Learning how to survive long haul flights is an art form. After years of international travel I can honestly say I’m still on the fence about whether I actually enjoy long-haul flights. On the one hand I’m going somewhere which is always exciting, but at times I can be flying and in transit for more than 30-40 hours to reach my final destination… and unless you possess super-heroic powers, that can be incredibly draining on your body! Over the years I’ve experienced and endured the ups and downs of long-haul travel so to ease your worries and give you some survival tips, I’ve got some handy hints for you…
The most obvious way to improve your in-flight experience is to score an upgrade. But I know what you’re thinking — unless you’re a quadzillionaire, it simply isn’t an option. Wrong. There’s a secret or two to getting a free upgrade and many ways to hack frequent flier systems to be able to fly Business or First more often (without spending all your travel funds on the ticket alone!)
Pack an SOS Travel Pack
Create comforts go a long way to ensuring a smooth ride on your long-haul. Headphones, an eye mask, make-up wipes, roll-on deoderant and lip balm are a few of my faves. What are yours?
Choose your Meals carefully
Its no secret that eating bad food makes you feel bad… whether you’re in the plane or on solid ground! To avoid feeling sluggish simply opt for lighter meal options (meat and veg are a safe choice – veg and fruit for the vegetarians/vegans!) So long as you avoid heavy carb-based dishes like pasta then you’re bound to feel a whole lot better for it by the time you’re stepping off the plane.
Sometimes beggars can’t be choosers and I’ve certainly learned this first hand being a vegetarian who is intolerant to wheat (the day they offer a vegetarian AND gluten free option I will rejoice!) The best way to avoid eating bad food or food you are intolerable to (other than to starve) is to pack your own snacks. Fruit, nuts, veggie chips and a bottle of water are my staple go-to’s.
Set yourself a task
All too often I find myself on a 15+ hour flight, just dreading the moment they call passengers as I’m reluctant to get on and commit myself to so much time in a compact space in the air. The best way to pass the time and forget about the length of your flight as it breezes right by you is to set yourself a task to complete. That could be a book, writing, working, studying or a selection of movies to cut your time in half. Before you know it, you’re already half way there!
One of my biggest issues has been the dilemma of whether to board the plane really tired (so I’ll hopefully pass out) or to board well-rested and spend my time on board working on my laptop or watching movies. Hands down the winner for me is to board feeling well-rested, so as to not give the jet-lag a boost it most certainly does not need!
Request a Special Meal
Being a vegetarian I have always requested a special meal, but more and more see people doing it to receive their meal first and promptly pass out afterwards to maximise sleep. If you’re able to sleep on planes and are boarding around evening time, what better way to arrive feeling as well rested as possible!
Water is your friend. I nearly always have a water bottle in hand but on planes, and especially on long-haul flights, this is an absolute necessity. Staying hydrated will ensure you feel fresh when you land and easy the effects of jet-lag.
Avoid Caffeine & Alcohol
This should be a pretty obvious point – but drinking caffeine and alcohol will cause dehydration and in a tight space with constant air-conditioning, this is already a problem!
Wear your best… sweatpants!
I’m often asked whether I dress up or dress down for flights and anyone who has seen me onboard a flight in the past few years will know I certainly make the most of the chance to dress down! Sometimes I take a pair of sweatpants to change in to on board, but I will never last longer than a few minutes on board before I make it my mission to get comfy in my seat.
Bring a Scarf
Planes have a pretty poor reputation in terms of heating — nearly always it is too hot or too cold, never a moderate temperature enjoyed by all. The best way to combat this and ensure you’re comfortable on board is to bring a large scarf you can use as an extra blanket or cover over your head to cocoon yourself.
Pack Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Note: this is perhaps the single best trick I have learned whilst travelling. Once upon a time I used to avoid packing my own headphones and instead grab a pair of the airline headphones as it was one less thing to pack. I have since learned that noise-cancelling headphones drown out the sound of the engine and allow your body to get into a deeper sleep, resulting in a better rest.
Wear Compression Socks
To improve blood circulation and avoid swelling, compression socks are your best friend on long-haul flights. Plus, they keep you warm!
Wear Closed-Toe Shoes
Plane toilets are about as undesirable as toilets come. Enough said.
Walk around & Stretch it out
One of my favourite things to do throughout the flight is to walk around and stretch my legs. In fact, you’ll usually find me at the black of the plane stretching out my limbs and enjoying the open space!
Aisle vs. Window seat?
It all comes down to personal preference, but for me I strictly avoid the window seat on long-haul flights as I have a tendency to get up and walk around so much! However if you’re someone who passes out in one location and wakes in the next, then a window seat means you won’t have to get up when fellow passengers want to use the bathroom and also provides a pretty solid head rest.
Sit on the wing
If you like your rest on a plane and don’t enjoy turbulence, the middle of the plane (on the wing) is believed to be the smoothest ride. Experts say this is because this point of the plane is the closest to its’ centre of gravity.