Love it or hate it, flying on an airplane is a common part of travel. So, if you have to fly, you might as well make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
We’ve compiled this list of 46 of our best airplane and travel hacks to elevate your flight experience, including everything from flight booking hacks and packing hacks to airport hacks and inflight hacks.
We hope you’ll be able to use some of these flight tricks to make your next travel experience as awesome as possible.
Flight Booking Hacks
A great flight starts with a great booking experience. Try these tricks the next time you have to book a flight.
1. Be Flexible To Save Money
If you want to find cheap flights, it’s best to be flexible. When your dates aren’t set in stone, you can use the flexible date search option in Google Flights to see what dates offer the cheapest tickets. Just visit Google Flights, enter your origin and destination cities, then click on the travel dates.
You’ll see the prices for your flight every day in the calendar. Use the trip duration settings at the bottom to choose your desired trip length or play around to see if the trip length affects the ticket price. The lowest-priced tickets will be shown in green.
2. Stay Alert
Another way to keep an eye out for the lowest price tickets is by signing up for flight deal alerts. Websites like Google Flights, Kayak, and Skyscanner allow you to sign up for fare alerts on your chosen route so you know if and when the price drops.
3. Use Points To Book Your Flight
We couldn’t write a flight hack post without mentioning points and miles, could we? Of course not, since that’s our specialty! Using points to book your flight is an easy way to save on the out-of-pocket expense of travel. Plus, using points to book business and first class flights is a great way to make your entire flight experience so much more comfortable than flying in the back of the plane.
Hot Tip: If you’re brand new to the points and miles game, start with our beginner’s guide to bring you up to speed.
4. Get Help Finding Award Availability
Using miles to book a flight is a great way to fly, but finding award availability can sometimes prove to be difficult. If you need help, look at a tool like ExpertFlyer, Award Nexus, or Seat Spy. These websites can help you find award seat availability without spending all day searching.
5. Don’t Leave Miles on the Table
Whether or not this is your first trip on a specific airline or your fiftieth, sign up for the airline’s frequent flyer program and make sure your frequent flyer number is attached to your reservation. If you never plan on flying the airline again, you can credit the miles you’ll earn to a partner airline.
6. Choose Your Seat Wisely
No one wants to get stuck in a middle seat in the back of the plane next to the bathroom, right? That one is obvious, but there are pros and cons to other seats as well.
- If you get motion sickness, choose a seat over the wing so you’ll feel less turbulence.
- Choose a seat in front of the plane if you’ve got a short connecting time.
- If you’re traveling with another person, choose a window and aisle seat toward the back of the plane. Unless the flight is sold out, you’ll have a decent chance that no one will choose the middle seat between you.
- If you want to sleep during your flight, go with a window seat.
- If you’re more comfortable having easy access to the bathroom, an aisle seat toward the back of the plane will be your best bet.
- If you definitely need a small bag with you during the flight, don’t choose a bulkhead seat because they don’t have anywhere to store a carry-on other than the overhead bins.
Use a tool like SeatGuru to find seat maps for your flight, along with notes about the pros and cons of every seat. This website is a must if you want to find the perfect seat on your next flight.
7. Book a Flexible Ticket
Thankfully, many airlines are offering flexible cancellation and change policies these days, but be sure to read the fine print. These policies often don’t apply to the cheapest basic economy fares. If you want flexibility, you might need to pay a little more upfront.
Packing a suitcase is an art, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. These easy packing hacks will help you save space and ensure that you’re prepared for anything.
8. Keep Your Suitcase Organized
A packing tip that many can agree on is that packing cubes are a must. These zippered bags come in lots of different sizes and colors to keep your clothes organized. When you arrive at your destination, just move the packing cubes to the drawers, unzip, and you’ve unpacked in an instant.
If you’re packing for multiple people in 1 bag, assign everyone a different color packing cube to keep everything organized.
9. Bring the Ultimate Travel Accessory
A large scarf is a versatile item that is the perfect travel accessory. When you pack one in your carry-on bag, you can use it as a blanket to stay warm or for lumbar support to stay comfortable on the plane. Then use it as a scarf in cold weather destinations or as a beach cover-up for tropical vacations.
10. Pack Vacation Essentials in Your Carry-on
Picture this: your flight arrives at your vacation destination and you’re so excited to hit the pool at your resort — but your luggage didn’t make it yet! What could be a wasted vacation day for others is no big deal for you because you’re prepared. You packed an extra set of clothes in your carry-on, including important vacation items like a bathing suit, sunscreen, and flip flops, so you can wait for your delayed luggage sipping a tropical cocktail by the pool instead of being grumpy in your hotel room in the jeans and sneakers you wore on the plane.
