Best bang for your buck
…Is not always the cheapest ticket. It all depends on your needs, comfort, and flexibility. The lowest fair flights almost never include luggage and require you to pay for a seat selection, do not allow any changes, cancelations, or upgrades, often have connections, some quite long and overnight. It is important to compare the flight exclusions with the level above to see if it might actually be better to pay a bit more to secure a seat of your choice and include luggage.
24 hour check-in
Available for pretty much any airline these days and I highly recommend taking advantage of it to get better seats, especially for airlines that don’t offer complimentary seat selection. The longer you wait the closer to the bathroom you’ll sit (unless of course, you have status). The other benefit of early check-in is that if you don’t have checked baggage you can head straight to security and that’ll be your only line. This is also a time to see what upgrade options you might have, for flights with unsold seats in higher cabins there might be some reasonable options for upgrading to premium or even business.
Whether or not you ate beforehand you will likely want to snack if your flight is over an hour so bring snacks with you because in-flight options will be minimal, small, and overpriced. Most airlines no longer offer complimentary meals for flights under 5 hours either so that’s another meal you should bring with you or you’ll be limited to refrigerated salads and dry sandwiches offered by the airline. Some food, like sandwiches, can be brought through security. Most flights include a meal service if you are flying premium economy so it is worth checking ahead of time.
Avoiding jet lag
I tend to always book flights that maximize my day time at the final destination, arrive early, leave later in the day, which often means that the departure flight is either early morning or overnight. To avoid jet lag the best thing you can do is go to bed early and sleep on the plane. For flights that take you into a completely different timezone, your sleep pattern should be planned in such a way that you are mentally ready to welcome your new country at the time of day it is: if you arrive in the morning sleep on the plane as you would at home if you arrive in the evening try to stay awake most of the flight so you get sleepy at the right time in the new timezone. It is also very important to hydrate during your flight so a good size bottle of water is a must.
For longer flights always check if your plane has in-flight entertainment so that you don’t get surprised by the pastel shades of the seat in front of you with nothing to watch or listen to and only the SkyMall to read for 6 hours. On that note, SkyMall could potentially be the most entertaining thing you will read – where else can you find Bob Marley garden gnomes and spaceship beds for your cat!
Cover image by Emiel Molenaar @emielmolenaar