There’s no getting around it. Of course, you’d rather be flying business class. But if you are travelling economy – especially long haul – you may as well make the best of it. Here’s how.
Choose your seat. Using a site such as seatguru.com you can find the “best” seat for your particular aircraft. Pay extra to get more leg room – for a long-haul trip, it’s money well-spent.
Avoid the middle seat. Choose a window or an aisle seat to avoid being sandwiched between two other passengers.
Order a special meal. In most cases this means you will be served first, so that you can eat and then settle down to watch a movie or sleep, while others are still wrestling with their tray table.
Have a good-quality sleep mask. It will block out the light – and you can pop it on if fellow passengers won’t stop chatting.
Take extra socks. Look for ones in a natural fibre to keep your feet warm. Even if the airlines provide socks, they are often nylon.
Pack a large scarf or shawl. Natural fibres such as wool or cashmere are ideal. These roll up into a neat bundle and are preferable to synthetic airline blankets.
Take an empty water bottle. You can fill it after security and then top it up when on board. It’s Flying 101 but, seriously, drinking water does make a difference.
Stock up on snacks. Healthy nut bars, trail mix or savoury biscuits are a back-up if food on the flight is not very good, is expensive or takes an interminable time to arrive.
Keep it fresh. Pack a separate small bag with your onboard toiletries so that you can easily access them and be sure to include some eye drops.
Be organised. Keep your documents together with tickets, passport and a pen so you can fill in landing cards without unpacking your entire carry-on bag and you’re ready to go through customs.
Buy a good neck pillow. It’s preferable to do this before you get to the airport, where they are typically over-priced. Memory foam offers better neck support than the bean-bag bead pillows.
Don’t forget your headphones. Noise-cancelling ones are perfect for shutting out crying babies and snoring neighbours. Or, at the very least, take ear plugs.
Load a movie or two. It’s surprising how hard it can be to find a good movie on some airlines so put some onto your iPad or tablet before you go.
And load some podcasts, too. These are great as you can rest your eyes while listening because a few hours of reading and movie-watching can cause serious eye strain.
Consider paying for lounge access. This is particularly handy if you have a longish layover. It could cost anywhere from $25 to $100 (or even more for the uber luxurious Middle Eastern lounges) but they are usually peaceful, have food and drink, free papers and magazines and some have showers. Note that US lounges can get pretty busy. Check out loungepass.com, loungebuddy.com.au or check with the airline you’re flying with to see if they offer a day pass. Booking ahead is advised and double check that the lounge is in the same terminal you’ll be stopping at.
Have a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. A quick change before landing will have you looking as though you have emerged from business class.
Enrol in the airline’s frequent flyer program. Who knows, you might be upgraded (hope springs eternal!) but at the very least you need to show the airline some loyalty.