How to survive a long haul flight – 8 practical tips to avoid being an economy zombie.
May 12, 2016
In my 6 years on the road my most impressive single leg involved surviving 44 hours door to door including three economy flights (2 long haul), a midnight stop over and countless other people’s children. Below are my top 8 hacks for surviving a long flight in economy and still being able to function the next day.
Before writing this post I was flicking through some travel blogs, when I came across an article on what to wear for a long haul flight in summer. Turns out compression socks are ugly, you shouldn’t be seen in yoga pants outside of a gym and onboard face masks are a thing! So if you’re the kind of human who can’t leave the house without the perfect shoes, or is looking to network in 1st class skip straight to hack 1 and good luck to you. If however you’re a budget traveller or as I like to call them - normal human, I hope you can use these 8 hacks to make your next flight dare I say enjoyable?
Upgrade - If this is an option via air miles, polite enquiry or straight up moolah, the extra legroom and comfort may be worth it if you are going to be straight into the action on landing. It never hurts to ask. If an upgrade is not an option, you may want to pre-book your seat for maximum comfort. Choose a seat carefully using something like seat guru as a guide.
Hydration - This is key, you are going to want to consume lots of water, either bring a big drink bottle or ask the flight attendant for a cup every time they pass. Yes this does mean you will have to face the dreaded plane bathroom, but every time you do lather all your exposed skin with lotion, apply a lip balm to give your skin the moisture it needs to spring back from the harsh recycled air. You may even want to try sipping an electrolyte drink as landing approaches to pick you up ready for customs.
Sleep – Whether you’re a natural sleeper, need a little natural help in the form of a cup of chamomile tea or go for a more serious sleep aid make sure you have trialed the effects at home before you take anything in flight. As everyone reacts a little differently and side effects are not your friend. I also find a meditation recording or some peaceful music great to help me relax and nod off. Make sure you adjust your watch and try to sleep in the pattern of your new time zone to get a head start on any jet lag.
Entertainment – Pack some entertainment that you know will hold your interest, this isn’t the time to try a new author or rely on the airplane movie selection, save up something you really want to see. Podcasts are another great boredom buster. Remember to charge your devices the night before, it may even be worth investing in a portable backup charger.
Luxury’s – If you’re a hardcore traveller you might be trying to travel as light as possible but trust me being able to sleep anywhere will increase the quality of your travel 10 fold. Carry a comfy travel pillow, eye mask, and noise canceling headphones, a mini blanket, anything you need to make yourself comfortable.
Clothing – I have never been too hot on a plane in my life! Layers and warmth are the key. Now I’m not suggesting going for the homeless look, you still have to get past customs but I’m a firm believer in comfy travel clothes. Warm socks, layers, clothes with room to move, pockets with zips. If you need to look flash on arrival a quick trip to the loos on landing can have you not looking like you slept in your clothes. My number one travel accessory is a scarf, it’s a blanket, a pillow, a privacy wall, and it can be an extra barrier between your face and the harsh air-conditioning while you sleep. Basically it’s an all-purpose accessory that even the 1st class crowd think is acceptable.
Food - If you want to get served first, order a special or vegetarian meal and pack some snacks to keep you going. Some flights feel as if you are being fed half as much or twice as much as usual as you cross time zones. Keep it light and avoid surgery snacks and alcohol, though you might want to refuel with some carbs once you land or even try some extra vitamins like a Berocca style pick me up.
Routine – Try and stay with your usual routine as much as possible, if you usually clean your teeth before bed, pack a mini toothbrush. If you usually do exercise, make sure to get up and stretch your legs. Don’t avoid the bathrooms if you need them, pack some sanitizing wipes to make your bathroom trips and even your seat area more hygienic. Basically the closer to your usual routine you can stay, the quicker you can trick your body into recovery and normal sleep patterns.
This is the part where I confess I actually enjoy long haul travel. If I’m on a plane it means that I’m heading for an adventure, plus if anyone offered me the chance to have 12-15 hours to myself in daily life. To have a little me time, binge watch my favorite show or catch up on my reading I would jump at the chance. If you can bring a little of that kind of attitude plus a little pre-planning there is no reason you shouldn’t walk off your flight ready and rearing for your next adventure.
If you have any in flight tips you think I’ve missed please let me know in the comments below. =)