Hacks for Economy Class Plane Travel
My top advice for Plane Travel
I thought about counting the number of times I’ve gotten on a plane or how many hours I’ve spent traveling on an airplane or even how many miles I’ve flown, but I do not have the time or energy for that. I am by no means an expert when it comes to economy class travel. I have no idea how to game the points system or get an upgrade from economy to literally anything else because frankly, I’m just glad I get to go anywhere, even if it is crammed like a sardine way at the back of the plane. But regardless of my lack of getting the VIP treatment from the airline, I do know how to give myself the VIP treatment on any journey.
Economy class travel begins before you even get to the airport. Preparation, preparation, preparation!
- Choose your checked bag wisely– Some people don’t even check a bag when flying. Bravo for being a minimalist and please teach me your ways. As for the rest of us who haven’t quite figured out the carry-on lifestyle yet, my general rule of thumb is this- if you are buying a new bag, for your trip, buy one that is JUST big enough. Don’t buy a friggin’ steamer trunk because then you really will pack your entire closet and that’s not helpful. I prefer padded or hardshell cases to protect whatever I have inside from the baggage handlers who didn’t make it to the Olympics for hurling. Pack everything you think you’ll need and then take one of every item out, ie. If you have more than one tank top, take one out. More than one pair of jeans? take one out and so on. This doesn’t necessarily apply to unmentionables. Remember, you’re traveling in economy class, and it has weight limits for checked bags.
- Choose your carry-on wisely– Everyone has their own preference but since I apparently never grew out of my high school and college mentality of the backpack being where everything goes, I always take a backpack as my carry-on. It holds a change of clothes, my medicine, and fits under the plane’s seat. I’ve used everything from North Face to REI to Osprey. You can head over to my youtube page to see reviews of each pack I’ve used.
- Medicines– If you’ve read my most recent post, you know I have a method for meds, however, taking meds through security where they are inspected versus just carry them in a car changes things a bit. Whenever I’m preparing for my TSA probing, all my meds go in a clear plastic bag packed at the very top of my backpack, no matter what. They are in their bottles from the pharmacy with my name on it that matches my passport so there can be no questions that they are mine. I don’t need TSA thinking I’m some sort of drug mule. When it comes to generic stuff like Advil or Tylenol or any OTC med, all that goes in a separate clear plastic bag. Why both separate and clear? I want TSA to be able to easily identify what they are looking at without question. They can take it out of my backpack, see the labels, bottles, etc., and know exactly what they’re looking at.
Starting at the Beginning- TSA/Security
Does anyone remember a time when you could board a plane prior to pat-downs and x-ray machines? No? OK me either.
Now that your bags are packed and you have your ticket/passport in hand and are waiting in line in your socks, let’s begin.
- Shoes– While I don’t necessarily advocate flip flops in this situation (my feet get cold and they aren’t really that great for walking), I do suggest shoes that are easy off/easy on. Vans, Toms, heels, if that’s your thing…. I want to be comfortable so I’m going to pick a shoe that I can slide on and off. Remember your lower extremities can swell on long plane rides and snug shoes will be very uncomfortable.
- Plane Outfit of the Day(s)– There have been a few times I have worn what most would consider proper outfits onto a plane and what I mean when I say proper outfits I mean like jeans and a top however as of late (the last 5+ years) you won’t find me in anything other than joggers and a hoodie. Fashion be damned, I’m not traveling for work, I’m not trying to impress anyone (if I do, cool, but seriously not the point) and my last number of flights have been 7+ hours so the closer to pajamas the better.
Waiting to Board
Ok, you’ve made it through security and now you’re just waiting to board your plane. I’m just assuming you’ve given yourself extra time and aren’t sprinting across the airport in the hopes you make it to your gate before it closes.
- Bag check– Make sure that whatever back you are carrying on the plane is repacked properly (after being completely f*&ked by TSA). What I mean by this specifically is fix the bag that you’ll have easy access to on the flight, not the one you put in the overhead bin. Put the stuff you’ll need the most in the outer pockets, 2nd most at the top of the main pocket, and what you really won’t need, like that extra change of clothes (unless your other luggage gets lost) at the bottom. In general, my bag has my wallet, passport, and tickets in the top outside pocket. Headphones, earplugs, and mask in one of the side pockets and anything else I’ll need on the other side like a water bottle.
- Food and Snacks– Plane food is like Spam. It’s a mysterious entity that I don’t care to try with so I always bring food from the airport, whether it’s a pastry from a coffee shop or some chips and candy from one of the magazine stores. Since some flights these days have gone to charging for sodas, I’ll also usually buy a ginger ale or sprite just in case my stomach starts acting up.
Ok, now we’re getting to the goods!
- Boarding the Plane– Every airline is different when it comes to how they board. Southwest boards by group. United does it by seat number, I think, well after first class and business… In any case, I know you want to sit down because you’re tired of carrying whatever you’re carrying but chill and wait your turn. In fact, while everyone else is lining up, take a seat! Your plane seat will be there when you get on.
- Seating– Ok this is going to have subsections…
- Seat Selection- I always try to book a window seat for one main reason, I cannot fall asleep sitting upright without my head going all floppy and waking me up every 2 seconds, and since I almost exclusive ride in coach or economy as I guess it’s now called, I refuse to lean my seat back as it reduces the area the person behind me has. So with a window seat, I can wedge my head between the seat back and wall/window and get a few hours of shut eye.
- Sitting next to strangers– Sitting next to strangers is a double-edged sword (which ironically are not allowed on planes). They can be respectful and curious or they can be absolute sh*&s. But that also goes for the person in front of you who might recline their seat even though they know it cuts into your space and they just don’t care and for the person behind you who might be a kid kicking your seat or an adult who keeps putting the tray up and down. If you’re of age, have a drink to take the edge off.
- Getting up to use the Lavatory– as one who chooses the window seat, I always feel like kind of a jerk when I have to make the people next to me get up (I only feel slightly less guilty if it’s on the side of the plane with two seats instead of three). I try my best to do it when no one is eating or sleeping but sometimes that can’t be helped. I always let them take their time and thank them when I get back.
Now buckle up, try to sleep and in no time you’ll be wherever this whole annoying process was meant to get you.