Get smart: our crop of travellers have spent more than enough time at 35,000ft

MADE BY MEMBERS • April 2023

22 ways to be the smartest person on the plane

Have you perfected your in-flight routine? What are the items you can’t take off without? We ask the travel pros who have their long- (and short-) haul hacks down to a tee, so you can take their tips with you

As former crew, a frequent flyer and a family traveller, my top tips are to bring an empty pillow case from home, then fill it with your bulky coats to make a comfy cushion. If you have toddlers and older kids and are travelling on a day flight, board last. No point in waiting for everyone else to board while your kids get cranky.
Carrie Bradley, blogger

jt genter gum

Bring gum. No one wants to start a trip with ear pain or a headache from the pressure change. (Quietly) chomping on a piece of gum can help you pop your ears. Gum doubles as a breath freshener, too. Fellow passengers, cabin crew, and border guard agents will be appreciative of that.
JT Genter, Blue Member @JTGenter

I try not to board hungry and will always have a meal before a long flight.
Jill Robbins, freelance journalist, Business Insider, Huffington Post @KJillRobbins

han talbot tote bags

I keep a spare tote bag in my hand luggage and throw everything I need for the flight in there before boarding, so I can stash my small suitcase and not need it again until the end.
Han Talbot, digital nomad @HanMeetsWorld

I always carry an aux adapter so I can use my own headphones. Also, sit near the back as these are the least popular seats and you might get lucky with a spare seat – or row!
Bella, Blue Member and blogger

hazel plush seats

You can ‘hack’ the seat booking process to boost your chances of getting extra space on the plane. When travelling alone, I always leave a spare seat between me and a fellow passenger. If the window seat is already taken, opt for the aisle seat, or vice versa. It’s very unusual for the middle seat to get booked up, simply because nobody chooses a lone middle seat if they can help it. It can also work if you’re travelling in a pair: book both the window and aisle seat together, leaving the middle one empty. It’s sneaky, but works most of the time!
Hazel Plush, Blue Member and journalist, Telegraph Travel, Wanderlust @hazelplush

julia buckley view

I’m a sucker for a great view, especially during landing or take-off, so I normally have a Google hunt before choosing a seat – more often than not, there’ll be something online about which is the best side to sit on. If you get a prime bird’s-eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge or of Venice before you’ve even landed, you’re already in the holiday mood by the time you hit the tarmac.
Julia Buckley, Gold Member and journalist, CNN, Condé Nast Traveller @juliathelast

As former cabin crew, I can confirm that passengers who are really nice to us do get noticed and we will shower them with whatever is available to us (no cabin upgrades, though, unfortunately). l also always moisturise my lips before putting on a facemask to seal in the moisture and prevent chapped lips caused by the dry air.
Danielle Zhu, London @DaniiZhu

katie gatens socks

OK, I might not win the award for best dressed but, in my grey cashmere flight socks and lightweight pink Birkenstocks, I pad around from galley to seat in total satisfaction. I pity those in their too-white hotel slippers with cardboard soles in the queue for the toilets. Stash the socks in your hand luggage as the wheels touch the tarmac. When the warm Caribbean air hits your (hopefully pedicured) toes – you know your holiday’s begun. 
Katie Gatens, Blue Member and digital travel editor, The Times and Sunday Times @katie_gatens

I created my own padded roll-up bed for business class seats. It’s made from thick foam wrapped in silk, which rolls up tight in my carry-on. No more seatbelts jamming into my hips.

Jim Dobson, Bronze Member and Forbes travel editor @TheLuxeWorld

lotte gross toothbrush

I change into my pyjamas or trackies on long-haul flights before it’s time to snooze. Means I sleep more comfortably and wake up feeling fresh.
Lottie Gross, Blue Member and author of Dog-Friendly Weekends @lottiecgross

I’ve encountered my fair share of unlucky seating allocations in the air and one of the things I fear most is being trapped with a bad smell. So these days I never fly without a small pot of Tiger Balm white ointment in my carry-on. It’s powerful stuff, with natural camphor, menthol and clove. Just one dab under the nose and you’ll be able to breathe easy.
Lorna Parkes, journalist, The Guardian, Time Out @Lorna_Explorer

rob crossan music

Much as with eye shades, a blanket brought from home and a gin and tonic can aid sleep. I find soothing music makes a huge difference, too. A night flight probably isn’t the right time to listen to the Ramones or the Beastie Boys, so be selective about what is going to put you in the right head space. And don’t skip tracks! Long flights are a great chance to listen to albums in full. Music for Airports by Brian Eno is a long time fave of mine for inducing sleep and In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra is guaranteed to nudge you into superior slumbers.
Rob Crossan, writer and radio host, The Happiness Map (BBC Radio 6 Music)

Place your butter packet on the top of your main meal foil while you eat the starter/salad. That way it will be soft and ready to spread when you want to use it.
Alex Outhwaite, Blue Member and TV presenter @AlexOuthwaite

For long-haul, I have a super light cotton onesie that I had made up just for travelling. It makes the long journeys so much more comfortable. Everyone laughs, but I can’t recommend it enough.
Roman Townsend, London @roman_townsend

ross clarke scarfs

Always wear a scarf. I feel the cold, and air conditioning on planes gives me the chill. A scarf doesn’t get in the way of your snack-munching (although be careful if you’re tucking into anything with a sauce), TV watching or book reading. It can also double as a blanket, pillow, eye mask or neck pillow and, in extreme cases, a napkin to mop up spilled drinks. All I beg of you is to choose your scarf carefully to ensure you don’t end up looking as if you’re on your ‘gap yah’. 
Ross Clarke, Blue Member and journalist, Times Travel, National Geographic Traveller @theguiri

Take one of those oat and lavender neck warmers, which moulds to the shape of your neck/chin, and smells divine. Don’t forget to ask the crew to warm it up for you, if they can!
Alex Allen, Blue Member and journalist, Food & Travel, Sunday Times Travel Magazine @AJ_Allenesq 

Get a phone holder that clips on to the folded-up tray table. It means less neck ache.

Jamie Carter, Blue Member and journalist, Sky at Night, Travel + Leisure @jamieacarter

My skin gets super dry on flights – the longer the haul, the worse it feels – so I always make sure I have rosewater spray to spritz and hydrate my face (it’s better than moisturiser as you don’t have to keep washing your hands before doing it). The Mario Badescu and Fresh ones are my favourite, and both do a mini size for hand luggage. It’s also great for calming sunkissed/sunburned skin.
Jade Conroy, digital publishing editor, Telegraph Travel @jaders_

sophie foster balls

Take a tennis ball/solid rubber ball in your carry-on bag. If you place it between your back and the seat you can use it to massage away a bad back! It’s also good for reducing cramp in your feet. I also pop Bepanthen around my nostrils to avoid them getting sore.
Sophie Foster, journalist, Daily Star @SophieAFoster

I’ve done plenty of flying with kids. Have a wee gift/toy to introduce every few hours on long-haul flights, learn all the airport words the night before in a book for little ones, and give kids a soft toy who is ‘not keen on flying’ for them to look after. Teenagers? Whole different answers. 
Robin McKelvie, journalist, BBC, the i @robinmckelvie

sarah gillespie app

Nothing ruins a holiday like jet lag, so use technology to get a head start on it. Cheat your circadian rhythm with a personalised light exposure schedule from the Timeshifter app – you’ll arrive at your destination refreshed, no matter how great the time difference. 
Sarah Gillespie, Blue Member and journalist, South China Morning Post, Culture Trip @sjcgillespie

Tier mentions correct as of December 2022

This article has been tagged Opinion, Travel Tips