11. Don’t Dry Out
Dry airplane air can easily dehydrate your body. In addition to drinking plenty of water on your flight, don’t forget to pack lip balm and hand lotion in your carry-on bag to combat uncomfortable dry skin. If you typically wear contact lenses, opt for glasses on your flight since the plane’s dry air can make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable.
12. Pay Attention to Your Toiletries
Make sure your toiletries are in travel-sized containers if you’re planning on using carry-on luggage only. You can invest in a good travel toiletry bag to keep everything organized, or opt for the budget route and put travel-sized containers in a Ziploc bag to keep them from leaking on your clothes.
These tricks of the trade are things to think about before you get on your flight.
13. Know Where You’re Going
If you’ll be traveling somewhere where Wi-Fi might be spotty or unavailable, it’s a good idea to download offline maps of the areas you’ll be visiting so you can access them even when you can’t access the internet.
To download a Google Map for use offline, just type in your destination. Then click on the destination name at the bottom of your screen.
Then click on the 3 dots in the upper right-hand corner and select Download offline map.
14. Stay Entertained
While many airlines offer inflight entertainment, there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve got plenty of your favorites ready to go. Download podcasts, music, audiobooks, or Netflix shows before you take off to ensure you have plenty to keep you occupied during your flight.
If you’re planning on watching movies or shows on your phone, bring a small stand or mount to set up on your tray table so you don’t have to hold your phone for the whole flight.
15. Charge Up
Be prepared. Charge all of your electronic devices the day before you leave so they are ready to go for your flight. Keep all of your charging cords handy in your carry-on bag in case you need to charge up at the airport, or bring a portable charger if you think you’ll need more battery power during your flight.
16. Be Ready To Write
If you’ll be traveling internationally, bring a pen. This will save you from having to rely on your fellow passengers to borrow a pen on the flight to fill out customs forms.
17. Think About Meals Ahead of Time
If you’re on a long-haul flight that will be serving a meal and you’ve got dietary restrictions, be sure to order a special meal before your flight. If you wait until you’re on the plane, you’ll be stuck with the standard options.
Flying With Kids Hacks
Flying with kids can be an adventure, but with these pro tips, it will be as stress-free as possible.
18. Book a Bassinet Seat
Did you know that many airplanes (especially on long-haul international flights) have a few seats that can accommodate a bassinet on board (usually the bulkhead seats)? If you’re flying with a baby, book early and call the airline to reserve one of these seats.
19. Pack Snacks
If you’re a parent, you know that snacks are the answer to about 85% of your kids’ problems. This is no different on a flight. Pack snacks and everything will be okay.
20. Bring Lollipops To Help Pop Ears
Air pressure changes can affect kids’ ears more than adults’ ears. To help your little one pop their ears, give them a lollipop.
21. Keep Them Entertained
We aren’t saying you should always bribe your kids with new toys, but a long flight is a great time to go ahead and bribe your kids with a new toy! Having something new will help keep them happy and entertained for longer.
If your child is sitting in the window seat, give them a package of gel window clings to play with, or try an airplane toy for a child’s first flight. The toy itself doesn’t matter as much as the novelty of having a new toy.
If all else fails, or even if you just want to keep things simple, bring a tablet with plenty of shows or games downloaded, along with child-friendly headphones. Most adults use screens for the whole flight, so why not let your kids do the same?
22. Use up Energy Before the Flight
Kids have a ton of energy, and it’s a great idea to get rid of as much of it as possible before you board the plane. Many airports these days have specially designed kids’ play areas for this exact purpose.
If your airport doesn’t have a play area, take kids on a walk and let them ride the people movers (making sure they don’t get in the way of others trying to quickly make it to their gate, of course). When all else fails, try to find an empty area (the far end of the terminal is probably your best bet) and let them run wild.
Pre-flight Airport Hacks
You can make the time you spend in the airport before your flight as comfortable and stress-free as possible with these airport hacks.
23. Remember Where You Park
While you think you’ll remember where you parked, it’s not quite so easy to remember after a week-long vacation. To help your memory out, take a picture of your parking space with any recognizable features and the parking row number so you can find your car easily when you return.
24. Skip the Long TSA Security Line
How would you like to breeze through the TSA security line — without taking your shoes off? That can all be achieved when you have TSA PreCheck. This program essentially gives you access to shorter security lines and the ability to pass through without taking your shoes and jacket off and without having to remove your laptop and toiletries from your bag. It’ll save time and hassle each time you fly.
