10 Foolproof Tricks to Beat Flight Anxiety
Does the idea of flying cause you to break out in a cold sweat? You aren't alone. More than 25 million Americans suffer from some form of flight anxiety, making aerophobia (fear of flying) the second biggest fear in the US after public speaking. If you do fall in this category, you've probably had friends and family remind you numerous times that flying is the safest mode of transportation. While that's very true – your chances of dying in a plane crash are about one in 10 million compared with a one-in-272 chance of dying in a car crash – that's not always enough to quell the jitters. And advice like showing up early at the airport to eliminate unnecessary stress is practical as well, but for the most nervous nellies among us, it takes a little bit more to get us up in the air.
We turned to the experts – Todd Farchione, Ph.D., of Boston University's Center for Anxiety & Related Disorders, Martin N. Seif, Ph.D., ABPP, of the Anxiety & Phobia Treatment Center, and Captain Steve Allright of British Airways' Flying With Confidence program – to find out exactly what to do to help alleviate flight anxiety. Thanks to their advice, we put together a 10-step guide to help you conquer your fear – because nothing should stand between you and the vacation you deserve.
1. Name your phobia
Figuring out what triggers your fear in the first place is an important first step toward conquering flight anxiety. Different aspects of flying can trigger different fears depending on the person – for instance, one person may be afraid of turbulence and feel nervous during a perfectly normal takeoff, while an individual with germaphobic tendencies may be more concerned about the spread of germs in a confined space. "The common denominator for more than 90 percent of flight phobics is the fear that they will become overwhelmed with anxiety during the flight," says Seif, a clinical psychologist who runs the Freedom to Fly program at the Anxiety & Phobia Treatment Center in White Plains, New York. It helps to recognize that your phobia is irrational, but you need to be able to pinpoint the cause of your fear before you can take that next step.
2. Familiarize yourself with airplane noises
You're about to land and the plane is rattling like both of its wheels are about to fall off – is it time to panic? No, the carry-on luggage and the seat-back tables are shifting slightly – just like they do every time the plane takes off and lands. Sometimes all it takes to combat anxiety is a little information. Read up on the typical bumps and noises that may occur during a flight. It also helps to understand just how rigorous safety measures are for aircraft. For example, aircraft must be able to support one-and-a-half times the maximum load it would ever carry and weathering environmental extremes such as 120-degree temperatures. "Our anxiety is fed by 'what if?' catastrophic thoughts. Once you become knowledgeable, your 'what if' thoughts will be limited by the facts," said Seif.
3. Check the turbulence forecast
While turbulence is a perfectly normal part of flying – it happens when the plane encounters normal weather patterns like air currents or clouds – the idea of shaking while in the air can be very unsettling. Turbcast (iTunes, $1.99) was designed by a pilot and analyzes weather patterns as a pilot would, giving fliers an inside look at factors like air pockets and thunderstorms that can cause turbulence in the first place. Translation: The more you know about what causes that shaky feeling and how much of it you can expect while you're airborne, the less you'll be afraid of it.
4. Bring a photo of your destination
Visualizing your destination and imagining yourself there can be a powerful antidote to stress – and can help keep you focused on the prize at the end of the journey. You can do this with or without a photo, but having a physical image to refer to – whether it's a picture you've downloaded on your phone or a postcard – can help to keep your mind from wandering. Allright says another method is to "imagine yourself in a safe place, somewhere you feel comfortable and safe. Your bedroom, perhaps, or on a beach. Take yourself there with your eyes closed and relax." The idea is to take your mind off the little things that make you nervous about flying and focus on the positive aspects of your journey.
5. Skip coffee and wine
Captain Allright says to avoid both caffeine and alcohol, as they can leave you feeling more dehydrated during the flight, as well as aggravate anxiety issues. Nervous fliers should avoid a seemingly comforting pre-flight alcoholic beverage, since alcohol can also make it harder for your body to adjust to being airborne and bring on a nasty bout of jet lag. Instead, opt for water and a light meal pre-flight, or carry along a light snack like carrot sticks, nuts, or an apple to keep you feeling nourished.
