Flying economy? Find out secrets to being comfortable.
I admit it, I’m an economy class traveler. I prefer to save money on a flight to spend at my destination. Some people dread economy seats. But after flying around the globe, on numerous airlines, taking puddle hoppers to extreme long-haul* flights, I have found ways to ease into economy and be comfortable.
One consideration is what to wear. Focus on comfortable layers. Cabins can go from hot to freezing. Be prepared for any weather. Lace-up shoes are good. Feet can swell on a flight. Laces give room for growth without removing shoes. As tempting as it may seem, don’t slip off your shoes. Airplane carpet is not to be walked on barefoot, and believe me, fellow passengers do not want to smell your feet.
Gone may be the day where people dressed up for a flight (my grandpa always wore a suit and tie to fly) but that does not mean slob-wear is fine. Okay perhaps designer pajamas are fine, but if you can afford designer pajamas what are you doing in economy? To avoid looking like a slob on a plane, consider stylish loungewear. Leave oversized stained t-shirts and ripped sweatpants at home, no matter how comfortable.
Another consideration is what packing for an economy flight. Normally passengers can have a carry-on bag in a bin above and a personal item stowed at their feet. Airlines seem to be reducing what is allowed, so always check the rules. And, unless on a short flight (my rule of thumb for that is a flight less than three hours) don’t get a ticket that restricts usage of the overhead bins. Being able to stretch your legs into the space under the seat in front of you is important. I may want to save money by sitting in economy, but there is such a thing as too cheap.
Tips for packing comfort in economy:
Food and Water Bottle
I get grumpy if I don’t eat, and eat on my schedule – not when the airline passes out snacks, which is a rare offering anymore. Even if food is planned, issues happen on flights. I was on one flight from Seattle to New York, because of storms we sat on the tarmac for nearly three hours, before finally taking off. When we finally took off, it was announced the food had sat too long and could not be served. Hundreds of passengers when hungry, while I brought out my food. I had a sandwich, banana, and trail mix.
Traveling with fruit can be an issue on international flights. Also avoid taking liquid-like food. I had a friend get their hummus confiscated by a TSA officer. Speaking of liquids, since you can’t take a full water bottle through security, bring an empty one. Many airports have water fill stations.
The amount of sleep gear to take on a flight depends on its length. I always have a pillow, even for short flights. I recommend a blow-up neck pillow as it packs small and yet does the trick. Other travelers I know prefer sturdier neck pillows. Find one you like, but also think through what you will do with it when you land. A non-inflatable pillow can be bulky.
If I am flying at night, I take eye-shields and earphones / MP3. Shutting out the airplane lights and noise helps me sleep even when there is activity around me. On my MP3 is white noise sounds. I could play this from my smartphone, but I don’t want to drain the battery when flying. Many seats have outlets, but they can be awkwardly placed, especially when trying to sleep. So, I don’t want to rely on charging.
For long-haul flights I often take my own blanket. Cabin temperatures fluctuate and I need to be warm to be comfortable. I pick one up for cheap at a thrift store and then leave it at the airport.
Mini-First Aid Kit
Nothing but essentials in this kit. A couple ibuprofen or aspirin. A few cough drops. One bandaid. If you need anything more, ask the flight crew.
Fresh breath and clean teeth can feel good after a long flight. I have used various brands of pre-pasted toothbrushes over the years. My favorites are finger teeth wipes. These are flat and can be kept in a security pouch for use anytime during a trip. A brand available on Amazon are UNIQUE2U disposable teeth wipes. For more of a toothbrush experience try Colgate Wisp disposable toothbrushes or Freshly mint foam ones. The Freshly options are like what hospitals give to patients.
Also pack dental floss.
Mask and Wet Wipes
Long before the pandemic, those of us that flew a lot knew that there are lots of germs flying with us in a plane. It doesn’t hurt to have a flat pack of wet wipes to disinfect your economy zone. Keep these handy for after trips to the toilet. Of course wash your hands in there, but few people make it back to their seats without touching a variety of surfaces as they go.
As for a mask, if like me you don’t mind wearing one, than why not. I’m going to do it long after the requirement stops.
In case of turbulence, a BioBand can help ward off motion sickness. It is a acupressure strap that is warn on your wrist. Great for busses and boats too.
EarPlanes and Gum
EarPlanes are special earplugs that are designed to reduce air pressure discomfort. If the extreme air pressure changes experienced in flight hurt your ears, try these. Thoroughly read the instructions to make sure they are used correctly.
Chewing gum can also help. I keep a stick in my security pouch.
*My longest in-air experience was LA to Bangkok at around 18-hour flight time. Add to that the boarding time, layover, and flight from Seattle, and it was more than a full day enroute. Flying from Scotland to Chile via Paris, was even longer (although the Paris to Chile flight was only 15-hours, it was long enough for a passenger to give birth!) Perhaps my longest flight travel experience was two-days. I was going from Nepal to Israel. That looked simple enough on the map, but the actual route was Kathmandu to Seoul to Paris to Tel Aviv. With layovers it was 44-hours.
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