Until time travel becomes a reality, getting around the globe is going to require a long-haul flight. I can hear the groans…and share your pain.
What can you do to make a 10- or 12-hour (or longer–planes can travel up to 20 hours now!) flight even a little bit easier and more comfortable? Here’s a list of ways to keep you sane and safe during a long-haul flight, as well as help you arrive in good spirits:
- Accept that it’s going to take a long time. Really, just wrap your mind around this fact. There are no shortcuts to Australia or secret routes to Nepal. We choose faraway destinations because they offer new experiences. It will be worth it…you might want to make that your in-flight mantra.
- Choose the right seat–for YOU. Some people love bulkhead seats. Some prefer aisle, while others like to get a window seat so they can lean against it. Everyone loves the exit row. Being in the best possible spot makes a difference. Seat Guru can help. (Tip: Families tend to claim bulkhead rows. If you want peace and quiet, look elsewhere.)
- Dress appropriately. Loose pants? Sure! Select layers that will be warm/cool during the flight and allow you look decent when you arrive. Bring a pashmina or light jacket; you can get cold when sleeping. Compression socks are a smart investment. Easy on/off footwear…and slippers to walk around in. No bare feet, ever. Planes are too yucky.
- Start out rested. It’s a challenge to get quality sleep on a plane, for lots of reasons. Don’t go into it already fatigued, or it will take even longer to get over the jet lag. While you can’t “stock up” on sleep, you can have a deficit. Consider skipping inflight food in favor of getting a solid block of downtime.
- Bring your own supplies. Neck pillow? Check. Sleep mask? Check. Sleep aid? Depends…on how long your flight is and how hard it is for you to rest. I like *Dream Water. It’s a tube with a nice dose of a melatonin mixture in “snoozeberry” flavor. Just pour in water and it helps you drift into Dreamland. I used it during my long-haul flight to Sicily with great success.
- Stay hydrated. You’ve read this over and over. That’s because it’s true–and important. Bring your own full bottle of water and be diligent about emptying it. Accept those cups of bottled water that flight attendants offer. You also read to avoid alcohol. I say a glass of wine is fine, but make up for it with an extra glass of H20.
- Brush your teeth. A long-haul flight makes us feel dazed and dull. For some wonderful reason, brushing our teeth revives us and gives us a sense of routine. Keep a toothbrush and tiny tube of toothpaste in your backpack/purse and use it, especially before landing.
- Move and exercise. Blood clots happen. Besides ruining your much-anticipated trip, they can seriously harm you. Staying hydrated helps, but you also have to get up and walk, even a little bit. Do those foot exercises shown at the back of the in-flight magazine. Cathay Pacific Airlines has a good section on avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), the medical term for a blood clot.
- Bring Your Own Entertainment: Don’t rely on your carrier to provide diversion. Some airlines still have seatback screens, others are moving to let you stream on your own device. But…my son was on a recent long-haul flight from Albuquerque to Germany, on a plane with NO Wi-Fi and NO inflight entertainment. He knows these things happen, so he was prepared. Other passengers? You can imagine how endless that flight seemed. Download your own movies, pack at least one book, listen to podcasts. Just do it.
- Expect delays. The late Anthony Bourdain taught me this during one of his shows: Always assume there will be delays and prepare accordingly. As above, bring books, a travel journal, money for food, and a forgiving attitude. Because travel is never perfect. If everything goes smoothly, lucky you! If not, make the best of it.
More on long-distance and air travel:
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