You know all the basics of making air travel more comfortable — drink tons of water, pack noise-canceling headphones, wear your most comfortable sweatpants, try to get your doctor to prescribe you some of those really strong sleeping pills. Those are all great ideas — so why is plane travel still such a miserable experience?
Well, the short answer is that plane travel is just terrible. Of course, in the big picture sense, plane travel is amazing — you can go all the way across the world in a single day, while watching Maleficent and eating complimentary Pop Chips. I mean, that's all that our forefathers ever wanted for us. But even though airports have gotten infinitely more comfortable through the years, with their boutique eateries and soothing indie music and all, the airplanes themselves remain weird little fart-filled capsules where everyone is in a terrible mood, and seatmates who refuse to speak a word to you will fight you over the elbow rest like they are in the Cornucopia from The Hunger Games.
I don't know that flying will ever be pleasurable, unless you're in first class (which, for my own sanity, I'm going to assume you're not). But we can definitely make the whole experience a little but more tolerable, and a little bit less of a nightmare. So in honor of you, brave heroes who are flying our friendly skies, here are nine hacks to help make your ride a little bit less awful.
Before You Leave
Drink Lots of Water and Take Probiotics to Prevent A, Uh, "Travel Delay"
I know I have already shared far, far too much about my nether regions on this website, but I have to tell you, every time I fly, I get flight constipation that feels like someone has built a brick wall across my butthole. This is why I am always scowling in my vacation pictures. I haven't discovered a full solution for myself yet, but if you too suffer from this scourge, experts recommend taking probiotics for a few days before your flight, and staying hydrated before and during your flight. Get so, so, so hydrated. That means water before the airport, water at the airport, and water on the plane, no matter how magical the idea of free unlimited Diet Cokes sounds.
Put a Brightly Colored Sticker or Tape on Your Suitcase
If you do check luggage, make sure to affix something brightly colored to the handle or body that will make it stand out on the luggage carousel. This will make it easier to spot (unless you have one of those Hello Kitty suitcases or something, in which case, good job, and carry on).
Pack Clothes You No Longer Want
If you're just planning on hanging around the house and doing minimal Instagramming on your trip, why not just pack clothes you want to get rid of anyway? I'm not talking about spending you holiday break wearing stained Umbros and a size XXXL promotional Smallville t-shirt that you got in high school.
But if you pack clothes that are in good condition but just don't really work for you — say, that mustard-colored sweater from J. Crew that is almost new, but always made you look kind of sickly, so you stopped wearing it? Or that blouse that looked great online, but makes you look six months pregnant IRL? — you can wash them and donate them to the Salvation Army on your way out of town, leaving you with plenty of room in your luggage for presents and weird Spice Girls memorabilia that you found in your childhood bedroom.
At the Airport
Put Everything In Your Pockets Into Your Purse While You're On the Security Line
You know the way that the security line seems to last for eighty or ninety hours, but you don't really do anything productive, like loosen your shoes or take our your liquids, until you're up by the plastic bins and in a complete frenzy? You may not have that much room to get that much done on the line, but try loosening your shoes, and dump everything from your pockets into your purse (or, if you don't carry a purse, a Ziploc bag).
That way, you're prepared when it's time for you to finally go through the security check, and not all freaked out that you dropped something while you were trying to empty everything into those plastic bins at once. Now you can worry about more important stuff, like whether those x-ray security things can see your nipple piercing. That can't be legal, right?
Throw All of Your Extra Crap Into a Large Airport Shopping Bag
Since it costs approximately $100,000 to check luggage on most airlines these days, most of us are struggling mightily to fit all of our shizz into a single carry-on. That's a challenge to begin with, but around the holidays, it gets even worse — what about all the presents you're carrying to your family, or all the lumpy, misshapen sweaters you're going to have to carry back?
You can work around this a bit by carrying your extra goods in your arms through security — they're concerned with safety, not how the sweaters you're carrying fit into your backpack. Then, once you're through security, go to the gift shop, buy gum and a magazine, and ask for a huge shopping bag. Then dump all of your extra stuff in there. Boom, it just looks like you bought a ton of stuff in the airport shops, and even if the flight attendants at the gate take your bag from you because it exceeds space limitations, they shouldn't charge you for it.
Pack An Empty Water Bottle
Rather than paying $9 at the airport for a bottle of water that's been ethically sourced from pure artisanal streams in the airport's bathroom, just pack an empty bottle. It'll make it through security, and that you can then fill it at a water fountain. Then you can use your money on more important stuff, like $19 quesadillas at the airport Chili's, or those fancy make-up vending machines that they have sometimes.
In the Air
Don't Freak Out Over Turbulence
Do you have such intense fears of flying that you believe the plane will crash if you don't hold your feet directly parallel on the floor for all of take-off? Me too. And while that specifically is one issue that we should discuss with the medical professionals in our lives, one fact that's soothed me some if the fact that turbulence doesn't cause plane crashes. To pilots, turbulence is annoying, but not scary, and definitely not dangerous.
If You Get Airsick, Sit By the Wings
Planes experience the least up-and-down movement in the area by the wings, so if you're prone to feeling barfy, grab a seat right over the wing. After all, it would be a shame to throw up that tasteless cheese sandwich you just bought on board. That sandwich cost $9!
Pack a Pashima or Huge Scarf in the Bag Under Your Seat
This is a life hack that I learned the hard way. I took an international flight, from someplace warm to somewhere else warm, and didn't really give packing a bulky sweater any thought. Cut to me in hour five of an eight hour flight, basically trying to barter jewelry or sexual favors to a flight attendant if she would just give me a blanket. No dice — they were all taken. And so I spent the next three hours with my arms tucked into my shirt, shivering and making pathetic faces like a Precious Moments figurine.
But on the way back, I packed a sweatshirt, a scarf, a hat, and even extra tops in my carry-on bag — and, predictably, didn't need them at all. Save yourself all the trouble by packing a pashima or one of those giant wool scarves that are so trendy right now in your carry-on — they'll keep you warm if you need them, and take up less space if you don't. And remember, it's colder by the exit doors and windows!
May the non-annoyance be with you.