6. Distract yourself
In a nutshell – distraction works. Airlines now provide the little comforts of home – like televisions, music channels, and magazines – to help distract you from noises and bumps during the flight and make you feel more at home in a strange place. One of the best ways to distract yourself during a flight is to bring a book that you've already started and are deeply engrossed in or a season of your favorite television show. Farchione says if people associate televisions with being safe at home, and there's a television on the plane, they will feel similar familiar feelings of comfort.
7. Tell the flight attendants
Dr. Seif says it's a good idea to let others know you're not too keen on flying – you may be able to speak to the pilot briefly while you board the plane or receive extra attention from flight attendants during the flight. If you're traveling with friends or family members, talk to them about what makes you nervous so they can help alleviate the tension, but don't let the conversation spiral into a contest over who has had the scariest flight experience. Sometimes just knowing that others are available to help you in case your anxiety surfaces is enough to help keep that anxiety in check.
8. Embrace safety information
No, your plane is not going to crash (and whatever you do, do NOT start envisioning disaster scenarios). But knowing that you're prepared for anything can be empowering. Watch an airline safety video while you're still in the comfort of your home so that you can "master" the procedure in your head (Air New Zealand did an especially entertaining take on the safety video, featuring characters from The Hobbit, as well as a hilarious safety video starring fitness guru Richard Simmons). Once you're on board the aircraft, take time to read the airline safety card in the seat pocket in front of you. If it makes you feel better, you could even go so far as to book your seat in the back of the plane, which has been repeatedly shown to be the safest part of the aircraft in the event of a crash.
9. Use this breathing technique
Allright says deep breathing is very important during takeoff and other points during the flight where you experience anxiety. "If someone is very anxious, it is actually very difficult to change their breathing pattern," he says. "Try holding your breath and then breathing deeply, or better still, force yourself to breathe out for as long as you can and then take a long, deep breath." Seif and Farchione both recommended taking deep breaths, since this triggers the calming response and can help to prevent hyperventilation. Try to maintain a relaxed posture as well, and not cling to the chair's armrests, since this can heighten any anxiety you may be feeling.
10. Have relaxation remedies handy
Some doctors prescribe anxious fliers with fast-acting anxiety medications like Xanax or Valium, but Farchione warns that you should be aware that each has its own side effects and that you may feel tired for hours after the plane has landed. If you don't have a prescription, herbal remedies like St. John's Wort or Scullcap may help calm nerves too, according to an article by USA Today. Bring the medication or the herbal remedy, but hold onto it as a "last resort" option. When you feel jitters coming on, start by employing a minor relaxant, such as sipping chamomile or peppermint tea. Farchione says that doing the things you associate with being calm and content will help remind you to remain calm as you fly. You may find that simply knowing the medication is there in case of emergency is comforting enough – and you can reap the benefits without the side effects.
How to Plan a Whisky Tour to Scotland's Speyside Region
In the pastoral region of Speyside in northeast Scotland, whisky is everywhere. Vast, blond fields of barley stretch under open skies. Wooden whisky barrels sit stacked behind low stone warehouses. Whisky bars and bottle shops line the streets, the signature pagoda-shaped chimneys where malt is roasted peek above the green hillsides, and the sweet smell of fermenting barley fills the air.There are more than 100 whisky distilleries operating in Scotland, and more than half of them are located in Speyside, a subregion of the Highlands. It’s the capital of single-malt whisky production in Scotland, and in fact, the world. More single malt whisky is produced here than anywhere else, and tiny towns with just 1,000-2,000 people often support at least two or three working distilleries. For whisky lovers – particularly Scotch whisky lovers – Speyside a playground for the palate. And for those who've never so much as sipped a dram, there's no better place to learn the ins and outs of whisky production and sample a wide range of styles. Here’s your primer on tasting your way around