Travel Hacks for the Economy Class Traveler

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From a perfectly packed carryon to staying hydrated, here are must-do travel tips that'll get you to your final destination looking (and feeling) wonderful.
From a perfectly packed carryon to staying hydrated, here are must-do travel tips that’ll get you to your final destination looking (and feeling) wonderful.

This post is part of a series I’ve compiled as I prepare for my first “Dream Vacation.” Following up on my article “Tips for Resuscitating a Vacation,” Combining some techniques I use for cross-country travel and some tricks I’ve learned from the amazing people I know, I share ways to make your next trip pleasant from start to finish!

When it comes to flights, I’m not ballin’ out of control, so you can find me in coach! 10-plus hours for most international flights seems excessive when you consider your close proximity to strangers and crazies in a small, small space. There are definitely ways to make it more enjoyable, and here are seven of them now.

Prepare to entertain yourself.

In-flight entertainment may be offered, but it may not be what you’re into, so charge up all your devices. Download movies or seasons of your favorite shows (I highly recommend “Pretty Little Liars” and “Mad Men”). Stock up on books on your e-reader, as internationally departing flights don’t always allow the use of small devices. Invest in good headphones. You may think you’re going to get a ton of work done on your laptop, but chances are between the lack of elbow room and the lack of ambition you may be prone to in semi-claustrophobic conditions … nope. If you want to pretend to be a baller, pay for the Wi-Fi. Word on the street is that it generally isn’t great, and for as much as it costs, you may be better off with your other devices or a good ol’ paperback.

Make yourself comfortable.

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Make sure you’re in a super comfortable outfit before you board. I opt for stretchy leggings (Betabrand makes these amazing travel yoga pants with a waistband that can HOLD YOUR PASSPORT), a cotton tank top (or tee), a lightweight cardigan or hoodie (my hoodie often doubles as a blanket, because I hate taking it on and off). Depending how far I am flying, I choose sandals or trusty Chuck Taylors. For Italy, I’m likely going the Chuck Taylor route, and bringing a warm and comfy pair of amazing socks in my carry-on. Those of us who prefer window seats are familiar with our feet freezing as the flight goes on, so you can never go wrong with a pair on-hand regardless of what footwear you choose!

Catch some zzz’s. 

Some say alcohol will only make your sleep worse on a long-haul flight. Do you! Get boozy, or try this tip: Chamomile tea proves quite helpful in lulling you to sleep, and so can an eye mask. I’ll use the airline-provided pillow as a lower back support, my own neck pillow (I found a super-cute, reasonably priced one at Target) to cradle my head before I slip the eye mask on. I read recently that you can wrap your chamomile tea bags in tissue, place them on your eyes under your eye mask and wake up even more refreshed. Chamomile is used in most calming skincare products, so you can’t really lose giving it a shot — even if you look a little crazy.

Stay hydrated.

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This is especially important if you decided alcohol was a mandated part of your flight. Purchase the largest bottle of water available before boarding the flight. Hydration is everything. I plan to avoid heavy foods (you know carbs and weird meat) in-flight as well — you’re not burning many calories by sitting on your ass for hours on end. Have you seen that episode of “Orange Is the New Black” where the girls say they’re on a Kosher diet to get better food? Pre-ordering the vegetarian/vegan option is a great idea — the food is usually better (and, like, good for you), and a little birdie told me it’s served before everyone else gets their meals. As for snacks, you can’t go wrong with fresh fruit, nuts or smaller pre-packaged snacks. Try to go low-sodium in your selections, you don’t want that icky salt swell thousands of feet above ground. Also, you can’t go wrong with these awesome Evian Mineral Water Sprays I use on longer flights to keep my skin from feeling dry.

Stay germ-free(ish).

Planes are petri dishes for viruses, and I’m all about that IMMUNITY (yes, I sang that to the tune of Meghan Trainor). I wipe down my arm rests, seatbelt fasteners, tray table, window pull and wall next to my seat with some convenient wet wipes I always keep stashed in my handy reusable bag (see next tip). I’ll add an Emergen-C to my water bottle after I’ve woken up for a boost of vitamins. ALWAYS use a paper towel to open the bathroom door from the inside. Speaking as someone who recently got “allergic conjunctivitis,” I REFUSE to get pink-eye on my way to Italy, thanks!

Be ready for anything.

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An in-flight toiletry case with the basics (travel toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer, eyeglasses, face care items, lip balm, hand cream, a spare set of contacts) is something you should have with you on any flight longer than five hours. I use a pretty roll-up toiletry set I got at good old Tar-jay, but you can use any lined, waterproof bag or even a Ziploc gallon-sized bag. I’ll also throw some makeup (tinted moisturizer, mascara, lipgloss) into it. Sometimes, I get an overwhelming urge to brush my teeth, or I may notice how dry my cuticles are. This case, along with my tablets and headphones, stays in the seatback pocket in front of me.

Make your space work for you.

Here’s the thing: I hate being the inconvenient seat mate, and I can imagine no one is thrilled with long, steadily boring international flights. I keep this cute Kate Spade New York reusable tote (or whatever adorable, light, reusable tote suits your fancy. Baggu is also very popular) pre-packed in my carry-on bag. Prior to boarding, I’ll put everything I’ll need during the flight inside it — my tablet/Kindle, headphones, snacks, water, my in-flight toiletry kit, neck pillow, eye mask, light hoodie — and place the bag in the space in front of me where my purse would go. My other bags go in the overhead bin. This way, my things are easily accessible! To prevent items from falling out of the bag, tie the handles closed. A fun tip I learned on a travel blog I read recently? Lay a magazine flat at the bottom of the bag, to ensure it stays upright! Genius!

The most important thing is getting there, am I right? Sacrificing first class doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a departure full of sorrow and discomfort! Use some of these tricks to enhance your economy experience, and enjoy the ease when you arrive to your destination!

Sondra J. Holtz is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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