12 hours on seat 38D isn’t for the faint-hearted but below is a collection of my best advice on how you make your economy class trip bearable, and maybe even pleasant.
Roughly speaking, there are three types of travelers: 1) The ones, who would rather pee in a bottle than ask the fellow passengers to get up, so she can go to the restroom. 2) The ones, who don’t think it’s a big thing to ask the other passengers to get up, but who absolutely hate when other, more window-located passengers ask her the same favor. 3) The hyper-social ones, who see the aisle as an extension of her designated seat and use every excuse to get up and talk to fellow passengers/cabin crew/anyone who wants to listen.
Which type are you? Type 1 or 3? Pick an aisle seat, type 2? Go for the window seat. Most long-haul aircrafts have 3 seat sections in the cabin; one to each side and a broader one with 4 or more seats in the middle. Never go for the middle section unless the flight is almost empty, and there’s hope that you will get all the 4 seats to yourself.
Also, don’t be tempted by the large amount of legroom for the seats just behind the partition walls. Usually, the walls are fitted with hinges to attach the baby cots on board, and trust me; you don’t want to spend 12 hours next to a screaming infant (not even the parents do).
Most airplanes today used for overseas flights have state-of-the-art entertainment systems, and in most cases you’ll find yourself busy binge watching straight-from-theater movies, eating peanuts and drinking travel-sized Ginger Ale 12 hours straight.
However, sometimes the headphones don’t work or you are so close to the engine that you can’t hear what they are saying in that no-subtitles movie of yours. Even worse, maybe the airline has called in an old 747 as a substitute for that new Dreamliner with technical issues, leaving you and your fellow passengers with only one big screen to share (and that screen will be showing season 1 of The Bold and the Beautiful….for 12 hours!!).
What I’m trying to say is that you should always bring a backup such as a book, an iPad with your favorite movies or a Nintendo DS.
Long flights equal flaky lips and bad skin, so bring a small bottle of moisturizer and a lip balm, or get yourself one of those face sprays (they work miracles!). If you’ve forgotten to bring moisturizer, take a walk in the tax-free shop before boarding the plane. Usually there are plenty of opportunities to sample new, luxurious moisturizers and hand lotions.
Most airlines offer soft drinks for free on longer flights, but I usually buy a bottle of water in the airport, so I don’t have to fear that I’m asleep when the drink trolley passes and later wake up all dry-mouthed without a single mini-coke in sight.
I hate freezing, so I always make sure to bring a scarf that I can use as an extra blanket. I also bring earplugs, a sleeping mask and a toothbrush in my attempt to convince my body that I’m at home in my bed and not 30,000 feet above the ground. It doesn’t always work, but it makes the flight more comfortable.
They’re dead-ugly and bulky to carry around, but on longer flights, the neck pillow is a lifesaver.