Post 1000 plus flights across 55 countries of the world, one learns of several interesting hacks that increase the joy of travelling – let me share some of these with you. Do note that these hacks are not in any order of importance, cover all classes of travel and some even cover psychology. 🙂
After taking hundreds of flights, it’s quite easy to get disillusioned about the concept of travel. So much so that at times you start hating the entire process. I’m a strong believer of Karma – do good and only good shall happen to you. Similarly, be excited about travel and it will be a wonderful experience.
However small a point this may seem, getting a good seat is critical. Try and avoid last row seats as much as possible, unless of course you like the sound of the airlines’ flush! Although first rows may give you more leg space, that delight is decimated by a baby who cries more than your wife talks. In the economy class, I prefer window seats. First reason being that I’d rather wake people up than be woken up by someone else. 🙂 Secondly, as Rishi says in his book, “Aisle be damned!” In the history of aviation, no hostage was ever picked up from the window seat. It’s always the poor souls on the aisle seats that bear the brunt. Seatguru.com is a great website to choose your seat in advance – just enter your flight details and it will immediately provide you with a heavenly seat number, while still paying earthly prices.
Business Class Check-In
An amusing confession – I’ve been checking into the business class counter for a decade, while possessing a ‘cattle’ class ticket. The trick is quite simple – confidently walk up to the business class counter and ask whether an upgrade is possible. 50% of the times, the staff would decline, but still obviously check you in. The rest of the 50% will give you a price for it. In such situations mention to them that the last time around, the airlines had a special upgrade offer and ask if the same was still available. They will still check you in. In over a decade, no one has ever refused to upgrade me and asked me to go back and check into the economy counter. Of course, I have a 100% strike rate on this thanks to my legendary overconfidence! 🙂
Reducing Jet Lag
Always remember to follow the sun of the destination. Let’s say that you board a 1 a.m. flight to USA and as expected you’re extremely sleepy. Suggestions is to not sleep at that point in time – wait patiently till it is around 10 p.m. in USA and then head to get a good night’s sleep. Another trick that works for me beautifully is to sleep very little the previous night. The idea is here is to completely exhaust yourself in a way that it helps you to get your beauty sleep as per the ideal night time of the destination you’re at.
Be it a blanket, special meal, putting your jacket on the hanger etc. – if you’re travelling by economy class, please note that the demand is always more than the supply in this case. Thus, please be the first one to ask for all such special services. The first few passengers to request them are fortunate to have what they’ve asked for, while the remaining are at the receiving end of a mere apology coupled with a fake smile from the cabin crew. There have been multiple instances in the past wherein I’ve walked into a flight and said to a cabin crew member, “I’m feeling very cold. The last time there were no blankets left, can you please give me one before the flight takes off itself?”
In today’s time, the ugly truth is that perception is reality. In the earlier days, the check-in counter crew had all the freedom to give you an upgrade as per their discretion, now most airlines do it based on their frequent flier status. Having said that, there’s no harm in going up to them and requesting an upgrade – if you’re refused, you remain where you are. Plus, you have nothing to lose in any case, you only gain.
The Indian domestic flight system has this peculiar process of security stamps post the X-ray stage. It’s best to always be armed with extra baggage tags. If needed last minute, it will save you the trip all the way back to the check-in counter in case you’ve forgotten to take the tag. Furthermore, oblige others with the same – they will be eternally grateful to you! Infact, it’s a good practice to carry extra immigration cards and get your assistant to fill them up before you travel next. This can be applied to even the disembarkation cards of your city of arrival.
I also vividly recollect the time when I was once sent back from the aircraft after I had boarded and was seated. The security personnel had missed stamping my bag during the necessary procedure and I nearly missed my flight. It’s now a habit to doubly check to confirm that my tag has been duly stamped as soon as the bag crosses the X-ray machine.
Do you still own bags that have only two wheels? I suggest you dispose them off! Convert all your bags to four wheels without fail – trust me, they’re the best things since sliced bread. The other useful benefit of four wheel bag is that your laptop bag snugs tightly above it, so you don’t have to lug your laptop bag on your back separately.
Does your bag have 10 pockets and your jacket 20? Ensure you’re not using all of them to do justice! I cannot stress enough on how crucial it is to have such a seemingly small preparation in place. Always keep a fixed single pocket for crucial documents like your boarding pass and passport – I would go to the extent of saying that let this be pre-decided. Similarly, there must be a single pocket in your bag where you will keep important material like the envelope with the return tickets, visa, insurance, etc. I’ve witnessed many a nail-biting moments when people are desperately searching for their boarding cards across the different pockets of their pants, coats and bags when the check-in crew ask for it. They ultimately find it after they have spent the most embarrassing 90 seconds ever!
Electronic Copies Of Documents
Besides having the physical copies of all your travel documents, ensure you have electronic versions of them. Attach soft copies of all your important documents required for travel in a single email and send it to your Gmail with easy to remember tags – helps you search for them quickly. To cite an example, if I hadn’t taken a photo of my yellow fever shot when I went to Brazil 2 years ago, I would have had to take one more shot before I visit Zambia next month (yellow fever vaccination lasts for 10 years). This is also particularly applicable for e-visas as generally physical visas are discarded post completion of the trip. Another useful practice is to create a travel folder in your photo album and store your passport and visa snapshots in that folder.
I have hundreds of more such exciting hacks to share. However, Volume 2 of this post is most likely to happen based on the feedback I obtain on Volume 1. If I receive a high number of shares on this post, I promise to bring to you Volume 2.
I’m currently on route from Tallinn (Estonia) to Singapore, and it’s already 10 p.m. in Singapore as I write this. Even though I’m not exactly sleepy and it’s still only 5 p.m. in Estonia, I’ll attempt utilizing the flat bed of the A380. Ciao!