The Comprehensive Guide To Surviving A Long Haul Economy Class Flight

This morning marks my 870th blog post here. 870 pieces I’ve put together just for this little online space of mine sine March 2014. That’s quite something, when I stop and think about  it… But this morning is also going to mark a time for me to step away from the blog for a little while. As some of you may know from past posts, I do struggle with my mental health, and over the past few months, that struggle has become more predominant in my life. So, it’s time for me to take a little step back from blogville and focus on my health instead. This isn’t goodbye, its just see ya soon 🙂

But before I go on hiatus, I wanted to leave you guys with this post. It’s a big issue in the life of the budget traveller. I know, I know. Another bloody blogger posting on that age old issue. Yes, there are a lot of articles and blog posts on this topic, but the majority of them are completely unrealistic – how many of us can SERIOUSLY afford a $350 pashmina to keep us cosy and warm, or have enough frequent flyer points to be able to upgrade to business class? Those tips are not helpful; they’re infuriating.

So what makes me qualified to give useful advise? Chances are, I’m just like you. I don’t have any frequent flyer memberships because I pretty much just book the cheapest flights available. I’ve only ever flown business class once, on a family vacation 15 years ago, because the plane was all but empty and the air hostess probably thought the exhausted family of 5 flying back home from Europe deserved a break. I can’t afford expensive travel clothes or hydrating face masks made from unicorn tears – my current carry on backpack came from Kmart, and my travel document wallet cost $15 from Typo about 6 years ago (yup, that red one below).

Now that we’ve established that I’m not ‘just like you but better,’ let’s get down to it. I’ve flown a lot in the last few years. That’s given me plenty of time to work things out by trial and error. Before we start, let me preface these tips by saying that there is no magic formula to making a shitty, squishy economy seat feel luxurious for 14 hours. But there are ways to make it manageable, so that when the plane doors open at your destination, you’re not disembarking like an extra from The Walking Dead.

 

BOOKING PHASE
Pay attention to your seat selection. Whether you book with an agent or do it yourself online, you should be able to select your seat from a seating plan. I always pick a seat towards the back, for a few reasons:
a) First, you’re generally less likely to have a crying baby. Many airlines provide bassinets, and if parents use them, they’ll need to be seated at the front of the plane (or front of a section).
b) While you can view being that close to the toilets as a bad thing, you can also use it to your advantage for space to get up and stretch your legs.
c) And finally, if there’s no row behind you, you can recline all flight without annoying someone else, and no one can kick the back of your seat while trying yo get themselves some space.

– While we’re talking seat selection, go for an aisle seat. Being able to stretch you legs out in the aisle in between trolley runs make a lot of difference on a long flight!

– Something else to consider when you’re booking is your meal selection. Yes, plane food gets a bad wrap and most of us feel like rubbish after eating it. But you can actually do something about that by ordering a special meal. Here’s the deal with plane food: there are the standard meals everyone gets by default. But you can order a special meal if you have certain dietary restrictions – gluten free, non-pork products, lacto-ovo, there’s actually a lot you can pick from! Given that the main culprit in plane food is excess salt, you could order a low sodium or raw vegetarian meal – all you need to do in most cases is add in the request to the online ‘manage your booking’ portal, or just email customer service for the airline you’re flying, ask for their special meal options, and let them know what you’d prefer!

 

PRE-FLIGHT
– Following on from that last tip, try to eat well in the 24 hours before your flight. Aim for lots of veggies, wholegrains and protein, lots of water, and try to minimise your intake of sugar, alcohol and processed foods. Basically, go low FODMAP for at least a day or two before you fly. Trust me, it’ll make a big difference!

– If you do have a sensitive tummy on flights, its also a good idea to BYO food on board, even if it’s just a few snacks. I generally take with me a punnet of strawberries or blueberries, some mixed raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc), and a packet of corn thins.

Plan your arrival aiming to decrease your stress levels. If you’re on a plane for 14 hours and spend half that time worrying about what you’ll have to deal with when you arrive in terms of collecting luggage and organising transport out of the airport, you’re not getting much rest! Know what you’re going to be doing when you collect bags – you may want to book a shuttle bus in advance, or decide to get a coffee once you have your bags before you hit the taxi stand.

 

CARRY ON
There are lots of things I like to take with me on board, like books and journals, but these are the things that will really help you.

Noise cancelling headphones. These are new to my arsenal and hands down the most essential thing to take. Trust me, invest in some, it’ll make flying at least 68% less shit. Crying baby? Bickering couple? Snoring neighbour? Doesn’t matter!

Make up remover wipes and mini fragrance. You’ve been airborne for many hours. You’re tired. You feel irritable and blehh. It’s amazing how much more refreshed you are after giving you face a good clean and spritzing a little perfume over yourself.

