Travel Tips From Flight Attendants That Will Change the Way You Fly

By Jake Schroeder
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Traveling can be incredibly stressful. You stand in lines non-stop, everything costs an arm and a leg, and when you finally board your plane, you don’t really have space to kick back and relax.

Fortunately, the best tips and tricks recommended by flight attendants can make every flight a million times better. From what to order during beverage service to where to sit, flight attendants know exactly what you need to do to travel like a pro.

Frequent Flier Accounts Have Notes Attached

Be sure to be kind to every employee you interact with at the airport. From the gate agent to the flight attendant, they all have access to your frequent flier account notes. Think of your frequent flier account like a permanent record — a record that can actually have negative consequences.

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These notes can be crucial when it comes to obtaining free stuff or getting upgrades. Airline employees are obligated to be cordial and try to help you, of course, but if you were rude in the past, they might be less likely to go above and beyond when taking care of you in the future.

Back of the Plane Gets Better Service

Customer service is better in the back of the plane. Flight attendants can quickly grab whatever you need in the back of the aircraft. Need another drink or a pillow? Most items that are commonly requested are stored in the back of the plane, mainly because flight attendants do most of their work in the back. It’s where food and drinks are prepped and other tasks are carried out.

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Walking down the aisle frequently can result in getting stopped many times by different fliers. Flight attendants have work that needs to be done in the back to ensure everyone's food and drinks are served promptly.

Don't Exchange Currency at the Airport

You might think the airport is the most convenient place to exchange your money — and maybe it is — but even though it’s an easy stop after getting off the plane, the exchange rates are terrible at the airport. Rates always fluctuate, but you can always count on paying more inside the terminal.

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You can get a better deal by either exchanging your money before your flight or at a bank in the new city. If you need cash to leave the airport, it's best to bring a small amount with you on the plane. Otherwise, look in the city for an excellent spot to exchange your money, as it’s never a good idea to travel with a lot of cash.

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Only Plastic-Wrapped Blankets Are Germ-Free

The only way to ensure your blanket is germ-free is to get a plastic-wrapped pack. Another passenger has likely used any loose blanket that you might find on the plane, and you don't know if they were sick or what they did with that blanket. It's not sanitary to use it.

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Fresh, clean blankets are sanitized prior to placing them inside plastic bags. If you need a blanket, be sure to ask your flight attendant if you can have one wrapped in plastic. If they don't have one, you might want to reconsider how much you need that blanket.

Fly at Night

Flying at night is the best option for many reasons. Parents are less likely to take their children on the red-eye, allowing you to avoid crying babies on your journey. Additionally, other people are less likely to fly at night, leaving the plane less crowded.

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With fewer babies and people on your nighttime flight, you may be able to sleep through your entire journey. Flight attendants typically love night-time flights, as most customers sleep and require little assistance. It's a lot less stressful than the hustle and bustle of a regular daytime trip, and flight attendants are less stressed during these flights as well.

Get the Vegetarian Meal

Specialty meals, such as vegetarian meals, are passed out first. Even if you don't adhere to a vegetarian diet, this dining option will get your food out faster. You could be enjoying your meal before most people on the plane even get to choose chicken or fish.

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Flight attendants also say the vegetarian meals are better quality because they prepare fewer of these meals for the flight. Yet you won't have to worry about them running out of your choice because most people don't opt for the vegetarian version. Regardless of your normal preferences, the vegetarian meals on planes are better than the regular options.

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Take Your Refillable Water Bottle

Save money by carrying your refillable water bottle. After you make it through security, you can fill your water bottle up for free instead of spending big bucks on a small bottle. Airports charge a lot for simple items, so it's best to save as much as you can before reaching your destination.

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You can also take your water bottle on the plane with you to ensure you stay hydrated while you’re waiting for drink service to arrive. Flight attendants appreciate it when guests aren’t constantly asking for glasses of water. Also, the water you get outside the plane will taste better than the water on the plane.

