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10 Little-Known Things We Can Get For Free On Planes (10 We Won't Pay For)

Wanderlust is one of our generation’s greatest indulgences - that and avocado on toast. There’s something to be said about acquiring experiences over things. It’s no wonder we all love to explore the world so much. It takes us away from our day-to-day grind, lets us unwind, and detox from our technology-driven lives. J.R.R. Tolkien really said it best with his famous quote, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

Travel can get costly, fast. According to Travel Week, Canadians spend 35.1 billion dollars on tourism, a considerable contribution considering the size of the country’s population. The same report revealed that on average, people from Canada spend roughly $1,000 per person on international travel, while those from the USA spend about $266 per person each year.

For those of us who love to travel, but want to make their dollar go further, it can be helpful to know some tricks and tips to help your vacation budget stretch. Booking a flight can often be one of the most stressful and costly parts of any vacation.

While air travel has changed a lot from the times of cost-included TV style dinners, with passengers putting on their Sunday best for a flight, there are still many items you can get at no cost; you just need to ask.

Here are 10 things you can get on a flight for free, and another ten that are going to cost you.

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20 Pay Up: Flying on a Friday or a Sunday

Image via Condé Nast Traveler

Demand drives place in the world of business, and air travel is no different. According to Smarter Traveller you can expect the highest volume and prices on weekends (with price surges on Friday and Sunday, and weekends in general) as well as during major vacation times, such as the 17 days around Christmas, around long weekends, summer vacation, and the weeks surrounding spring break.

To save the most money the best days to travel are said to be Tuesday or Wednesday, so mark your calendar for an unconventional block of vacation time if you want to save some cash on your flight.

19 Pay Up: Meals & Condiments

Image via Point Me To The Plane

It’s been a while since a meal was included in most coach travel, and some airlines are charging extra for things as simple as ketchup. According to Holiday Extras, getting what you pay for is true, so it might be a better option to splurge on one good meal instead of two cheaper ones for better quality eats.

If you’re paying for your food and want the best of the best you may want to consider flying with British Airways, Thomas Cook Airlines, or Air France, as each of these carriers consults with celebrity and high-class chefs to ensure the meals you pay for are worth the cost.

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18 Pay Up: Your In-Flight Entertainment Experience

Image via Engadget

When booking your flight, it’s best to find out whether there are TVs in the back of the seats or not, or if there are tablets available for rent. With many people bringing their own entertainment on board, don’t assume that the television is just going to be there.

According to Map Happy, the cost of renting headphones can vary, with Delta offering them for just two bucks, and United charging flyers seven. Costs for movies are about the same as to rent at a hotel but check ahead of time. Some airlines, like WestJet, are beginning to offer streaming TV and movies for free.

17 Pay Up: Bringing Your Baby (Even Without an Extra Seat)

Image via Business Insider

Many parents rush to take their tot on a flight before their second birthday because of the universal rule about kids under two flying for free. The thing is, there are some stipulations to this rule. Babies two and under can fly for no additional cost on all domestic flights, so long as they sit on their parent's lap for the entire flight.

It is safer for your child to fly secured in their car seat, and for this extra safety, you’ll need to buy an extra seat.

The good news is many airlines offer discounts for infant seats, but this is who, according to Trip Savvy, doesn’t: Delta, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, and Virgin America.

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16 Pay Up: Selecting Your Seat Ahead of Time

Image via Trip Savvy

Many airlines make passengers pay a fee to select their seats on a plane more than 24 hours before their departure time. Those travelling with children or on a romantic or lengthy trip will usually suck up the fee to ensure they’re seated close to their loved ones whereas others refuse to pay the fees on principle alone.

Recently Ryanair has come under fire for accusations of deliberately separating people who book together to ensure they pay the extra fees to be seated together. One travel reporter told The Independent, “Squeezing an extra £10 out of each passenger can quickly add up if you are flying with a group of people. As I have rarely enjoyed flying on a no-frills carrier, I refuse to pay extra for something that will not make the experience any more comfortable.”

15 Pay Up: Priority Boarding Passes

via:Travel + Leisure

People may be even more likely to do this when travelling for work, since it’s on their company’s dime and not their own. According to an article in AZ, central passengers of Southwest flights may want to pay the fee to avoid getting stuck in a middle seat (since the airline doesn’t assign seats).