Moisturiser and lip balm. We all know planes are dehydrating. And landing after 14 hours with cracked lips and a dry, itchy face feels crap. My go to products are Natural Instinct Rejuvenating Rosehip Oil (great for face & hands, and Burt’s Bees original honey lip balm.

A clean top and undies. You may have a flight delay. You may have a while to wait between connecting flights. You may have a bit longer to travel to your final destination after your flight lands. If you can’t carry a shower and full wardrobe with you, a clean tshirt and pair of undies will make the world of difference!

 

ON THE DAY
Choose your flight outfit carefully; this is not a time for fashion. Bottoms with either lose or stretchy waistbands are ideal; I like a long, maxi skirt or gym leggings. On top, layers. I go with a loose fitting black singlet or tshirt (you’d be surprised at the amount of stains you can accumulate on a flight), a light button up hoodie or cardigan, then a heavier layer or a big scarf that can double as a blanket.

Forget about fancy hats and headbands (headaches are not your friends on long haul flights), chunky jewellery, tight belts, anything decorative.

– While I’m at it, forget make up. You’re sitting on a plane for 12 hours, trust me, everyone in economy class is looking the same level of crap by the end. If you prefer to be made up, take a few small items with you to use at the end of the flight.

Pick your shoes wisely. Nothing too tight or uncomfortable, because your feet will swell and the people sitting around you won’t appreciate you taking your shoes off when you get uncomfortable. Also, socks. Planes get cold, and you’re not going to get much rest with cold feet!

Get to airport early. I’m always at the airport 3 hours before my international flight is scheduled to depart. Because I’m only going to be waiting around at home, so I may as well wait at the airport so I don’t have to rush! Drop your bags off, head to a café or bar, and relax until boarding time.

 

ON BOARD
Set your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you’re buckled in to your seat. Then, act like you’re already on that time. So if they’re serving lunch at midday in your departure city but it’s 7pm in your destination city, consider it dinner. Then watch a movie and try to get some shut eye.

Drink. Water. Buy a big bottle before you board and just keep drinking!

– Yes, they’re daggy and look ridiculous, but wear the compression socks. We get ours here, they’re pretty cheap, and it’s as easy as putting them on and forgetting them until you arrive! They’re good for your body. And while you’re at it, make sure you walk around every now and then, or at least wiggle your feet and ankles around regularly!

All set? Great! Now off you go and book a flight and I’ll see you back here soon 🙂

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McCormick’s Grill Mates American BBQ Pitmaster Class & Dinner!

I’ve written before that this blog was started first and foremost for me. It was always designed to be my online journal, a place to record my food and travel adventures. So when my little blog is seen by others and my work deems me worthy of being invited to special events like this one, well it’s just a little bit exciting for me!

I received an email a few weeks ago with a generous invitation to attend a special American BBQ pitmaster class and dinner, in celebration of and collaboration with McCormick’s and their new Grill Mates American BBQ sauces, seasonings, dry rubs and marinades. I was absolutely thrilled to attend, because properly done American BBQ meat is something I love to eat and there’s plenty of it around right now as it’s been gaining massive popularity in Melbourne (particularly at places like The Gem, Le Bon Ton and Nieuw Amsterdam), but I actually don’t have a heap of knowledge on how to do it properly at home.

We arrived at Beer DeLuxe in Hawthorn on Monday night for an evening presented by the McCormick Grill Mates range, which are finally making their way to Aussie shores. We were greeted with big smiles, some pretty nice aprons, and a warning that we’d be getting our hands dirty throwing some food together and eating a LOT of meat! Chef Eric Luhning, his wonderful BBQ cohort Cassie, and their assistant Kat from BBQ School gave us the heads up that one of the several courses of the night involved 16kg of brisket. THAT’S a party!

And as if all that wasn’t amazing enough, I was over the moon to realise that one by one, some of the amazing women I’ve become friends with through blogging were turning up too – Terri at Little Wanderings (and her lovely partner who really knows his way around a salad table), Tian at Eat More, Mon at Mon’s Adventure (and her very irresponsible photographer who you shouldn’t allow in your tent while camping) and Karma at Good Food Good Karma. Let the good times roll!

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Once we all got settled, we were introduced to pitmaster Eric, who gave us an education on BBQ, using some of the 6 BBQs set up for the night – from what equipment to use, how to heat your coals, what to wrap your meat in and how to measure the done-ness of your meat, he covered it all. We thankfully also all got sent home with recipes and further instructions, we got to enjoy the show instead of worrying about writing notes!

