As I celebrate my one-year wedding anniversary, I’m reminded about our honeymoon in Fiji and can envision the swaying palm trees, stunning coral reefs, lapping waves….and the sobbing, inconsolable toddler who screamed himself hoarse for the entirety of our 12-hour flight! While I’m no novice traveler, that trip ranks as the most brutal flight I’ve ever experienced. Even without the wailing kid, long haul flights in coach are never fun. It’s crowded, cramped, and you probably won’t get much sleep. But since my flight from hell, I’ve learned a thing or two on how to make traveling more bearable. So, if you want to learn from my pain, follow my tips on how to survive a long haul flight!
Hydrate: I know it’s tempting to take advantage of the free booze handed out on international flights, but try to resist. The recycled air pumped throughout the plane is already dehydrating enough, and alcohol, coffee, or soda will only make you feel worse. Drink water early and often. Not only that, but don’t wait for the flight attendant to offer water. I always bring my own (empty) refillable water bottle through security and fill it right before boarding.
Location, location, location: If possible, opt for the exit row for the extra leg room. At the very least, go for the aisle seat as you will be able to get up whenever you want, you can stretch your legs out a bit more, and it eases the sense of claustrophobia from being stuck in a tin can for what feels like eternity. Although it can be irritating to have to get up every time another person in your row wants to use the bathroom, I view it as a hidden blessing as it reminds me to stretch every so often.
Stretch: Every few hours, get up and stretch. Walk up and down the aisles a few times, or chat with the flight attendants in the back for a couple of minutes. Deep vein thrombosis is a real thing, and a few gentle stretches on a long haul flight can prevent its occurrence.
Bring snacks: While some advise against eating the airplane food due to its sodium levels, I try to eat whatever I can and supplement with snacks. My levels of hangry can go from mild to code red in an instant, so extra bites to nibble on are crucial. Some good things to bring include veggies like carrot sticks or celery, dried fruit, and trail mix.
Bring your own (fully charged) entertainment: There’s nothing worse than settling in to a long flight and realizing your iPod battery is nearly dead or that your kindle never actually charged. On a previous flight (which was also to Fiji, coincidentally!) I neglected to bring any entertainment and–thanks to the limited in-flight movie selection–ended up watching School of Rock about five times. Don’t be like me! Always bring along your fully charged and loaded phone, iPod, tablet, kindle, etc. Certain international airlines also provide a few outlets, so be sure to bring a convertible charger on board as well.
Dress in layers: For maximum comfort and protection against wildly fluctuating airplane temperatures, I stick to a tried and true travel uniform which includes: stretchy leggings, a cotton tank, a wrap cardigan, shoes that can slip on and off easily, and a scarf that can double as a blanket. Once I’m on the plane, I slip off my shoes and put on long, warm socks to keep my feet from freezing.
Bring an eye mask and ear plugs: If I had to pick which tip is the most important, this might be it! While the rest of us on the infamous Fijian flight suffered through the nonstop screeching and crying, one man in the row across from me slept peacefully throughout the whole ordeal thanks to his eye mask and noise canceling headphones. When we finally (mercifully) landed, I noticed that he looked fresh as a daisy while the rest of us wore shell-shocked expressions. Bring an eye mask and ear plugs. You won’t regret it.
Take a sleep aid: Consider taking a sleep aid to ease the effects of jet lag. Some swear by popping a Tylenol PM or Unisom, but if you want to go the natural route you can try taking some melatonin roughly an hour before you want to sleep.
Pack a mini toiletry kit: I always bring a few key cosmetics with me on the flight. In the seat front pocket I carry a travel-sized kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, a few items of makeup to touch up with, and a hydrating facial mist to combat the dryness. About an hour after take off, I head to the bathroom to freshen up and pull my hair back into a loose braid. At the very least, this little beauty routine keeps me feeling like a human.
There it is, my guide on how to survive a long haul flight!
What are your tips and tricks for making travel more bearable?
Also see: 9 Packing Tips for Stress-free Travel
How to Stay Active While Traveling
Travel Beauty: Packing for Your Vacation!
Also by Sarah: How to Declutter Your Life
Photo: Chris_J via Flickr; Sarah McEwing