A smoke trail breezed overhead as I stared out the porthole window at the horizon. I took my first flight when I was about five years old. That year, I was all jelly bracelets, jelly shoes and charm necklace. My first “wings” were pinned to my windbreaker as we soared closer to Walt Disney World.
The sensation, sounds, smell, and sight of the first flight are imprinted in my memory forever, but the literally hundreds of flights that have come since blur into a vaguely bad memory. Flying sucks. At its best, flying is a point-A-to-point-B commute I make nearly every week for work. But more often, flying is an uncomfortable endurance act preformed in too close proximity to (read: touching) my fellow man.
Now, my sensory experience typically involves being kicked in the back by a child, hearing someone’s un-muted video game soundtrack, smelling the stench of McDonald’s take-out all while freezing my butt off. This undignified reality has led me to cultivate some simple techniques to minimize the pain.
The reader should know that I typically fly Southwest Airlines from Burbank. I’m sure there will be those who disagree with me, but for my dollar, Southwest gets my enthusiastic endorsement for these reasons:
• No change fees, ever.
• No baggage fees.
• A-List skips the ticketing line, skips the TSA line, boards first
• Free drink coupons (includes Vitamin Water!)
• Open seating
• Rapid Rewards points can be used to buy every seat on every flight all year
Obviously I’m a fan. Still, things sometimes go wrong on Southwest too. Once, they even ran out of Vitamin Water. Shame! The difference is that issues rarely happen, and are handled far better than with Untied (spelling intentional).
Brace yourself dear reader; the following list is your golden ticket to the best travel experience that can be achieved on Southwest Airlines – and many of my tips will also cross over to other carriers too. This knowledge has been earned after hundreds of flights, and is all yours for free.
Before you go:
1) Download any movies or T.V. shows you’ll want to view on the plane. In-flight wifi is great for reading your twitter feed and browsing online, but it doesn’t have the bandwidth to download, so plan ahead.
2) Bring your own healthy snacks. For instance, if you have a morning flight, bring a packet of oatmeal and a spoon. When the beverage service comes around ask for a cup of hot water for tea and an extra cup. You’ll have everything you need for instant oatmeal and a practically free breakfast.
3) Dress for the climate you’re in; and bring options in case in-flight weather dips to that of a Canada-esque winter. Consider having all these items handy: socks, a scarf (doubles as a blanket), yoga tights and a sweater. Don’t wear leather pants and super high heels because you’ll be miserable. Don’t wear flip flops, shorts and a tank or you’ll freeze in a cryogenic pause until arrival.
4) Select your seat with this in mind:
a. 9D gets served a drink first (especially helpful if you’re hungry and want that oatmeal STAT)
b. The exit row is in high demand because no kids are allowed, no pre-board injured people and no one who requires a seatbelt extender – thus weeding out a lot of special needs neighbors.
c. All the window seats are about 10-degrees colder than the middle and aisle options.
d. The window seat in the exit row has ½ the cushion as the other exit row seats and an unmovable armrest.
e. Burbank loads and unloads from both the front and back doors, so the last row seats on a flight to Burbank are actually super great because they will most likely get out first.
5) Enjoy FREE Dish TV including live sports! But, don’t count totally on the wifi working, many times it doesn’t. So always have a low-tech entertainment option ready as backup.
6) If your neighbor is too chatty – put on headphones. If that doesn’t work, tell them you have a headache. If that doesn’t work, tell them you need silence to meditate. If that doesn’t work, consider jumping out the exit door.
7) If the person in front of you reclines and you object – aim your air vent at their head and set it to full throttle. Typically the arctic blast will correct the situation with no confrontation. (not always)
8) If you must use the bathroom, wear your shoes!! For the love of all things holy, it is not clean in there, and dudes sometimes miss the target. You do not want to be in there in socks or barefoot unless you are current on your shots.
9) Help people around you, especially old people, injured people and families with all the gear that kids require. Helping minimizes the stress for these people, reduces the risk of a suitcase falling on your head (only happened to me once) and actually speeds up the process for everyone. Plus, it is nice.
So, there you have it, my best advice. Following these steps, you will be comfy, satiated and entertained. You’ll effectively insulate yourself from the (in)humanity around you. Stuff can, and will, still go wrong – like the time someone’s water bottle in the overhead opened and poured all over my jeans meaning I sat in wet jeans for a full flight!!! – these tips will ensure you are protected against the more common issues.