Note: A version of this blog was also posted as a guest post on Femme Frugality.
Japan is a truly incredible place to visit. In 2016, my husband, Travis, and I visited friends who lived there, and we were struck by the proud history and majesty of this beautiful culture. One of the things that really stuck out to me about Japan is the low crime rate and the honesty the people showed. Let me give you an example. (more…)
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Ah, airplanes. The glorious whales of the air that magically transport us from one destination to the next. It is crazy to wrap your head around the fact you are darting through the sky 500mph, 30,000 feet above the earth below, unaffected by the elements directly outside your window.
Now think of being in the belly of that beast for 10+ hours while soaring over oceans and continents. It can get a little—constrained? Cramped? Muscle-achey?
International flights are actually my favorite. I have gone over the Atlantic and Pacific more times than I can count. Along the way I have picked up a few essentials that make that sky darting experience a little more bearable. Besides drinking lots of water and having a good pillow, here are eight more things to put on your checklist:
No JetLag—I heard about this homeopathic supplement when I flew to Thailand and Myanmar. It is originally from New Zealand, and it really helps with jet lag. A whole pack can last you about 2 round trips. The instructions are pretty specific, so make sure to read them beforehand. You used to be able to get them at a local vitamin shop, but I just order a bunch from Amazon these days.
Sleep mask—Yes, you know those cute little lacy, satiny, frilly things girls use at sleepovers. But I am telling you—these things are essential. Not only do they block out light, but they help keep my eyes closed and relaxed when you are fitting in crucial shut-eye. They also sell super manly black ones at Target if the frills aren’t your thing.
Socks: Okay, there are lots of different opinions floating around on this one. I
generally wear flats or shoes that I can easily kick off, but I am a firm believer in a fresh pair of socks for every flight. Once, I didn’t have any socks and I could barely feel my toes halfway through the flight. Ever since that chilling moment, I have thrown in a pair of socks into my carry on and have them easily accessible. Because, please, for the sake of everyone, NEVER walk around the plane bare
foot. And a steadfast rule to live by—always wear shoes to the bathroom. Cuz nothing ruins your happy warm feet like wet socks. Yeah, let’s move on.
Ear plugs: Invest in a few good pairs of disposable earplugs—they’re are a lot cheaper than noise-canceling head phones. I buy a big box of 3M yellow earplugs (which, fun fact, fighter pilots use) and throw several pairs into a bag. The reason I like disposable is because I throw them away when I am done and it cuts down on the pollen and dirt and nasty stuff that can get in my ears if I reuse them! That’s just me, tho. Clean ears are happy ears!
Zquil and EmergenZ: I have a ritual when it’s time to go to bed. I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, clean my face (see below), get comfy, ask the flight attendant for a small cup of water and prepare my EmergenZ. This is a double win because: 1) It has melatonin to help you naturally fall asleep, and 2) It keeps your immune system healthy on that germ invested vehicle. I then take a dose of Zquil to aid in a good night’s sleep, and put on my sleep mask, cuddle up with my pillow, and settle in for the night. Grab them together at Target in the sleep aid section.
Moist facial wipes: When I wash my face, I really like the hypoallergenic face wipes Yes to Cucumbers. I use one before I go to bed, then another again in the morning when I want to wake up my face. It is also a good idea to moisturize because planes are super dry! Which leads me to my next point…
Chapstick and lotion: Planes aren’t exactly known for their moisture and humidity, and I’ve had moments with cracked knuckles and blistery lips whilst sitting helpless at 30K. Oh that the chapstick on my dresser at home were with me now! It will help keep those things in your carry on at all times so you don’t forget, and it will be there when you really need it!
Fresh clothes: I always travel with a set of clothes to change into either before we land or when I get to the airport. It was something I hadn’t considered before I had gone on my first trip to Asia, where I traveled with someone who suggested it. I changed the next morning before landing and felt like a new woman. It all helps in the jet lag, long-travel-days’ process.
