Your trip’s booked, bags packed, itinerary triple-checked and you’ve arranged for a neighbour to feed the cat.
Now all that’s left to do is get through the impending 23-hour flight; 23 hours stuck in a cramped seat as freezing air-conditioning blasts down on you and the person behind you repeatedly kicks the back of your chair.
Welcome to the long-haul flight…
While we can’t provide a solution for the lack of legroom and the seat-kicker (short of a few withering glares cast their way), we’ve got a few handy tips to keep you comfy, warm and entertained for your upcoming long-haul flight:
1. Wear comfortable, layered, loose clothing
Stick to breathable fabrics, such as leggings or loose trousers, a cotton t-shirt and lightweight jumper. A woolly pair of socks is essential, as is a warm scarf to use as a pillow, blanket or to pop over your head to block out the light.
2. Drink water
Plane travel is incredibly dehydrating, so drink water whenever a glass is offered. Pack an empty bottle in your carry-on and fill it up at the snack bar every time you get up for a walk.
3. Try not to eat too much
After a few airborne hours, it can be easy to throw yourself into your meal just to pass the time. The body has a tougher time digesting food when it’s in the air, so try not to eat until you’re full, and don’t eat solely for the sake of it. Remember to pre-order special meals (vegan, gluten free, kosher, etc) before you fly; 14 hours of chicken or beef options when you’re vegetarian can make for a very hungry flight.
4. Don’t mix long-haul flights & booze
While a couple of glasses of wine on solid ground can help you fall asleep, it’s a very different story when you’re 30,000 feet in the air. A few glasses of red wine or a beer can actually make it trickier to get some shuteye; the pressurised cabins mean there is less oxygen to breathe, so alcohol is metabolised faster and that one drink can feel like two or three. It’s also dehydrating, so if you do manage to fall asleep, you probably won’t stay that way for long and may wake up feeling thirsty and headachy.
5. Walk around and do in-seat exercises every hour
Not only will walking up and down the plane’s aisles help pass the time, it’ll also get some much-needed blood flow back into your legs and arms. Spend a few moments doing some light stretching while waiting for the bathroom, and do some in-seat exercises for a few minutes every hour while you’re sitting down.
6. Pack some noise-cancelling headphones…
If you don’t own a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, invest in a pair at the airport before your flight. Not only do they block out engine sounds (and any nearby crying babies or noisy talkers), they also plug into your in-seat entertainment unit, enabling you to – shock horror – actually hear what’s being said in the film you’re watching. Just make sure you have a two-pronged headphone jack for the socket.
7. … and a neck pillow
They might look a little ridiculous when you’re not mid-air, but a C-shaped pillow will make your flight life so much more comfortable. With your neck pillow firmly in place, pop the provided airline pillow in the small of your back, for some much-needed lumbar support.
8. Load up your kindle (or pack a few books)
Getting stuck into a good book is an excellent way to pass the time. Load up your e-reader with an engrossing Russian crime novel (or light comedy or steamy romance), and watch the hours melt away.
9. Watch every episode of Downton Abbey ever made
Gone are the days when there was only one movie option on long-haul flights; drop-down televisions in the aisles have been replaced with back-of-seat screens, with a variety of on-demand options. Settle in for 17 back-to-back episodes of Friends, Hollywood blockbusters you didn’t get around to seeing at the movies, or classics you’ve already seen eight times, and know every line.
10. Keep your essentials close by
Lip balm, deodorant, gum or mints, toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste should be sealed in a plastic bag and kept in your seat pocket, so you don’t have to keep reaching up to the overhead bin every time you want to freshen up. It’s also good to keep your Kindle or book in your pocket, and a pen for filling out arrival cards.
11. Get some sleep – but how??
The ability to sleep on a plane is a gift, and one that should never be taken for granted. I’ve been on countless flights where my seatmate has conked out immediately after take-off, while I readjust my legs, hips and arms every four minutes for the next 16 hours, trying to get into a semi-comfortable position.
If you’re not a member of the ‘I can sleep anywhere’ club, try to get as comfortable as you can. Recline your seat as far as it will go (after the meal service), pop on your noise-cancelling headphones, slip on an eyemask (if you have one) and try to switch off. Avoid watching TV before you’re planning on having a snooze, as the light will interfere with your melatonin release, and may keep you awake. Simple breathing exercises, meditation or just picturing sweeping vistas of the Italian coastline or Icelandic Northern Lights can work like a dream as you attempt an adventure into the land of nod.
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Feature image c/o Frank Kehren, Flickr