While traveling to hotels, restaurants and spas all over the world, Forbes Travel Guide’s cadre of incognito inspectors spends a lot of time up in the air. In fact, they logged more than 2 million air miles last year alone. That means that in addition to being the foremost authorities in luxury hospitality, our inspectors are also experts in every aspect of air travel.
We polled our inspectors to find out their favorite air travel tips and share them with you. Learn everything from which seats to snag if you can’t get a first-class option to which airports give out complimentary spa treatments.
Apply for Global Entry, which comes with benefits like TSA Precheck. It’s such a time saver. After having Global Entry, you’ll never want to go back to waiting in long airport lines again.
Get discounted access to airport club lounges with some credit cards — for a mere $29, you can enjoy four to five hours of unlimited food, beverages and a comfortable workspace.
Keep all of the major airlines’ phone numbers programmed into your phone. If there are delays and you need to rebook, it’s often faster to call the airline directly than to wait in long queues for a live desk agent.
I constantly fly back and forth between the U.S. and Canada, and Delta is my go-to option. It has an agreement with Canadian airline WestJet, which means that I can fly anywhere from Montreal to Victoria without a hitch. Bonus: Frequent flyers who use Delta SkyMiles or WestJet Rewards can earn miles flying on partner-marketed flights. (However, you have to redeem your points within your own frequent-flyer program.)
Always bring food, even if it’s a short flight and you aren’t hungry. Flights get diverted. People get stuck on runways. I’ve never regretted bringing snacks.
Download the airline apps. If your flight gets delayed or canceled, apps like Delta will automatically rebook you on the next available flight, which means you get to avoid those long customer service lines at the airport.
If you travel an airline regularly, purchase the monthly Wi-Fi — it will be much more cost effective in the end. I fly Delta almost all the time and use a Gogo account for $49.95 per month. The monthly accounts can handle up to five devices, so you could use it your laptop, iPad and whatever else you bring.
Traveling with a companion? Then select the window and aisle seats if a full row looks open. There’s a strong possibility the middle seat will stay open and you’ll have the whole row for the two of you. If someone does take the seat, he is usually happy to switch to the window or aisle.
Lo & Sons has amazing bags that both slip into your carry-on and are super lightweight. They are a godsend for the frequent traveler who may need additional room.
If you can’t get a first-class seat, a great second choice is a Delta Comfort Plus seat (available on certain flights). Delta Comfort Plus sits directly behind first class and allows you to be the first off the plane and gives you better snacks, like chips, candy bars, bananas, etc. and free alcoholic drinks.
When in Miami International Airport, you must have a Cuban coffee at La Carreta. It’s the best.
I love the Delta or SkyTeam lounge at Heathrow in Terminal 4 — you can get complimentary express beauty treatments at its Clarins Spa.
Singapore Changi Airport is amazing — I’ve gotten a foot massage at the massage parlor there at 4 a.m. prior to my flight. And it has hawker stands with tasty local food, a swimming pool and a butterfly garden.
The Air France lounge at Paris-Charles De Gaulle’s Terminal 2E offers free mini-facials to keep your skin hydrated during the flight.
Bring a shawl, a neck pillow and an eye mask, especially the cashmere ones made by Row Pinto — these are fantastic. I own three, so I’ll always have a backup in case I lose one.
Be sure to have hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes with you. Most airlines’ turnaround time is so close nowadays that they have little cleaning in between flights.
Since airlines don’t stock the healthiest food, I try to have a substantial meal three to four hours before a long flight and bring water-based snacks like celery onboard. It’s best to stay as hydrated as possible and avoid alcoholic beverages (even though that’s no fun). This way you’ll feel at your best when getting off the flight.
I drink water with a slice of lemon to avoid bloating and work on the destination’s time clock once I board.
I always travel with packets of Emergen-C to stave off colds.
I like to listen to books on my iPhone via Audible to pass the time on flights that don’t have Wi-Fi. It’s better than carrying heavy books.
I like to pack snacks. I usually bring an apple, a salty snack and a sweet treat, usually Justin’s peanut butter cups or Cacao Sampaka.
For the flight, I bring the address of my hotel and major sites printed in the local language (if I can’t speak it), a pen (to fill out all the immigration and customs paperwork). And if it’s a long flight, I make sure to have a toothbrush and toothpaste, makeup remover towels, baby wipes, deodorant and one clean change of clothes (in case my suitcase doesn’t arrive).
I take melatonin drops for really long flights to help me sleep better.
If the in-flight entertainment system doesn’t have any shows that interest you, be aware that some airlines like Delta let you stream additional selections through your personal device with programs like Delta Studio. You don’t have to purchase Wi-Fi to use it.
Don’t leave home without wireless noise-cancelling Beats headphones.
Fly red-eye whenever possible, so you will be more inclined to sleep.
On long-distance flights, pre-order your meals so that you will get served first.
Flying dehydrates your skin, so it is best to have a hydrating face spray with you. Also, apply a cream face mask before or during your flight to combat dry skin.
Drink lots of water and avoid the hot beverages or water from the galley, as the containers are rarely, if ever, cleaned.