Head Toward the Left at Security

Most people are right-handed and tend to favor that side when given an option. If you want to experience shorter lines, avoid your instinct and choose the left-hand side at security. People also tend to jump in the closest line, so try to move away from the entrance to find the shortest line possible. You'll be surprised at how fast your line moves on the left side of security.

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You can also take advantage of the Pre-Check option and skip security lines altogether. Pre-Check costs a little bit of money and a day of your time to complete the process at the airport, but it can save you a lot of time in the future.

Don't Take the Voucher

If the gate agent starts trying to persuade fliers to trade their seats on an overbooked flight for a voucher, stand your ground and don't accept it. If no one takes the bait, the agents eventually have to offer even better deals to persuade passengers to take another flight.

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For example, if no one takes the voucher, the gate agent may begin to offer cash, which is a much better option since you can use the money to pay for anything you want, not just a future flight. Additionally, the vouchers usually have tricky rules, and if you don't usually fly on that airline — or rarely fly at all — you could be stuck with something you can't use. Hold out for the cash.

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Don't Take the First Offer

Having said the previous, when the gate agent starts offering money to give up your seat on an overbooked flight, don't take the first offer. They obviously want to pay as little as possible and start low. The longer you wait, the more money you could receive for the inconvenience. Keep in mind that airlines can pay up to $1,350 for a flight!

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Of course, most people aren't clamoring to take airlines up on these offers, considering missing a flight could result in missed work, school or family obligations. If you can't afford to miss your flight, don't take the offer at all. The money earned isn't worth the stress.

Window Seats Are the Coldest

If you're always cold while flying, avoid the window seat. These seats provide some cool views at certain points but are more chilly than other positions on the plane. If you’re particularly sensitive to chilly temperatures, the aisle seats are the warmest on the plane.

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When the plane reaches its cruising altitude, the air outside the aircraft is incredibly cold. The plane offers a lot of insulation between you and the sky, but the temperature inside can still be cool. Plus, the window itself lets in a lot of cold air. If you're prone to getting cold on flights, skip the view and pick an aisle seat.

Join the Frequent Flier Program

There are typically a lot of benefits to joining a frequent flier program. Each airline offers different perks, such as free Wi-Fi or free checked bags. If you have a favorite airline, it's definitely worth your time to sign up for the company’s frequent flier program. Signing up is typically free, and it increases your chances of getting upgraded on your flights.

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If your flight has openings for upgraded seats, gate agents will typically check the list of frequent fliers to find someone who wants to level up. Usually, this upgrade is free for members, while others would have to pay for the better seat.

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Wipe Down Everything

The first thing you should do when you sit down in your seat is wipe everything down with an antibacterial wipe. Most people focus on the trays, but you should also be sure to wipe down the air vent and the armrests. Always carry wipes with you for this reason.

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Planes are not deep cleaned in between flights. Flight attendants mainly pick up any trash that was left by previous passengers. That means planes are used by hundreds of people in between any real cleaning. If you want to avoid picking up all those germs, be sure to disinfect your seat and area.

Don't Use the Seat Pockets

Don't use the seat pocket unless you're okay with losing whatever you put in it. No, it’s not a secret vortex that ejects your items from the plane, but you’re likely to forget whatever you put in it because it’s not visible. Books, Kindles and iPads (Ouch!) have all been lost to seat pockets on planes. Think of it as a black hole for forgotten items.

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After all, it's not just flight attendants who find items left in seat pockets. Other passengers who discover lost items may never once consider turning them in to lost and found. Again, the planes aren’t deep cleaned between flights, which means the plane could be halfway around the world before your lost item is found.

Wear Layers

Planes are warm when you first board, but they get incredibly chilly throughout the flight. To maintain a comfortable temperature throughout your flight, wear lots of layers. This allows you to remove clothing when you get warm and then put layers back on when you start to get cold. This trick particularly comes in handy when you're traveling far away.

