Airplane Hacks for Expats: 8 Tips from an Expert

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Expats typically travel a lot. There is, of course, the “Big Move” when you relocate to your destination country. Unless you’re driving, chances are your next trip or move will include flying. After all the planning is done, it’s nice to know that once you step foot on the airplane an adventure shortly waits.

We want you to make the most of your airplane experience. Take it from me, a flight attendant who knows the inside scoop of having a First Class travel experience, regardless of where you’re seated.

1. APP up the Airline

Before heading to the airport, check to see if the airline you’re traveling with has an app for your smartphone device. Often times you can use the app to book flights, check-in for your flight, watch arrival/departure times, find out information on the aircraft you’re taking, and see how full the plane is. Some airlines have even gone as far as putting FREE in-flight entertainment on their app, so you’ll be well amused on board.

Airplane and Travel Tips

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2. Pick Your Seat Wisely

The seat you sit in for those two, five or ten-hour flight could be your best friend…or worst enemy. There are, of course, things you can’t control (i.e. the inevitable crying baby on board, Mr. Recliner in front of you), but there are seats that will definitely benefit your flight experience and you’ll want to snatch them up fast. This is when sites such as SeatGuru and SeatExpert come in handy. You’ll be able to scout out seats with flaws (the window-less window seats, the seats with limited recline, the lavatory neighbor seats), as well as the seats with bonus points (some rows have more legroom than others).

TIP: If you’re a nervous or nauseous flyer, choose a seat closest to the wings or as close to the front of the plane as you can. Turbulence is felt most at the back of the airplane.

Travel and Airplane Hacks

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3. Book an Airplane Meal

If you’re going overseas or on a flight with complimentary meal service, call the airline a few days before departure and request a special meal: vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free, etc. Special meals are delivered right before the meal service so you’re the first one to eat (even if you’re in the back row). You’ll be guaranteed a hot plate fresh out of the oven!

4. Less is More

You’re not just imagining it: overhead bins on airplanes are getting smaller. The less you pack, the less stress you’ll have trying to find a spot onboard for your luggage. Most airlines follow a policy that if you travel with more than one piece of luggage (i.e. a suitcase + a purse/backpack), one-piece must go underneath the seat in front of you (think: already there’s less legroom). Pack smart: one backpack is often enough to fit all your essential in-flight gadgets and must-haves.

TIP: If your bags meet the carry-on size requirements, dodge the $25+ checked bag fee and get your bag checked for FREE at the gate while you’re boarding the airplane. Many airlines offer this complimentary service in order to speed up the boarding process.

5. Dress for Winter

It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving Aruba or Alaska, airplanes just love to blast the air conditioning. Not all flights offer complimentary blankets either, so make sure you have a warm sweater, socks or a blanket readily available for the flight.

TIP: The coldest seats on an airplane are at the emergency exits

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6. H2 Oh…

Sometimes airlines use potable water for drink service. This water is completely safe to drink but may taste different. After you pass security, buy a big water bottle to have with you on board, or ask for a glass of canned soda water instead.

7. Pack a Pen

“Going overseas? You need one of these.” The biggest tip I can tell you as a flight attendant is to always have a pen with you. From customs cards to connection announcements over the P.A., you never know when you might need to jot something down.

8. Bring Plastic

Planning on having a glass of red at 36,000ft? For airlines that offer food and alcohol for purchase onboard, don’t forget to bring your credit card. Many airlines will not accept cash or any form of debit/gift card.

We want to hear from all the other veteran expats! What airplane hacks do you live by? Let us know by tweeting at GoodMigrations with the hashtag #airplanehacks

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