Flying might be the quickest and most efficient means of traveling, but anyone who’s flown before knows that it’s far from a simple process. Between the pre-airport prep, checking in, going through security, finding your gate, getting to your seat, and struggling to fit your luggage in the overhead bin — needless to say, there are a lot of important steps to get you started on your trip!

But those big airport milestones aren’t the only thing you should be doing to ensure you have the best flight possible. There are some little steps that only frequent fliers are really in-the-know about, but doing them can really improve the quality of your trip.

Here are eight little-known things that you should always, always do on a plane.

1. Count the Rows to the Exit

The odds of you being in a plane crash are very slim  but not impossible. If you take a moment to mentally brace yourself for this terrifying possibility, you increase your chances of survival if the worst does happen.

Besides paying attention to the flight attendant’s safety instructions, you can take care of some preparation yourself. For example, always count the number of rows between your seat and the closest emergency exit; if the plane goes down or makes an emergency landing, you may have to make your way out of a dark, smoke-filled cabin where you can’t see the exit.

However, if you know exactly how many rows stand between you and the exit, you can count the rows by hand no matter how bad the visuals are.

You only have about 90 seconds to evacuate a burning airplane for the greatest chance of survival, and you don’t want to waste valuable time trying to find a way out. Make sure you’ve mentally selected a backup exit as well, in case your closest door is blocked.

2. Sanitize Your Area

Planes are gross, simple as that. Microbiologists estimate that airplane bathroom locks have an average of 70 CFUs (a.k.a. germs) per square inch, which is nothing compared to the 2,155 CFU’s per square inch on tray tables. Yuck.

Pack some sanitizing wipes and wipe down your tray, seatback TV, remote control, armrests, and seatbelt latch. We’re sorry to say, pretty much anything around you needs to be sanitized.

3. Position You Overhead Vent

Speaking of germs, if you’re trapped in an enclosed space with someone who’s sick, you’ve got a pretty good chance of catching their virus. It’s freaky to think about, but some transmittable diseases can be transferred from rows away — like TB, which you can catch if you’re within two rows of patient zero, or SARS, which can transmit to flyers as far as seven rows away.

This most often happens because germs travel through your overhead air vent. To avoid germs blowing on your face, set the ventilation to low or medium and position it directly in front of your head, blowing straight down. If you can feel the airflow on your lap, you’ve done it right.

4. Chew Gum

One of our favorites tricks is this easy way to avoid that painful ear popping that happens when you go airborne or begin your final descent: chew gumThis can help with air pressure changes and helps to soften the blow if you have sensitive ears.

5. Check for Life Vests

Although the flight crew checks each seat for a life vest at the beginning of every day, they usually don’t check them between flights. Unfortunately, some people do actually steal life vests, so do a quick check under your seat for yours, especially if you’ll be flying over water.

6. Make Sure Your Seatback TV Works

Being on a flight with a seatback TV is one of the best strokes of luck you can get. But that’s only true if your TV is actually WORKING.

Before take-off, make sure to test your television set. This way, if you’re stuck with the unlucky TV, the flight attendant may be able to move you to another seat so that you can enjoy the in-flight entertainment, rather than staring off into space for hours on end.

7. Gather Your In-Flight Essentials

Once all of your health and safety essentials are taken care of, it’s time to focus on your in-flight comfort. Whether you’re stashing your personal bag overhead or under the seat, make sure to grab everything you’ll need before you’re all buckled in and squished between your neighbors.

This will assure that you have all your books, snacks, and other entertainment easily accessible throughout the entire flight.

8. Put On Your Headphones

Something you should always grab before takeoff? Your headphones. Whether you have in-flight television or you just don’t want to talk to your seatmates, popping your headphones is essential.

Putting them in as soon as you sit down (even if you’re not listening to anything yet) is basically the polite way to tell surrounding strangers, “please don’t talk to me.”