Travel is one of life’s greatest experiences – exploring exotic destinations, discovering new cultures and simply taking time out from your normal routine. However, travelling to amazing locations can often involve eight, ten or even 14-hour flights from one side of the globe to another. Long-haul flights are a necessary evil for world travelers, but there are things you can do to make the experience less of a hassle, and arrive at your destination fresh and ready to fully embrace the fun and adventure of your vacation!
Like so many things, the key to an enjoyable flight experience is in the preparation. Being expertly organized in what you have with you on the flight, and how you pack it, can make a big difference to making those long hours on the plane literally fly by.
Here is a list of essential items you want to have with you on the flight:
- A book, magazine and/or puzzle book (such as Sudoku)
- A warm and comfy sweater
- Eye mask
- Neck pillow
- USB cord charger for your phone (most intercontinental planes have a USB plug in the seat back)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, face wash and deodorant
- Bottle of water (buy one after you clear security but before you board, or better yet take a reusable water bottle and fill at the airport’s drinking fountains)
- A snack (like water, this is provided on most long flights, but it always good to have your own backup in case on board catering in insufficient or slow to serve)
More than anything else, make sure you have these items accessible to you during the flight. Packing it all away in a roll-aboard suitcase which is stuffed in the overhead locker with other items on top of it will make it difficult to access your essential items during the flight, or impossible to if the suit belt sign is on for long periods, due to turbulence for example. Most intercontinental flights include check in luggage, plus two pieces of carry-on luggage (one bag and one “small item”) at no extra cost.
It is a good idea to bring both pieces of carry on – a duffel bag, backpack or roll-aboard with a change of clothes, toiletries etc in case your luggage is delayed or lost, and a purse, shoulder bag or tote bag with the above items which you can put under the seat in front of you.
Where you sit on the flight also makes a big difference to your experience. If you sleep easily on flights, secure a window seat and settle in to nap your way to your destination. Otherwise, an aisle seat is by far the best option – this means you have extra elbow/breathing room rather than being stuck between two other passengers, and can easy get out to use the restroom or simply stretch your legs.
Although some airlines, notable United Airlines and American Airlines, now charge extra for seat selection, the majority of international airlines will let you select you seat at the time of booking or anytime up until check in using their online system. If this is not possible, make sure you check in as early as possible – usually 48 hours before departure for online check-in or 3 hours prior to take off at the airport – and ask for an aisle seat!
Your long-haul flight is not a fashion show – there will be plenty of time to showcase your trendy resort wear or party clothes. The key to surviving a long-haul flight and arriving refreshed is to dress as comfortably as possible – think track pants and long t-shirts which won’t ride up when you are trying to sleep in odd contortionist positions.
Dressing comfortably will make it easier to get some sleep on the flight, which is not only important for having the energy to deal with customs and immigration, and finding your hotel at your destination, but will also lesser the effects of jet lag. Other things which will help you catch some in-flight sleep are having a neck pillow, cozy socks, earplugs to minimize noise and an eye mask to block any cabin lights.
In the half hour or so before landing, take the opportunity to use the plane restroom to refresh yourself – wash your face, brush your teeth and your hair. You can also do this in the airport restrooms on arrival. It will make a big difference to waking up and feeling human again!
It is important to keep moving during the flight – if you plant yourself in a seat for ten hours without moving at all, it is not surprising that you will be stiff and aching when you finally try to unpack yourself from your seat at the other end! Make sure you get up from time to time, walk up and down the aisle, and stretch. You can even find a corner of the plan and do a few basic yoga poses, like a forward fold.
Supplement this activity with the anti-DVT (deep vein thrombosis) exercises recommended by the airline – you will be able to find exercise suggestions in the back of your airline magazine. This is also important to avoid picking up a blot clot which would be sure to ruin your vacation and possibly a lot more!