Monthly Archives: December 2019

Tips to Survive Economy Class Flights

economy class airline cabin - survive economy class flights

Flying economy class is the way to save money since they are the cheapest fares.  And learning to survive economy class flights will make your travel more comfortable. Being stuck in the crowded, tight-fitting seats with less and less legroom over the years is not the most comfortable way to fly.  Planes seem to be more crowded than ever these days.  But since I like to save money on flights I do look for the best fare so I can spend more of my precious funds at my destination. Here are a few of the tricks learned over the years.

What to Wear

Clothing makes a big difference.  The goal is to travel comfortably and arrive rested and energized.  So when it comes time to dress for the flight, I recommend dressing in comfortable layers of clothing.  So if it gets warm you can easily shed a layer and if it gets cold you can add back that comfortable sweatshirt.  Flying economy is already challenging enough, wearing clothing that is uncomfortable is just a bad idea.  Loose-fitting, light layers in clothes you have already worn and feel good in will make comfort during flight better than the alternative.  This is not the time to dress to look good if your “looking good” outfits are tight, irritating, or are the least bit uncomfortable.

Footwear

You will be doing a lot of walking through airports and gates.  You will be going through security areas where shoes must often be removed.  And you will be cramped in economy seating during the flight.  This is not the time to wear those heavy, clunky boots or dressy high heels.  Be wise and wear a comfortable pair of shoes that are easy to slip off.  It will be easier to get through security and arrive at your plane feeling good.  During the flight, you can remove your shoes (be sure to wear socks) as you settle into your seat.

Noise Reduction

The noise level from jet engines may not bother many folks.  For me, the constant drone of the engines leaves me drained and zaps my energy.  Also, at times there are noisy children, babies or even overly chatty seatmates that tend to make a flight uncomfortable.  To survive economy class flights, I have found two solutions for the noise issue that work for me.  I always carry inexpensive foam earplugs.  They are easy to sip in the ear and they reduce the noise levels dramatically.  These work great when all I need is a little peace and quiet during a flight.  I also invested in a pair of premium noise cancellation earplugs that remove the engine noise yet still allow me to hear conversations.  Another benefit of these headphones is that I can listen to my music, podcasts or even the airplane movie during the flight.

Snack Time

All too often economy class no longer serves food during most domestic flights depending on the airline and the length of the flight.  So I just pack my own snacks.  A light and healthy snack kit carried in a ziploc baggie takes the hunger edge off and keeps my nourished with food that I like.  I take veggies, fruit pieces or even a good trail mix.  Sometimes I’ll pack a good protein bar or two also.  Avoiding fatty foods helps keep me from feeling lethargic and tired upon arrival at my destination.

Save Time

By checking in for the flight early—before arriving at the airport—I avoid the extra hassle of lines and time at the airport.  I get to pick my seat and print my boarding pass or download it to my cellphone.  That way, I head directly to the security area unless I happen to check baggage (which I try and avoid if at all possible).

Water, Water, Water

Staying hydrated during flights is another magic trick to arrive refreshed and energized.  Airline cabins are notorious for dry air that that sucks out your energy.  I avoid all liquids except water.  And, although the airline attendants provide a drink or two, it is never enough for me.  So I learned long ago, to always take along my own water bottle on every flight, no matter the duration.  The longer the flight, the more important it is for me to drink plenty.  Be sure your water bottle is empty if you take it through security.  Then fill it up prior to boarding.  Alternatively, you can usually buy bottled water once past the security areas.  Soda pop, juice, coffee with sugar just tend to create a sugar high followed by a sugar induce crash that zaps my energy level.  Water is the best remedy for staying hydrated and avoiding this crash.

Germ Warfare

Planes are crowded and serve thousands of passengers each month.  Just imagine the germs residing in your seat area from the many prior flyers.  Each area is not disinfected like a hospital room.  Therefore, I learned to survive economy class flights (and any other class also), by carrying a small supply of disinfecting wipes in my carry-on bag.   The first thing I do upon arriving at my seat is to thoroughly wipe down all surfaces where germs are thriving, including the tray table, the tray table lock, the seat belt buckle, the armrests, the video/audio control area, the seat recline button, the seat pocket area, etc.  I then relax, adjust my clothing layers, remove my shoes, insert my earphones and relax and enjoy the flight knowing that the money I saved by flying economy class will be better spent at my destination.    

