Flying long haul is never easy, but if your destination is a beautiful tropical beach resort, the payoff is huge. First, though, before you can spread your towel on a sun lounger and order a chilled G&T with ice and lemon, you need to survive the flight. Not an easy task, but it can be done – and here’s how.
Cost Isn’t Everything
When travelling on a budget, it is tempting to book the cheapest flight leaving at an ungodly hour and passing via two or more stop off points. In terms of cost, this is great, but if you want a comfortable journey, you are probably out of luck.
Cheap airlines are cheap for a reason. Their customer service and safety record might not be quite so high, so their ticket prices are a bit lower. This is great if you don’t mind slumming it for fifteen hours, or visiting a place whose name you can’t pronounce, but if you want an enjoyable long haul experience on an airline that arrives on time, offers better meals, movies and legroom and, most importantly, arrives in one piece, consider paying a bit extra for your ticket.
Choose the Right Seat
Airlines pre-allocate seats and you are given the opportunity to change your seat when you check-in online. On a busy flight, you may not have a choice where you sit, but if you can change your seat, think about whether you need extra legroom or you prefer an aisle or window seat. Both have their pros and cons.
Window seats give the best views and you aren’t woken up if the passenger next to you needs the toilet. Aisle seats let you stretch your legs out, but you may get disturbed by people walking past.
Try to avoid sitting too close to the bulkhead in the middle of the plane (in economy class), as this is where the sky cots are located. Sit here and you might have to listen to a screaming infant for 12 hours.
On a busy flight, you will be stuck in your chosen seat, but if the flight is half-empty, move to a row where there are free seats, so you have room to stretch out.
Pack Some Headphones
Noise cancelling headphones are very useful on long haul flights. Most airlines provide complimentary headphones, but they are not exactly great quality and they don’t always work very well. Airplanes are very noisy. Noise cancelling headphones let you watch a movie or listen to music without the drone of engines roaring away in the background.
Legs and feet often swell up during a long haul flight. This can be prevented by wearing support socks that prevent the blood pooling in leg veins. Luckily, it’s a harmless side effect of inactivity, so don’t be too concerned, but if you are at-risk of blood clots, make buying support socks a priority – and don’t forget to walk around the plane and flex your calf muscles at regular intervals to maintain good circulation.
Comfy Flight Wear
You need to be comfortable on a long haul flight. Ditch the fashion clothes and opt for super comfortable garments instead. Stretchy yoga pants or loose fitting trousers are ideal. It can also get chilly on a plane, so layer up.
No, not wine. It is important to stay hydrated on long flights. Most people don’t drink anywhere near enough on planes, or not water anyway. Drinks are free when you fly on scheduled airlines, so keep a bottle of water handy and sip it regularly. Have alcohol with your meal if you must, but don’t overdo it or you will end up very dehydrated.
Sleep can be elusive on long haul flights. The combination of noise, annoying neighbors, and uncomfortable seats is a killer. It helps if you can get a good night’s sleep prior to your flight. At least that way you will feel rested before you get on the plane.
Aromatherapy pillows are helpful for long flights. A travel pillow infused with soothing lavender is relaxing and conducive to sleep. Another tactic for aiding sleep is to listen to relaxing mood music on the plane’s entertainment system. This helps to block out background noise and lull the brain gently into the land of Nod.
No matter how awful the flight was, once you arrive you can de-stress and make the most of your vacation destination. You do still have the return leg to look forward to, but at least the happy memories from your dream vacation will keep you entertained if the in-flight entertainment system breaks down.