on planes, and bring extras in my carry-on.


  29. If you suffer from panic attacks, the right amount of coffee is always zero. It’s harsh, but true.

    Xanax is my favorite flight anxiety remedy because as soon as I take it I immediately fall asleep. I also like really, really easy sudokus, because on the chance I wake up, they are good to keep me busy when only half my brain is functioning.

  30. I’ve been flying quite a lot in the past two, or well ten, years. I agree that you must always pack last-minute and try to have no checked luggage. That’s worked well for me. Also, I’ve been finding that the more I fly the more my fear of flying increases…

    I love the TV show Lost. When the series ended I was still about a season and a half behind and I made it a goal to catch up completely. I am still not done catching up yet. The sole reason for why it has taken me so long is that I fly too much. Whenever I am gearing up to go somewhere I simply cannot watch that show a month or less before I fly. Experience taught me that watching the show close to flying time will increase my fear by at least a factor of 10, with me spending the entire flight praying to God and bargaining with Him at every little bump in the air.

    Also, you know those girls who look dressed to walk a runway when they board a plane? I am not one of them. I wear comfortable clothes that would work IN A JUNGLE. My rationale is that if the plane crashes, on the offchance that I survive, I will probably find myself the middle of nowhere in some jungle and I would NOT want to have to walk around in heels/barefoot in a jungle. Same rationale prevents me from taking sleeping pills or drinking too much. Don’t want other survivors to leave me or worse because I am sleeping or inebriated when the plane crashes.

    And Lost is sadly not the only thing contributing to me thinking about jungle survival before and when flying. Oh no. The Reader’s Digest stories one of my grade seven teachers used to read to us weekly (including stories where survivors draw straws to eat each other IN THE JUNGLE or where someone has to walk miles IN THE JUNGLE with a broken leg) is probably even more likely to blame for my permanently skewed perception of plane crashes where people survive.

    Thankfully, my next flight won’t be until April. Because all this thinking about my flying fears is fitting to make me start hyperventilating! :)

  31. I’m flying this afternoon, I’ll put this to good use! I’m alway to scared to watch things on my laptop though, I manage to convince myself that it will make the plane go funny and kill everyone. Even if the person next to me is on theirs…

  32. I hate flying. Hate it. I’ve tried every damn thing imaginable to get past the fear – nowt works. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to manage it is by using distraction and routine. So if you’re a nervous flyer these are the things I suggest:

    1. Sit in the same seat each time if possible, or find a favourite seat for each type of plane

    2. Earplugs. Drown out that noise – it’ll kill half the nerves

    3. Do not drink. If you’re a nervous flyer, drinking generally makes it worse. If you’re gonna drink, do it properly and numb it out!

    4. Get there early. You’d think being in an airport early would make things worse, but it allows you time to adjust, especially after the stressy security checks

    5. If you’re traveling with other people, some times its better sitting apart from them, it might stop you from feeling embarrassed about looking nervous

    6. Carry a book, or sudoku, to distract your brain during the journey. Remember that over zealous cabin crew make you turn off your Kindle during take-off/landing so bring something paper-based to read too

  33. I love flying! Admittedly, I sleep during most flights, but somehow always wake up for the food! ( Never really got that) Look out for some sweet looking hostesses, if none, ipod and sleep :)

  34. I always bring a small digital camera if I’m going to sit in a window seat. I just take pictures out the window of the clouds and bird’s eye view of the land/sea. IT’S SO ENTERTAINING. I’ve been on two-hour flights where I do nothing but that. Before you know it, you’ve landed and you’re sad because you want to keep taking pictures.

  35. Things I Know For Sure About Flying:
    -front of the airplane only
    -pee in the airport
    -my $100 ipod is not going to bring down a multi-million jet, turn up the volume

    And this helpful tip….when traveling with (ahem!) “Lifestyle Equipment”–I put that shit in ziploc bags right on top. It’s the first thing the surprised TSA agent sees when they unzip my carry-on bag. (oh gawd, I do love the look on their face; #evildelight)

    And srsly, they’re usually so freaked out by seeing my silicone that I could also be carrying kilos of sticky cocaine and nuclear devices along with 87 flasks of Somethingclever’s homemade ginger vodka. (YO CAPTAIN!-SHOUT OUT TO THE VARSITY BBQ TEAM !)

    my 0.02

  36. I saw this article:

    and it reminded me of this thread on Autostraddle. I swear that it was stories like these that were read to me in grade 7. I know the lady in this true story survived but her survival was much harder to achieve because she broke her glasses and couldn’t see all the scorpions, snakes and other dangerous JUNGLE creatures, and she was wearing a thin cotton minidress and flimsy sandals.

    Hell, if I ever wear my glasses or dress like that on a plane!

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