Long Haul Flights Survival Guide
I will be honest with you - sometimes I do hate to travel, especially when I know that I will be spending the next 8 hours on a cramped seat with nowhere but a 2-feet wide aisle to stretch my legs. If you have traveled before then you know what I am talking about - long flights. I have to say that many airline companies have done whatever they could to ease the pain - comfortable seats, better entertainment systems and tastier food, well as tasty as airline food can get. But spending more than 8 hours on a plane is still an emotionally and physically tiring experience and over the years I have learned a few tricks to better cope with it.
Before You Board Your Flight
Contrary to the popular belief it's best to start planning well before you step onto the plane. If you do so then you maximize your chances of having a comfortable flight.
The Travel Agent
Before the internet age almost all travel arrangements were made by a travel agent. Now, with the advent of sites such as skyscanner.com and booking.com travel agents have become sort of redundant. However, if you are planning to travel far and wide then I suggest that you seek the advice of a travel agent. Let's face it, it’s their job to know about the best flight times and routes. Yes, you can do your own research but it will take a lot of time and you may ignore or miss important details. Moreover, if you are not in the travel business then it will be hard to know certain facts that can save you a lot of hassle. For instance, going on a half empty flight gives you the option to change your seat or pull up the arm rest which will allow you to lie down and sleep comfortably on the flight. Hence, if you are going somewhere that requires you to spend more than 8 hours on a plane then find a good travel agent.
Different Airlines Different Strokes
I will not name names but there are certain carriers that do not care about their passengers. Really, I am not joking here. It seems as if they are hell bent on giving their passengers a hard time. Use the internet to do your due diligence. Things that you may want to pay attention to - seat-back entertainment, extra leg-space, make of the plane, how old is the plane or the fleet, etc.
Direct Vs. Indirect
I can't understand how these direct 14-plus hours flights are still in business. I would literally go insane if I were to spend more than 8 hours on a plane. This is why I will never take a direct flight unless my life (or that of someone close to me) depended on it. I would rather take a route that has stopovers. Sure you have to walk around at the airport but all this moving around means that you get the blood in your legs flowing again. Moreover, you can use the restrooms at the airport to wash your face and brush your teeth. You can also extend the stopover time and explore the city that you stopped at. Again, a good travel agent can help you do so.
The Body Clock
Look for a departure time that suits your body clock. If you are a night owl then an early morning flight will be an absolute nightmare, that is, if you don't miss it. If you are an early riser then a late flight is not the way to go. A long-haul flight also means that you will have to adjust your body clock when you arrive at your destination. I like to arrive at my destination at night. It is easy to fall asleep because I am already tired because of all the traveling. I can then wake up before noon the next day and go about my business.
The Door Opens 24 Hours before Departure
Make sure that you pick a good seat. This can be usually done by logging onto the airline's site. If you do so 24 hours before departure then you will be allowed to choose the seat for free.
As far as the position of the seats is concerned, all that glitters is not gold. The best seats, according to some, are the ones near the exit door but these seats are also near the lavatory which means that a lot of people will be moving around in your area. As a result, you will be disturbed a lot. Another option is to go for the front row seats in the aisle column but these are sometimes given to families with babies because it is possible to attach a crib on the wall in front of these seats. The last thing that you want on a long haul flight is a baby sitting next to you.
Therefore, I don't try to do anything fancy and just take an aisle seat in the middle of the plane. It allows me some extra leg space and I am free to get up and move around whenever I want to.
Airline food usually sucks. It sucks even more when you have to eat it three times in a row. So, pack some snacks. Remember that you are not allowed to take anything liquid on the plane so the best option is things such as chips, cookies, cakes etc. That bag of chips will taste 10 times better on the plane. Some airports have snack bars in the waiting area after you have cleared security. If that is the case then buy some food and drinks at the snack bar.
Loosen Up a Little
Nothing is more uncomfortable than wearing a pair of tight jeans on a 12-hour journey. If you are going to spend time in transit then carry an extra pair of track pants and change during transit or at the city of departure. I have seen people who go through security and at the end, while waiting to board the flight, use the airport restrooms to change into a pair of comfortable track pants. Also, wear shoes that you can easily put on and take off or carry a pair of slippers in your hand bag.
Layer Up Like a Tiramisu
You are going from cold Paris to a hot Abu Dhabi. What do you do? What kind of clothes do you wear? Yes, that’s right, you wear layers of clothing. This will also be useful while you are on the plane as the cabin always gets too cold.
Jack up your IPod, IPad, Laptop...
...tablet or whatever it is that you plan to carry. If you don't have any of these gadgets then I highly recommend that you buy one. If you do have one of these then fill it with movies, podcasts, music, E-books, etc. The more the merrier.
Books and Reading
This is something that I don't do because reading on a plane gives me a headache. However, I have seen a lot of people who can easily pass hours on a plane completely engrossed in a novel. If you don't like to read then hoping on a plane won't change you into a book worm. But if you still want to carry something then carry a light novel or a magazine, I personally prefer magazines over books.
On the Plane
Now, we will go through tips that you can follow to make your life easier while you are on the plane.
Don't underestimate the importance of sleep. Traveling is tiring and stressful. Moreover, nowadays airport security is so tight that you sometimes feel like you are trying to enter the White House. That's how things are and the only solution for the stress is to sleep it off. It will be easier for you to sleep if you follow my advice of choosing a flight time that suits your body clock (see above).
Sleeping aids, I am not a big fan of taking jetlag or sleeping pills. My sleeping aids comprise things such as ear plugs, sleeping eye cover (sleeping mask) and an inflatable neck roll. Yes, those inflatable neck rolls look ridiculous but they can be a life saver.
Run in The Aisles
I am just kidding. But do walk as much as possible. This is something that most people don't do because they do not understand the gravity of the problem. How many times in the past one year have you been seated for more than 4 hrs at a stretch? You will be hard pressed to find even one instance. It is very important that you get up at least a few times and walk around a bit. Go to the lavatory or get yourself a glass of water.
It’s free booze! Drink Up
Bad Idea! I want to joke about it but this is something that you should take very seriously. I have seen a lot of people get drunk on a plane and then feel groggy and down when they arrive at their destination. Flying dehydrates you and alcohol dehydrates you even further. Drinking on the plane is a kind of a double whammy! Instead you should focus on getting plenty of liquids (water and juices) and keeping yourself hydrated.
Long flights are a pain but if you are hoping on a long flight then you are probably going somewhere exotic and that is what you ought to look forward to. It makes the pain more bearable. I like to travel. I just don't like to sit in a pressurized cabin for long hours. Oh well, until we have teleportation devices, C’est la Vie!