Trans-Atlantic flights can be gruesome, especially if you’re not used to it. So, here are my tips for making it as enjoyable as possible.
1. Pack your carry-ons well.
- In your roller carry-on, put an extra set of clothes. This will be vital if luggage is lost.
- Know the airline’s limit on weight and size. In the US, they’re not real concerned, but occasionally I have been checked in Europe. They’re sticklers over there.
- Be sure your toiletries are packed appropriately for security check and in a place you can easily get at them for security and during the flight. I like to keep them in a front pocket and then move them once security checks are over. Be sure to include your toothbrush, a small thing of toothpaste and deodorant. I also usually have some kind of face cleaner, a small bottle of lotion and a little makeup. The air on the plane is really dry, so the lotion comes in really handy. And after hours on the plane, I like to clean my face. I usually bring some sort of face cleaning pads. If I can’t find a travel size or packages of face wipes, I’ll put some pre-moistened cotton balls with my astringent in a little ziplock to use. After hours and hours on a plane, that really helps.
- Bring things to do. I get crazy air sick, so I can’t read or things like that, so I get unbelievably bored. It’s excruciating. But, if you’re not like me, pack something to read or some crossword puzzles. Remember that you’ll have about 45 minutes to an hour after you board before you can use any electronics and then again for the last 30 minutes, so packing something you can do that doesn’t have an on/off button is a good idea. There will be inflight movies, but sometimes the choices are less than awesome. *Please note: Not all airlines edit their films for content which can make for an eye-opening experience if you’re not careful.
- Make sure you’ve taken everything out of your purse or backpack or whatever you’re using as your personal item and actually packed it for the trip. Nothing is more annoying than getting stopped because you forgot a tube of lipgloss or find you’re lugging a purse weighted down with things you didn’t mean to bring.
- Make sure your passport and flight information (DO PRINT THIS OUT – you’ll need it on your return flight) is in a easy to access and secure area. I usually have them in a pocket of my purse to start with and then once I’ve gone through passport control, I zip them into an outside pocket of my rolling bag because I won’t need them again until I land.
- Pack your medicines in your carry-on.
- Pack a pen in your carry-on. You may need it for a landing card.
- Separate your cash into several places in your carry ons.
- KEEP YOUR LUGGAGE SLIPS! After you check your bags, they will give you all the slips. Be sure to keep them. I can’t emphasize this enough: KEEP YOUR LUGGAGE SLIPS!
2. Pack your checked luggage well.
- Use every ounce of the limit you have.
- Rolling your clothes saves space, if needed. I also use my clothes to pack around other things that may need some cushion.
- Stuff your shoes with things, too.
- I’ve actually done google searches and watched videos on the best ways to pack which is why we can pack for about 10 days just in a rolling carry-on. It’s a true, learnable skill.
- Be sure your name is on every piece of luggage and has something identifiable as yours on it (a ribbon, a large ID tag, etc.)
- Make a list of what is in each bag. This way, if your luggage is lost, you’ll have an accurate account of what is missing.
3. Fly well.
- Every time a flight attendant walks by with water, take some. Drink a lot. And then drink more. Flights are dehydrating and can cause headaches and other issues, so be sure to drink lots of water.
- Think through sleeping. If you can sleep on flights (or choose to take something to help you do so), think about what time you’re landing. You may need to wait a couple of hours to help with jet lag or because of a layover.
- Get up and walk around. It’s good for circulation and helps break up the monotony.
- There will be food on the flight. It might be great, it might not be. So, bringing a small snack is advisable. Generally, there are two choices for a meal. I advise choosing whatever is easier to digest and least weird (for instance, not the fish). I usually choose chicken or pasta. There’s usually not a choice for breakfast. Do try to eat some of it. It’ll save you during your layover or the trip from the airport.
- If you can’t sleep, there are always inflight movies to watch. BE CAREFUL! European airlines do NOT censor their films for flights. It always mortifies me because there are always children on board. There is also usually a channel with different kinds of music.
4. Layovers can be fun.
- Airports can be very interesting with lots to see. There’s usually a whole mall with crazy expensive things. I like to peruse them because it’s interesting.
- The duty free shop is a great place to waste time if you need to. Some things are actually cheaper there than in regular stores. Some things are definitely not.
- We fly so much that we usually spend our layovers in airport lounges. Even before I had status with an airline, I would purchase a pass for the lounge if my layover was over 3 hours. The internet and food are free, which actually makes it pretty economical. Plus, it’s safe and convenient and they usually have showers. Food in European airports can be pretty pricey. So if you decide not to do the lounge, you’ll want to bring some snacks to much on in between flights if you don’t want to break the bank eating.
- Try to walk around some. After a flight, it’s good just to walk.
5. And then you’ll land.
- Be sure to have your passport ready and easily accessible.
- Follow the signs to passport control or exit or baggage claim.
- You’ll be led to a large room. Exchange some of your money at the change place there. Be sure to know if you need to pay a visa tax prior to arrival. If so, put that amount in our passport and move to the line that says “other foreigners.”
- Smile at the guard. Try to make small talk. It’s just nice. They’re lives are very boring. He may or may not speak English. Then, take your passports from him and head to baggage claim.
- Sometimes they tell you which belt your flight’s luggage will be on, sometimes they don’t, sometimes it’s wrong. So, just watch. You can also ask an official looking person. There should be carts around. In most airports around the world outside of the US they’re free. Some places have those vultures who try to “help” with the luggage. If so, firmly tell them no if you’re able to handle your luggage on your own. However, if you want help, it’s there, just know that they’ll want to be paid which will be difficult since you won’t have any small change from the exchange place.
- Once all your luggage arrives, head toward the exit that says nothing to declare. Walk with confidence and unless a guard actually stops you, don’t even look at them.
6. If your luggage is lost.
- Find an official looking person or some sort of sign that says to go there for that purpose. Be as kind as possible, but also be firm in making it known that you do want your luggage delivered as soon as possible.
- And then pray.