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14 Pay Up: Ticket Reprints

via:Pinterest

Just the same, those travelling who are watching their money are most likely to notice when the airline is adding in fees. Many airlines, such as discount flyer Ryanair, require all passengers to check in ahead of time online. Those who don’t, according to Trip Savvy, need to pay a ‘boarding fee’, even if they’ve already printed their ticket at home.

To avoid these fees, print at home using a printer with plenty of ink, and make sure the paper you’ve printed your ticket on isn’t damaged.

13 Pay Up: Checking Your Baggage

Image via Travel and Leisure

Time is money, and that’s one of the many reasons airlines charge for checked bags. According to CBC, “Some foreign airlines have already started charging for carry-on bags to reduce boarding delays.” The article says, “Airlines are already grappling with a large influx of carry-on luggage which can lead to delays as passengers jockey for overhead bin space.

Some carriers have already initiated carry-on bag fees to help combat the problem — and increase profits.” Airlines like WestJet and Air Canada have raised their checked bag fees to $30 for the first bag and $35 to $50 for the second, so people are moving to stuff more into their carry-on, which causes space restrictions in overhead bins, and delays.

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12 Pay Up: Direct Flights & Bigger Airports Vs. The Little Guys

Image via Vantage Airport Group

It may surprise you that it’s often more expensive to fly from a big city to a small one (even if it’s closer) than two major cities hundreds of miles apart, and that certain areas consistently have the most expensive flights.

Syracuse.com posted a list of the top 100 most expensive US Cities to fly out of, so it might be worth driving or busing to another airport if you live in the top 10. The 10 most expensive US Cities to fly out of are: Huntsville, AL; Cincinnati, OH; Washington Dulles; Newark, NJ; Houston Bush, TX; Fayetteville, AR; Savannah, GA; Madison, WI; Cleveland OH, and Pensacola, FL.

11 Pay Up: Using a Credit Card

via:YouTube

Many passengers don't realize they’ve been dinged for charges beyond their entrée and tablet rental until their bill comes in, long after they've returned home from their travels.

According to Frommers, British Airways charged journalist Will Storr $28, an additional service fee for the pleasure of booking his flight with a credit card (although according to the same article Allegiant Airlines is the only US airline that does this to the tune of $17 per booking).

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10 Free: Tour of the Cockpit

Image via G Adventures

Ever wonder what it’s like in the cockpit? Provided the pilots have time and that the airline allows it (most do at the pilot’s discretion) they’ll usually be open to giving you a tour of ‘where the magic happens’.

Many flight attendants will specifically ask passengers with kids if they’d like a tour of the cockpit, which often occurs after (or occasionally before) take-off since the pilots are busy flying the planes during the flight.

Gone are the days where passengers can sit up front during the flight, and travel site One Mile at a Time recommends you ask permission before snapping pictures in the cockpit, to make sure it’s okay.

9 Free: A Set of Wings

Image via Forbes

Adults who want an extra way to sway their child to behave during a long flight may want to quietly confer with the flight attendant, and ask whether the specific airline has any airline logo ‘pilot’ pins to give to their child.

In 2016, AA proudly promoted bringing back this little flying bonus beginning with popular flying routes for kids (like to Florida). Delta airlines never stopped this kid-friendly bonus.

Suzanne Hess, a flight attendant says, “Parents loved them, children loved them and we enjoyed giving them out. There's a wonder to it. It's nice to be able to share it with children. They {would} get big smiles on their faces."

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8 Free: Extra Snacks

Image via Reader's Digest

Some flights happen between meals, and this can make you feel a little extra peckish. Maybe you don’t want to spend $10 on a plastic wrapped sandwich - either way if you’re still feeling hungry after your tiny portion of pretzels, cookies, or whatever, it’s worth asking if there are more. Many people turn down these snacks, and if there are extras most flight attendants will happily give you a second serving. Looking for the best snack options on your flight? Spoon University ranked airlines with the best snacks, the top six being: Delta, Jet Blue, Swiss International Airlines, Air France, Korean Air, and LATAM.

7 Free: A Temporary Babysitter

Image via Pinterest

Travelling with kids can be taxing. When they finally fall asleep the last thing you want to do is wake them up because you need to use the facilities.