Going It Alone – Solo Travel

lone mountain goat going it alone

Traveling alone is an unforgettable experience.  The first time you take a solo trip it may be almost like a religious experience.  You can indulge yourself completely without being influenced by the opinions, tastes, preferences or personalities of traveling companions when going it alone. 

There are, naturally, certain negative aspects of traveling solo including safety issues and solitude.  However, with some advance planning and clear thinking it is not hard to avoid these issues, save money and enjoy an incredible new experience.

Why Solo?

One of the biggest advantages of traveling alone is that you can be totally self-indulgent.  You can relax when you want or you can turn up the intensity and drive at your own discretion.  Also, whenever you make mistakes, they are your own.  No more following your companion all over town only to discover that they did not perform their due diligence and the destination is closed for remodeling. 

You get to choose everything and do what you want to do throughout the entire trip.  See something that piques your interest?  You can decide to change your plans on a moment’s notice and pursue whatever curiosity you want to satisfy.  If you want to try some unique local food dish you sit down and boldly forge ahead giving your taste buds some previously unknown treasures—or, at times, discover what never to try again.  If you happen to find an attraction, not in your prior plans, so what?  You can change your plans on the spot and go in another direction.  And no one will care.

Safety Concerns

Traveling alone does bring with it some concerns.  Safety is clearly one of those concerns most will wonder about.  Without a companion or group of other travelers with you, there is no one to watch out for you.  You may, therefore be subject to higher risks when it comes to criminals or scam artists.  On the other hand, a solo traveler can blend into the crowd more easily and be more discrete than a group—especially if others in the group send obvious “we are tourists” signals.   

Here are a few safety tips for the solo traveler. 

Do some research and know how long the ride should be and how much the fare should be between your destinations.  Taxi drivers may be more likely to attempt giving you an extended ride with an increased fare.  Be sure to ask the approximate fare before you begin.  If it varies much from what you know from your research, it may be a good thing to try another driver. 

Stay at hotels with a 24-hour front desk.  Otherwise, you may end up sleeping in your car, or even worse, if you arrive late and cannot get someone to check you in for the night.

Follow your impressions.  If it does not feel right, then use your common sense and don’t do it. 

Be sure to carry your monies and your identification in different places.  Have copies of your ID’s stored in the cloud, in different bags, and on your person.  Keep monies in smaller amounts in different pockets and larger amounts in hidden areas such as a money belt.

Stay in public and open places.  This is especially important at night.  Avoid excited crowds that don’t feel right.

Dress like the locals as much as possible.  Definitely avoid the appearance of a tourist and don’t walk around with your face in a tourist guide book or on your mobile phone.  Also, leave expensive jewelry, accessories, and even fancy clothes at home.  Unless you are a professional photographer, keep your camera in your pocket or a small bag.  Nothing screams tourist as much as a camera hanging permanently from your neck.

Walk with confidently and with purpose while in public places.   

Don’t be afraid to tell a few white lies that indicate you are not alone.  For instance, if asking for directions, indicate that you are going to meet a friend or companion. 

Plan your destination before setting off walking or seeking transportation.  Being too focused on a map or having your head down to your mobile phone often indicates an easy mark for criminals.

Make sure you let a friend or family member know your plans and stay in touch regularly throughout your travels by phone, text, email or chat.

Trust Carefully

Keep your guard up for your own safety.  A huge advantage of solo travel is the people you meet.  However, it also makes you more vulnerable.   You’ll meet some fantastic folks and make new friends.  It is not wise to ask them to hold onto your valuables though.  Petty thieves and scam artists can be the most enjoyable, friendly people you may meet.  Just be wise and use common sense to ensure your safety and security and protect your valuables.

Eating Alone

Often one of the most dreaded aspects of traveling alone is meal time.  Eating alone leave you appearing like a lonely soul.  Here are a few tips for overcoming any fears you may have.

