When I’m about to board a lengthy flight, I curse that a teleportation device hasn’t been invented. I imagine the lack of legroom and the amount of fidgeting I’ll do. I think about how I’m going to restrain myself when the child behind me is kicking the back of my seat for hours on end. I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about the inflight meal.
Yup—long-haul flights aren’t pretty. But after making pretty much every mistake in the book, I’ve devised a survival strategy to help ease the pains of a long-haul flight.
Bring a Survival Kit
A well-packed survival kit is a necessity for surviving a long-haul flight. If you don’t have the necessary supplies, it’s bad airplane food, ill-fated TV sitcoms, and a headache from the crying babies on board for you. Okay, it might not always be that bad, but I’d highly recommend packing the following to make your flight as enjoyable as possible:
- a quality travel pillow
- a compact blanket
- snacks to munch on or take the place of inflight meals
- necessary medications
- hand sanitizer
- noise-canceling headphones
- a tablet (plus a juice pack for your tablet and smartphone—we like mophie)
- something tangible to read (like a magazine or softcover book)
- a water bottle
- fuzzy socks
- small toiletries you might want to use to freshen up (toothbrush, face wash, deodorant)
- Wet Ones® (pretty much the traveler’s equivalent to Duct Tape)
Choose Your Seat Wisely
Saving your travel rewards points to upgrade on a long-haul flight is ideal, but many of us either don’t have enough points or would rather save those to bankroll another vacation (I fall into both of those categories). Just because you can’t upgrade to business class, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to suffer in a middle seat. You have a few options:
- If your airline allows you to, pick your preferred seat beforehand (window or aisle, I’m assuming). I personally prefer the window because I can rest my head against it while I sleep and I avoid having people asking me to move every hour so they can use the restroom.
- If you’re allowed to pick your seat but all of the windows or aisles (or whatever your seat preferences may be) are taken, consider using a service like TripIt Pro. One of TripIt Pro’s more popular features is Seat Tracker, which allows you to select your seat preferences before the flight and then notifies you if a seat matching your criteria becomes available. From there, you can contact your carrier to claim that coveted seat.
- If your airline doesn’t allow you to pick your seat beforehand, make sure you check in for the flight the second they allow you to so you get into a higher boarding group. It also may be worth paying extra for an early-bird check-in just to ensure you can get into a seat you prefer. A little peace of mind is definitely worth the extra money.
I always got off long flights feeling like the Tin Man: creaky bones, cramped muscles, neck and back knots, and all around uncomfortable. Once I took up yoga, I started practicing a few of the postures I learned (and that were conducive to small spaces) on these long-haul flights, and it really made a difference. Here are a few of my go-to poses on an airplane, and remember to research stretches or yoga poses that target your problem areas that tend to get sore.
- Tree Pose: Stand up straight and plant your left foot on the floor. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the inner side of your right thigh or calf (never on the knee). Keep your balance, bring your hands together at chest level, and breath deeply. Repeat on the left side.
(Photo Courtesy of myyogaonline)
- Chair Pose: Stand with your feet hips’ width apart and your arms parallel about your head with palms facing each other. Slowly bend your knees and try to draw your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible, as if you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Make sure your arms are inline with your ears, and pull your shoulder blades down toward your back and your tailbone toward the floor. Hold this position for 30 second to one minute.
(Photo Courtesy of KAITLYN ROLAND)
- Standing Forward Bend: Stand up straight with your feet at hips’ width apart. Place your hands on your hips and hinge forward from your hips while focusing on lengthening your torso. Keep your knees straight and place your hands or fingertips on the floor in front of you. If you can’t reach the floor, cross your arms and hold your elbows. Hang out in this position for 30 second to a minute and repeat as desired.
(Photo Courtesy of TeluguOne)
There’s a fine line between chugging a bunch of water and having to beeline for the restroom every half hour and staying well hydrated. Before anything else, make sure you have an empty water bottle to fill up after security (or buy one) before you get on the plane. Instead of a liter here and liter there, try to take small sips every 10 or so minutes (at least while you’re awake). Here are some other useful tips.
- Bring coconut water or Emergen-C packets to replenish any lost electrolytes and strengthen your immunity.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, if possible, so you don’t undermine all of the hard work you’ve put into hydrating your body.
- Your skin also needs some hydration TLC when flying. Bring along a mineral water spray, such as Evian, to remove perspiration and replenish moisture. A lotion with hyaluronic acid is also a good buy because it does a great job of moisturizing skin.
(Photo Courtesy of Sephora)
Break the flight up into manageable chunks
The first hour of a flight is usually pretty manageable, but then it starts to dawn on you that you’re stuck in an aluminum tin for what feels like an eternity. My tried and true trick is to grab a pen and paper and break the flight into two to four hour chunks, depending upon the length of the flight. I set a schedule for myself that I try to stick to. I set aside two hours for doing work here, or three hours there for watching movies on my iPad. I’ve found this method particularly helpful because I feel a sense of accomplishment over the course of the flight as I move through my schedule and am getting closer to my destination. It sure beats watching the clock.
(Photo By koalazymonkey/ CC BY)
What’s your go-to strategy for long plane rides? Tell us in the comments below.