According to the Chinese zodiac, I’m born in the year of the monkey. Not that that means anything superstitious or particularly symbolic, but my dad sure had a hell of a time laughing at me growing up because I was a hyperactive kid (later diagnosed with mild ADHD, aha, it all makes sense now) and couldn’t stop fidgeting and climbing up and down everywhere, and subsequently getting into trouble because of it. His nickname for me growing up – monkey.
The significance of that to this post is that over the past few years of increasingly frequent travel, I’ve found myself fidgeting in economy class and poking around at the seats more times than I can count. I’ve been privileged enough to fly business twice on work trips (ahhhh – the luxury of being able to lie flat on a long flight!), and I got upgraded to premium economy once when a Japanese counter girl couldn’t figure out how to check us in, but besides that, all my trips were taken rolling around in economy. If my dad had been with me on these trips I think he would have been equal parts embarrassed and amused, because I’ve climbed all over the seats in a bid to figure out what the best way of making myself comfortable in economy is, and anyway, here I am with a post compiling everything I have so far.
PS. If you want my workflow itinerary while I’m on a plane, here you go.
1. Aisle vs Window?
If youre flying a full service carrier, you’ll almost always have the option of choosing. Window seats mean you can lean against the wall if youre going to sleep on the flight, aisle means you can stretch your legs out more and also, you dont have to climb over two other people when youre going to pee. So it’s more like what you think will be more comfortable for you. If I’m not gonna sleep on a flight cos its a short one, I’ll usually opt for aisle. And no one in their right mind would opt for the middle I think.
If youre flying budget, get to the airport early and be super freaking nice to the counter staff. More often than not, they’ll just give you a nice seat. Also, being nice to people is a good way of being alive, so just do it.
2. Bring an empty bottle of water and fill it before the flight after security check.
This is because flights are very dehydrating, and also theres a huge convenience to having water at arm’s reach rather than asking an attendant for water every hour. From experience, most people get embarrassed and so dont ask for water half the time, and anyway, the attendants usually give out water in these dinky little cups that are about two mouthfuls so just bring your own.
My friend Edwin taught me this when we were flying to Osaka two years ago and it totally changed my life. I liken it to taking your bra off after a long day at work. It’s SO COMFORTABLE. Your feet expand when youre in the air, so your shoes will always feel tight and uncomfortable on the flight. Taking them off feels so liberating omg. But be a courteous passenger and wear socks, so you dont stink up the place.
4. Bring hotel slippers.
If you have them, bring those disposable hotel room slippers so you can walk up and down the aisle without having to put on and take off your shoes again and again. This is very very useful because youre bound to have to go pee, and you dont wanna do that in your bare feet or socks, ugh. And also, because on long flights youre probably gonna wanna walk up and down a couple of times during the flight to stretch. Anyway. Hotel slippers are great. Bring them.
5. Get your skincare done once the plane takes off.
I do this the minute I’m seated, actually, before the plane even begins to taxi. I have a little ziplock of the skincare I need, so I first do a wipe to get rid of all dirt, then I apply a layer of sunscreen, a light serum, and then the Laneige water sleeping mask. I actually have a whole post on inflight skincare here if you havent already read it. People always stare at me on the planes when I do this but they can stare all they want because I refuse to become a raisin!!!!!!! Flight air is RIDICULOUSLY dehydrating ok, so even a 3 hour flight can dry you out. Do skincare for ALL flights. It also calms your skin and mind down and you tend to feel more relaxed after skincare.
6. Sleeping in economy – tips
This is going to sound very extravagant but I dont care because it has given me the best sleeps of my life when flying economy. I always try to have a Megrhythm eye mask in my bag when I fly (they come in a box of five but in the box they’re individually packaged so you can just bring one or two), which is this Japanese disposable eye mask that heats to 40 degrees once opened for like ten minutes. This is insanely comfortable for your eyes and lulls you to sleep almost immediately. I plug myself in to the in-flight entertainment system’s classical music channel or tune in to my own spotify jazz playlist, I apply a bit of essential oils (they come in roll on bottles for flights) to my hands and temples, and then I put on the mask and let it do its magic. I also brought a fleece blanket on my flight from SFO-SG (a gift from Pixar) and it was so comfortable I knocked out immediately and for 12 hours straight on the flight. WHO SAID ECONOMY CANNOT BE LIKE GOING TO THE SPA. Same same but different. Laugh all you want, but when I roll of a 16 hour flight fresh as a daisy with no dark eye circles guess who gonna be laughing?
Not all neck pillows are created equal – they have those made of memory foam, those made of beans, those inflatable ones, etcetera.. I would say it doesn’t matter as much what its made of, only that it comes with a loop or clip so you can snap it to your carry on bag and not have to lug it around. The point of a neck pillow is really to give you support – it’s a bit like leaning on the shoulder of a friend – but with or without it I dont really see a huge difference because I find that I can turn my whole body on the side in the seat and still have decent neck support. Some flights also come with a headrest that you can pull out and bend to the side so you can lean on those, which is pretty good too.
8. Pillow positioning
All flights come with a mini pillow – or at least, they should, and one of the things I see a lot is people putting this pillow behind their heads to sleep on. Don’t! I think the most uncomfortable part of plane rides is the sleeping while seated, or being seated upright for so many hours, and this really takes a toll on your back. What I like to do is put the pillow behind my lower back, because that gives your back additional support when youre seated, and also, when you lean back to sleep, it also acts to pivot your body so your back is in a better position for your spine.
Okay, so that’s about it. Another tip I have for a happy flight is not to accept the in flight meal service unless youre hungry, or unless you already know that airline serves good food. Many airlines serve terrible food and all that does is make you sad or grumpy. And honestly, half the time youre just eating it cos they gave it to you. I’ve made it a habit to either bring my own Onigiri on a flight if its a long one, or just have a filling meal before boarding. As a general guide, most asian airlines serve great food – I had the best airplane meal ever on Vietnam Air which served this incredible beef noodles dish. ANA, Korean Air, Eva Air, Singapore Air all serve pretty good food. Even budget flights from asia are pretty good – I had a pre-ordered meal on both Jetstar and Air Asia before and they were super freaking legit chicken rice and brown chicken stew rice, almost as good as what you might get on the ground. But beyond that, I dont think I’ve ever had really satisfactory meals on any other flight carrier. Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad are ok, but not as good as the asian carriers, and American carriers serve honestly dismal food. So yeah. Figure out your meal before the flight.
Okay guys! Hope this was helpful for y’all, especially if youre prepping for an upcoming trip. Happy travels!