The goal seemed fairly straightforward: Arrive in Paris after a 14 hour flight feeling refreshed, looking put-together and generally relaxed. While seated in Economy. While battling a fear of flying. But hey, I love a good challenge so let’s begin.
The majority of long-haul flights leave me looking a haggard, tiered mess. I’m used to slouching into customs with dead eyes and crazy hair. But this flight was different. This flight was landing Christmas morning and I had but two hours to get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to a large Christmas brunch in the 11th arrondissement. Failure to show was not optional. Or as my cousin put it, “Do you want to make your Grandmother cry?”
I didn’t. But I needed some guidance on how to properly pull this off. I called up my friend Brian. He’d been a Flight Attendant for an international airline since graduating high school. If anybody knew how to master in-flight freshness it would be him.
“Moisturizer!” He practically yelled into the receiver, “Cabin air is super dry, more so than the Sahara desert, so treat your skin as though you are camping out in the dunes. Drink more water than you think you need, slather moisturizer, use cleansing Towlettes, rinse and repeat.” After rattling off a few more tips and a reminder to be kind to my next Attendant I was off to the streets of San Francisco to create a personalized en route beauty kit.
To keep skin refreshed during the long flight it was recommended I go with some security-friendly facial cleansing cloths. Each person’s needs will vary but because you want to retain moisture, try to stay away from any alcohol based wipes. If you have money to spend MAC makes an amazing cleansing cloth. If you are working with a budget, L’Oreal makes a great version as well.
To kill two birds with one stone, I sprung for a tinted moisturizer. My face always gets angry, red blotches from cabin pressure so I decided to go with a brand that carries a bit more coverage (Olay Definity Color Recapture). If you enjoy the high life and want a sheer tint I suggest Laura Mercier’s brand and for those with tight budgets, I’ve heard rave reviews from Cover Girl. Add to this any cheap pressed powder for shiny T-zones and even, radiant skin is covered.
Cream Blush is a great way to get dewy, fresh skin and you will be able to use the color on your eyelids as well (it is perfectly safe there). My high end favorite is Bobbi Brown with a great low end version being found in Revlon.
Small sample size mascara also makes a great addition to your beauty kit. Most mascara formulas are pretty similar, with the main difference being found in the wand. One great mascara loved by armatures and professionals alike is Maybelline Great Lash. Add a bit of lip balm/gloss and my beauty needs were covered.
But what about achieving the ultimate in comfort?
There are a few items critical to a comfortable flight. These will no doubt be found free of charge in first class. But if you don’t have a vault of gold you swim through every night, there are plenty of ways to make your own inexpensive travel kit.
Any pair of brand new, thick, stretch socks is going to feel amazing to put on after take-off. Having simple dollar store slippers is a nice idea for walking around or visiting the lavatory. Earplugs, snacks, moisturizing eye drops, a comfy blanket, pillow and an eye mask will round out most of your comfort needs.
If you have some cash to burn I highly recommend lavender scented pillows and eye masks. If you are less fiscally inclined you can easily roll the couch throw into your carry-on and tote your favorite small pillow. For extra olfactory bonus discretely spray your pillow with a relaxing tester scent once you’ve gotten to Duty Free.
The last thing you’ll want is a complete change of clothes in your carry on. I talking new underwear, new bra, new everything. Make it an outfit you always feel great in. This is to be changed into a half hour or so before you land.
To ensure I sleep on airplanes I often pull an all nighter pre-flight. If you are not a nervous flier or happen to be able to sleep in chairs with relative ease then most certainly get your 8 hours in. But without serious fatigue I can and will stay wired from anxiety induced adrenaline, so self-exhaustion is a must. I like to take a shower a few hours before leaving, exfoliate my body, scrub my face, put lotion all over and drink some tea (but no coffee to avoid cabin bloat). I use the Thanksgiving Day Rule of choosing my clothing: elastic waistbands, loose, breathable fabric, and a long sweater.
I hate take off more than any words can properly describe. From the initial roll to the first 15 minutes in the air I am an absolute wreck. Frazzled nerves do not make for refreshing and relaxing flights. So if you are a nervous flier it might be worth it to invest in a program to help you overcome your fear. Prior to my flight I used Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Without Fear program available on iTunes. I was still nervous during take-off but I was able to cope with the anxiety better than I have in the past, also I was able to relax much more quickly after take-off than on previous flights. Furthermore their program has a “˜panic button’ which you can press that will take you on guided breathing exercises that are incredibly effective at calming ones nerves.
