Travel Planning

Making the most of Long Flights (aka how to stay sane in Economy Class)

How to Fly

Being cramped in Economy can be a nightmare for any normal sized person, let alone if you are tall or have a few extra pounds, however Economy class is the reality for most people these days. Flying is not cheap, and Economy Class is really the only way for people to get from Point A to Point B without breaking the bank. With all the cutbacks in service from airlines and overselling of seats, you need to go in with a strategy to make the best of the situation. With that said,  I proudly present my fool-proof tips to stay sane and make the most of soaring through the sky in a tiny, overcrowded plane:

Seat selection

Westjet Seat Map

First off, I don’t pay to pick my seat in advance. It’s just another crazy fee to rip customers off. Instead, I check in immediately at the 24 hour mark to select my seat for free. First I look for empty rows, however don’t expect to sit alone as most flights are overbooked. I don’t tend to drink a lot of anything before or during a flight, so I opt for a window seat. This allows me to lean on the window to sleep and not be bothered when others need to get up. I also attempt to get an Exit Row if possible (still free on Air Canada and Westjet as of this posting) or close to the front of the plane so I can get off earlier. The benefit of Exit Row is you can board first, sit down and chill out for the next half hour while people are still boarding. Worst case scenario, just make sure you’re not stuck in the middle seat! A great resource to find out all the details of the plan you’re flying on is Seat Guru.

Carry on only

Keep-Calm-Carry-On-Only

Never check your bag. Ever! Not only will this save you from paying baggage fees, you won’t have to wait at the luggage carousel. You may call me crazy, but I have been on many trips with my carry on sized roller and backpack (aka personal item) and never felt like I was missing anything. It’s not that difficult to downsize, do you really need 5 pairs of shoes? People always over-pack, so just streamline what you really need before packing. The only downside is if you want to bring back any liquids (aka booze), you will have to check your bag. I easily forfeit this perk to get in and out of the airport in a breeze with all my bags in hand.

Entertain yourself

iPad

Fill up your iPad or other device with movies, TV shows, magazines and books. Never expect the airline to entertain you. For example, the new Westjet planes don’t have seat-back televisions, so unless you have your own device or rent one from them, you are out of luck. You can also bring books or magazines, but they take up valuable space so I recommend going digital.

Ear buds vs. Earphones

Earbuds Vs. Earphones

Always use ear buds for a couple of reasons: Earbuds take up less space and can be worn during takeoff and landing. You’re looking at almost an extra hour of movie & TV watching, versus if you have headphones they make you take them off during these periods.

Talk to your neighbour

Airline Seatmate

Depending on the situation of course, I’ve had many great conversations with strangers on flights. It’s always interesting to meet new people and hear their stories. This can make the flight fly past super quickly, and as a bonus makes it less awkward if you need to keep getting up for the bathroom or to walk around.

These are a few of the tips I practice every time I fly. Let me know what yours are by leaving a comment!

Searching for a Backpack

After spending a ton of time researching where I actually want to visit on my trip, the next order of business has been to find a backpack that will meet all my needs. On 99% of my trips, I choose to carry on all my luggage for a couple of reasons:

1. It saves me from paying any fees to check a bag

2. I don’t have to wait at the luggage carousel after the flight

3. They can’t lose my bags because they are with me

4. It saves me from bringing extra stuff I don’t need

I haven’t checked bags in years, except for one time on a business trip to New Orleans when our V.P. recommended I check my bag to make it easier. Four days later I got my bag, after wearing running shoes for almost the entire duration of the trade show. Lesson learned.

So this brings me to my Asia trip….I don’t want to check my bag. If you take a look at most travel backpacks, they don’t qualify as carry on sized. However, the backpack I chose is 2cm larger than the restrictions on the carriers I will be flying, so I have decided to chance it.

After spending weeks reading reviews about bags, what to pack, etc….I have finally decided on the MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) Supercontinent 45L. This gives me just 45L to pack for 3 weeks of travel…in 3 different climates!

MEC Supercontinent 45L

Am I crazy…maybe, but this is my first backpacking trip and the best way to learn is by trial and error. Essentially I need to pack for mild cold weather and mild hot weather. So 2 different wardrobes.

Everything I have read said to pack as little as possible…ok then. This means getting my laundry done locally (which is apparently very cheap) and bringing only a couple of each thing. The only other important things I’ll need to bring are my cameras (GoPro & Digital), iPad, and their accessories. No laptop, no digital SLR (too bulky). That’s it. I’m going to run a test pack to make sure everything fits. Wish me luck!

 

 

Cell Phone Service While Travelling

iPhone SIM Card

Some people travel to disconnect from the world and leave their phone at home, I’m the complete opposite of this. I still want to be able to check my email, make calls if necessary, and of course stay involved in all my social media efforts. However, I don’t want a $1500 cell phone bill when I return.

Roaming abroad using your Canadian SIM card is crazy expensive and don’t even get me started on using data! Looking into alternative options for using your phone is a must if you need to stay connected. Of course you can use WiFi for most things, but if you want to be completely connected without having to search out a Starbucks, McDonald’s or whatever local establishment has free wireless, getting a different SIM is ideal.

Here are a couple of options for staying connected abroad. (Your phone needs to be unlocked, so if it’s not, check with your carrier about getting this done.)

If you are travelling to the United States, I had great luck with Ready SIM and would totally recommend it. I purchased the card online, received it a few days later and upon arrival installed it into my phone. A few updates to my phone settings and I had 1 gig of data to use for 14 days. Simple, easy and affordable. I didn’t opt into voice service for this trip, but that’s an option also.

Ready SIM

After doing a lot of research on affordable options for roaming overseas, the best service I found is called KnowRoaming. Like Ready SIM, you purchase it online and the shipping is pretty quick. Check them out here.

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It’s essentially a small SIM sticker you put on top of your existing SIM. You download their app, set up your plan and it’s smart enough to know when to switch to the correct settings when you are outside of your home country. It was a bit of a pain to get installed correctly, because you have to line it up perfectly on your SIM. My first attempt was a failure and I ended up taking the sticker off before calling support. DON’T DO THAT! Their support is excellent and they sent me a new one via FedEx right away. The second attempt worked out better, but still required adjusting the sticker a bit with my thumbs.

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The app was a bit wonky to get set up, but everything is set to go now. I haven’t used the service yet, but I leave next week for my trip so will update this post once I use the service.

What are your suggestions for staying connected abroad without breaking the bank? Leave me a comment below and let me know!