Long-haul flights: a survival guide

Posted on Wednesday, 17th August 2011 @ 01:35 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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Many cattle class travellers dread long-haul flights. It doesn’t have to be that way though. With good preparation and some clever choices even a 14-hour-trip can become very bearable if not even enjoyable. The following “survival” guide – split into two sections, before and during the flight – will help you overcome some of that anxiety. Let’s get right into it:

Before your flight

  • The “right” airline
    Different airlines have different planes and different fit-outs and service levels. Take this into account when you choose your flight. For example, it might be worth paying a little more for flying on an Airbus A380 plane as your experience will be considerably nicer than say a Boeing 747. In this case it’s because the European plane is newer, quieter and features advanced air filtering systems.
    Furthermore, different airlines and aircraft types have different entertainment systems. If watching movies is your thing, make sure the airline of your choice offers what you are looking for. If not, make sure to stock up your iPod with your favourite media.
  • A smart seat choice
    Most airlines allow you to choose your seat at the time of the booking. Make use of this and choose the best possible seat. Which one that is, depends on your personal preference. Travelling alone, I prefer seats at the back of the aircraft as that’s where the chances for  empty seats are the highest. I also prefer an aisle seat allowing me to freely get up whenever I want. Check good seats on sites like SeatGuru.
  • A Stress free airport experience
    Make sure you get to the airport with enough time to have a good airport experience. Whilst not everyone likes airports, getting there late and having to stress out at every queue surely won’t help. Plus LateDeparture covers many airports, so that if you have ample time, check our review of the airport you’re travelling through to find out what interesting things you can do.

During the flight

  • Smart food choices
    Try to eat healthy and choose nutritious dishes. Also think about which of the dishes offered can be cooked well in an aircraft (think microwave). Bring some snacks from home to fill the gaps between service or to make up for a meal you didn’t like. Another good idea is to bring some fruit with you. They give you a sense of freshness and surely are healthy.
  • Hydration is important
    The air in an aircraft is very dry, so you get easily dehydrated. Make sure you drink a lot, preferably water.
  • Sleep when you can
    What I mean here is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you can’t sleep. Watch another (boring) movie and fall asleep halfway through it. I often find that a couple of short-ish naps are totally okay for getting around some of the jet lag.
  • Change of activities
    Try to do different activities in order to break up the long flight. For example, start with reading a book, then, when dinner arrives, you switch to a movie, after that you take a nap, later you work a bit on your autobiography (or whatever you’re working on) and so on. You will see, time will fly, quite literally.
  • Best for you
    Know what’s best for you and act accordingly. With experience you will know what helps you best to do certain things. For example if you know, like me, that the combination of a glass of red wine and an average movie puts you to sleep, you can then use this “recipe” if you want to sleep on the flight.
  • Gear up
    Changing light conditions and unfamiliar noises (never mind the crying babies) are definitely not helping anyone to go to sleep. Therefore make use of the usually supplied eye mask. Also bring some earplugs or ask the cabin crew to give you some. I found this particular combination to really help me falling asleep quickly.
  • Exercise
    I know what you’re thinking, but trust me a little exercise during the flight is a good way of keeping your body balanced (plus it can seriously help reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis). At the very minimum you should do some leg and foot exercise. And better even if you get up every so often and have a little walk around. The earlier suggestion of drinking a lot will help you too as you  will automatically have to go to the restroom a couple of times. So will the one about choosing the right aircraft as bigger ones obviously allow for longer walking tours.

Tom Merkli is the Founder of LateDeparture.com – a dedicated travel blog about air travel, airports and the aviation industry. The blog started with reviews of airports for travellers whose flights depart late and therefore have additional time at the airport.

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