1. Start with the airline
The economy class experience varies greatly from airline to airline, so do some research ahead of time to see which carriers offer the best service. A good place to start is SeatGuru, which allows you to compare seat pitch and width, as well as whether or not there is power and Wi-Fi. You can choose whether you’re flying long or short haul and see which airlines and aircraft have the best amenities.
If you don’t have the luxury of carrier choice on your route, then at least you can find out what to expect when you board and prepare yourself with the following tips.
2. Take a good travel pillow
A top-quality travel pillow can make all the difference when it comes to sleeping well, whatever fare you’re travelling on. Ditch the free cushions that you get on long-haul flights; these are flat, thin and slip behind your head as soon as you fall asleep and avoid having to carry on anything too bulky. Instead, look for a specially-designed travel pillow – these are the ones that give good neck support on the go. Dreaming you’re flying First Class is almost as good as the real thing, right?
What makes a good travel pillow?
For flights, making room in your hand luggage is key, so invest in an inflatable travel pillow that will squash down to flat and easily fit in your carry-on bag. Horseshoe shapes that circle your neck are best for avoid any aches and pains when you wake and prevent your head from falling over when you sleep. If you suffer from back pain, consider a lumber cushion for the small of your back. If you’ve got room, you could try out the OstrichPillow. It may look a little unconventional, but if the reviews are anything to go by then you’ll be fast asleep before you’ve even taken off!
3. Elevate your legs
Having your feet slightly raised on a flight not only aids circulation, but it can reduce the risk of swelling and joint pain too. An inflatable footrest is one way to tackle this problem. You could also invest in the Fly LegsUp flight hammock which is a revolutionary new way to combat in-flight discomfort.
The flight hammock (which comes for kids and adults and ships to the UAE) attaches to the drop-down table in front of you and allows you to sleep stretched out or on your side. Who needs a first-class flatbed when you’ve got this in your carry-on?
4. Move seats
Always be on the lookout for free seats – sometimes whole rows are empty on the flight and let’s face it, three seats are better than one. You will be able to lift up the armrest and potentially lie down across a full row. So, keep your eyes open and ask the cabin crew if you can move – who knows, they might even move you to First Class for real.
How can I get a flight upgrade?
Moving seats is just the first step if you’re determined to live the high life (without paying for it!) Once you’re on board, there are numerous ways you can take advantage of a half-empty flight or a kind flight attendant armrest get an upgrade. Read our top tips on how to get a free flight upgrade to find out more.
5. Go DIY gourmet with duty-free treats
If plane food has never impressed you, then why not take the time to purchase some luxury chocolates or snacks in duty-free to take with you on the plane? These little treats can bridge the difference between Economy and First Class (well, nearly).
Flying from Dubai?
Our Dubai duty-free guide will help you navigate the shops and make the most of one of the busiest airports in the world.
6. Invest in good headphones or earplugs
Whether it’s a crying baby, a chatty neighbour or the noise of the engine, loud noises can ruin the chances of a peaceful flight, so make sure that you’re fully prepared. Bring some good quality noise-cancelling headphones and listen to some relaxing music, or if you want complete silence, buy some good quality earplugs and pretend you’re beyond that elusive First Class curtain…
7. Choose your seats wisely before you board
Aim for a window seat to ensure you don’t have a frequent toilet visitor scrambling over you every five minutes (or snag an aisle if you’re that frequent toilet visitor). Also, don’t immediately assume an exit row is best. Yes, these seats have extra leg-room, but they don’t recline. Instead, consider the row behind the exit row where you won’t have someone reclining in front of you. Equally, bulkhead (front of the plane) seats may be best when it comes to space, but they don’t come with either under-seat storage or a seat pocket in front of you and not having immediate access to your things may get annoying on a long flight.
8. Bring a good sleeping mask
Sleeping masks are great for blocking out ambient light and letting you have a good rest. Invest in a slightly pricier one that sits away from your eyes and has eye cavities built into the mask. This will mean that rather than pushing on your eyelids, your eyes will be unobstructed during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, so you will sleep more deeply.
How to sleep on long-haul flights
Many people make the mistake of tiring themselves out deliberately before a long flight, but if you can’t sleep, being overtired will put you in an even worse position. Rest as normal and go with what your body tells you – if you feel your eyelids drooping during the in-flight movie, switch off and get your pillow out. While accessories like sleeping masks and earplugs are essential (and small in size), don’t bring too much stuff to do on the plane as it will take up your legroom or make you feel hemmed in – not a good recipe for relaxation. To tackle tiredness once you arrive, take a look at our tips on how to get over jetlag.
9. Bring your own blanket
Flights can be chilly when you’re sat still for hours and blankets aren’t always provided or can be very thin. Bring your own cashmere lightweight blanket so you can snuggle up with a touch of First Class luxury, or for a shrewd packer’s tip, make sure one of your holiday scarves is a warm pashmina or shawl that can double as a cover – if you’re wearing it, it won’t count as hand luggage.
10. Pack some toiletries to pamper yourself
There are so many lotions and potions that you can bring on the flight with you to bring a touch of First Class pampering to a journey. Try some face spritz, under eye gel, tired eye drops, moisturiser, lip balm, face wipes and a toothbrush and toothpaste. Stay hydrated as well as keeping your skin moisturized and you’re all set for a comfortable flight. Build up a stock of travel-sized miniature bottles to decant your favourite shower products into and store them in your toilet bag ready for grabbing when you’re going away.
How to pack for a flight
Even if you’re the kind of holidaymaker that likes to cart your full vanity kit and caboodle around with you, flying to your destination will limit what you can take. Read up on the airline’s baggage restrictions so you can plan your checklist in advance. Think about the kind of trip you’re taking – if you have a lot of transfers, a backpack may be easier to transport than a huge suitcase that you have to check in. Invest in some small plastic bags to separate your stuff in your cabin bag – there’s nothing worse than digging through a tangle of charger cables to get to your snacks! And finally, remember to leave some space for souvenirs. Extra cautious? Check out these unusual items you might not know are banned on board.
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*Published September 2018. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.