In this episode, B and Jack continue their series about the best airport and airplane tips. They provide the first 15 tips as well as provide some general consideration about the topic.
1.1. The topic within the context of the Digital Nomad Life System
The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step meta-system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.
The sixth step of the system is called the “Departing Process”. This can be understood as the things that the digital nomad needs to do just before and during the period in which he is leaving his current base to guarantee a smooth departure and transition to his next base (the city you are going to). Airplanes and airports are things you will encounter when you are leaving a place. Thus, it makes sense to place this topic here.
To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.
1.2. General observations about the topic
This episode is part of a mini-series, which means we won’t provide all the tips in this episode. Rather we will divide those into a number of different episodes in order to keep the episodes under 20 minutes. Also, keep in mind that the whole thing won’t be in order. I will provide 15 tips per episode that go back and forth on airplanes and airports.
This series is supposed to be a comprehensive list. Thus it is likely, especially if you are a somewhat experienced digital nomad, that you already heard some of these tricks. Having said that I think this can be a good memory refresher and also I am sure at least one or two tips will be new to you since I have come up with this list over many years by talking to different digital nomads, reading blogs, and talking to cabin crew.
Finally, one last thing that I would like to say is that some of the tips here might be considered sneaky by some. We do not necessarily practice or enforce all these tips. Also, Nomad Tactics should not be responsible for your application with the information, it is for educational purposes only. Thus the purpose of the series is to simply provide you with the list and then it is your call what you are ok doing it or not.
1.3. Airport and airplane tips
Lift the armrest in the aisle seat: Usually, if you want to lift both the armrests when you are in the middle, you gonna have some problems. In contrast, if you are having the aisle seat you can pull up the armrest easier. One secret that not many people are aware of is that it is actually possible to lift this armrest. The way to do so is by spotting the secret button underneath the very top of the armrest, where it connects to the rest of the chair, by clicking such a button, it will allow you to pull the armrest up. This is a good thing because it will give you a better position for your legs by allowing them to go slightly to the corridor.
Check your passport’s “hidden” expiration date: We all know that passports have an official expiration date. What many people don’t know is that besides this official expiration date, there is an unofficial expiration date for passports. This is because most countries will not allow you to come in as a visitor if your passport’s expiration is too close to the official expiration date. Usually, the rule of thumb is 6 months. By having a passport with at least 6 months from expiring you can avoid a lot of possible trouble with the immigration agent. That is why it is also essential for you to check if your passport has at least 6 months of validity before you head to the airport.
If you are concerned about covid, be mindful about where you sit: First and foremost, we need to restate the straightforward fact that covid is an airborne disease, thus it relates to the air you breathe. There are three tips here related to avoiding catching covid on a plane. First, you should book seats in the front of the plane rather than the back. This is because, in most airplane models, the circulation of air goes from front to back thus by sitting in the front you will be breathing “cleaner air”. Also, book the window seat since this will allow you to breathe cleaner air due to the fact that most airplanes release just filtered air closer to the window seat. Finally, leave the air vent open and direct at you. By doing so you will be able to get the cleanest air.
Be mindful about what to do if your flight was cancelled or overbooked: In such circumstances, you should do two things. First, instead of simply talking to people at the airline counter to see what you need to do next or what kind of compensation you get, you should also be calling the airline hotline. Sometimes your issue can be solved quicker by the airline since there won’t be a huge line of people waiting like in the airport. The second thing you should do is to request more than they initially offer (both in terms of perks as well as money) for an overbooked flight or cancelled flight. The reason for that is because the airlines tend to offer quite little to passengers on such occasions. But from my experience, if you push them just a little they will give you more.
Bring candy to the flight attendant: This tip sounds a bit funny, but trust me it works. If you give candy to the flight attendant you will be treated a whole different way. Sure, there is nothing special about candy and other small gifts would work also. The reason why I suggest candy is because it is something small, and almost everyone will accept it. You can be really casual about it by having the candy package in your hands, as you were taking candy yourself. When she passes by you simply say ”you seem to be having a lot of work there, take one, it’s a very good candy from my home country” or something else along those lines. Trust me, once you do that you will get special attention the whole flight, and perhaps even some extra perks. Best of all, even if for some reason she refuses the candy, most likely you still getting the better treatment due to the simple fact that you offer her in the first place.
