Tips to Survive a Long Haul Flight

Tips to surviving a long haul flight.

There is nothing more daunting that the prospect of a 15 hour flight to the USA or 24hours of travel time to reach Europe, but there are a few things you can do to make the trip more bearable, and to help you recover faster.

Lack of sleep is something you could struggle with. Talk to your GP or pharmacist about medication or natural products that will aid you in falling asleep for the majority of the flight. Pack in your hand luggage an eye mask (with a note written on it to “wake for meal” or “let me sleep” for the benefit of your cabin crew and neighbours) to help block out the cabin lights. Air conditioning can get cool so pack some warm socks and an inflatable pillow to help you get comfortable. Comfort is paramount. Loose fitting clothes with plenty of movement, loose around the waist as you are sitting for a long time.

Hydration is also key. Keep sipping on water as much as you can – the air conditioning will dry out your skin. A few too many alcoholic beverages will also add to the dehydration. While on the topic of your body, try and take a little walk around the plane as regularly as you can to help keep your circulation moving. Even some little ankle circles and leg exercises in your seat are beneficial. If you are prone to blood clots or have circulatory issues, invest in a pair of compression socks for the flight – not the most attractive, but then neither is a DVT episode.

Include a little travel size shower gel or cake of soap and microfiber towel in your hand luggage. It is nice to use the transit airport facilities available at many airports to take a quick shower between flights to freshen up if you have a long enough stop.
When you arrive at your destination, adjust to the local time. Don’t take a nap at 2pm in the afternoon – come bed time you will not be tired and you won’t sleep well. This pattern can take days to break and get your holiday off to a rocky start. Eat and sleep according to the clock where you are, and you will fall into a better routine, faster.

Consider a stopover – if you have the time, for example, on a trip to London, stop in Dubai or Singapore or Abu Dhabi for a couple of days – enjoy the break from the plane, have a few days to get your body in sync, and expand the experience of your trip in general. This can be a particularly worthwhile consideration if you are travelling with children.

Travelling with kids is a challenge no matter what flight option you take. Have plenty of snacks handy, as their eating/sleeping pattern is harder to manipulate. Make them go to the toilet when the aisle is free from the dinner trolley and the queues are shorter - they are not as good at hanging on as an adult! Have an activity book, an intricate lego construction or something similar for them to complete. There may not be a movie to their taste being shown on board. Which brings me to the inflight entertainment issue – pay the extra few dollars if needed to travel on a good airline with a great inflight entertainment offering. Otherwise you will be the child’s entertainment, without a break, and that can be exhausting. Travel with a pillow from home – then the kids can lie down with their head on your lap and get comfy to sleep properly. Tired kids are hard to manage at the best of times. Give yourself a fighting chance!! It then becomes a personal choice as to whether to tackle that 24hour travel time to Europe in one hit and just “get it over”; or make each stopover and adventure by staying a few days to explore. Yes, it means unpacking and packing a couple more times, but that may outweigh the moaning when after 14 hours flying they have to get back on board for another 8.

When you land, odds are no matter what, that you will be more tired or overstimulated than normal. Have an airport transfer booked to your first destination to prevent the struggle of negotiating unknown public transport with luggage, and avoid the long wait of the queue for that airport taxi.

Something I never knew until I flew more recently is the “secret” of the permanent café! Once you are comfortably up in the air and the first meal service has been completed, you will generally find that if you wander up to the back of the plane, you will see a basket of snacks and treats out permanently for those of us who have a munchies attack, or maybe missed dinner as we were asleep and are getting a bit peckish. On my last Emirates flight I found a buffet table set up across the middle of the plane with jugs of water, juice and fresh fruit set up for you to just help yourself. Gold Star award there!

No matter what tips and tricks you try, a long flight is a long flight. Maybe the ultimate way to beat the side -effects is to upgrade. Many airlines offer a premium economy service which provides for not only a little extra hand luggage, but seats with more leg room to allow you to stretch out a bit more for that extra comfort. Or maybe you could consider travelling business or first class – meals on demand as you feel like them, lie flat beds for the best sleep in the air ever, and at your transit airports there are dedicated lounges where you can relax in peace, eat, drink, have a massage or facial, or just stretch out on a lounge chair and relax...but be warned. Once you have experienced the pointy end of the plane, you will never want to fly any other way!


Whatever you choose, enjoy!

By Sarah Fenton

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