Business travel is no vacation. The 10-hour days we usually work can turn into 24-hour days. That’s why the flight to and from the destination can make or break the business traveler’s experience.
Comfort, space and sleep are critical, especially when you’re traveling internationally. It’s hard to endure an 11-hour flight in coach or economy class.
Because many companies have cut back on travel perks, the days of business-class pampering are history. Yet, we often designate flight time for catching up on work. Comfortable space to use a laptop and other gadgets, or easily sift through hard-copy documents is important if we can get it. Even more important is the ability to sleep and energize yourself to prepare for all the work that lies ahead upon arrival.
Just because you’re in the back of the plane doesn’t mean you have to lack the perks of business-class customers. Plenty of accessories combat discomfort and technology limitations. Last week, I traveled on business to Istanbul and sat in Delta’s Economy Comfort class—an affordable step up from regular economy with more legroom, but still worlds away from business class.
So, I packed some first-class in-flight accoutrements, mostly created by small-business owners. These helped me to manage the long haul and to look and feel good upon arrival. (Naturally, I can’t officially recommend it, but it’s not a bad idea to support the following with the classic sleeping pill, plus vodka cocktail.)
Eyes and ears
You won't get that little toiletry bag of goodies in economy, so pack your own. An eye mask and earplugs are absolute musts. Austin House carries an array of affordable and practical travel accessories that pack easy and they are much better than the “freebies” business-class customers score. They do a better job at blocking light and sound so you can attempt a bit of partially reclined, seated shut-eye.
Upgrade the in-flight headphones, which are worthless. A slew of products help you forget you’re 37,000 feet up and noise-canceling audio gear goes beyond the Bose product line. I like Able Planet’s Clear Harmony headphones. They use new hearing-aid technology so words and music are clearer when the frequencies are higher.
Neck and head
In the middle of the night when you’re stuck in that seat and still awake, your head is quite possibly the heaviest thing you’re carrying. If you’re not lying down, bring your own head-and-neck travel pillow. The Therapedic International travel pillow isn’t heaven but it’s as close as you can get to a luxury head rest when you’re still vertical. The Therapedic pillow is soft velour and has a removable and reusable hot/cold gel pack. It’s sculpted with high-density memory foam and it gives some of the best travel-pillow support I’ve tried.
Back, legs and feet
Flying is not comfortable, unless you’re in first-class seats on Virgin, Emirates or Singapore Airlines. But you can help avoid back strain while you’re contorted in a coach seat for hours. Yoga helps you prepare for your journey, but while you’re in flight, a product like BackJoy Posture+ helps improve your posture. The little portable seat pad creates a natural cradle for the pelvis by tilting it upright and cupping your tush muscles.
Compression socks are not fashionable but they are easy to hide under a stylish pair of comfortable pants. They’re designed to lessen leg fatigue. Non-medical stockings like GoldToeMoretz have lines like SoleUtion that help energize feet and legs, so your circulation is good during a long flight.
Fashion, beauty and fitness
Tyra Banks has a tip to help you look good while traveling. You never know what kind of business opportunities will come up while you’re in flight, so you want to look your best, even when you’re resting. Also, when you look decent, you feel decent. Achieving this when you’re traveling on an overnight flight is not easy, but a few items are easy to carry in your arsenal.
A wrap sweater for women is a necessity. I wear a stylish cashmere sweater wrap by Red Twist that is soft and warm—ideal for chilly flights. They’re made of 100 percent Mongolian cashmere. The owner, Amy Cooper, a small-business owner in Texas, donates a portion of sales to a school in China for underprivileged girls.
Your makeup bag can explode on a flight and destroy what's in your carry-on bag. To keep your moisturizers, lip balm and other carry-on-sized toiletries contained, try a cosmetic bag that's lined with removable plastic bags designed to handle messy products. Vemayca, a small Washington business produces an excellent line of amenity kits created by former American Airlines executive, Veronica Mayo.
Obviously, exercise is limited when you’re flying. Turkish Airlines’ personal-entertainment TVs have programming that takes passengers through some in-seat drills to keep the juices flowing. Forbes Riley, a California entrepreneur came up with SpinGym, a handheld, portable fitness tool that passengers can use in their coach seats and while standing, waiting for the bathroom. This little resistance tool gets the heart racing and the blood flowing.
The laptop (that other appendage)
Business-class passengers get conveniences like AC outlets that lets them keep devices fully powered and running for the duration of the flight. But for coach-class passengers, Energizer makes Energi To Go XP18000. This small all-in-one product charges up to three laptops, smart phones, digital cameras, camcorders, DVD players, iPods and MP3 players for five hours.
Of course, it’s even better to use these products in business class. Find my tips on how to get airline upgrades using charm and persistence.
Image credit: Richard Moross