It’s pretty easy to hunt down flying tips online – after all, flight and airport anxiety are common conditions which are experienced by just about everyone at some point (and if someone tells you that they’ve never experienced nervousness when flying, they’re probably sugar-coating it a tad). But how many flying tips tell you how your choices can make your flight as good as possible before you even leave home?
I’ll tell you: not flippin’ many. Because I get flight anxiety, and if those articles existed, I would’ve already had them tattooed to my inner arm in order to memorize them forever.
But rejoice! This is the article we’ve always wanted – air travel tips that actually work, backed up with statistical evidence courtesy of my pals at TripIt, which will actually explain how you can choose to have a great flight. These are the ultimate flying tips for nervous flyers, because you can ensure that you’re going to have a great flight as soon as you book it. No need for stress, worry, and general misery; you can book it and relax, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got everything covered for a satisfying travel experience. Isn’t that worth its weight in gold?
Bonus: you won’t even need to get it tattooed on you! (click that Pinterest button on the side, instead – because you’re going to want to save this one!)
How your choices can affect your flight
I’ve written a lot about travel anxiety (as well as airport anxiety – if you suffer from stress at your local terminal, then you should definitely give this guide a read), and it’s common knowledge that there’s things you can do to make your travel experience better. Getting to the airport in plenty of time in order to reduce stress at security, traveling at quiet times, making sure your luggage is in good condition: they’re all simple factors which can significantly reduce stress and increase travel happiness.
But what about going deeper? How can your choices – as early as when you book your flight – ensure that you have the best flight possible?
This is where TripIt have stepped up to the plate, y’all. I’ve long been a fan of their app: TripIt Pro is an awesome organisation tool which takes the worry out of travel, and I also consider it a must-have travel safety app, especially if you’re a female or LGBTQ traveler. As part of their ongoing quest to make travel as awesome as possible, they’ve been conducting some research into what makes people happy when they’re on a flight, resulting in their Happiest Traveler report. This has been some serious quizzing of air travelers (marking the happiness levels of a million flights), measuring what makes them happiest and most comfortable, and collating it into lovely, easily-digestible data for nerds like me to pore over.
Because if you squint at it the right way, this data is the magic, secret sauce for anxious travelers. It unlocks the information you’ve always wanted – how to make sure you have a good flight!
How to choose to have the best flight possible!
Okay, let’s break it down, and really analyse that data. Here’s what makes airplane passengers happiest – follow these flying tips when you book your flight, and you’ve just guaranteed that you’ve made your journey as good as it can be!
Open a new tab, and get your favorite flight checker ready – I recommend Momondo – so you can check your next destination!
1. Have a really short – or a really long – flight
One of the oft-repeated tips for flying – especially for nervous passengers – is to take short flights. After all, if you’re only flying for a few hours, you can’t really get too discomforted in that time. So it proved in the Happiest Traveler report, with short haul flights (less than three hours) scoring an average of 4.24 out of 5 stars when it comes to travel comfort. Okay, so far, so good.
But wait, what’s this? Long haul flight records (12 hours or more) show an average score of 4.35 stars out of five, actually making them more satisfying than short haul flights. Oh, you fickle public, you.
In fact, if you look at the highest-rated flights out of the U.S., the top three is dominated by long flights. Top of the list for traveler happiness is the 17hr flight from Dallas to Sydney, proving that when it comes to flying, the bigger the better. Perhaps it’s because people prepare themselves for a long flight, and pack their carry-on accordingly – items such as flight pillows and compression socks allow passengers to travel comfortably, and snooze the flight away.Or perhaps we’re all just secretly lazy, and like sitting down and doing nothing for the best part of the day; who knows.
In either case, to ensure a happy flight, book something with a really short, or really long, flight duration. You’ve also now got the perfect excuse not to visit those relatives who live five hours away. Darn.
2. Fly in the winter
The best time to fly is the summer, right? The skies are clear and turbulence-free. The sun is shining, and everyone’s in a happy mood. You’ll be filled with that vacation spirit… right?
Wrong! The summer months are actually the least happy for flying, thanks to the summer crowds who clog up airports, getting hot and bothered. Everyone wants that perfect summer vacation, and as soon as they get to the airport and see a massive queue…that sunny mood doesn’t last long. August, July, and June comprise the months in which traveler happiness is at its lowest, and planes are filled with grumpy, fractious families.
In fact, winter is your prime time to fly! The early parts of the year are filled with optimism, a shiny new year of travel ahead of you, and airports and flights tend to be much quieter. I can vouch for this: I was once on a flight from the UK to Prague, and it was so empty that my ridiculously-tall boyfriend and I were moved from our regular seats, to ones by the emergency exits on the wing. We had acres of legroom, and it’s by far the best flight I’ve ever been on, mostly because my boyfriend’s knees weren’t somewhere up by my ear.
Although I can’t guarantee you similarly-empty flights, traveling in winter gives you a much better chance of travel bliss.
3. Don’t worry about the facilities on your flight – except for the seats
Another common item on lists of first time flying tips is to pick airlines with good facilities on board. Free eye mask, WiFi, water bottle, food – your plane should be a veritable pub in the sky. But does this significantly increase the happiness of Mr. Joe Average-Traveler?
To an extent, it does. If a traveler expects amenities such as WiFi, food, or quality movies on the flight, but those things fail to materialize, their opinion of that airline drops severely. It’s basically like being promised a big bag of taste candies, and then having it whipped away from under your nose. I certainly don’t appreciate it when people do that to me with a bag of candies, and neither will your average traveler.