Speyside. Distillery Tours While each distillery puts its own unique spin on things, the basic processes are the same. Rather than trying to tour every distillery, focus on visiting a cross-section of distilleries, or choose brands you’re especially passionate about (they may have some distillery-exclusive bottles you can’t get anywhere else). A street in Dufftown © Katie Hammel / Budget TravelAberlour runs a very informative tour and tasting that’s great for beginners. The 90-minute tour costs £15 per person and includes a walk through the distillery, an overview of how whisky is made, and a tasting of six whiskies. Continue your education at Balvenie, which grows and harvests its own barley onsite and is the only distillery that still practices floor malting in which barley is germinated on a floor. Small-group tours are offered three times per day for £50 per person, and you can bottle your own Balvenie for an additional £30. To see the future of whisky production, head to The Macallan. One of the most modern distilleries in the region, both in design and production style, The Macallan distillery is a gleaming, glass-and-steel monument to whisky and an architectural marvel. Half of the structure is built into the hillside, sheltered under a living roof covered in grass. Underneath that grass, some 2500 individual sheets of Scandinavian spruce – held together only by pressure, with no glue, nails, or other materials – form the distillery ceiling. And, almost all (95%) of the distillery’s energy comes from renewable courses. Ninety-minute introductory tours cost £15 per person, while 2.5-hour tours that go deep into the state-of-the-art production area cost £100 per person. One of the most inexpensive options for tours is Glenfiddich, where a 90-minute tour with three tastings costs just £10 per person. And if you don’t want to spring for that, you can simply wander the bucolic grounds dotted with stone buildings, a small lake, several warehouses, a gift shop, and statues of founders Elizabeth and William Grant. You can even catch a peek at the copper stills. Or, head to the Malt Barn where you can sample by the dram along with soups, salads, and sandwiches that range from £5-8. To work off a few of those whisky calories, join the Dufftown Distilleries Walk. This 3.5-hour tour combines a leisurely stroll through woods and meadows past nine Dufftown distilleries – both active and historic, now-defunct distilleries – with up to 18 drams representative of each distillery’s style. The tour is fully outdoors and doesn’t go inside the distilleries or tasting rooms, but it’s an informative and active way to learn more about the area’s history while sampling a wide variety of whiskies. Once you’ve toured enough, continue your education at the local pub. Most pubs in Speyside boast expansive whisky collections, knowledgeable bartenders, and drams starting at around £2, so you can sample quite a bit for a small bit of cash. Head to the Seven Stills in Dufftown, The Mash Tun or The Still at the Dowans Hotel in Aberlour, or the Quaich Bar at the Craigellachie Hotel. A tasting the Balvenie with cheeses © Katie Hammel / Budget Travel How to Plan Your Day Nearly all distilleries require that you take a tour if you want to sample the goods, and most tours last 1-2 hours. Factor in lunch, and typically you can do no more than three distillery visits in one day – and honestly, that’s plenty if you want to be standing by 6pm. Most distilleries open for visitors at 10 or 11am and close by 4 or 5pm, and while not all require reservations, it’s wise to make them as tours do sell out. The most popular tours, like Balvenie, book up weeks in advance. Assume one tour in the morning, a break for lunch, and then one or two tours in the afternoon, and when possible, cluster them within one town or area to eliminate unnecessary travel time. Or, plan one of the activities listed below in the morning, before tackling the distilleries. What to Do When You're Not Drinking Whisky While there are enough distilleries that you could spend a week or more doing nothing but touring, your liver might not be up to the challenge. Thankfully, there are plenty of other things to do in the region. To learn more about whisky production, head to the Speyside Cooperage where you can watch master coopers repair the barrels used for storing whisky. You’ll learn all about the barrel-making process and can watch the lightning-fast coopers from a second-story observation window. Thirty-minute tours are offered Monday through Friday for £4. Nearby, the crumbling ruins of the 12th-century Balvenie Castle are also worth a look (closed Oct 1 to March 31, admission £6). Head to the town of Elgin to visit the Johnston’s of Elgin cashmere and wool mill. Free, daily guided tours take visitors