For many of us going to the tropics to take that much yearned after holiday in the sun on beautiful beaches with lightly swaying palm trees means taking a plane.
Usually taking anywhere from four to ten hours. And although most of us would love to fly first class we usually end up in economy class as that’s the ticket we bought, wedged in between a fat guy on your right and woman with a baby on your left. There are however a number of little tricks you can apply to make sure your economy flight, be it long distance or not so long distance, is much more comfortable.
1. Choose a good seat when you check-in online
When you check-in online choose the seat that you want keeping in mind your situation. Want to be left alone? Book a window seat. Need to go the bathroom often? Book an aisle seat not too far away from the toilets. Just don’t book your seat right next to the bathrooms unless you enjoy watching and interacting with endless streams of people needing to make use of the restroom. Often at a surcharge you can book a seat with extra legroom, which is definitely not a luxury for tall people. Not only because any other seat will be painfully uncomfortable but also because other will have a hard time with sprawling arms and legs.
2. Be nice to the person at the check-in desk
If you couldn’t book your seat in advance online, be pleasant with the person who checks you in and ask him or her nicely if you can have an aisle or window seat. They’ll often comply.
3. Be on the lookout for free seats
Sometimes luck is on your side and there are whole rows left empty and let's face it, three seats are obviously much better than one. So keep your eyes open and ask if you can move.
4. Keep your hand luggage to a minimum
Nothing more irritating than arriving at your seat only to find that all the overhead lockers are already full and you’ll have to place your bag five rows up. Not only is this inconvenient during the flight if you need to get something from your bag, it’s positively agonizing trying to retrieve it when you land unless you wait until everyone’s off the plane.
5. Take a good travel pillow
A good quality travel pillow can make all the difference when it comes to sleeping well and avoiding neck ache. The cushions given on the plane are flat, thin and tend to easily slip from behind your head as soon as you fall asleep. Invest in an inflatable pillow - it'll save room in your hand luggage bag, give good neck support and prevent your head from falling over when you sleep.
6. Bring some snacks
You’re not allowed to bring any liquids onto the plane but you are allowed to bring your own food and wouldn’t you agree that a homemade sandwich made with fresh ingredients and lots of love tastes much better than the typical fare served on airplanes? Fruits, cookies, energy bars and nuts are also great. Just be mindful of your neighbors, don’t bring anything with a strong odor or stuff that makes a mess. So no stinky egg sandwiches or fruits you need to peel. Do check the carry-on restrictions before you start making your favorite snack to go as some countries are stricter than others in what you can and cannot bring onboard.
7. Bring some good noise-cancelling headphones
Most inflight entertainment systems work also with normal headphone jacks so you’ll be able to enjoy the films of your choice with great sound instead of the crackling noise that’s usually transmitted through the headphones provided by the airplane. Or just listen to your favorite tunes cancelling out your snoring neighbor or the crying kid a couple of rows down.
8. Bring a good sleeping mask
Having a good sleeping mask will help block out ambient light, and in turn will help you get some rest. Invest in one that sits away from your eyes and has eye cavities built into the mask for more comfort.
9. Wear comfortable clothes
No need to change into your pyjamas (actually don’t ever change into your jammies on the plane) but do wear breathable loose clothing. There’s nothing worse for your body than to wear tight clothing and sitting for hours on an end without moving.
10. Do a bit of airplane stretching
Even if your wedged in the middle seat and can’t get out, you can still stretch your body pretty well which is a great way to keep your blood circulation flowing and avoid thrombosis. Roll your ankles, wrists and shoulders, lift your legs up for a little while and reach with your hands for the sky while looking up. If you can get out, walk around a little from time to time, doing these same exercises.
11. Bring a pair of warm socks
Sleeping with your shoes on is uncomfortable and as the plane usually gets to be a bit chilly after a while it’s great to put on some warm socks. It’s also a nice gesture to those sitting around you as they might not appreciate a neighbor with naked feet.
12. Be nice to your neighbors
Nobody likes being packed up in a sardine can only to be find out that the ones around you are the worst ones in the whole package. A smile, a kind word and especially politeness will go a long way. When the food is served (assuming you’re on a plane where they still serve a hot dish) put your chair in the upright position so the person behind you can also eat normally. Don’t put your smelly feet next to the head of the person before you… The list goes on but the bottom line is don’t be a jerk.
13. Drink a lot of water
It’s easy to get dehydrated on the plane as the air is so dry and if the airline does offer you a beverage it’s usually served in small glasses. Buy a bottle of water on any short haul flights that last longer than three hours, or get as much water as you think you need on a long haul flight, where in most cases soft drinks are still for free.
14. Pack some toiletries in your hand luggage
Bring the basics to help you feel human again when you arrive after that ten-hour flight, like a brush, some facial cream as well as your toothbrush and toothpaste.
15. Change the time on your watch
If there’s a time difference between the country you left and the country of your destination change your watch and phone as soon as you’re on the plane, so you start getting into the new time. If you arrive during the day, stay awake until the evening even if you haven’t slept all night.