Eleanor Barker answers your travel queries
• An earlier version of this story included some advice that many Kiwi hosties strongly disagreed with, specifically the line; “It’s not a great idea to bring an empty bottle on a flight with the expectation that flight attendants will be able to fill it for you — they can’t keep up with requests like that.” A flight attendant gave me that advice in the first place, but it seems to reflect a minority opinion. My story has been updated to reflect our awesome hosties’ passionate feedback, which I am very grateful for.
How can I get more comfortable on a flight in Economy Class? — Elaine
Most people hate flying because of how uncomfortable things get, but I honestly don’t, because I’ve cracked it. For fear of being Captain Obvious I’ve tested all these suggestions on frequent flyers and the majority agree my solutions are new to them.
It’s a great, hydrating, planet-serving idea to bring an eco bottle or keep-cup with you on your next flight. You can fill it in the gate area and flight attendants will fill or re-fill it for you on the plane — if my inbox is anything to go by they will be delighted not to contribute more plastic cups to the world’s landfills.
One email read; “Try to imagine 263 passengers (in economy) all needing a plastic glass, and then using it once, and then needing another one, and another, over a 10 hour flight.
“We frequently see stacks of glasses on passenger trays five or six deep, all used only once and now stuffed with rubbish so unusable.”
Another weighed in; “I’m a flight attendant and encourage people to use their bottles and travel cups. Always happy to fill up and so are my colleagues. It’s a shame you passed on that bad info/attitude as it might scare passengers off from asking. I want everyone to know you absolutely should come down the back galley (when seatbelt signs are off) and get your bottle filled. Or ask us in between meal times and I will grab your bottle and fill it for you!”
I didn’t know this until recently but airlines aren’t anti-liquids, they just need to be absolutely certain where you got the liquids from. This is why water can’t go through your screening. As far as other liquids go, I always travel with wet wipes (for your tray table not your face, more on this next week) and lip balm. Nothing else is a must-have, in my opinion.
I have a large, unisex felted wool tote bag that, with a pillow nestled inside, serves as an unconventional footrest. Even a DIY footrest alleviates a lot of potential discomfort for your feet. Compression socks address the same issue, but you have to start wearing them way before your flight to get the benefits. I haven’t needed them with my footrest trick. Two small airline-style pillows are required for peak comfort. One goes in your tote bag footrest and your feet go on top — the other goes in the small of your back. You can get my tote at etsy.com/shop/Lefrac in the tote bag section.
I do not suggest that you use airline pillows as neck pillows and that is because science has already solved that, although you probably have the wrong kind of neck pillow. I used to have one of those sad water wing-looking things you see everywhere but now I have a Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow. These neck pillows are double layered, with a soft yet sturdy foam base that rests on your shoulders and on top of that (but within a single neck-noodle) there is a second foam ring to support your head and limit your neck’s range of movement. The whole thing looks like the top of a toddler’s potty but is infinitely more comfortable. They’re here: cabeau.com
Bear in mind that I am short. If you’re tall consider paying extra for Premium Economy (for everyone’s sake). These seats have a lot more legroom. As do the exit rows – if you’re tall, they’re worth the investment.
Additionally, if my experience in Premium Economy in this part of the world is anything to go by there’s a significant chance you’re going to have a spare seat beside you. On my two most recent flights in Premium Economy, I had three seats to myself, then two.
And lastly, don’t hunch over anything, it’s not worth it! I’m writing this article in Economy right now and I can feel my upper back beginning to get sore. Once I stretch I’m heading back to my pillow fort. Goodnight!