According to the TSA, the majority of TSA PreCheck passengers wait less than 5 minutes in security lines.
Hot Tip: While TSA PreCheck costs $85 for a 5-year membership (and many would argue it’s absolutely worth that price), you can get it for free with many credit cards.
25. A “Touchless” and Even Faster Way To Skip Long Security Lines
Breeze through the security lines without having to even take your ID out of your wallet. CLEAR is a program that allows you to do just that because it uses biometrics to verify your identity. After your identity is successfully confirmed (through an eye scan), you’ll be escorted to the front of the security line.
CLEAR costs $189 annually and is available in select airports across the country. Several credit cards include a discounted or complimentary CLEAR membership as part of their benefits.
26. Go Left
If you have a choice, choose the security lines to the left — people tend to naturally go right more often than not, so the left lines may be shorter.
27. Be Ready for the Security Line
Regardless of whether or not you have TSA PreCheck, be ready to get through the security line quickly. Have your ID and boarding pass ready to go — do not wait until you’re at the front of the line to get these things out. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, make sure you have your liquids and laptop easily accessible so you can remove them quickly without holding up the line.
Hot Tip: Be prepared before your flight. Know what you can and can’t bring through TSA security and check these TSA security FAQs for the answers to some common questions.
28. Don’t Pay for Checked Luggage
Checking your luggage can be expensive these days. While it might be easy to just bring a carry-on bag for some trips, many of us will still need to check a bag from time to time. You can avoid paying crazy baggage fees by choosing an airline that doesn’t charge for bags, like Southwest, by having airline elite status, or by having an airline credit card. Many airline credit cards come with free checked baggage, which can save you lots of money, even if you only fly a couple of times a year.
29. Don’t Buy Water
Buying water in an airport gift shop is expensive and isn’t great for the environment. Instead, bring an empty water bottle through security then fill it at the filling station or drinking fountain after security. You’ll save money and reduce your plastic usage at the same time.
30. Stay Active
With many of us using fitness trackers and smartwatches these days, getting a recommended number of daily steps or movement time has become commonplace. To balance out sitting on an airplane for hours at a time, take the time before your flight to walk. Getting a few laps in around the terminal before you board your flight is a great way to stay active, even on travel days, and it provides great people-watching, too.
31. Get the Right Size Carry-on Bag
Before you attempt to pack for a week-long trip in 1 carry-on bag, make sure it’s the right size for a carry-on, and make sure you can lift it up to get it in the overhead bin. While other passengers will often offer to help lift heavy bags into the overhead bins, savvy travelers can manage their bags on their own.
Hot Tip: Need a new bag? Check out some of our favorite carry-on luggage bags for any traveler.
32. Know How To Access a Lounge
Airports are places we all spend a lot of time just waiting. So, next time you fly, plan to wait in style in an airport lounge. Lounges offer quieter places to get work done or to grab a snack and drink before your flight. Some even offer luxury amenities like showers and massages.
Having a Priority Pass membership allows you to access over 1,300 airport lounge locations in over 600 cities across the world. The best part is that many credit cards come with a Priority Pass membership.
33. Know Your Luggage
While it’s not inevitable, sometimes your luggage doesn’t make it onto the same flight as you. When this happens, you’ll most likely need to fill out lost/delayed luggage paperwork that will include an area for you to describe your luggage. A description of “black suitcase” isn’t going to cut it, so make sure you know exactly what your luggage looks like. When in doubt, take a photo of it before you fly, for reference.
We love traveling here at Upgraded Points and have picked up lots of tricks along the way. These airplane hacks will help make your flight as comfortable and as fun as possible.
34. Put Your Bag in the Right Spot
When choosing a spot for your carry-on bag in the overhead bin, go for the space on the opposite side of your seat, directly across from or slightly in front of your seat (never put your bag behind you). That way you can see your bag from your seat and you’ll easily be able to grab it after the flight without having to wait for the people behind you to deplane before you can grab your bag.
35. Block Everything Out
One of the keys to really relaxing and enjoying a flight is the ability to block out airplane noise to enjoy your podcast, music, or movie. Because of that, having noise-canceling headphones is a great way to make your flight more enjoyable.
36. Brush Your Teeth
No, we aren’t suggesting you need to brush your teeth on that quick flight from Chicago to New York City, but brushing your teeth on long-haul flights or flights where you’ll be sleeping can really make a difference in how refreshed you feel. Be sure to pack your toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste (or even a disposable product like Colgate Wisp), and don’t forget to use bottled water.
