It’s not exactly what you think: I still have to pay for some things when I travel. If there is a first class, five-star gravy train then I am not on it. I don’t get michelin star dining very often because some travel editors think it’s funny to make us poor writers eat grasshoppers from street carts. Sleeping in grass huts, taking 13 hour trips on the back of a truck – sometimes we have to travel rough.
Enter the Low Cost Carrier (LCC) airlines such as Easyjet, Air Asia, Ryanair, JetBlue and Tiger Airways. They’ve changed the way we travel. I can fly from Bangkok to Phnom Penh for pennies instead of the long and painful overland trip – it often costs about the same. We all take the LCC flights these days: no-frills airlines with seats for a fraction of the cost of a traditional plane ticket.
My first LCC trip was hell: I had no cash on the plane to buy anything, I didn’t realise how hungry one can get in five hours. They wouldn’t take my card. I was cold, I was bored, I had a sore bottom and I reeked of the great unwashed after sitting in a plane full of sweaty, grubby people – who doesn’t have a bath before a long flight? Everyone who sits next to me.
I am taking an Air Asia flight tomorrow and I have made sure that it will be as comfortable as Singapore Airlines first classd. Well, maybe as comfortable as a bus ride.
Hundreds of LCC flights later, I have worked out the formula. You may have flown with them before but I’ve really got it down to an art. Here is what is needed for a comfortable flight on a no-frills airline.
- Earplugs – good, comfortable silicone or beeswax swimming earplugs that mould to your ear and drown out that annoying man/woman/child sitting next to you. The foam variety really won’t do
- Eyemask – a good, comfortable eyemask with thick elastic strap and, if you can reach to it, made of silk and filled with lavender. Anything will do really because you wont be getting complimentary amenity bags on these airlines
- Wet wipes – no hot towels on Easyjet or Silkair, sorry! Bring your own. If you are travelling you should carry them anyway, shame on you if you don’t
- Inflatable neck pillow and inflatable haemorrhoid pillow. An 8 hour flight on a cheap airline means hard seats, no sleep and possible back pain. The inflatables don’t take up any room and it’s like bringing your own sofa. The most important is the haemorrhoid pillow or a support pillow which takes pressure off your spine. If you have the space, choose foam over inflatable
- H²O – For some reason, stupid airline authorities still micro manage the liquids allowances in our hand luggage even though those clever little terrorists from all corners of the globe have got together at their annual conventions in a cave somewhere and shared all their secrets of how to blow up a plane without liquid explosives. They can get us if they want to… but maybe people feel safer for all this fuss and inconvenience? Anyway, we can’t bring our own water from home anymore. The LCC wants us to pay $6 for that free stuff from the sea. If you can get your hands on a bottle between the customs/security check and the boarding gate, most airports have a shop in between, get two bottles
- Apple and crackers – Bananas get squashed in your bag, M and Ms are not good for your teeth and curries smell like… well, curry. Stick to apple and crackers, if it’s a long flight, preorder something on the plane so you get your choice. Jetstar, Ryanair, Air Asia, Scoot and all the Virgin budget airlines have surprisingly edible food. Pegasus was quite good, actually. Easyjet varies. I’d personally give it a miss on Tiger Airlines and Fly Dubai and take your own salad.
- Lip balm and face/hand cream. Very nice ones. Even if you are a boy. It smells and feels like a spa. L’Occitane, Sephora and Crabtree & Evelyn make everything in travel size
- A good book and an iPad/IPhone/Other Tablet with an unwatched film, an audiobook and something funny to listen to as you probably won’t have inflight entertainment. Charge to full capacity and carry and external battery if you have one. Take a real book/magazine because your electronic devices are going to be turned off during take-off and landing. Viz magazine is brilliant for a plane trip!
Make sure you take something FUNNY. I’m never seen travelling without a copy of Viz, been reading it since I was 15 and I’ve never been disappointed with an issue to this day. Personally, I like Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry Audiobooks on plane trips or a few episodes of Men Behaving Badly. You can laugh as loudly as you like because it’s up to the other passengers to have good, comfortable swimming earplugs…