The Art of Flight Part I: Pre-flight

by Travis Gertz

Flying sucks. Now, I appreciate the fact that we can race around the Earth to any location in record time, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a massive pain in the ass and generator of stress and tension.

Luckily, we’ve had a chance to hone our flying skills like ninjas in a dojo. I’m going to take the next two posts to share some of our travel secrets. If you have anything to add, please tweet us at @the_qe and if it’s fresh, we’ll add your tidbit to the end of this post for all to see.

So without further adieu, I present part one… Preflight.

Booking That Flight

Uncle Rodney’s been pestering you for months to come see his new Worm Taxidermy Museum in Tuscaloosa. Your first instinct is to find a cheap flight through a booking services like Expedia, Kayak, or Hipmunk. While these are great for narrowing down times and comparing carriers, in our experience, the best deals don’t come from the “deal” sites, but from the airlines themselves. Use services to find the cheapest flights, but head to the website of your preferred airline and check the prices before you book.

There’s a few general rules you can try to follow to get the best deals. The best time to book is about eight weeks in advance, and the cheapest days to fly are generally Wednesday, Tuesday, or Saturdays. If you plan on making a few trips within the next six months or so, you can save a bundle by booking a single multi-destination trip, rather than individual trips. We saved about $1000/person by combining our trips to Costa Rica, Austin, and Mexico into a single multi-city ticket spanning four months, earlier this year.

If you are a frequent traveller, I also recommend getting a TripIt Pro account for $49/yr. It has been an indispensable tool. Features include notifications on changes to your flights, alternative flights, and plane-specific seating hints.

24 Hours Prior

Check-in

Assuming you’ve signed up for TripIt, you should get an alert exactly 24 hours before your flight time informing you to try and check in to your flight. This is the most critical step in having the best flight experience possible. The earlier you can check-in, the better chances of getting the gold seats. Here’s our strategy:

Log into TripIt to see what make and model of plane you’ll be flying on. One of their invaluable features is that they provide optimal seating advice based on the plane you’re flying in. Not surprisingly, the first row and exit rows will almost always get you more leg room and are normally the first choice, but there’s usually a few other lesser known optimal seats in each plane. Some jerky airlines will charge extra for more legroom, it’s up to you to decide if its worth it. We’ll spring for it on longer flights.

Legroom is great, but prime elbow room is the key to comfort in the skies. A good little trick if you’re travelling as a couple is, rather than booking two seats together, find an empty row and grab the window seat and the aisle seat. Most flying couples will try to sit together, so unless the flight is completely packed, there’s a good chance that middle seat will stay vacant. You and your partner will be in elbow room heaven. It’s like having you’re own aeronautical love seat. That little gem worked for two of our three flights last week. Worst case scenario, you can trade places with the person in the middle if you and your partner want to sit together. The stranger should be more than happy to give up the middle seat for an aisle or window.

Once your seats are picked, print your tickets or, if you get the option, send them to your mobile device.

Travel Clothing

Before you leave for the airport, you need the right attire. No belts, no jewellery, no accessories, comfortable pants, easy-to-slip-on shoes, and a sweater. Anything that gets in your way will make the security process exponentially more stressful. Think ahead, and plan on being frisked, x-rayed, and corralled like a cow to slaughter.

Whatever you’re bringing, make sure it’s consolidated into as few bags as possible. Prepare for all security checks in your country no matter how stupid they seem. That means those strawberry-flavoured personal lubricants should be in bottles smaller than 100mL tucked away in a ziploc bag. Always have your passport available in an easy-to-access spot on your person.

Pack light, and carry-on your luggage when possible. Just don’t be the jackass trying to cram the overstuffed, 50LB roller bag into carry-on.

Conclusion

A lot of this may seem obvious, but judging by most of the people I get stuck behind in stuffy airports, most of you are terrible at this (well not you, the other people that read this site). Good preparation is the most important factor in a pleasant flying experience. In part two, I’ll tackle the airport and the flight itself.

Back to top.