If you’re flying solo with a kiddo and need a bathroom break, ask a flight attendant (try to avoid times when they’re busy with the food cart or other regular responsibilities), but most will be happy to keep an eye on your little one should they wake up while you’re gone, if you ask.

Ethiad Airlines even has a ‘flying nanny’ onboard to help provide support to parents, offering up fun games, activities, and goodie-bags to help keep even the crankiest travellers happy.

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6 Free: Hotel rooms and vouchers

Image via Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan

There is nothing more frustrating than getting bumped from an overcrowded flight, but the good news is that many airlines will offer incentives for those willing to wait for the next flight or even stay overnight - you just need to ask!

Trip Savvy says that getting properly compensated is all about the art of negotiation. Ask about free meals, hotel room cost coverage, transportation between the airport and the hotel, and confirmation of when your next flight is scheduled.

Trip Savvy also advises, “If the airline offers you a free ticket or a transportation voucher in a certain dollar amount, remember to ask about the restrictions."

5 Free: Indulgent Hot Chocolate

Image via Splendid Table

While everyone knows about coffee and tea being served as a part of the beverage cart, several airlines offer hot chocolate on their list of options for thirsty travellers, and you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy this tasty treat.

According to Business Insider, Etihad Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Southwest Airlines, are some of the carriers who are known for offering up a cozy cup of hot chocolate to their economy class passengers, and with competition rising for travellers’ dollars, more and more airlines are beginning to offer sweet little bonuses for flying with them.

Business Insider also notes that Qantas ups the ante by providing flyers with hot chocolate made from Cadbury chocolates, yum!

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4 Free: Seasoned Travel Advice

Image via The Sun

One of the big draws of working in the travel industry is getting to visit exciting places at a discount. Flight attendants likely chose their profession because they like to travel.

According to Work Chron, "After working for just 30 days, you will have the ability to travel to locations serviced by the airline. Family and friends can also travel for free or reduced fares." How does this help you? Simple - you can ask them for their advice on tourist hot spots, restaurants, and more during your flight.

Like a good host, if they have information most flight attendants will be happy to provide tips to help you make informed decisions when you arrive at your destination.

3 Free: Not Just A Sip Of Soda

Image via Travel and Leisure

To get more soda during your flight you have a few options: 1) you can ask for no ice, so they fill it a little bit more, or 2) you can ask for the rest of the can. Sometimes (early in the flight), if they’re running low on beverages they may say no. But because you asked, they’ll likely come over and give you a refill because they know you asked for more, the next time they bring the snack cart by.

The number of beverages and snacks available is generally determined by the class you’re flying (you’re more likely to get a refill in business than in coach), and the number of hours you’ll be flying.

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2 Free: Basic First Aid Supplies

Image via College First Aid Kit

Much like a super mom’s purse, flight attendants have access to first aid supplies that can help passengers in need whether they’re struggling from anything from a splinter, to a splitting headache, to some heartburn from the in-flight meal, or a full-blown allergy attack.

Aviation standards require that minimal equipment include items such as saline solution, antihistamine tablets, aspirin, syringes (should your own diabetic kit malfunction), bandages, band-aids, and more.

While there may be some variation depending on the airline and the countries you are flying in/between, odds are they’ll have what you need in a pinch.

1 Free: Personal Grooming Kits

Image via Business Insider

You’ll never know unless you ask, but for those who are on a particularly long flight in this modern world of flight restrictions surrounding what personal care items you are and are not permitted to bring as carry-on, you may benefit from asking for a personal grooming kit. Many luxury airlines have these right at your seat, but others have them tucked out of sight only giving them to those who ask.

Kits can include simple items like toothbrushes and mouthwash or more luxurious items like slippers, socks, high-end moisturizer, and more. According to Smarter Travel, Qatar Airlines offers business class passengers amenity kits that include Armani products.

References: Frommers, Reader's Digest, Business Insider, CBC, AZ Central, Spoon University, House Beautiful, Escape Here, West Jet, Syracuse.com, Travel Week, Forbes, Map Happy, Holiday Extras, National Geographic, One Mile at a Time, Etihad, Smarter Travel, Trip Savvy, Independent, Work Chron

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