In the last decade or so we have seen the rise of the Budget Airline. You get an extremely discounted airline ticket at the expense of having to pay extra for everything from checked luggage to even printing your boarding pass.
When you are on a 2 hour flight with Ryan Air across the British Channel you don’t mind not eating for two hours or being squashed in your seat- it’s just a necessary evil you deal with in order to save money on flying to your destination.
However lately we have seen more and more long haul budget flights emerge. In Australia, given how far we are from absolutely everything, cheap flights to Asia on budget carriers like Jetstar and Air Asia X are common. Other budget airlines like Wizz Air or Norwegian have the same model for flights between the US and Europe.
Now, instead of facing a simple 2-4 hours stuck on a shitty plane with no food or entertainment you are now facing 8-10 hour flights on a shitty plane with no food or entertainment.
Now in this situation you could pay the extra for a meal, for a comfort sleeping pack and for the crappy entertainment systems- or you could just do what Maddy and I did on our recent trip to Bangkok with Jetstar and be prepared.
So here are my tips for making long haul budget flights as comfortable as they can be:
1. Not all budget airlines are created equal
Even between budget airlines there are differences in both airline quality and safety ratings. In Australia, both domestically and internationally Jetstar is clearly the superior budget carrier over airlines like AirAsia or Tiger Airways. Obviously, if your aim is to save money, if AirAsia is offering a much cheaper flight than you are going to book with them.
However I often find Jetstar is well priced against AirAsia especially if you look out for a sale. If it’s a matter of saving $10-$20 it might also be worth just going with the better budget carrier as well. So do your research (there is a lot out there) and pick the best budget option.
From this we found out Jetstar had just taken delivery of the new Dreamliners and it was a very comfortable trip on those almost brand new seats.
2. Pack a picnic
We headed to the supermarket before getting on our flight to Bangkok. Thus whenever we were hungry we were able to munch on dips, cheese and crackers, some fruit and some junk food like lollies and chocolate.
This was a cheaper option than paying for food on the plane and was a lot yummier than standard airplane food.
Just be careful that you don’t pack any liquids or you won’t get through airport security. On the way home we made sure we stopped at 7/11 (located everywhere in Asia) and stocked up on biscuits, cookies, lollies and chocolate.
3. Bring sleeping materials
Things like Neck Pillows, Blankets ,Earplugs and Eye Masks won’t just help you sleep but will make you feel more comfortable and warm (airlines are notoriously bad at making you feel like you are in the arctic). A lightweight alternative to a rug is a sleeping bag liner/mummy liner.
While it might seem silly to lug these things around on your whole trip for an 8 hour flight you will definitely be thankful you have them.
They’ll also come in handy for overnight trains, cold and/or noisy hostel rooms and when you take other forms of cheap crappy transport.
4. Bring your own entertainment
Who needs to pay for entertainment when you can just bring your own? We had my Ipad and my laptop loaded with our favourite movies and television series- enough to last not just for our flight but also to keep us occupied on the overnight train.
I actually prefer bringing my own even when entertainment is provided because I can then guarantee I’ve got something that I actually like to watch.
If you aren’t travelling alone it is a good idea to invest in an Headphone Splitter like we did so we could each have our own set of earphones plugged in. Sharing earphones can be hard on noisy airplanes.
When I’m travelling alone I also like to have my Kindle stocked up with lots of books to read as well. It’s also a great way to pass the time.
5. This advice also extends where you have long stopovers.
Next month I’ll be travelling to South Korea on Vietnam airlines. Even though my ticket includes entertainment, a blanket and eye mask and meals I’ll still be bringing all of the things mentioned above.
I’m going to be stuck in Ho Chi Minh airport for 7 hours on the way there and the way back- being able to snuggle up in a chair with my blanket, some snacks and a kindle full of books will make this go a whole lot quicker. As long as I have these things I don’t mind long stopovers!
Have you got anymore tips for surviving on budget airlines? Comment below !