Later this week, I'm headed off on my summer holiday. We'll be spending quite a bit of time in airports and on planes, which are probably two of the most uncomfortable parts of a vacation, unless you're fancy enough to be part of some airline club and have enough money to fly first class (and I mean the fully reclining, jealousy-inducing first class; not just the front-of-the-plane first class).
As someone who prides herself on being frugal when practical, I've never flown in any class other than coach. And though I'm thankful that I'm on the smaller side so the width of the plane seats and the amount of legroom allotted to us in peasant class isn't as uncomfortable as it could be if I were larger, it still sucks.
Once I've gone through security at the airport, I always buy two big bottles of water and do my best to chug one and get the whole hydration thing started and then I save the second for the flight. And I try and have a yummy snack (this is the time to enjoy anything smelly and for me, that's usually Korean food) and take some time to stretch and walk about to keep my legs nice and limber.
I never wear makeup on flights - I always fall asleep regardless of the flight duration so it would probably smear all over anyway. If I'm feeling self-conscious, I find that sunglasses and a baseball cap do a lot to mask my under eye bags and pallor.
Getting Cozy In-Flight
Back when the economy was a bit more booming, I remember we got little pouches with an eye mask, toothbrush & toothpaste, socks, and earplugs on long haul flights, even in coach. These days, you're lucky if you can get your hands on a crappy pillow. So, if you're unwilling to pay the premium to sit in first class, you just have to pack these things in your hand luggage.
sleep-encouraging essentials in my 'How to Sleep on Flights' post which I'll recap quickly - blanket scarf, eye mask, fluffy socks, headphones & something that will play soothing music, sleep aid, neck pillow, and light reading - can really make a flight comfortable and simulate an experience closer to that of someone in first class. The eye mask and fluffy socks are probably the two of the most compact items you'll have in your hand luggage, but pack a big punch.
It's also important to keep your travel toothbrush & toothpaste, face wash, and some face wipes within easy grasp (in the bag that'll tuck under the seat). Even if you've done your nighttime routine already, you might want to do a little refreshing. Plus, if you're eating on the plane at all - which I recommend as a way to get your internal clock ready for the time zone of your destination - you might want to freshen your breath before you land. I shared my toiletry packing tips a few months ago; I only ever pack a carry on so this is always available to me. Even if you're a checked bag kind of person, I would still recommend keeping your toiletries with you on the plane.
Hydrating, Inside & Out
Hydration starts from the inside, so drink that second bottle of water. I read somewhere that the goal should be to drink at least one liter per five hours in the air. And sure, drinking loads of water means you'll have to get up and go to the loo, but that's not a bad thing since you'll get the circulation going in your legs and prevent yourself from getting too stiff or worse, getting blood clots.
Also, it may seem glamorous to have a cocktail pre-flight, inflight, and immediately post-flight, but skip the cocktails for some water instead. It'll help keep you looking fresh, you'll reduce the effects of jet lag, and you'll avoid turning into a bloated balloon.
Even though sheet masks are supposed to be extra hydrating, I think they make you look creepy AF. At the same time, a regular mask can be kind of creepy too. I personally am a huge fan of the Korres nectarine hydrating mask, which I have mentioned a few times already. I have a little travel-size version, which is perfect for my under-the-seat bag, and even though it starts off looking white and creamy, you rub it into your skin and after a minute or two it goes completely clear and leaves you looking much more normal than you would with a sheet mask. Seriously, save the sheet mask for after the flight when you're in the privacy of your hotel room.
Having a Snack
I like eating at the airport, not only because it's easier but also because the food tastes better. I read something once that said that the vibrations and the stale air of an airplane makes even the best gourmet food taste subpar. However, that doesn't justify anyone suffering through the airline-prepared meals. Pack some delicious snacks and even a full on meal if you're a pig like me; always pack something you know you'll enjoy.
I think bringing food on board (even on non-long haul flights) is important because I know how cranky I can get if I'm feeling even a smidgen of hunger. And these days, many airlines charge for food. And the only free snack you get is a child-size portion of pretzels.
If the airline offers free movies, then great. But these days, we're hard pressed to coax even a drink cup larger than a thimble out of the flight attendants. So, in an effort to mildly pamper oneself, I think it's important to have something you find enjoyable. For me, that means having some music and movies on my iPad, maybe packing my Nintendo 3DS (Animal Crossing is my jam), buying a trashy magazine from a kiosk at the airport, and maybe a miniature-sized adult coloring book. The quantity of entertainment items I pack always depends on the duration of time spent actually traveling (including any intermediate flights and trains and ferries I might take during the holiday where I know I'll be bored) and how much space I mind occupying in my bags.
But this is probably the most essential component of surviving a long haul flight. Because even if you're an easy sleeper like I am, you're bound to wake up for an hour or two (especially if your bladder is full with all the hydrating you're doing) and it's always a bonus to have an activity that will make the time go by quicker. That way, it'll feel like it took no time at all to arrive at your destination and you can begin enjoying your holiday sooner (or at least it'll feel like it's sooner).