37. Be Nice
While this should come easily to many people, it bears repeating. Be polite and respectful to the flight attendants. They are there to ensure your safety and to help you have a comfortable flight and they deserve your respect. If you’re having a bad flight or don’t like a policy, don’t take it out on them.
If you think you’ll need extra attention from the flight attendants during your trip, consider bringing a small, edible gift like a piece of chocolate or a cookie (prepackaged, store-bought) as a gesture of thanks.
38. Clean Your Tray Table
While airplane cleaning standards have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, things like tray tables are not necessarily cleaned between each flight. According to Forbes, airplane seatback tray tables are the dirtiest part of the airplane, so be sure to pack some disinfecting wipes and clean your tray table before using it.
39. Choose Your Drink Wisely
Be sure to drink plenty of water during your flight to stay hydrated. While you might not like it, it’s best to avoid alcohol on planes, since it can speed up dehydration and could lead to a fuzzy start to your vacation. It’s also best to avoid carbonated drinks as the bubbles combined with changes in air pressure can cause discomfort for some people.
40. Sleep Like a Pro
There’s a definite art to sleeping on a plane, and unless you’re one of those lucky people that can fall asleep anywhere, you’ll need all the help you can get. Use a sleeping mask and earplugs to block out light and sound, and bring along a comfortable travel pillow to give your head and neck some support. Choosing a window seat can also make sleeping easier since you can lean up against the side of the plane.
Another trick to help you sleep on airplanes is to wear a jacket or sweatshirt with a hood. Putting up the hood will help keep you warm but will also cover your ears and part of your face, giving you more of a sense of comfort and privacy. Some hoods are big enough to pull down to cover your eyes, too.
41. Dress in Layers
Airplanes can often be freezing… unless they are way too hot. The problem is, you never know which temperature extreme your plane might suffer from until you are on it, so it’s best to dress in layers so that you’re prepared for anything. Always bring a jacket in the summer and wear a t-shirt under your sweater in the winter.
Hot Tip: If you bring a jacket but don’t need it on the plane, you can roll it up and use it as extra lumbar support.
42. Bring Socks
If you’re wearing sandals on your travel day, bring a pair of socks to wear on the plane. Your feet will stay warm and your seatmate will appreciate not being up close and personal with your bare feet.
If your feet and legs have a tendency to swell, consider bringing compression socks onboard to wear during your flight. They will help reduce fluid retention, swelling, and may even reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Post-flight Airport Hacks
The travel hacks don’t stop when your flight lands. Use these tips to travel like a pro.
43. Find Your Luggage Quickly
Many bags can look the same, so it’s smart to use a unique luggage tag or tie a brightly colored ribbon around your checked bags to make them easily identifiable in the baggage carousel. Alternatively, you can buy luggage in a variety of colors and patterns that are easy to pick out of a crowd.
44. Late Bags? Earn Points!
Did you know that some airlines offer bonus points if your bags are late?
Delta Air Lines offers the “Bags On Time” guarantee. If your bags take more than 20 minutes to reach the baggage carousel after any domestic flight, you’re eligible for 2,500 bonus miles by completing this form.
Alaska Airlines offers a $25 discount code for future travel or 2,500 bonus miles when your bags take more than 20 minutes to reach the baggage carousel. To make a claim, you need to visit the Alaska Airlines baggage desk at the airport within 2 hours of your flight’s arrival.
45. Speed Through Customs
If you travel internationally even just once or twice a year, Global Entry can save you tons of time. This program allows members to speed through customs upon reentry back into the U.S. Instead of waiting in the long customs lines, Global Entry members scan their passports and enter customs information at a kiosk before heading to baggage claim.
Bottom Line: Global Entry is a great program that will help you speed through the airport after international flights. It costs $100 to apply and the membership lasts 5 years. The great news is that many travel rewards credit cards come with a credit for the Global Entry application fee.
46. Save Money on Transportation
If you’ll be taking a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft from the airport, make sure you download the app before you need to use it. It will be easier and quicker to get a ride if your account is already set up, and you’ll have time to see if any of your credit cards offer discounts or bonus points. Be sure to add your credit card to your account and activate any bonus offers, if needed.
We think flying is fun and we hope that by using some of these amazing plane and flight hacks, you will, too! Also be sure to check out our best hotel hacks to get the most out of your next hotel stay. If you’ve got additional travel hacks ideas, share them in the comments below.