Martin Wippel / Flickr
- I’ve taken more than 30 flights in 20 countries since March 2018.
- Traveling for so long has led to lots of mistakes and realizations about how to make every flight better.
- Some of my most important tips include carrying petroleum jelly to mitigate dry plane air, choosing flag carrier airlines whenever possible, and using Skyscanner’s "Everywhere" feature to get cheap flights.
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Over the last year, I have flown a lot: I’ve taken more than 30 flights in 20 countries since March 2018.
That’s a lot of time in security lines, in airport lounges, in cramped plane seats, breathing stale, recycled air, and watching movies that I never would in "real" life.
Still, with every flight I take, I feel that flutter of excitement and anticipation as we get ready to take off. And, yes, it may be weird, but I get excited about finding out how above or below the mediocre baseline an airline’s food is.
I’ve made more than a few rookie mistakes, even after visiting dozens of countries. Last August, I got fleeced for over $100 in fees on a flight with a budget airline. You never stop learning.
Here are the air travel tips and things I’ve learned after a year traveling around the world.
1. Before you book a flight with a budget airline, make sure you know any and all extra fees you may have to pay.
Last August, I booked a cheap flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Lisbon, Portugal for what I thought was the bargain price of $89 on WizzAir, the budget Hungarian airline.
But, after booking, I found that I was charged fee after fee that ended up costing more than my entire flight ticket, including fees for baggage, administration, airport check-in, and an in-flight meal.
All in all, I ended up spending $126.50 on fees for an $89 flight. My cheap airfare didn’t end up being so cheap after all.
2. When in doubt, book with a flag carrier.
Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider
Usually, when looking for airlines, I search consumer-aviation website Skytrax’s list of the world’s top airlines and cross-reference that with the best deals.
These days, that list is dominated by international flag carriers — airlines owned or previously owned by a government — like Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, among others.
The main reason I like to fly flag carriers is that the airlines tend to have a motivation to create a good experience beyond just making a profit. In recent years, many flag carriers, like Singapore Airlines and Emirates Airlines, have had huge successes using top-notch flight experiences to draw positive attention (and tourists) to their countries.
Even with smaller flag carriers like EgyptAir and Air Astana, I’ve had excellent experiences.
3. Emirates Airlines is, by far, the best airline I’ve flown on.
After a year of flying, I’ve found that my favorite airline has been Emirates Airlines, thanks to its roomy planes, excellent service and entertainment options, and good food.
It tends to be slightly more expensive than other options, but I’ve found that the comfort is worth it.
This comes with one big caveat: I have yet to use Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and ANA All Nippon Airways, the three airlines that rank ahead of Emirates, according to Skytrax World Airline Awards.
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