Planning a long haul flight in 2011? Are you going to be stuck in cattle class, rather than living it up in Business or First? Take hope! I have THE Economy Class Survival Kit. It’s relatively cheap, as comfortable as you can get in Economy class and it all comes in a handy calico bag!
Okay enough with the sales language. I’m not actually selling you anything, except an idea. You can put the kit together yourself, and I’m sharing this in the hope of making life a bit more comfortable for those taking long trips. I totally swear by my kit and wouldn’t take an 8+ hour flight without it.
1. First off, the calico bag.
I keep getting these bags at trade shows and events, so while I use some for shopping, I decided to use one for this kit. It’s useful because it sits inside your carry on luggage and can be removed quickly and dropped under your seat as soon as your board the plane. This way you don’t block the aisle as you’re removing all the stuff in the kit from your carry-on.
2. Inflatable ring cushion
This is absolutely essential. Yes it’s a haemorrhoid/postnatal cushion. No I don’t have haemorrhoids, nor have I recently given birth. The ring cushion is to sit on, but it’s actually to help your back cope with a long flight. By sitting on a ring cushion, your lower back vertebrae have the chance to remain properly extended rather than being jammed into those relatively hard seats, hour after hour. Trust me, it may look odd, but at the end of the journey, everyone around you is going to be asking you where you got it from. Speaking of which, you can get ring cushions from eBay and some health stores, or even from pharmacies, but you shouldn’t be paying more than £10. I got my PVC one for about £5. You can get rubber ones but they are heavier and harder to fold up. I’d go with the PVC.
3. Other inflatable cushions (neck, footrest)
I have the standard inflatable neck cushion that supports your neck when you’re trying to sleep, or even just to rest against, when watching a film. I also have what’s described as a footrest but which is actually an inflatable cylinder. They are available at luggage stores, but basically you just need a larger, inflatable cushion that is pretty versatile. I only half fill mine with air and either put it behind my back, or under my feet when I’m trying to sleep. Helps keeps things comfy.
4. Microfibre towel.
This is one of those travel towels. I keep this for a variety of reasons. There’s always the chance if you have a stopover somewhere that you can use it actually as a towel in one of the airport showers. But generally I keep it folded, and put it over the arm rest. It helps soften that horrible moulded metal that tends to dig in to your side if you’re jammed against it.
5. Sleeping bag liner.
This is an odd one but you’re going to have to trust me on this. If you’re planning on sleeping on a flight, the blankets they give you on flights never keep you warm enough and always fall off your shoulders as you struggle for those few precious hours of rest. A calico or silk sleeping bag liner is the solution. It’s warm, but it still breathes well, and it folds up into a tiny little scroll that you can carry easily. You will get a few odd looks from the people around you and the cabin crew, but you will stay warm. Because sleeping bag liners have a draw string (and often a hood), you can jump into one before you want to sleep, and pull the string tight, securing it with a bow. You need to be able to get out of it quickly, so it should be a loose bow, but with a liner around your shoulders your arms and neck will not get cold during the flight. You can still put your blanket on top, but I find that my top half is always warm enough in the sleeping bag liner. Plus your feet are cosy down the bottom of the bag.
6. Medical-grade luggage strap
This is the other essential. You run this through the arms of the tray table and clip it together at the side. It’s a good idea to hang the calico bag and any other bags off the strap just to keep everything together. Adjust the loop to a comfortable length, then you stick your legs through the loop. Instant footrest, and much more comfortable than those horrid metal things you get in seats. Plus your legs are kept together, so you don’t keep knocking them against the person in the seat beside you. If you happen to find yourself in one of the seats with just a magazine rack in front of you, you can still run the strap through the magazine rack. It’s just that your loop will need to be a bit smaller.
7. Small wet pack
I have a small pack I hang off the strap for the whole of the flight, and it contains those pressure-reducing ear plugs, noise reduction ear plugs, any medication I’m carrying, my (travel) contact lens kit, a small tube of moisturiser, a comb and any makeup I plan to apply before landing. I also often carry my Perfect Potion Jetsetter spray. This spray contains water, citrus juices, geranium and peppermint and it just refreshes the skin after being dehydrated in that recirculating plane air. I just close my eyes and spray it over my face and hands every 3-4 hours. I find it just makes the whole place smell nicer and my skin feel a little less dry.
That’s about it. I guess I should also note that when I travel, I always wear loose clothes in layers and flight socks. I will bring a change of underwear and clothes if I have a refuel stop in Hong Kong or Singapore between London and Australia, because then I get off the plane and go and have a shower. No shopping! Really when you are going to be in the air for 22+ hours, and you have 45 mins on the ground between 11 hour flights in Asia, your best bet is ALWAYS to go have a shower. It completely changes your sense of wellbeing. And both Hong Kong and Singapore have Health Centre or ‘Airport Hotel’ facilities that you can hire and that usually provide you with fresh towels and everything you need to freshen up. They’re also available in Dubai and a few other places I’ve travelled to. They’re excellent. If I’m scheduled to have 2 hours between flights (meaning only about 45 mins on the ground, due to security processing before reboarding) I will ALWAYS have a shower.
Okay so that’s my Economy Class survival kit. Do you have anything you can add to this pack? Any little travel advice gems you can add? Feel free to add them in comments. I’m always looking for more ways to make long haul flights more comfortable!