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After round one of fun learning time, we made our way back inside to watch our entrees come together, using the Grill Mates range. Before I go on, let me give you a quick rundown of the range (which will now be available at Coles and some independent supermarkets):
Slow & Low BBQ Rubs
– Tennessee Smokehouse
– Smokin’ Texas

Burger Seasoning
– All Star
– Jalapeño & Cheddar

Dry Marinade
– Chipotle & Roasted Garlic

Sauces
– Sweet Pepper Steakhouse BBQ Sauce
– Brown Sugar Bourbon BBQ Sauce
– Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce

For our entrees, we used that Jalapeño & Cheddar seasoning on some chicken along with a little coriander, which was thrown on the grill and cooked up for our quesadillas, and we got the All Star seasoning in with some beef mince and onion for our sliders. I followed the suggestions on the menu above, and put some of the Sweet Pepper Steakhouse BBQ Sauce on the slider, and tried the other two out with the quesadilla.

Let’s pause here for a second and talk product:
1. That Jalapeño & Cheddar seasoning is seriously delicious. Oh wow… strong enough to give the chicken an amazing flavour, subtle enough to allow the chicken to still taste like, well, chicken – perfect! I’m also thinking it’d be a perfect savoury popcorn seasoning…
2. Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce – this will now be the BBQ sauce against which all other sauces shall be measured. For me, it was the perfect, smoky BBQ flavour which you could use with just about anything. I love.

Ok, let’s move on to more food for now. We got a crash course on brisket preparation, being encouraged to lovingly and thoroughly rub that slab of meat with reckless abandon. Mon certainly seemed to enjoy herself under some very passionate guidance from Chef Eric…

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While the meat that Chef Eric lovingly started cooking at 9am for our 8pm dinner was pulled off the heat and brought inside, a men versus women salad challenge was going down. 3 on 3, taking turns to choose two ingredients each. I hate to betray my fellow ladies, who certainly gave it a good crack, but the boys smashed it with their choices which included charred corn off the cob, lime, coriander, fresh chili, tomato and red onion. Top notch salad, boys!

But let’s get to the good stuff. The meat. The most tender pork imaginable, which had been marinaded with Chipotle & Roasted Garlic dry marinade was pulled and doused with BBQ sauce. A big, sexy lump of brisket, which had been paired off with the Smokin’ Texas BBQ Rub was sliced like butter. And the ribs, rubbed with the Tennessee Smokehouse, came out so tender that a knife wasn’t entirely necessary to separate them.

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Quick side note: I’ve also been reminded as I’m typing this that there was beer matching going on throughout the meal. Husband was the official beer taster, there was a pale ale, an IPA and a stout involved, and they were all very good I’m sorry I can’t tell you more – I’m not a beer girl, myself! He was also a happy man because he got the “money muscle,” that sexy bit of flesh below, all rendered and fatty and marvelous. Happy anniversary, love!

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Cassie and Kat kindly covered the table in deliciousness, and we just got stuck right into it…

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Not to state the obvious, but holy wow the food was INCREDIBLE!! Surprise dish of the night for everyone, I think, would have been the babyback ribs… I’m comfortable saying that they were the best, most magnificently cooked pieces of BBQ meat I’ve ever had the honour of eating.

As for the McCormick range that was used on the meat, A+. I’ll state the often unsaid obvious here, that when you’re invited to something like this, you’re usually a little skeptical about just how good the product is really going to be. Having tasted it myself,  I’ll quite happily join Burger Mary (AKA Jess Pryles) in endorsing this stuff, and I’m not even being paid to do it! The whole point of the range is to make American BBQ easier, less intimidating, more accessible and a little more entry level for us mere mortals who do not possess the mad BBQ skills of guys like Eric. Their aim is to take the really hard parts like making sure your proportions of seasonings are right and getting your apple wood chips to infuse smoke into your meat out of the process by ensuring that smoky flavour is already in the seasonings. And that’s something I’m all about – yes, it would be amazing to be a fully fledged pitmaster and do EVERYTHING from scratch, but the reality is that we don’t all have the time, knowledge or confidence for that. By having the right seasonings for the meat, you’ve already got a massive head start in making it all taste good, which means more people might be willing to give it a crack themselves!

After all of that, when a bleary eyed glance around the room showed the meat sweats and comas already kicking in, dessert was served – a cinnamon and chili BBQ brownie, which used some of the Grill Mates seasoning and was actually cooked using the BBQ! Amazing!

To cap of an amazing night, we were all spoiled with a gift box full of Grill Mates seasonings and sauces, and I was also lucky enough to walk away winning a shiny new Weber grill – cannot wait to get back from Japan so I can test this out!!! And thank you SO much McCormick’s – I honestly don’t win things very often/ever, so this was one hell of a prize for me, and such a great end to an amazing night!