17 Hacks To Make Flying Better

Tips to help you hack the system for a better flying experience.

1. To the left, to the left

Psychological studies reveal that the majority of people instinctively choose to turn right. Turn left and you’ll generally be joining a shorter queue.

Courtesy of Miriampastor via Flickr

2. Save money on snacks


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There’s nothing more annoying than airport mark-ups. The solution- take your own snacks along. Not only is this healthier but you won’t be caught short when shops close at midnight, also you’ll save.

3. It doesn’t hurt to ask for an upgrade

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Especially if it’s your birthday or wedding anniversary, ask politely and you never know what could happen.

4. Take along a re-usable empty water bottle


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Take an empty water bottle through security then fill up at the boarding gate to save on the mark-up on bottled water in the waiting area. It’s also environmentally-friendly.

5. Keep warm

On some flights to the US you might have to pay extra for an airline blanket. Dress in layers with a snug sweater or jacket to keep those icy mid-flight temperatures at bay.

6. Invest in a portable charger


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Many airports have charging outlets available however these can get quite crowded. Also you’re stuck in one place until those bars are fully charged.The latest portable chargers are super convenient and not unreasonably priced, you can get one online in SA for around R350.

7. Get in line behind a business traveller


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Business travellers have places to be and are usually experienced flyers. Join a queue behind one and try to keep up the pace. Remember to keep your laptop in an easily accessible bag to save time.

8. Sign up for flight notifications


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With certain airlines you can sign up for a free sms service where you’re instantly notified about changes to your flight. This service is available at Abu Dhabi International. Sign up here.

9. Consider a day pass to an airline lounge

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Many airline lounges allow walk-ins for a fee. Often more luxurious and cheaper than a hotel, you can eat like royalty (with 24 hour snacks available and 5 star restaurant meals), stretch out on comfortable armchairs, use the office facilities, browse libraries and get some serious Netflix and chill time in. For just a little extra use the shower and spas. Find out more about the Oryx lounge in Doha here and Al Reem and Al Dhabi lounges in Abu Dhabi here.

10. Take advantage of free layover tours


Turkish Airlines offers an exciting complimentary tour of Istanbul for their customers (to qualify all you have to do is make sure you have minimum 6 hours transit time, maximum 24 hours, and that transit time needs to occur within the hours of 9am and 6pm) as does Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority. They offer a complimentary 3 hour tour of Doha which visits four key landmarks.

11. Go for a run before your flight

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Before leaving for the airport try to fit in a run, not only will you breathe in lots of fresh air pre-flight but you’ll release endorphins, feel relaxed and find it easier to sleep on the plane.

12. Choose eye catching luggage

bright luggage

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Avoid carousel anxiety when collecting your luggage and save time by choosing an unusual, easy-to-spot bag. Or invest in some brightly-coloured luggage tags (available from Cape Union Mart).
brightly coloured luggage tags

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13. Take a nap in a sleep pod

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Aviation has gone space-age with some airports (Abu Dhabi, Helsinki, Dubai, New Delhi) offering passengers sleep-pods, cosy self-cleaning sleep spaces where you can catch a little shut-eye before your next flight. Just take care not to oversleep!

14. Eat light meals on the plane and stay hydrated

Drinking Water (PET to glass)

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The lack of humidity in the cabin dries out your skin and can cause dehydration unless you remember to drink lots of water. All those annoying trips to the bathroom will help keep your circulation flowing. As tempting as it is to indulge out of boredom try not to eat too much as you’ll find it easier to sleep.

15. If you must drink go for something savoury

Bloody Mary

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At 35,000 feet, the first thing to go is your sense of taste, with the exception of savoury foods. Which explains why tomato juice in a bloody Mary tastes incredible on a flight.

16. US Pre-Clearance

The worst part of a long-haul flight to the US is without a doubt the border control queue when you arrive. Certain airports offer a US pre-clearance facility. This means no standing in a 2 or 3 hour queue after a long flight to the US. After clearing US pre-clearance you check in your baggage to your final destination and step off the plane as if it was a domestic flight. This facility is available in Abu Dhabi International airport, Canada and two airports Shannon airport and Dublin Airport in Ireland as well as a couple of airports in the Bahamas, Aruba and Bermuda.

17. Take a pair of sunglasses along

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Frequent travelers swear by the old sunglasses while you’re sleeping trick to deter pedantic security guards and ward off pick-pockets. If you are planning on roughing it in an airport for a night check here for more info about sleeping in airports.

Do you have any flying hacks you’d like to add? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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