through the entire production process from dyeing to weaving, as the famous mill creates fabrics for high-fashion companies including Burberry. Reindeer spotting in the Cairngorn Mountains © Katie Hammel / Budget Travel Speyside also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun. There are hikes both big and small, from the 65-mile Speyside Way trail (one of four official Long Distance Routes in Scotland) to a 20-minute walk behind the Aberlour distillery that leads to a lovely little waterfall. There’s canoeing on the River Spey, or you can go fishing, ATVing, or clay shooting at the House of Mulben. And, if you’re up for an hour drive, head to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre in the Cairngorm Mountains. The reindeer that used to roam these mountains vanished centuries ago, but they were reintroduced in the 1950s. Now, visitors can take a guided walk (£16) to the herd to meet the reindeer, hand-feed them, and learn more about the important part they play in the local ecosystem. How to Get around Speyside Scotland has a zero tolerance policy on drunk driving. There are strict limits for the amount of alcohol you can have in your system, and just one drink can put you over that limit. Distilleries will not allow designated drivers to sample, however most distilleries offer a driver’s tasting kit. For a few extra pounds, they’ll fill up small sample bottles with each of the tastes that were offered onsite, so you can try them all at home. If you’ll be visiting a few distilleries, bring your own; Amazon sells the sample bottles individually or as part of a whisky-tasting kit. If you’re not willing to delay gratification and want to taste onsite, you’re left with three options: public transport (bus or train), private driver, or taxi. Public transport is the cheapest, but provides the least amount of flexibility; you’ll need to limit your travels to distilleries in and around towns served by busses and trains, and forgo visits to any distilleries in the countryside. Between bus and train you can easily travel between the main towns; train fare varies and the bus is typically under £3. Traveline Scotland has an easy-to-use website for planning routes. Hiring a private driver is more costly. Speyside Whisky Experience offers full-day tours with private transport for up to six people that include three distillery visits and time for lunch for £275-£325.A taxi can be a good compromise; you have more flexibility but it’s not quite as pricey as a private driver. Taxis aren’t found in abundance so call well in advance and set a pickup time with the driver when they drop you off. Depending on the distance, the cost might be £15-40 per ride; many taxis, such as Craigellachie Cars, will also offer a single price based on a pick-up and drop-off schedule booked in advance. Where to Stay While you could base yourself an hour west in lively Inverness, to really immerse yourself in Speyside, choose one of the central towns, such as Aberlour, Dufftown, or Rothes, which are surrounded by distilleries. Rothes, a workaday town set on the River Spey, has a residential feel. While it’s home to two distilleries, a couple of pubs, and a fish and chips shop, it doesn’t offer as many tourist diversions as Aberlour and Dufftown. What it does have is the luxurious Station Hotel, a 14-room hotel housed in a 1901 stone building. It doesn’t come cheap, but the Caperdonich Suite is a stunner, with a four-poster king bed, gas fireplace, and a mezzanine level where a deep two-person tub overlooks the room. Room rates start at around £196. Four miles south, tiny Aberlour (population 972 as of the last census) offers accommodation across the budget spectrum in a quintessential Scottish village. The main street runs parallel to the River Spey and is lined with shops, including the Walkers Shortbread Bakery Shop (the factory sits on the end of town), and the Spey Larder, a great spot to load up on picnic supplies. Check into the Dowans Hotel, conveniently located right on the edge of town (rates start at £150 per night). The 18 plaid-and-velvet-adorned rooms call to mind an old Scottish country estate, and the onsite bar, dubbed The Still, houses a collection of more than 500 whiskies. On the lower end of the budget, try the Mash Tun, a pub and whisky bar with four cozy upstairs rooms starting at £120 per night. Rounding out the trio of towns, Dufftown is the Goldilocks: slightly larger and busier than Aberlour and with a bit more charm than Rothes. Home to six distilleries, it produces more whisky than any other town in Scotland and offers lots of options for dining, drinking, and shopping. The Highland Spirit Bed & Breakfast offers three sweet rooms in the heart of town starting at £139 per night including a full Scottish breakfast.
The Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets
Cost-conscious travelers have always been obsessed with paying less for plane tickets, but as airlines consolidate, raise prices and fees, and slash amenities, gaming the system in search of a good deal has become a standard step in the booking process. As it turns out, there’s not an easy answer to the industry’s million-dollar question, but we’ve combed through the latest data to bring you the information, tips, and tricks that’ll help you find those hidden-gem fares. What’s the best day of the week to shop? First, the not-so-great news: if you’re strictly interested in the best day to hit the “buy” button, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Though standard wisdom indicates that midweek purchases tend to be cheaper – FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney doubled down on this advice, telling Barron’s that to find a sale fare, “the best time is Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m.,” thanks to airlines’ price-matching adjustments – the reality may not be so straightforward. The 2019 Air Travel Outlook Report from Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), which tracked Average Ticket Prices (ATPs) and examined billions of data points to identify travel patterns, determined that it’s cheapest to buy economy flights (both international and domestic) on Sunday and most expensive on Thursdays and Fridays, but a competing report claims that the specific date of purchase may not actually have that much impact. The most recent CheapAir.com Annual Airfare Study looked at 917 million airfares in over 8000 markets and found negligible cost differentials from day to day, with average lowest fares within $1 of each other. How far in advance should you book? Now for the better news: you might not be able to predict price drops by day of the week, but if you pay attention to the calendar, you should be able to find bargains. Though last-minute deals aren’t unicorn-level rare, you’ll likely get the best prices at least three weeks in advance. Instead of zooming in on a specific day to shop, CheapAir.com recommends booking within a window of 21 to 115 days ahead, depending on the season, with a domestic-flight sweet spot of 76 days before departure. The Expedia/ARC report also pushes for a long lead time, recommending that bargain-minded economy travelers book three weeks in advance for the lowest ATPs, and Skyscanner suggests a 21-day cut-off as well. “There are obviously a lot of factors at play, but Skyscanner has found that savings can typically be found three to seven weeks out from the dates of travel,” says Randi Imas, the company’s head of communications for the Americas. What are the best times to travel? And finally, the best news: When you buy doesn’t matter as much as when you fly, so you’ll be ahead of the game if you can keep your dates loose. Of course, there’s not a complete consensus on this front either, but the Expedia/ARC report found that the best day for an economy-class traveler to start a trip is Friday (for overseas travel, check Thursday departures as well), while CheapAir.com’s study declared Tuesday and Wednesday the least expensive days to fly, with average tickets costing $85 less than on Sunday. To complicate matters further, seasonality affects pricing as well – the CheapAir.com data indicates that US travelers paid the highest economy fares in winter and the lowest in fall, so if you have flexible PTO, plan accordingly. So how DO you find the best fare? To cover your bases, sign up for newsletters like Scott’s Cheap Flights for flash sales and mistake fares, follow your favorite airlines on social media for real-time deal alerts, and try flight predictors like Skyscanner, Hopper, or Google Flights, which closely monitor airline activity and let you know when to buy. “When considering fluctuation in ticket prices, economic states, and the increase in airline flash sales, it is hard to guarantee that there is a specific day or time that will offer the cheapest flight, so we recommend travelers set up price alerts to track a route’s fare to see how it can fluctuate and independently determine the best time to book based on their own criteria, whether that’s based on budget, dates of travel, or adjustments to departure or arrival city/airport,” says Skyscanner’s Imas. Suffering from buyer’s remorse? Don’t worry, airlines operating in the US are required by law to refund your money if you cancel within 24 hours of booking, at least seven days in advance of departure. If you missed that window, try Yapta, a site that tracks your purchased flights and notifies you if prices drop enough to trigger the individual airlines’ refund policies. Scored a great deal lately? Tell us how you did it in the comments below, and we’ll highlight our favorite strategies in an upcoming roundup.
These Are The World's Friendliest Cities
