Monday, September 12, 2016

5 Things to Make Air Travel More Comfortable

Flying nowadays is integral to travel. Driving is another big one for sure, but taking a flight is one of the most common modes of transportation for travellers, especially on overseas trips. (Duh.)

Spending a lot of time on a plane is any frequent traveller's plight. Most of us fly economy, and it is not always fun. Flying today is the cheapest it has ever been; compared to what it cost to fly in the 1950s, even the costs of business class start to look not that bad, but not everyone can afford - or is wiling to pay for - business class, let alone the first.

Being confined to economy class get old really quick. Trust me, I know. Even so, I am not a fan of peeps complaining about how terrible it is to fly economy. Neither am I fond of saying that you get what you pay for. It usually isn't an amenity missing, but dumb luck of unfortunate circumstances that makes the whole experience unpalatable. Overhead bin space that ran out. A seat mate who hasn't showered. Air conditioning full blast in the cabin. Expensive sandwiches. (Okay, the last one is an amenity, really. Or lack thereof.)

Maybe flying kinda sucks for a lot of people, but I still find it romantic and exhilarating. I get annoyed with all the airplane inconveniences too, but I have also developed routines to deal with them. I know a few things to pack to make it all easier. And this is what I want to share with you now.

Any list of this sort is personal, since everyone's idea of comfort is different (just like the idea of fun is), but here are some general ideas that I find help me - and maybe can help you too!

5 things to have on an airplane

1) A trusted traveller's card
Ok, that's something you should have next to your passport and boarding pass before you board the plane. I am talking about NEXUS (for Canada), Global Entry (for the U.S.), Registered Traveller (for the UK) and many others that allow you to by-pass passport control lines and in many cases use dedicated security check lines that shorten your time spent getting to the gate considerably.

There is a fee and a mandatory background check required to become a member. There are strict rules on what you can and cannot bring with you from overseas (and even stricter rules to declare everything). Applicants for NEXUS and Global Entry programs also have to undergo an interview.

But guys - it's all worth it. If you travel often, you won't believe how much time you could save with a trusted traveller membership. I have skipped longer lines and made shorter connections than I had ever thought possible. I haven't talked to a border control officer in years. My NEXUS card is valid for 5 years and it costs $50. Fifty dollars for five years of stress-free YYZ arrivals and departures. Imagine that!

NEXUS is a no-brainer.
2) An (empty) water bottle
Ever been turned off by exorbitant prices of snacks and sub-par sandwiches sold at airports? Same here. The captive audience effect means that you will pay whatever the airport asks you to pay if you are thirsty and hungry. However, most North American airports have drinking fountains where you can fill your own water bottle. Some even have fantastic water stations that fill your bottle for you. Not only you save a lot of bucks by not buying water at airport concessions, you also help the environment by reducing plastic bottle usage.

Empty water bottles are allowed through security. When I head to the airport, I usually fill mine (an awesome, dented and scratched, aluminum Aperture bottle from ThinkGeek)  about halfway to have a drink before going through security, and then fill it right back airside. I am a big fan of taking extra water with me on the plane, so I can take a sip anytime I want to. Staying hydrated while flying is really good for you!

Now you are thinking with bottles.

3) A shawl
Not a fan of the arctic cold of the cabin before takeoff? Neither am I. I find that Delta is the biggest offender in this department for some reason. A big shawl in the cabin can be used as a blanket in case of full-blast air conditioning or as a barrier between my fellow passenger's bare arms and my own if it's hot. Also, it's cozy. There is something so comforting about having your own thing keeping you company in the pretty stressful and artificial cabin environment. I have an oversize shawl by Desigual that's as light and soft as it is pretty.

It is recommended to wear something under the shawl when you fly.
4) Wet wipes
Especially for long transatlantic flights, a pack of wet wipes acts as a makeshift shower for the economy class dweller. I feel much better after wiping the back of my neck in addition to my hands and face (although depending on the wipes, it can dry out the skin pretty well.) Wet wipes are also indispensable for wiping tray table surfaces and toilet seats. Most surfaces on airplanes are famously gross, so wet wipes are your best friend there. Just don't flush them (even the "flushable" ones), as they clog even the most powerful sewer systems.

5) Headphones
Bring your own, whether you have an MP3 player or not. For starters, not every airline offers earbuds for their entertainment systems. Those that do either charge for them or provide low-quality ones that you have to surrender at the end of your flight. The latter ones have been used, and re-used, and re-used again (albeit disinfected). Do you want to put something in your ears that has already been inside someone else's? I thought not. Also, odds are that your own headphones are way more comfortable and better-sounding that any pair an airline can give you. Bring your own.

My favourite pair - Urbanears Plattan. Mine look a bit more worn though.
What do *you* bring on board to make your flying economy a more pleasant and tolerable experience? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

1 comment:

  1. 100% agree on the nexus card, I don't travel THAT much, but it is soooooo worth it. Its great for hopping across the border to Buffalo or Detroit by car as well.