17.2 Inches of Freedom:
After the plane reached altitude I pulled out my eye mask, blanket, pillow and ear plugs. The man next to me, wearing a giant gorilla hat ““no really, it was like a Halloween mask in hat form–had the nerve to side-eye me with amusement. But I couldn’t be bothered once I realized what an amazing difference ear plugs and an eye mask can make. I slept, albeit somewhat restlessly, for the next four hours.
A quick connection in Houston and then I was back in the air, this time for the next ten and a half hours. First I put my brand new pair of socks on, wiggling my toes and marveling at just how plush never-been-worn socks can feel. After eating a filling lunch of Blah I used a cleansing cloth to refresh my face, some eye drops to rehydrate my scratchy eyes and applied some moisturizer. Feeling clean, full, warm, hydrated and mostly comfortable, I took out my fancy sleep-kit and was snoozing within minutes. At this point I cannot stress enough just how elusive sleeping on an airplane is for me. I had never gotten more than 30 consecutive minutes of sleep on an aircraft before (even when staying up 24 hours prior to my flight). Clearly I was on to something.
Four hours later I was awake and refreshed with a six hour flight to go. The cabin lights were dimmed and most passengers were sleeping or glued to Zac Efron’s pain face in Charlie St. Cloud. I took this opportunity to get some serious stretches in by the lavatories. I walked some laps, got some water from the back, chatted with some Attendants and cleared the ubiquitous “airplane sheen” off my face with another cleansing cloth.
I begrudgingly watched The Switch (I didn’t expect much but it still managed to be shockingly awful), drank some more water, did some more laps, did the seated foot exercises described in the back of the in-flight magazine and with exasperation realized there was still a good four hours to go. Not to worry though! I had planned for this exact moment. My foolproof solution to the mid-flight humdrums was:
David Sedaris, Eddie Izzard and Radio Lab.
Laughter relaxes and refreshed the mind like nothing else. More water, more moisturizer and an amazing conversation with my seat mate, who turned out to be a pilot for Vietnam Airlines.
Now it was go time. I wasn’t feeling particularly tiered, I was pretty relaxed, and things were going better than I had anticipated. We were somewhere off the coast of Ireland and the sun was starting to sneak over the horizon. After the Flight Attendants served a warm meal of “˜Meh’ with coffee I took the opportunity to get up and stretch a bit. I grabbed my street clothes (skinny jeans, boots, new socks, fresh underwear and bra, t shirt, and sweater) and hauled to the bathroom. There was some hopping and some near misses, but I managed to get completely changed (without putting my bare feet on the lavatory floor), wipe my underarms and dÃ©colletÃ© with the face cleansing pads (it felt amazing!) and make it back to my seat before the fasten seatbelt sign came on. Time to do my face up all purty. I prayed for no turbulence.
As my new Pilot friend regaled me with funny stories of flights-gone-wrong (thank goodness for my morbid sense of humor), I refreshed my tinted moisturizer, powdered my T-zone, rubbed the cream blush into the apples of my cheeks and my lids (blending out just above the socket bone), added some mascara and brushed my hair. I was looking and feeling like a fancy lady again. As our plane broke through the clouds, speed breaks deploying and flaps extending, I could hardly contain my excitement. Soon I would be sipping real French coffee and eating bread and cheese. Merry Christmas indeed.
But Did You Make It Through Brunch?
I did! And if you know anything about French Brunch you know that it lasts for hours. I think it started around 11:30 and wrapped up at 5pm. And I’m not saying I was in perfect form or deserve some kind of medal for my ingenuity and fortitude. I’m not saying that at all. But, you know, I wouldn’t turn it down if you sent it my way.
So if you do have a flight coming up that requires you to be on point upon arrival, remember that it is possible with a few simple steps:
1. Create your own personalized security-friendly beauty kit (for some this will be a simple moisturizer, for others it will stray into liquid eyeliner territory. Build it for whatever standard you prefer).
2. Create your own comfort kit. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you need it to be but a blanket, pillow, socks and earplugs are especially essential.
3. Lastly and finally, bring things that will make you laugh and relax. Legal mood uppers. If that means an anti-anxiety program or Cher’s greatest hits, you do whatever works for you. I love to doodle in notebooks while listening to comedians. Others may enjoy lip-syncing to Jay-Z while staring out the window as if they were the star of a music video. Maybe you do both. Just bring more than you anticipate on needing.
Then sit back, relax, and enjoy what you can about where you are. It’s Economy. It’s cramped and there may be a crying baby in or around your immediate vicinity. But with the right defenses (ear-plugs, noise cancelling headphones and a magazine full of trash) you won’t have a clue. And at 35,000 feet, there is no bliss quite like ignorance.