48 Hours in Milan: How to Hack Your Economy Flight

I went to Milan on a press trip for 48 hours and it was kind of insane. I mean, 48 hours isn’t even enough time to get jet lag, let alone eat all the kinds of cheese on my list. But since I only had 48 hours and lots of them were taken up with work, I had to make my free time count.

That meant getting sleep on the red-eye. And no, this wasn’t an uber fabulous trip with my globe-trotting dad, this was a work trip in coach. For 8 hours.

Here’s how I do trips like this:

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1) Check in early to the best seat you can

Most airlines let you check in for free 24 hours ahead of time. This means that you can grab the bulkhead for extra leg room, the window in case you like to lean against it, or any other seat that isn’t bought ahead of time. In my case, it let me choose the smaller economy cabin which meant that I was served food first, got my choice of overhead space, and didn’t have any crying babies in my section. Win all the way.

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2) Embrace the neck pillow

They look dumb. They are bulky. They are often covered in hideous fabric. But on an 8 hour flight with 2 inches of leg room and one Jennifer Lopez movie playing on repeat the whole time? It’s a LIFESAVER. You want a really good, on-the-pricier side pillow to help you sleep – memory foam is awesome. Wear it with the opening adjusted to just in front of your shoulder. This helps you lean to the side or drop back your head with total support. Best of all, it lets you have the best of all worlds – use it instead of a window to lean against and you have support PLUS an aisle seat to stretch your legs and have more wiggle room.

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3) Prepare with good booze and food

There ain’t no caviar on these flights and the Krug ain’t exactly flowing. As such, you need to come prepared. I would recommend an awesome vegetarian sandwich on the crustiest bread you can find (so it doesn’t get too soggy), some potato chips, and candy. Candy is the best because you don’t need any more carbs and it won’t get too smushy in your carry on – no chance of it melting in a frigid airline cabin. I prefer one bag of gummy candy and one of chocolate candy. And booze…don’t rely on free booze on board. And even the for sale stuff might not be great. Hit up duty-free for a mini split of prosecco or even a couple of these cans of sparkling wine. It’s not the greatest stuff in the world but it does the trick and will help you drift off to sleep if you prefer.

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4) Treat yourself like you’re in first class

What does that mean? That means come prepared. Bring pajamas and fluffy socks to change into the second that you come on board. Come armed with moisturizer, the best headphones that you have, an eye mask, earplugs, and a personal entertainment device filled to the brim with great stuff. Don’t forget a sleeping aid, tissues, and a pen for filling out immigration forms. Go on Expert Flyer and see what the best seat is, research the plane and find out what the electric situation is (ie, this plane had no outlets but did have a usb charging port), and see what the meal offering(s) are. You want to feel like you are in as much luxury as possible.

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5) Don’t be a jerkhole

It’s a long flight. You’re cranky and tired and hot and achey and whiney. I get it. I TOTALLY get it. But don’t be a jerkhole. Don’t quickly jerk your seat back all the way the second you take off. Ease into it, do it gracefully, and only recline it as far as you need to. Don’t harangue the flight attendants for extra water and soda when they are halfway down the aisle – order extra when they come to you and keep it in your seatback for when you need it. Do be proactive if the person in front of you is reclined too far during mealtime – wait until the flight attendant comes to you and then ask her/him to ask the person in front of you to raise his/her seatback. If you are in an aisle seat, try not to lean on the person next to you and if you are in the window seat, keep restroom trips to when the person next to you wakes up or gets up to use the restroom. Don’t be rude, don’t push, and don’t yell. Basic kindergarten rules that might seem like common sense but are often forgotten on long flights. Do well and reap good karma.

Look, it’s never going to be the glories of flying first class. But with these tips, a sleeping aid, and some good luck, I managed to get some sleep, drink some wine, and be relatively entertained on my medium haul flights.

Next up: Milano memories.