I remember booking my very first flight to England. I had never gone anywhere outside North America, and the feeling was enthralling. Granted, I was also packing up my entire life in Chicago into two 50-pound suitcases and moving my life to another continent—so that might have also added to the slightly euphoric feeling. Nonetheless, I was hooked.
I love that feeling of turning dreams into plans, goals into reality, and starting the countdown to the next adventure. I love saying to a friend, “I am going to visit you on the other side of the world,” and actually DOING it.
Wanderlust is contagious.
Flashback to about 2 years ago when my friend/roommate Kristen and I were sitting on a couch in the loft of our rented house searching for an Adventure. My previous roommate from England was working in New Zealand, and I wanted to see her (and trek to Hobbiton). There was a lot of dreaming, researching, planning, and saving. Using all the strategies I outline below, we found a deal that got us to not only New Zealand, but Fiji and Australia as well. It included airfare AND hotel AND travel insurance for less than $1,900 a person. With these strategies I outline below, I bet you could probably get trips around the globe for even less than that.
Today, let’s talk about saving money on airfare. There are a few strategies when booking cheap flights. There is a lot of really good “travel-meat” (aka, a ton of apps and websites) in this post, so here we go:
Dream a Little (or a LOT):
This is a big step in the planning process. Think about where you want to go, what sites you want to see around the world, friends you want to visit in other countries, etc. I have several countries in the back of my mind I want to visit one day, so I keep an eye out for those deals when they come my way. I am subscribed to several different sites/blogs that make me dream about the places I want to go to next. One of my favorites is Conde Nast Traveler. I love pretty much anything they put out travel related. I also follow TravelZoo’s Top 20 to see what is going on around the web.
Fly in the OFF-PEAK or Shoulder Seasons:
People think traveling is expensive because they look at the most convenient times to travel. The only problem with that is that everyone else is ALSO going to travel at that time–i.e. summer vacation, spring break, etc. These are the peak seasons, and also the most expensive time to fly. When it comes to traveling, there are actually 3 seasons: Peak, Shoulder, and Off-Peak. Your life will change when you discover how reasonable prices are during the Shoulder (times close to but not quite yet Peak) and Off-Peak. Here is another great resource outlining the five tips for off-peak travel.
Let’s face it, if you have to fly at a certain time on a certain date with no wiggle room, you’re gonna pay more. When it comes to travel dates, you will get a better price when you are flexible. One of my favorite apps to find the best dates WHEN to buy and WHEN to fly is Hopper. The thing I love about Hopper is it gives you a color coded calendar of the trip you want indicating which are the best days to fly out, and it gives you an option to watch the trip to alert you of the best ticket prices. A couple quick disclaimers about Hopper: there are certain airlines (like Southwest) that only show up on their own website, so be sure to check there, too. Additionally, there is an option to purchase through Hopper, but I actually only use it to find the best dates to fly. I take all that information and go to step four…
Please please PLEASE shop around. I use several sites and apps to compare prices. Once I check Hopper, I look at what their flights are going for, I plug those dates into Skyscanner, Kayak or TravelZoo and see what the best fares actually are. The thing I love about TravelZoo is that there are deals for the whole traveling package airfare, hotel, sometimes a rental car. These are my favorite to book because they are a super great deal and saves me some hassle! When Kristen and I went to Fiji, new Zealand and Australia, TravelZoo was running a sale through TripMasters. They were a great resource and we had a great trip with no hassles!
I also like following Secret Flying or All The Flight Deals to look at spontaneous deals from my area. Sites like these catch error fares or just super cheap tickets to places all round the world. The dates are usually specific, so it helps to be spontaneous during these times. I totally get that not everyone can do this (heck, I can’t drop everything and travel world sometimes either), but it is fun to think, “What if…”.
What are some of your favorite sites or strategies when it comes to flying? Let’s hear them!