Frugal Living

How to Have More Fun Flying

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I flew for the first time in 2009.  Iliana was 22 months old, and I was 31.

For our annual spring break trip to Florida that year, Rob’s parents had generously used their United miles to book all three of us on a flight.

Per TSA’s recommendation, we arrived two hours early, to the small airport in Freeland, Michigan.  There was no line for security, so we made it through in 10 minutes.  Ili delighted the agent with her cuteness.

My first flying experience was on a small connector plane that took us to Detroit.  Our flight attendant was a delightful man who was very excited when we told him that this was Iliana’s and my first time flying.  Right before we landed, he awarded both of us with printed certificates and stick on wings.

Four years later, we moved to Texas.  I have since lost count of the number of times that we have flown.

And yet, it has never stopped being fun for me.  And it should be fun for you, as well!  My mission today is to prevent you from becoming one of those downtrodden, stressed-out zombie-people in the airport.

So without further adieu, here is my list of tips for making air travel actually fun!

1.  Book like a true tightwad.

I used to think that flying was prohibitively expensive, but that was just because I was doing it wrong!  With a little bit of legwork, I can always find tickets to Michigan, that cost about the same as driving.

I start with Priceline.  This lets me know right away if any of the major airlines are having a special.  Then I check that against Google Flights, the airline’s website, and Spirit’s website to see if there are any better deals to be found.

If there are no special deals to be found, we can almost always get a good price on Spirit.   (That is what we are doing on this trip).  However, in the past we have flown on American and Delta for lower prices than what Spirit was offering.

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2.  Pack light.  (Ridiculously light, if you are flying on Spirit!)

There are many minimalist blog posts about the virtues of packing light.  I don’t buy it, for road trips.  Loading up the car is easy, and bringing things instead of buying them saves money.  When we drive, we pack everything but the kitchen sink!

On a plane, however, being less encumbered saves time, money, and hassle.  I detest having to deal with a lot of luggage at the airport, especially if there is a layover.  In fact, I only bring a carry-on bag if there is not a layover.  Otherwise, we check our baggage or pack everything in our “personal item” bags.

On the major airlines, you can bring a lot as personal items.  One time when we flew, we were allowed a bag, a purse, and a laptop bag.  We didn’t bring that much, because we didn’t want to be carrying it during the layover, but it did give us ample room for packing!

Another time, we did not pack any clothing.  Instead, I ordered lots of clothing for all of us from ebay, and had it shipped my relatives’ house.  This cost $25, so it was cheaper than checking a bag.

This time, we are each bringing one bag that fits the specs for a personal item on Spirit.  Since Michigan can get cold at night, we will be wearing our long pants on the plane.  Rob is wearing shorts and a t-shirt under his outfit, and Iliana and I are wearing pants under our dresses.

We have each packed three outfits, rolled up in our bags.  Other than that, our bags are packed with entertainment items and snacks. We did not pack any toiletries, other than a hair brush, Rob’s mustache wax, and an extra set of contacts for me.  It is easy enough to pick up shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, razors, etc. from the dollar store.  And much cheaper than checking a bag or a carry-on!

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3.  Get to the TSA line early.

Going through security stresses me out.  Not because I am afraid we will not be cleared, but because I am afraid that we will miss our flight, no matter what time it leaves.  So my trick is to get to that line ASAP.

If our flight leaves in the morning, we will have someone drop us off at a hotel with a shuttle the night before.  (Priceline is a great place to find a hotel.)  Otherwise, we try to get there 3 hours early.  We check-in online and print our boarding passes at home or in the kiosk, then get our butts into that line!

Then we plan on eating at the airport.  If the line went fast, we will sit down for a burger and a beer.  If things took longer than expected, we grab some fast food.  Usually, we get the sit-down dinner, which is very relaxed, because we know we will make it to our gate on time.

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4.  Don’t be in such a hurry to get on the plane!

Seriously, why is priority boarding a perk?  When you’re at the airport, you can use the wifi and walk around.  Once you are on the plane, you can not.  You don’t have to get on the plane until 20 minutes before it leaves.  We usually wait until the final boarding call, then wait to get in line.

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5.  Dress for the occasion!

You are riding a flying machine!  So dress up, already!

Be sure to take a lot of pictures and talk about how exciting that it is that you are riding a flying machine.  In fact, the dorkier you can act, the better.

Trust me on that one.

Note:  Iliana had a dress to wear, but it was PJ day at her day camp, and we forgot to have her change.  Pajamas are also an excellent option at the airport!

3 thoughts on “How to Have More Fun Flying”

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