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Hoodies are great to wear on planes because of the pockets. Big scarves can also double as a blanket, and hats — not big, obnoxious ones — can prevent body heat from escaping through your head in cold temperatures. Be smart with your airport fashion to ensure you're as cozy as possible throughout your flight.

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Wear Compression Socks

Walking around on the plane isn’t always an option, especially if you're stuck next to the window. Be sure to wear compression socks to help with blood circulation throughout the flight. These socks are snug and keep your blood flowing right, even when you're not up and moving around.

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The change in altitude can really affect circulation in your legs and feet. If you don't get up during the flight, you could get off the plane with swollen feet, and no one wants to start a vacation like that. Compression socks might not look stylish, but you can take them off before you even leave the plane if you want.

Take Extra Entertainment

If you don’t want to be bored, assume your airplane won’t have any entertainment. All too often, the movies or internet access breaks down on flights, leaving passengers staring at blank screens until they reach their destinations. Be sure to plan for lots of non-internet entertainment.

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Fill your tablet or phone with movies, TV shows and podcasts if you like digital entertainment, or stick a book in your carry-on if you prefer to disconnect during your flight. Make sure you have a backup plan in case the plane's Wi-Fi is off, or the screen in front of your seat doesn’t work. Airlines try to keep things running smoothly, but if something happened on the flight before yours, you're out of luck if you’re not prepared.

Ask Your Flight Attendants for Recommendations

Flight attendants get to see a lot of cities, and that makes them a great resource if you're traveling to a new place. Ask your flight attendant for any cool recommendations for your destination. If the one you ask doesn’t know, maybe one of the other attendants can help you out.

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Flight attendants love to help in ways beyond giving you a Bloody Mary. Answering your questions gives them a nice reprieve from typical passenger requests as well. Flight attendants usually have to spend nights in different cities, and with free travel at their disposal, they tend to take more vacations. Count on them to help you find some really great spots to check out after landing.

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Don't Drink the Water

Obviously, there isn't any plumbing in the sky. Water is available on the plane, thanks to a large tank. Believe it or not, the tank is not cleaned as frequently as you would like. In fact, it's notorious for not being clean. That's not to say you can't drink the water, but you can safely assume it’s not a great choice.

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Flight attendants recommend forgoing a glass of water once you're on board. Remember that coffee and tea are made with that same water. You might be better off asking for a soda or just waiting until you're back on the ground.

Don't Wear Flip-Flops

Planes are among the dirtiest places because they are used so frequently by so many people, but cleaned so infrequently. Avoid wearing flip-flops on the plane if you want to keep your feet clean. (Security frowns upon this footwear as well.) The carpet on a plane is one of the least cleaned places in the sky.

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People wearing flip-flops are tempted to take them off and put their bare feet on surfaces in the plane. Besides being gross, other passengers don't like that, and neither do flight attendants. You've seen the viral posts of people's feet all over planes. Don't be that person. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes for your safety and everyone else's sanity.

Don't Forget Your Sleeping Mask

Sleeping masks are great for planes. They can help you stick to your sleep schedule after a long trip, take a much needed nap or just prevent your next-seat neighbor from talking your ear off the entire flight. Be sure to remember to pack your sleep mask before heading to the airport because they can be expensive onsite.

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While you're at it, don't forget your phone charger and headphones. Forgetting these items could set you back $60 or more inside an airport. Don't put a dent in your spending money before you even get to your destination.

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Avoid the Call Button

Some people use the call button to summon a flight attendant for every little thing. They're cold, or they need to throw something away or tattle on another passenger. Don't be that passenger. Flight attendants don't like running down the aisle constantly for simple requests that could have waited.

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The call button should only be used in case of an emergency. Flight attendants walk up and down the aisle every 10 to 15 minutes. You can wave an attendant down at that time if you need assistance. They also specifically pick up trash at various points during a flight.