However, if you go a little deeper into which amenities truly make travelers happy, then it reveals that they really have just one need: a comfortable seat. In fact, a comfortable seat was rated as being 6 times more important than having WiFi, with good cabin service not far behind.
So if you want a better travel tip, here it is: don’t sweat too much on choosing a flight with a raft of facilities. Put more effort into picking your seat – maybe paying a little extra to get a seat with good legroom – and you’ll be far happier for it. Plus, there’s ways around a lack of WiFi or entertainment. Apps such as Netflix allow you to download television and movies to watch offline, and there’s a ton of offline games available for your phone or tablet. There’s also the best travel companion of all – a good book! Check out some of my favorites!
4. Fly first class… or go super-cheap
I’m sure you’ve seen it when you’ve flown. You’re queuing up to board the plane, a slightly sweaty boarding pass clutched in your hand. Ahead of you, people are stepping on to the plane, checking out the pilot through the window to the left (or am I the only one who does that?). The flight attendants check the passes, and the vast majority are sent right, into the hellish clutches of cattle class. The lucky few turn left, into the Elysian fields of first class. Surely they’re the happiest travelers?
Well… yes. As much as I’d love to make this list of flying tips absolutely revolutionary, and tell you that the people in first and business class, quaffing champagne in their designer pajamas, are secretly miserable, it would be a lie. Sorry. Predictably, people who travel in first class are by far the happiest travelers, with business class only the width of a gnat’s wing behind.
Surprisingly though, there’s two groups of people in Economy who tend to be super-happy with their flight: those who travel in Premium Economy (4.39), and those in Basic Economy (4.35). Standard Economy class, which you’d expect to be somewhere between the two, actually lags behind with a score of 4.24 out of 5 stars.
Want an even bigger surprise? People who traveled on discount airlines were the happiest of all – even beating the happiness score of people traveling in first class! With low cost airlines, you know what you’re getting, and probably expect something vaguely terrible. The low cost airlines are doing a fantastic job of exceeding expectations and giving value for money… which makes airline passengers extremely contented!
Moral of the story: go first class, or super-cheap. Either will give you satisfaction! Now, if only Ryanair would increase their carry on sizes…
5. Avoid major airports for your departure…
When you’re booking your flight, you might want to check where it departs from. Is it your local international terminal, chock-full of facilities, glamour, and weird art installations? Or is it that sleepy airport a few miles away?
If you’re departing from a mega-hub, you may want to look again. 65 airports in the United States were analysed for traveler happiness, and 6 of the top 10 were small, alternative airports – not a single major metro airport got into the top rankings. To take a few examples, Dallas Fort Worth (number 60), got absolutely battered by small alternative airport Dallas Love, which took the number one spot. Chicago O’Hare (number 61) was soundly beaten by Chicago Midway International (number 6). Think you need to fly from the mighty LAX for a smooth flight? Nope; you’re much better off traveling from Burbank (number 3).
It seems that when it comes to their outward flight, Americans prefer the smaller queues, and less crowded environs of alternative airports. On personal experience, I’d agree. So this is one of the most valuable of flying tips: forego the big, glossy airport for your departure, and go small and local.
6. … but arrive somewhere glitzy
As I said, travelers are fickle. When it comes to arriving at their destination, using small and local airport goes out of the window: we want gloss, glitz, and glamour. We want to be wowed by our new location, bowled over by another culture, and tickled pink by efficient luggage arrival. We want our vacations to start the minute we step off the plane, and we want it to impress us.
In the list of arrival airports which invoke the most happiness, destinations in Asia and the Middle East unsurprisingly corner the market. Doha in Qatar tops the list, with Dubai in a respectable 8th place. Meanwhile in Asia, Taipei snags second place, with top ten finishes for Seoul and Jakarta. Japan can celebrate with two Tokyo airports – Narita and Haneda – in 3rd and 5th place respectively.
When you’re booking your flight, remember that this entry on the travel tips list is the reverse of your departure flight: go big and brash.
Managing expectations: the key to having a great flight
There we have it! You can now see how your choices – factors than you can control – can lead to you having the best flights possible. It’s much simpler than you thought, right?
There is, however, one factor which is a constant all the way through these choices. It’s one of the best tips for flying with anxiety, and one of the best travel tips in general.
Traveler happiness is all about managing expectations.
Look back at the list. Nearly all of them contain increased happiness for passengers when their expectations are exceeded. From expecting and planning for a long flight, to getting more value than you expected on a cheap flight, the key to being satisfied and comfortable with your flight is to keep it realistic. We might expect entertainment or WiFi options that never materialize, or a straightforward experience in an airport which turns into a nightmare: all of that hurts our expectations, and makes our happiness levels dive like Jacques Cousteau.
Do your research and planning. Check airport security wait times on TripIt , or read reviews of planes on sites like SeatGuru. You can manage your expectations for the airport and your flight before you even leave home. If you suffer with flight anxiety, that can be absolutely invaluable. But in truth, there isn’t anyone who won’t benefit from these travel tips – you have the power to give yourself an awesome flight!
You’re a pro traveler now! Woohoo! Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to pick the best flights possible for you and your travel companions. That’s pretty cool, right?
How about sharing this article, so that others can ascend to your level of godhood? You want your friends to have good flights, too! Simply hit those lovely sharing buttons on the left – or if you want to be super-pro, share one of the Pinterest images below. That way, you’ve got this page saved for the next time you book a flight, and you’ll be able to put these flying tips into motion!
Thanks for reading, y’all!
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