Coping with Long Haul Flights!

I’m not a fan of flying, but to travel, we often must fly. I dread long haul flights, but I’ve found a few ways to cope with them a little better. I’ve done many long haul flights, and often alone, and although it can be boring, I’ve found with a little preparation boredom can be at least reduced. I recently had to travel back to London from Sydney for just 6 days, meaning that I spent over 40 hours on a plane in the space of a week, so I came up with these tips and tricks to get through those long plane journeys!

 

  1. Book the right seat! First and foremost, when checking in, either online or at the airport, if you can choose your seat, then pick wisely. Firstly, if the flight is full, an aisle seat is what I go for. Being small, I rank not feeling guilty every time you want to go to the loo, or a wander around the plane, above having a nice view. If you’re tall or want to rest your head on the plane wall, then perhaps a window is for you, or try to get a bulkhead or emergency exit for extra leg room. Middle seats are obviously the least desirable to pretty much everyone. If my plane has a 3-4-3 configuration, and I check the layout before my flight, I usually book or ask for an aisle seat on the middle section. Ok, so you can’t see out of the window, but you only have one person who might bother you to pop to the loo, and maybe none if you have a group or family of 3 beside you. Furthermore, I always look for seats where there is only one seat separating you and the next person. This is a single, middle seat, and as such is the least likely to be booked up. No one will book it by choice, and only a solo traveller will and usually only if the flight is full will you have someone next to you. Finally, I choose a seat right at the back of the plane. Although you’ve got a long walk on and off, what’s ten minutes across a 9+ hour flight?! No one seems to want to go at the back, and you’re more likely to have more space around and if you’re lucky, an entire row to yourself. Also, do move if there are few rows once boarding is complete. It might be a bit noisier here, behind the engines, but with decent earphones and ear plugs, I say it’s worth the trade off.

 

  1. Pamper yourself. Ok, so you’re never going to look or feel your best on a long haul flight. I embrace this. I wear jogging bottoms or leggings, whilst I probably won’t be winning any fashion awards, comfort is key here. I also wear a hoodless jumper and non-underwired bra. 12 hours plus is a long time to sit in jeans and other awkward garments! I take my shoes off as soon as the seatbelt sign is off. And I pack a moisturiser, eye drops and lip salve to keep my skin hydrated and feeling more comfortable. It’s also worth taking your own bottle of water so you’re not dependant on the crew offering. Try to stay hydrated, and if your bottle runs out, just ask the crew to fill it up and they will do.

 

  1. Drink! For afternoon and evening flights, it’s nice to have a drink at the airport before boarding the plane. I also usually have a wine as my first drink that’s offered on the flight. I’m a nervous flyer and it helps to calm my nerves and settle me in. however, it’s not wise to drink too much alcohol on a plane as the effects are heightened at altitude and it can lead to dehydration. I always order a water chaser to go with my wine to ensure I’m getting enough fluid.

 

  1. Pillows and blankets. When you get on the plane, there is usually a pillow and a blanket on your seat, and if not, they offer them around. Whilst you can ask for these at any time, it’s worth getting, you just never know. Sometimes flights are cold and it’s nice to have a blanket and if you fancy a sleep or find yourself dropping off at any point, you don’t have to worry about getting one from the crew.

 

  1. Food! Sad as it may be, I look forward to airplane meals! I make a point to stay awake when I know that food is on its way, and I make it into an event. Eating every element and stocking up whilst I can. This is also a time to be social, if you so wish. Chat to your neighbour; get to know where they’re going and why. Or if you fancy some alone time, stick on a film or TV programme assuming you have an individual TV. More on this next!

 

  1. In flight entertainment. So you might assume that all airlines have individual TVs in the back on the seat. Not so as I found out to my horror upon boarding a 12 hour flight to Peru. It’s worth checking on your airlines website, ahead of booking, what the situation is with entertainment. I believe, for a long haul flight, it’s worth paying a bit more for a decent airline with good entertainment. It’ll be worth it 6 hours in, trust me! Overhead TVs are better than nothing, but if you can’t choose the movie then you’re likely to find one that you find uninteresting and that will lead to the dreaded flight boreds!

 

  1. More than movies – books. I find that for flights over 6-8 hours, in flight movies aren’t enough to keep me interested. As someone who recently travelled 24 hours from Sydney to London and back in 7 days, once the best movies are exhausted, you’ll need something else to keep you busy! I always make sure I’ve got a good book on my kindle, and that I’ve started to read it ahead of the flight so I’m already ‘hooked in’ and interested. Make sure the book is something you’re interested in or will keep you occupied for a while. What you need is a ‘can’t put it down book’! Although I love the feel and smell of a real book, I caved into getting a kindle for my 5 month RTW solo trip. The ability to carry so many different books for different moods and download them whenever Wi-Fi was available is second to none. It beats the cute ‘swap a book’ deal you have in some many hostels, as someone who spent 48 hours on a train across Siberia without getting off, Wi-Fi or even phone signal, trust me!

 

  1. Apps and music. In the same vein as the above, download some good iPhone/Android apps for the plane. As a nervous flyer, the SOAR Fear of Flying app helps me deal with turbulence by monitoring the G-Force on the plane and reassuring me that it’s within the planes tolerance limits. Furthermore, games I find can distract me whilst I take off and land, and pass a fair few minutes over the course of a flight. My favourites are Two Dots, 2048, Su Doku and Spider Solitaire. Downloading some new music before I flight is also good for entertainment, when you want a sleep, or when your eyes are tired of screens!

 

  1. Sleep. Whilst this one might be obvious, it’s not always as easy as you think to get some shut eye on flights, no matter how long. Some people swear by the deprivation method, withholding sleep before hand in order to sleep on the plane. However, should you not be able to sleep, for whatever reason, you’ll end up even more tired that you were before you boarded the plane! I usually try and grab a few hours. Attempting to plane your seat to get more space will help. If you’re short like me you can put your legs up and attempt to get into a more comfortable position. I can’t express how much easier a decent sleep mask and ear plugs can make. This can make it much easier to get some peace and quiet and drift into dream land. I purchase my own good quality ones, as the one’s you can request on the plane are never as good.

 

  1. Earphone events. I usually download some podcasts prior to a flight, in something I’m interested in. I find that these can keep you entertained if your eyes are dried out from the air con and you want to shut your eyes and just listen and perhaps drift off. I also have purchased an ear phone jack converter, to allow me to convert my own earphones into the ones that you can use with the in flight entertainment. It’s always nicer and better quality to use your own, familiar earphones, rather than the rubbish ones they give you!

 

  1. Pamper yourself. Ok, so you’re never going to feel your best on a long haul flight. I embrace this. I wear jogging bottoms or leggings, whilst you probably won’t be winning any fashion awards, comfort is key here. I also wear a hoodless jumper and non-underwired bra. 12 hours plus is a long time to sit in jeans and other awkward garments! I go make up free on a long haul flight, it’s better for your skin. And I take my shoes off as soon as the seatbelt sign is off. And I pack a moisturiser, lip salve and eye drops to keep my skin hydrated and feeling more comfortable. It’s also worth taking your own bottle of water so you’re not dependant on the crew offering. Try to stay hydrated, and if your bottle runs out, just ask the crew to fill it up and they will do.

 

  1. Get your head in the game. Don’t look at your flight as a long, boring time stuck on an airplane. If you’re travelling alone, look at it as the chance to escape daily life, the phone calls, the messages, and do exactly what you want to for however many hours. See it as a relaxing opportunity to catch up on movies, TV, podcasts, sleep! Or play games, write things or whatever you want to do. It’s your time!
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