A Letter to the Airline Is Worth More Than Any Tip

Some people try to tip their flight attendants, which is entirely okay, but there's a better gift than money. If you had a fantastic experience and want to thank your flight attendant, reach out directly to the airline.

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You can send an email or even a Tweet to single out your favorite flight attendant. This can do wonders for a flight attendant's career. It's rare for people to contact an airline with praise, and they reward flight attendants for receiving positive comments. Be sure to find out the name of your flight attendant to make sure they get the reward from the airline.

Show Up Early for an Upgrade

Don't spend an arm and a leg upgrading your seat when you first buy your ticket. Just remember to show up early to the airport to speak to the gate agent before your flight. Ask if upgrades are available. Better seats are the cheapest right before the flight.

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If the upgraded seats aren’t booked, airlines want to fill them so they can fill up the economy seats with stand-by passengers. They make the most money when planes are completely full, which means you help them out while upgrading for a much lower price than normal.

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Avoid Bulkheads and Babies

Bulkheads are the seats right behind the partitions in planes. Families typically book these seats because of the extra legroom. If you want to avoid any crying babies, be sure to book a seat as far away from those seats as possible.

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The bulkhead seats may seem like an excellent idea for the extra legroom, but there's no seat in front so you have to put your carry-on and personal items up above. It can be a hassle, but parents often prefer it to keep bags away from little ones. Keep in mind that sitting in front of the partition won’t shield you from a crying baby either.

Work Out Before You Fly

A great way to ensure you enjoy a relaxing flight is to get your workout in before going to the airport. If you have a long flight, working out right before going to the airport can wear you out and help you sleep on the flight. Additionally, workouts ensure your body stays primed and ready for the wear and tear of air travel.

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It's not good for your body to sit for long periods of time, but a workout right before flying helps balance the downtime. Of course, be sure to shower before heading out. You don't want to ruin the flight for anyone seated around you while you're snoozing.

Roll Your Clothes for Packing

One great packing tip is to roll up your clothes. By rolling them instead of folding them, you decrease the number of wrinkles and save space in your luggage. Just roll the clothes up like a piece of sushi. You can even roll outfits up together to make the matching process much easier when you get ready to unpack on arrival.

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If you're traveling with only a carry-on, this is a surefire way to make sure everything fits in the smaller luggage. If you do end up with some wrinkles, a hair straightener works great in a pinch.

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Drink Water Before the Flight

The changes in altitude and the recycled air can result in faster than normal dehydration. The best way to avoid getting dehydrated is to drink a bottle of water before boarding the plane. Of course, also be sure to hit up the bathroom before getting on the plane to avoid a trip to the bathroom mid-flight (hopefully).

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Staying hydrated can also reduce the severity of your jet lag. One of the reasons people experience jet lag is dehydration from traveling. It’s easy to forget to drink water when you're running through the airport, so be sure to keep some water with you throughout your trip to stay hydrated and healthy.

Don't Use the Bathroom During Drink Service

When you gotta go, you gotta go — but you might want to wait until after drink service is complete. Passengers who get up while the giant cart is rolling down the aisle can get stuck in front of it or behind it. Being next to the drink cart can be dangerous if the plane hits some turbulence. If you're in front, the cart could roll into you. If you're behind it, you could have a flight attendant bump into you.

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If you see the drink cart come out, wait before trying to make it to the bathroom. Your flight attendants will thank you for being considerate.

Take Your Own Snacks

Much like items in the airport, airplane snacks are expensive. No one wants to pay $20 for some crackers and fake cheese, but most people don't realize they can take their own food on the plane. Airport security allows food to pass through security — within reason. It’s not a good idea to try to get a four-course meal through the scanners.

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Pack your own snacks for the plane like crackers and fruit snacks. Beef jerky and freeze-dried fruits are also good options. This trick is a great way to save money and ensure you like what's being offered.

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