How to Survive an Overseas Flight on a Budget Airline

Budget Airlines. An inevitable means to an end for most travelers these days. They’re everywhere and they usually offer the best airfare by enough of a margin that when booking we convince ourselves it will be worth it. Believing that what we’re sacrificing in comfort, food, blankets and entertainment we’ll be gaining in dollars at our destination.

EasyJet. RyanAir. TigerAir. JetStar. Just to name a few.

On our recent trip to Bali, we were similarly lured in with the promise of cheap international air travel. And we managed to get through 4 ocean-crossing flights without blowing our brains out. For anyone thinking about embarking on a similar journey, here’s some tips we gleaned from our very own budget overseas flight.

Pony up some extra $$.

Yep. Right when you’re celebrating scoring that cheapo deal, go ahead and fork over a few extra bucks for a preferred seat. Now, these suggestions are solely for long range international flights. I wouldn’t bother paying an extra $40 to have a “good” seat on a puddlejumper lasting an hour and a half. Moving on.

Standing at 6’2 and 5’8, respectively, one might say that J and I are on the tall side. It behooves us to pay a little bit more for the “extra leg room” seats. In the end, we’re still paying less than we would have for a regular seat on a non-budget airline, and we get to stand up at the end of the flight without knee bruises and ankle cricks.

Get your kit in order.

There are three primary amenities that budget airlines slash in order to sell those bargain basement fares.

  1. Entertainment
  2. Food
  3. Comfort

Unless you want to shell out some more cash when you’re trapped at 35,000 feet, you need to take care of the above before you get on the plane.

Entertainment.

If you have access to a Netflix account, I highly suggest you download the app to your phone or tablet and download any movies or TV shows to keep you entertained. This is the best travel advice I’ve encountered in years and with titles like Empire RecordsDazed and Confused, and The Breakfast Club available for download, there is no reason to go without.

If you are sans Netflix and have no morals, you can also simply download whatever you want to your laptop… but I cannot condone piracy. It’s bad. Don’t do it. (Also, I find pulling out a laptop on an airplane to be a bit of a pain, but that’s just me.)

If you haven’t hopped on the Spotify premium bandwagon yet, go ahead and do that, too. Download a handful of your current favorite playlists to listen to offline.

For those of you who are more of a game player or like me need several options to distract my mind, I suggest downloading a new game a day or two before departing. That way you can give it a trial run to make sure you like it, while keeping it novel enough to enthrall you for a good chunk of time.

And for the book nerds. Ok, I have a kindle but I still prefer reading physical books. With that being said, for the purpose of simplicity I would stick to an app, again. Only being responsible for one electronic device while in transit makes things so much easier. Pack the book in your luggage and bust that bad boy loose for beach day.

Bring a battery pack so you can recharge should your power get low. All that game playing and movie watching can be a serious battery suck. And even if you are certain your battery can last the length of the flight, you may forget to charge it the night before or maybe there won’t be any available outlets at your boarding gate. And if that hasn’t convinced you, it will still be nice to have a fully charged phone when landing at your destination. Google maps, calling your hotel because you can’t find your shuttle bus, etc…

Whew, that’s a lot of entertainment. We are some overstimulated bags of flesh these days. And speaking of our bodies…

Food.

DO NOT be that person that brings McDonald’s or PizzaHut or insert gross, hot fast food here onto the plane. Everyone will hate you. No one wants to smell that and NO ONE wants to sit within airplane seat proximity of you while you eat it. Have a hot meal before you head to your boarding gate. For a flight long enough to pass over your next mealtime, pack snacks. Nuts, granola bars, gummi bears, whatever. As long as your neighbor can’t smell it. This way you’ll be getting on the plane with a full belly and will be safely ensconced in your virtual world by the time the sub-par pre-paid plane meals start making their rounds.

Also, a good idea to bring your own bottle of water. Fill it up at a water fountain before boarding, then if you run out onboard (5 points for you for staying hydrated!) usually the flight attendants will refill it from theirs with varying levels of geniality.

Comfort.

Obviously, if you are willing to fly long-distance on a budget airline, comfort is not your main concern. To make yourself a bit happier for the duration, however, consider your usual state during flight. If you get cold, make sure to dress warmly and vice versa if you’re a hot flier. I typically find effective travel pillows a bit bulky (and honestly still a bit ineffective), so I opt instead for a compactable jacket or oversized scarf that can act as pillow, blanket or top layer depending on my current need.

Airport Snooze
Naps acceptable when you have a seven hour layover.

Ok, so.

Pre-Boarding Checklist:

Device loaded down with movies, music, books & games.

Headphones.

Pen. You will need one for the customs form and you better believe flight attendants hate it when 90% of passengers ask to borrow theirs.

Water bottle, filled.

Non-odorous food in appropriate containers.

Temperature appropriate comfy clothing.

Spare jacket for stand-in pillow/blanket.

Tips for check-in.

If you are going ultra-budget and packing carry-on only, this section is for you.

Another way budget airlines keep their costs down is by limiting the weight of luggage (thereby cutting their fuel costs). This is why carry-on luggage is frequently weighed by ticket agents. To get around the absurd 7k (or 15lb) weight limit you have a couple of options.

If there are check-in kiosks, use them. Basically avoid all human personnel at all costs. If that isn’t possible you need to be sneaky. This is where that extra jacket comes in handy for a second time.

As an example, let’s say you are flying with a lot of camera equipment. Once inside the airport but before getting in line to check-in (and out of eyeshot of the counter, obviously) unload your heaviest pieces into your pockets. A lens here, a lens there… camera body with strap and lens on your person, just hanging off to the side a bit, and oh, a tripod on your back, under the jacket. Get through the line, hopefully quickly, especially if you are decked out in all that gear in a tropical climate like, say Bali, and check-in. Ticket in hand, return to your little corner and put everything back where it is supposed to be before heading through security. It’s not the most honest approach, but it works.

Sunset from Plane Window

And there you have it.

Air travel is not the most pleasant portion of any trip, especially in the current climate of passengers being manhandled half naked down the aisles. Everyone needs to just chill the fuck out, am I right?

Flying will never be fun when you’re on a budget, but it doesn’t have to suck either. Preparation is key. And respect. Respect the other passengers and respect the airline employees serving you (except for, ya know, sneaking that little bit of extra weight by) and have a good flight.

 


 

Now please enjoy these amazing stock photos I found when searching for smartphone pics. You’re welcome. Please. Please. PLEASE caption them in the comments. K, thanks.

 

 

 

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