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Insider Travel Tips From a Flight Attendant

Anybody who’s ever traveled through an airport has probably wished things could go a little… smoother. Whether it’s forgetting the things you need at home, struggling with your packing job at security or finding yourself famished before boarding and having to wait until hitting altitude to even look at a pack of pretzels, the reality is flying is not all roses.

That’s why we reached out to Heather, a Miami-based flight attendant of nearly four years. She gave us all the best travel tips she’s collected from her frequent flying.

Her best tips for packing

It turns out flight attendants use the same tricks we’ve heard. “Pack as light as possible, put all your liquids in a 3-ounce or less bottle so as not to be thrown away when going through security, wear easy shoes to slip on and off for day-of travel and bring entertainment for yourself and/or family,” Heather said. One thing she recommended that you’re probably still not doing? “Pack unopened snacks of your own to avoid airport prices and being famished before and during flight.”

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What she keeps in her carry-on

Health is the first priority in a carry-on, Heather says. “Hand sanitizer, Emergen-C, any meds I might need — Advil, Tums, vitamins, etc.,” she tells me. After that, the things that keep you comfortable and prepared should be prioritized: headphones, a pen, a phone charger, some kind of entertainment, whatever makeup is necessary and the savior of all flights, mints or gum.

How she fights the dryness of airplanes

Of course, drink water, Heather says. You can keep a small moisturizer in your carry-on or purse. A few other things that work wonders according to Heather are “nasal spray for those super-dry flights and altitude change, eye drops and some medicated lip balm for dry lips.”

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The best time to travel

No big insider secrets here, she says. Flights tend to be cheaper Monday through Thursday and distant from holidays. If you’re trying to find an uncrowded flight, stay away from Fridays and Sundays and “any holiday or season where kids and colleges are out of school.”

How to avoid jet lag

Get a good night’s sleep before your flight, eat well and stay super-hydrated, she told me, as well as trying to exercise and get your circulation going on the day of your flight. “If it’s a long red-eye flight, I take a couple-hour nap when I get in and then force myself to get up and move around so as not to ruin my sleep later that evening,” she said. She also tries to eat on the schedule she would at home. For example, she says, “If you’re from New York and going to LA and normally eat dinner at 6 or 7 p.m. Eastern, aim for a bigger meal at 3 or 4 p.m. Pacific.”

If you’re going to pack one food or beverage, make it…

…ginger ale. “Flights can sometimes run out of ginger ale because of its popularity, and I don’t like to take that chance,” Heather says.

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What she wishes you knew about air travel

Kindness is key, she says. “You have no idea what people are going through or where they might be headed (funeral, family crises, stressful job interview or meeting, etc.). Being nice and courteous goes a long way and can avoid many issues.”

On a lighter note, planes are just not that clean, she says. “Wear your shoes when getting out of your seat and especially when going to the [lavatory.]”

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