Talk with the people serving you.  This is one way to get valuable information about the local culture and scene.  You’ll often find new ideas for your travel itinerary just by striking up a good conversation with the service people.

Look for small cafes or outdoor dining areas.  Being alone, absorbed in some good reading material, is a normal scene in areas like these.  You can also sit at the bar, or get seating in a booth which offers more privacy.

Another option is to eat in your room using room service or a food delivery service if available. 

So, if you’re a little adventurous, a bit independent and looking for a unique travel opportunity, make your plans now to take a future trip all by yourself.  Take one solo trip and you might just discover a new passion and expand your horizons. 

Traveling with Friends

traveling with friends

Traveling is friends wonderful.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a job in the travel industry so I am not traveling full-time.  However, when I do travel, I love to travel with friends.  Most of the time that is.  Friends can certainly make or break the trip.

After various trips together with different friends and groups of friends, I have had experiences both positive and negative.  And from that perspective, here are a few hints for making your voyages as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

Talk Before Travel

Figure out what everyone in the group wants out of the trip.  What is the most important thing to each person?  As you start planning, be sure to talk about your desires and goals of the trip.  Just because you all want to go to the same location does not mean that you all want to do the same thing.  If you don’t talk about it there may be the inevitable conflicts when one of the parties wants to spend most of the time in the museums while another wants to be at the beaches for the majority of the trip.  One may be looking forward to partying until the early morning hours while another may want to set out early to find their prime spots.  Just because there may be differences does not mean you should cancel the trip together.  But each traveler should understand what the others in the groups want out of the trip so all can work together to make it a vacation to remember. 

Allow for Personal Time

Just because you are traveling with a friend or a group of friends does not mean that you all have to do everything together during the trip.  The best trips I’ve had included personal time where each did things separately at times during the trip.  It made for some great dinner conversations when we all got back together in the evening. 

Be Willing to Compromise

Every relationship involves compromise at times.  The problem with traveling as a group of friends is that you may not have developed the compromise skills necessary to deal with being together during long time periods such as a vacation.  So when it comes time to be flexible, be flexible.  Stand up for yourself as needed but being flexible and going with the flow will make the trip go smoother for everyone.  This one tip has probably had the most positive significant effect on my travels with friends.  It has made my voyages much more memorable and strengthened my relationship with my traveling companions.

Don’t Be a Wet Noodle

Okay, be willing to compromise as mentioned above.  But don’t be so lazy as to back off and never make a decision.  It is fine to be flexible if you are really okay with whatever the group decides.  But stand up for yourself enough that they know you will make a decision, or communicate your opinion, when needed and when you have a strong opinion.

Figure Out the Money

Money is usually the cause of most arguments among traveling friends.  If you focus on the pennies and are not communicating as a group when it comes to the things requiring monies, then you run the risk of running right into problems during the trip.  Decide on a basic money plan ahead of time.  Hotels, costly tours, transportation and especially food can be sources of conflict.  If the group wants to split the cost of meals evenly but one of you has a special diet, or one does not drink alcohol, that may be a problem.  Discussing these matters ahead of time provides an opportunity for each person to weigh in and for all to decide on the approach the group will take. 

Don’t Go Hungry

Another key rule, don’t make any major decisions while hungry.  Everyone gets very cranky when they are hungry.  And travel stress with flight schedules, tour group deadlines, trains departures, etc. adds to the anxiety.  Eat first.  Then make the necessary decisions.  Trust me, you will have a much better trip following this rule. 

Keep Talking

Just as it is important to talk about the trip as a group during the planning stages.  Traveling with a group is a dynamic and delicate undertaking.  Communication is the solution to avoid blowups.  Don’t let things fester or build up without talking about it with the person or persons involved.  Otherwise, a potentially toxic event may spoil the trip or even the friendships.  Bringing up issues, however awkward, is always better than ending up in an explosive argument.  Don’t ask me how I know.

So gather your friends, make your plans, be flexible and communicate well and you will build many memorable memories and develop even stronger bonds with your traveling companions.