Vancouver has long been rated as one of the world's most liveable cities but it's just been recognized as the world's friendliest in a new international survey. Vancouver is dripping in charms from dazzling skylines to coastlines, and now its multicultural population has been singled out for its exceptionally good nature. A poll published this week from Big 7 Travel asked its 1.5 million followers to decide the friendliest city for tourists and expats and Vancouver came out on top. Locals were praised for being "quick to offer assistance to tourists" and authors complimented the city's "community vibe" which makes "socializing in Vancouver simple." New Yorkers might often be accused of being cold but it appears that reputation is beginning to thaw as it made the cut in 47th place. While it's true that things move pretty fast in Manhattan, authors noted that there's more of a community feel in the neighborhoods of each borough and a melting pot of cultures, which invites people in. But according to the poll, it's not as friendly as Charleston, South Carolina (33rd), or Houston, Texas (19th), and it doesn't have a patch on Nashville, Tennessee (8th), which was declared the friendliest city in the US. Why? Because it boasts Southern charm by the bucketloads, a lively music scene and friendly locals with a "buzzing attitude and an eagerness to show off their city to out-of-towners." With regards to the top five, Kuala Lumpur's "friendliness towards visitors" drove the Malaysian capital into the second spot, while Bruges's "charming atmosphere" and "locals who go the extra mile to welcome tourists" placed the Belgian city in third. Taipei, Taiwan, was recognized as one of Asia’s most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in fourth place, while Hamburg, Germany's "family-friendly feel" pushed it into the fifth spot. You can view the poll's top 10 friendliest cities below and the full top 50 list here. 10th. Glasgow, Scotland 9th. São Paulo, Brazil 8th. Nashville, Tennessee, USA 7th. Christchurch, New Zealand 6th. Dublin, Ireland 5th. Hamburg, Germany 4th. Taipei, Taiwan 3rd. Bruges, Belgium 2nd. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1st. Vancouver, Canada
How to Get More Legroom in Coach
If you’ve been feeling extra cramped on flights these days, you’re not alone. Air carriers have been been slowly shrinking the amount of legroom customers get for years. The average “seat pitch” – the distance between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat directly in front of it – has decreased from 35 inches in the late 1960s to 31 inches today, and on some airlines has been reduced to 28 inches. That may explain why a quarter of passengers on economy flights said they found seat comfort to be “poor” or “very poor,” a 2018 survey by Consumer Reports found. Many airlines have added more seats to planes to increase profits. But amid growing concerns of deep vein thrombosis (a potentially fatal condition involving blood clots in the legs) on planes with less legroom – and safety issues in the event of an emergency evacuation – the Federal Aviation Administration is considering stepping in to impose regulations on how much room travelers deserve when flying with a commercial airline. The good news? We’ve compiled a list of the best and worst coach seats based on legroom from North America-based airlines. Knowing what your options are can help you make a smarter choice on your next flight. (Note: Legroom on carriers can vary between long-haul and short-haul planes.) NORTH AMERICAN AIRLINES WITH THE MOST LEGROOM Interjet: 34 inches. This Mexico-based, low-cost carrier flies from a handful of US cities to destinations in Mexico and Central and South America. The airline says it removed up to 30 seats on each its aircrafts in order to give customers more space. Air Canada: 30-34 inches. Canada’s largest airline is known for not only low prices but also spacious seats. JetBlue: 32 inches. Although JetBlue recently lowered its average legroom space by adding 12 cabin seats to its latest fleet of planes, the carrier is still a strong runner-up. Virgin America: 32 inches. At 5’11,’’ Virgin America founder Richard Branson doesn't like to be confined to tight spaces – and he doesn’t want his customers flying coach to be either. Southwest: 32 inches. In addition to low rates, the domestic discount carrier gives passengers more space than many of its higher budget competitors. NORTH AMERICAN AIRLINES WITH LESS LEGROOM Alaska Airlines: 31-32 inches. Despite the squeeze, coach passengers have the option to book Preferred Plus Seats, which offer 4 inches of extra legroom, starting at an extra $15. American Airlines: 31 inches. Tight space, right? To American Airlines’ credit, after the Fort Worth-based carrier announced last year it would be adding more seats to its Boeing (BA) 737 Max jetliners, the company decided to nix its plans after receiving negative feedback from customers and employees. Delta: 31 inches. Delta, one of the largest airlines in the world, also offers some of the tightest economy seats. Hawaiian Airlines: 31 inches. Despite its tight seating, Hawaiian Airlines recently nabbed the title of the US's airline industry’s top-ranked carrier for on-time performance from the US Department of Transportation. United: 30 to 31 inches. With flights to 60 countries spanning North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania, United offers larger “Economy Plus” seating with extra legroom. Allegiant: 30 inches. The budget airline serves more than 100 domestic destinations. Select flights offer “Legroom + seats” that provide passengers with up to 34 inches of legroom. Spirit: 28 inches. Although the airline is tied for last place, Spirit offers some of the cheapest fares. Frontier: 28 inches. The low-cost carrier may offer seriously squashed legroom, but (like Spirit) it has some of the lowest prices. HOW TO UPGRADE YOUR LEGROOM FOR FREE Put simply: Loyalty pays off for air travelers. Many frequent flyer programs offer members perks such as free seat upgrades and discounts of 10 to 50 percent on select flights. Promo alerts are often sent to members via email, Twitter, Facebook, and other channels. If you travel enough to earn elite status, you may also qualify for complimentary seat upgrades. For instance, when you fly 25,000 miles on American in one calendar year, you earn “Silver status” that can get you (and a companion) free access to the airline’s roomier economy plus seats. Pro tip: You may even be able to score a seat upgrade by asking the check-in agent or gate representative “nicely” for one, The Points Guy says.