Budget airlines and economy fares are great options if you're trying to save the company money, are taking a bleisure trip (that's business-leisure, in case you didn't know) with family or friends, or need a very early or late flight. However, some of the luxuries of other flights such as free meals, more space, and larger seats may be missing.
Most importantly, the longer your itinerary, the more you'll get hit by jet leg--and that can severely impact your productivity. Fortunately, I've traveled enough to know what precautions to take to still feel like a rock star when traveling on a budget.
Here are the four most important tricks I've learned over the years:
1. Break up your flight.
I realize this may not always be reasonable but I guarantee it will help with the jet lag. Icelandic-based budget airline WOW air usually has an option of staying in Iceland for some time before continuing on to your destination. This is not only a great way to see a new city, it can also help with resetting your clock sooner.
I've found that flying from Los Angeles to New York City, then New York City to Dublin, followed by Dublin to Rome broke up the monotony of the flights and actually ended up saving me money. The breaks allowed me to drink plenty of water, stretch my legs, and tire myself out a bit more before the next leg of the trip.
2. Eat at specific times.
If you think about it, you can trick your body into thinking it's time for breakfast or dinner, based on when and how you eat. The best thing to do is eat light before you fly. Soon after landing, enjoy a hearty meal at the next appropriate meal time of your destination.
Your digestive system has to process your food a bit differently in the air. Add a heavy meal to being restricted to your seat, and you may be in for a few hours of discomfort. Many airlines now offer cheaper fares with food and drink being extra costs, so you won't have to figure out what to do with your meal.
3. Pick the appropriate plane.
More and more budget airlines are upgrading their planes for maximum comfort while still keeping costs low. For instance, Norwegian uses on a 787 Dreamliner on select routes. This beauty features a constant flow of air at a lower altitude, lighting to match the appropriate time for your body clock, larger windows with button controlled shades, more space and comfort, and design that provides a quieter flight.
I personally had a great experience when I flew on the Dreamliner from Los Angeles to Stockholm. I've heard from other colleagues that their flights were also enjoyable and read from other users that they had minimal jet lag after flying on a similar aircraft.
Dress as comfortably as possible, bring an inflatable neck pillow, and don an eye mask. Or sit into a comfy sweater as you listen to a relaxing playlist. If it's a longer flight, going through a bedtime routine of washing your face and brushing your teeth can help set your body into rest mode.
I like to carry a Dopp kit with face wash, moisturizer, and minty toothpaste. My wife carries a lightweight oversized scarf with her to keep warm and wrap herself in. We still try to look polished while maintaining comfort. One accessory we both swear by: a water bottle.
Regardless of whether you're flying for 15 hours or four hours, jet lag can be a setback. I'm sure you've heard it before but eating healthy, drinking water, and staying active while avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and sleeping pills really do make a difference. Rest when you can and enjoy the experience.