When we finally make it through the process of getting to the airport, clearing security, waiting for our boarding call, and snagging a spot for our carry-on, most of us feel overwhelmed.
However, through years of traveling professionally, there are three things that I’ve learned to do after boarding a flight that I think every traveler should also. These three simple things can make life in-flight and post-flight easier.
Here are the three things that you should Every Time you board a flight.
1. Set a Countdown for the Expected Flight Time
Setting a silent timer on your phone is an easy way to know exactly how much time is left on your flight. While many international flights and a few transcontinental flights offer a countdown in the in-flight entertainment panel, for most flights you are stuck either trying to tell time or being that tiresome passenger who asks the flight attendant how much time is left in the flight.
Be the star passenger who can strategize your entertainment choices and time your bathroom breaks by using a silent timer on your phone. After boarding, but before your flight takes off, simply set a silent alarm for the amount of time scheduled for the duration of your flight. By keeping this countdown active on your phone, you’ll know at a glance just how long you’ve got before your flight touches down at your destination.
This method works especially well for flights across multiple time zones, where it can be challenging to track how much time has passed using a watch.
I often set two timers:
- ⏲ A total travel time countdown. I set this timer when I leave my home. It is set for the my total travel time – the timer goes off at the time that I expect to be checking into my destination hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. This time really helps me get through marathon 24hr+ travel days.
- ⏳ An individual flight timer I set after boarding. Being able to know how much time is left in my flight really helps me tolerate the discomfort of flying.
💡 Hint: Pro tip from a therapist (Yep, that’s my day job). Setting a timer after boarding isn’t just helpful for knowing when to take a bathroom break or if you have time to start another movie, timers have a pretty powerful effect on soothing brains during unpleasant experiences a long flight in economy seats. When we can see a timer counting down, it helps our brains relax. Because we can see time taking away, brains are less likely to fall into the trap of flight-related anxiety.
2. Check in with my home and financial apps
The second thing I do after boarding a flight is check in with my essential apps for home and financial management- plus, I set myself any important reminders I need for undoing these things on the return trip.
For me, this means:
Adjusting my smart thermostat
Usually, the last thing I have time for in the moments before leaving for a trip is setting my thermostat to an eco-friendly setting. Instead, just after boarding my airplane, I log into my home management app and adjust my thermostat as needed.
Alert my bank I’m traveling
Before I try to withdraw money from a foreign ATM on arrival, I let my bank know to expect this foreign activity. By logging into the app from my seat on the plane, before takeoff but after boarding, I can avoid any financial surprises related to my bank’s safety protocols for foreign transactions.
Set return related reminders
Ugh. I came home to an 85° F house once! Never again. Now, after I board a plane, I always set a reminder to precondition the temperature of my house a few hours before I expect to arrive home.
When I lived in a micro-apartment in Pike Place Market in Seattle, I didn’t have to worry about preemptively changing the temperature of my thermostat when I was traveling on the way home. But now that I live in a house in St. Louis, where temperatures can be extreme in summer and winter, arriving home to a comfortable house means preheating in the winter or pre-cooling in the summer.
This is really easy for me to get forget as I hustle get to the airport for my return trip, so after boarding an airplane I set a reminder for the morning of my return trip that reminds me to adjust my thermostat as needed so I can come home to a comfortable house.
I also set any other important reminders. Part of shifting into vacation/travel mode for me is fully checking out of my day to day responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t come home to a load of extra work! One of the ways that I put boundaries between work and vacation time is by giving myself permission to forget about responsibilities which can be ignored or delayed during my trip.
💡 Once I arrive at the airport, I’m on vacation. When thoughts related to work or home responsibilities pop up, I simply create a reminder on my phone that will pop up shortly after I return home and then, after setting that reminder, give myself permission to forget about the matter entirely.
3. Mount my Phone on the Seat Back in front of Me
In-flight entertainment helps people cope with the tight confines of an airplane 1 so the third thing I do after boarding a flight is set up my DIY airplane seat back phone holder. Through experimenting with a couple of different methods of mounting a phone on the back of an airplane seat, I found a strategy that works super well.
It does, however, take a little bit of experimentation with individual airline seats so I try to get my phone mounted on the back of the seat in front of me before my seat neighbor arrives (or, at the very least, while we’re all still getting uncomfortably settled).
By the time I board a flight, I’m ready to collapse into my tiny seat, send a few parting texts, and prepare to tune out the flight attendant’s safety presentation.
These are the three things I do when after I board a flight. Taking care of these four things helps me to relax during my vacation, manage my travel, and thrive (rather than just survive) the discomfort of a long flight. Having a plan also helps reduce my airport anxiety, since I know what to expect.
For more flight-savvy travel tips, see these related articles:
Artist, digital nomad, and highly sensitive person, Lynli started traveling full time as a digital nomad in 2018. Writer and Illustrator by day, remote-destination explorer by other-days, Lynli is passionate about pushing the boundaries of her own comfort zone, exploring the world as a plus size, one-bag traveler, and journaling it all on WanderBig.com
- Maeder, D. (2021). 5. Unmoving Bodies: In-Flight Entertainment, Infrastructural Images and Cultural Techniques of Sitting. Images on the Move: Materiality-Networks-Formats, 76, 87.