Flying comfortably doesn’t mean you have to take out a second mortgage to afford that first-class ticket. Even economy class can become more bearable with a few tricks. Here are some easy and affordable ways to fly comfortably if you’re on a budget.
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1. Know which seat to pick
The seats at the exits may give you more legroom but fewer options for storing your bag. Before you book your seat, check out Seat Guru for information on the comfort of a specific seat on any flight.
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2. Fly solo to save money
If you’re flying solo, you might be asked to switch seats so that a group can sit together. You’ll likely be moved to a better seat or even get an upgrade to first class.
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3. Sit in a child-free zone
If the thought of sitting next to a crying baby or hyperactive toddler on a flight is your worst nightmare, consider flying with an airline that offers a child-free zone. More and more airlines, especially in Asia, now offer zones that are off-limits to families with young children.
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4. Sit above the wings
The area located above the plane’s wings is the most stable, so your flight will be smoother if you sit here. Just remember that this can be a noisy place to sit during take-off and landing because the landing gear is located in this part of the plane.
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5. Stay close to the airport the night before
If you have a morning flight, fork out a little extra for a room in an airport hotel the night before. This way you can avoid the stress of making it to the airport on time through peak-hour traffic and instead get a good rest and leisurely breakfast. A hotel that's close to the airport is likely cheaper than your destination's downtown hotel options so even if you stay somewhere more expensive for the duration of your trip, save money on the last night by switching to a hotel at or near the airport. Your budget will thank you!
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6. Look for empty seats
If the flight isn’t fully booked, there will be empty seats available: sometimes entire rows. Ask the flight attendant if you can move to one of these seats if they seem more comfortable than yours.
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7. Wear loose clothing
Loose-fitting clothing is more comfortable during travel, especially when that in-flight bloating sets in. Add a pashmina, which can do extra duty as a blanket, pillow or something to cover your nose with if you have to brave the stinky bathroom.
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8. Bring your own travel pillow
Most airlines offer pillows but these are flimsy. Bring your own travel pillow, then you can use the airline pillow for extra back support.
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9. Bring a blanket
Airline blankets tend to be cheap, thin, scratchy and disconcertingly unhygienic. Bring your own soft blanket to snuggle up in and stay warm during the flight.
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10. Bring a foot rest
If your feet are slightly raised during the flight, you’ll reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis, swelling and joint pain. Some flights offer built-in foot rests, but not all. And, they're not always in working order. Hedge your bets. There are different types of foot rests that you can bring, from inflatable foot pillows to little foot hammocks. Alternatively, bring a carry-on that you can rest your feet on comfortably to make your flight more enjoyable.
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11. Bring slipper socks
Your feet will swell up during the flight and constricting shoes will become very uncomfortable. Bring some slipper socks that will keep your feet warm while allowing you to walk around during the flight without exposing your feet to the nasty things hiding in the carpet.
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12. Bring noise-cancelling headphones
With noise-cancelling headphones, you can listen to the music of your choice rather than a screaming baby or chatty neighbour. Plus they'll cut out the drone of the plane's engines, leaving you feeling refreshed after your flight.
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13. Bring earplugs
When it’s time for some shut-eye, swap your headphones for some earplugs so you can sleep in silence. Just be sure to fasten your seatbelt over your clothes and blanket so that the flight attendant won’t wake you up every time the plane hits turbulence.
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14. Bring a sleeping mask
You’ll have a better sleep if you can block out ambient light during the flight. Invest in a good sleeping mask that doesn’t put pressure on your eyes but allows unobstructed REM sleep.
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15. Bring your own snacks
Really tasty economy airplane food hasn't been invented yet, so bring your own snacks to keep the hunger pangs at bay. Just remember to check beforehand what you’re allowed to bring in terms of food, since things like yogurt or soup are often considered liquid and may be confiscated.
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16. Bring your own entertainment
Before your flight, check the in-flight entertainment line-up with your airline. If the selection doesn’t appeal to you, download your own choice of movies, podcasts and music onto whatever gadget you want to use.
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17. Bring a book
Electronic gadgets interfere with your sleep, so bring a book or magazine as well. This way you can do some old-school reading for an hour or so before you plan to sleep and get a better snooze.
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18. Go easy on the booze
Flying tends to be dehydrating as it is and alcohol will just exacerbate things. Go easy on the booze the night before so you don’t have to fly with a hangover and then avoid too much alcohol during the flight too. If you do drink alcohol during the flight, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
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19. Bring some pampering toiletries
Pack a small vanity kit with toiletries that you can use to pamper yourself. For instance, include a facial spray, lip balm, moisturizing face wipes, under-eye gel, eye drops and an essential-oil roll-on. Remember to check the rules about liquids first, though.
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20. Be nice to the crew
Flight attendants will usually go out of their way to ensure extra comfort for passengers who are polite and take a healthy interest in them as people. Chat with them without being pushy and who knows, they may bump you to first class.
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