Use a cheap non-TSA approved to secure your bag: This might sound counterintuitive, considering the advice you might have received previously. Usually, people tell you to buy TSA-approved locks for your luggage, thus if they want to check it they will not need to break it since they can use a special key. I would argue that this is not a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, they do not check luggage all that often, thus you do not need to worry about breaking many non-TSA-approved locks. Second, non-TSA-approved locks tend to be cheap so even if they break them, you will be able to replace them quite easily at a cheap cost. Third, many criminals nowadays have access to the keys to open TSA locks, so I rather know if someone opened my bag or not. The only way you will be able to know that is if they used a non-TSA lock. Lastly, let’s disregard the chance of your lock being picked since this is unlikely.
Be careful about where you charge your phone in the airport: Sometimes you might see phone charging stations around the airport. Even though these seem to be very convenient, there are already reported a number of incidents where these phone charging devices collect user data once you plug your phone into it. So the advice here is to use a power bank if possible instead of public charging devices. Alternatively, you can plug your charger directly into the airport socket and this will also be safe.
Downloaded the country-specific apps before your flight: Back in episode 004, we have talked about the things you should check before you change your base as a digital nomad. Among the different things I said in that episode, I mentioned that you should check the most commonly used apps in the new country, at the very least, get the transportation (e.g. Uber, Lyft, Grabb) and communication (e.g. Whatsapp, Wechat, Viber, Kakaotalk, Line). The reason why you should download these apps before you get on your flight is that in order to use some of these apps, you will need to activate them using a local number. Yet, if you follow the other tip we gave in this episode, you will likely not be getting a local sim card in the airport so you won’t be able to activate the app. On the other hand, if you activate the app while you are still in the previous country you will be able to use it once you arrive at your destination.
You probably should not buy SIM card at the airport: There are many ways a digital nomad can get a phone number and/or data. One of such ways is by buying a local sim card in the different countries he goes to. Anyway, back to the topic. Usually, if you buy a SIM card at the airport this will be overcharged. You can get much better deals in the city center of your destination. Granted that there are some exceptions to this rule, where either you cannot get a SIM card anywhere else except the airport or the airport SIM card is a better deal for you. South Korea is an example of the latter case, where I usually get better deals in the airport than in the city.
Take a photo of your luggage receipt: In the last episode, I told you that you should take a phone of your luggage. In today’s episode, my tip is to also take a photo of the checked luggage receipt you receive once you are check-in. The reason why it is important to take a photo of your luggage receipt is that once again if something happens to your luggage (say it was lost or ended up in the wrong airport) you will speed up the process of the recovery process. Also having the photo of the luggage receipt will help you in case you want to file a complaint with your credit card.
Use the lost and found of the airport: Most countries have a lost and found counter. What many people are not aware of is that in some countries if you go to the lost and found you can ask to borrow items. Typically they will lend you things if the things have not been claimed in 90 days. This is especially useful if you need a power bank, charger, or wired headphones. Best of all, some airports’ lost and founds do not simply lend you items but also let you stay with them for good.
If you are late, tell the staff at the airport: If you are really late for your flight, one thing I have done numerous times and it truly works is to tell the staff at the airport that you are late and prove that by showing your ticket. In many instances, they will allow you to jump cues or even get into fast track lanes.
Consider requesting one of the special meals provided by the airline: It doesn’t really matter if you go for the vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free. There are two reasons why you should consider requesting these special meals. The first reason is that these tend to be of higher quality in most airlines due to the fact that they are not mass-produced like the conventional meal. The second reason is that by requesting the special meal you will typically get served first.
Bring conventional wired headphones when you fly: More and more people nowadays ditch wired headphones for Bluetooth headphones. Even though the latter ones are great, I would still advise people to bring their own wired headphones every time they fly. A couple of reasons for that. First, these are small so they will take almost no space in your luggage. Secondly, the quality and the comfort levels of the headphones provided by airlines in most economic classes are really bad, so you will be much better with your own wired headphones. Third, in some airlines nowadays, especially budget airlines, you will need to pay in order to have access to headphones, so you can easily cut out this expense by bringing out your own.