It's sad that many of us approach flying with more dread than excitement. Cramped seating, annoying fees, and extreme security measures all add up to an in-flight experience that's less than joyful. We can't promise that you're next flight will be the time of your life, but the following low-cost tips can at least help to improve the experience.
Buy a Little More Space for a Little More Money
Exit rows and upgrades: Once upon a time, they were free. Not anymore. Still, there are some airlines where, for not too much extra money, you can guarantee you won't be stuck in a middle seat back near the toilet. On American Airlines, "preferred seats" are standard legroom seats that are more favorably located throughout the main cabin (read, window and aisle seats near the front) and start at an extra $4. Delta Air Lines' "economy comfort" seats offer an extra 4 inches of leg room and Zone 1 boarding; longhaul international flights also include up to 50 percent more seat recline and free alcoholic beverages. Pricing starts at $9, over and above the cost of your ticket.
Take Care of Your Skin
Dry cabin air can play havoc with your skin, leaving you dry, itchy, and irritable. Make sure to bring a pack of cleansing wipes, like these ones from L'Oreal ($6) in your carry-on. Thirsty skin also needs moisturizing, but, rather than buying expensive travel-sized bottles, ask at department store counters for free samples of your favorite moisturizers and eye creams.
Snuggle Up with Cozy Accessories
You can't even rely upon your airline to provide you with a basic blanket anymore, so pack your own. When the air starts blasting, you'll be glad for a lightweight or fleece throw that can then be packed away easily. While you're at it, pick up a pair of loose socks too, so that you can remove your shoes and get comfy and, if you're planning to sleep, an eyemask and earplug set. Target sells a selection of differently colored blankets for as little as $15. We also love these cheap and cheerful fuzzy socks ($3) from Old Navy, and Samsonite's eye mask and ear plug set ($7).
Keep Your Documents Accessible and Organized
Your hands are probably already full enough with the carry on, the laptop you have to take out, and the shoes you have to take off; hanging onto all those important travel documents is just one more stress. Keep it together with this Executive Travel Wallet from Pierre Belvedere ($19). The wallet fits your photo id, boarding pass, frequent flyer card, up to nine credit cards, and even a pen for filling out those pesky customs forms.
Carry a Water Bottle
You need to hydrate on a flight, and those tiny cups of water they offer you probably aren't sufficient. One solution: Bring your own. Keep an empty water bottle on you as you go through security, then fill it up at a fountain in the airport. Never pay for overpriced airport bottled water again!
Don't Forget the Gum
Not only does chewing gum keep you feeling fresh, it also absorbs some of the worst effects of cabin pressure, like those uncomfortable popping ears.