Have you ever seen vintage photos showcasing what air travel looked like in the 1960s? Those broad, comfortable seats and fancy beverage carts stocked with cocktail shakers provided the perfect backdrop for passengers sporting natty pinstriped suits, perfectly tailored pencil skirts, and jaunty hats. Not a hair out of place, and cool as a cucumber.
But that was then -- and it's nowhere near how I look when I travel today. And I know I'm not alone! Suits and skirts are a bit of a pipe dream, though I blame the airlines for that, given how much seats have shrunk over the years. And cool as a cucumber? No way! I'm a hot sweaty mess by the time I get to the gate. No matter how early I arrive or how lightly I pack, there is an inevitable last-minute rush that leaves me with a tomato red face, a shirt soaked with perspiration, and limp, soggy hair. Good thing I'm not sporting an old-fashioned chapeau like air travellers of yore.
Thankfully, though I fail at elegance, I thrive at resourcefulness. While I may board the plane feeling worn and listless, I always leave fresh as a daisy. I've perfected the art of taking a ninja shower while flying in economy class -- and you can too.
Managing a shower-like experience in economy class will make you feel like a million bucks. And from a practical point of view, it can do wonders for dehydrated skin and sore, swollen legs. All you need is a little crafty advanced planning -- oh, and a willingness to be partially naked with only a flimsy partition separating you from hundreds of people. No big deal for an intrepid traveller, right?
Ninja showers are 90% preparation and 10% execution. When the moment is right, you have to be ready to spring into action! The first step is to prepare your kit pre-flight. It starts with three ordinary plastic bags. In one, I pack a complete, lightweight change of clothing.
There are two rules when it comes to organizing this bag. 1) You must only pack clothing that's easy to quickly pull on -- think long sleeve t-shirts, not fussy button-down shirt. 2) You must pack it so the items you'll logically need first are on the top. Remember, you'll be moving as swiftly as a quick-change artist! Stash this bag in your carry on luggage so you can easily slip it out with a minimal amount of fuss.
The second bag contains a carefully planned out toiletry kit. My toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, hair elastics, wipes, lotion, and deodorant are collected, along with the third plastic bag and my secret weapon. What's the one item that makes the entire ninja shower possible? Evian natural mineral water facial spray!
Yes, Evian. The exact same brand that makes bottled drinking water also makes TSA approved 50ml misting bottles. You can pick them up in the travel section of most pharmacies, from cosmetics stores like Sephora, and even at duty-free airport shops. Evian mist is a mainstay of jet set supermodels, who frequently spritz their faces to facilitate extra dewy skin -- and of scrappy travel writers stuck in economy who are desperate for a head-to-toe wash.
With supplies prepared and organized, it's time to make your move. Welcome to your luxury shower, er, make that an economy class bathroom. Now, economy class bathrooms aren't the cleanest after hours of flying, but stay with me. I use a stash of wipes and paper towels to lightly and quickly clean all surfaces. Space is small and I want to make sure that anything I accidentally bump into during my cleaning acrobatics is on the hygienic side of things. With my precious plastic bags hanging from the solitary coat hook on the door, it's time to kick things into gear.
First, I brush my hair upside down, spray some Evian mist at the roots, and pull my hair into a temporary high ponytail (short-haired travellers can skip this final step). Next, I mist my face -- eat your heart out, -upermodels! -- and slather it with lotion. Don't worry, this thick layer is only temporary.
Then it's time to triple check the flimsy lock. The moment has come. It's time to get undressed.
That's right. I'm getting naked in an airplane bathroom. Alright, not TOTALLY naked. At least, not all at the same time. I'm more of a work-in-sections gal, and I really don't trust those door latches. Starting from the waist up, discarded garments are placed in the spare plastic bag, but my castoff t-shirt is kept at the ready to step in as a makeshift towel.
All exposed skin gets a generous spritz of Evian mist before being rubbed down with body wipes. Hello, shower time! The refreshing, cool mist feels so much more reinvigorating than the wipes alone. It also helps to dilute the cleansers embedded in the wipes, which can be somewhat drying and astringent. Depending on how I feel, I might apply a second quick spritz of the mist. With my recently removed t-shirt, I quickly pat any areas that haven't instantly air dried and apply a very light layer of lotion to any dry spots. With an eye still firmly on that rickety lock, I pull on my fresh top layer and begin removing my bottom layers to repeat the process.
I wasn't kidding when I said I was a ninja at this. Each step is organized and executed as swiftly as possible. All told, I'm in and out of the bathroom in under 10 minutes.
With top and bottom properly sorted, I perch on the closed toilet seat to swap socks, clean and moisturize my feet, and rub my ankles. I'd tell you that I also wiggle and shimmy to get my blood flowing as much as possible when I'm washing and dressing, but the idea of telling folks that I dance naked in an airplane is a bit much. So let's just say that I am committed to my circulatory health.
I take a final few moments to brush my teeth. My thick layer of excess face cream (really a low tech moisture mask) is removed. I wash (and re-moisturize) my face. I pack a special, face-specific wipe for this step. Finally, with the misted roots now dry, my hair is let down and brushed one last time.
In the name of airplane etiquette, it's important to avoid the busy bathroom times and isolated, solo bathrooms where lines might form. Ninja showering is both a science and an art, one that requires you to both consider your fellow passengers but not be afraid to claim a little extra space and time in the name of your own sanity. You might not be a glamorous vintage sightseer or a modern-day supermodel, but that's no reason not to have your bit of first-class freshness no matter where you sit on the plane.