- Erica Bradley
How to Prepare to Enjoy Your Long Flight
It is expensive to travel to faraway places (and worth it, trust me!) Compared to shorter distances, or domestic flights, you may already be experiencing some sticker shock.
Many factors like which airline you choose, how long your
connections are, what style aircraft you choose, etc., are all going to affect
your comfort and pleasure on a long-distance flight. Considering you will be
spending hours and hours on that plane, it's worth spending a little extra -
per travel hour - to upgrade for more comfort.
As your travel agent, I will handle all of these details
to get you the easiest, comfiest flight possible. I will recommend
optional upgrades to you to make your journey more comfortable.
For example, when you upgrade the amenities offered on most
airlines give you a set of comfy PJ's and a complete toiletries kit for
business and first-class travelers so you can "go to bed" in your
seat, which depending on the type of aircraft, folds down into a flatbed. (By
the way, the complimentary PJ's on Emirates flights are amazing, so don't think
you're just going to get cheap, disposable type pajamas.)
When you're ready to sleep, your flight attendant will
prepare your bed for you with soft blankets and full-size pillows.
The bathrooms in the business and first-class cabins are
significantly larger (at least three times the size), which makes changing,
brushing your teeth, and washing your face much more manageable.
I'm happy to provide pricing for business and first-class
tickets for you in addition to coach and premium economy tickets. I will
research and find you the best upgrade options so that you can enjoy your time
in transit and arrive at your destination happy, well-rested, and ready to
enjoy your vacation.
Like with anything in life, you are preparing your
attitude ahead of time is key to success. Why not look at the time you will
spend on a long-haul flight as a glorious day of rest, a true holiday. No phone
calls, no text messages, no social media, no responsibilities. You get to sit
and relax - sleep, read that great book you've wanted to read, binge-watch
movies guilt-free. You're going to be on a plane for a long time; you might as
well turn it into something you can enjoy.
So now let's talk about how you can do that!
Prepare to be Comfortable
Wear comfortable clothes. Try to avoid clothes that are
too tight, that bunch or ride up in funny ways, are made of materials that
irritate your skin, or are otherwise bothersome in any other way.
Everyone has different things they find comfortable, but
consider soft, breathable fabrics like cotton or linen and design features like
Wear multiple thin layers so that you can add or remove
clothing to help regulate your temperature in transit.
Comfortable shoes are also a must and vary from person to
person. Don't wear brand new shoes that may still be in that break-in period
and could give you blisters or be uncomfortable if your feet swell. Wear shoes
that you already know you can walk all day in without your feet screaming to be
set free! Slip-on shoes that you can take off easily are a great idea too - for
ease through security as well as comfort once you're on the plane.
Do you have long legs, or just like more legroom?
Consider an aisle seat or exit row for more legroom, or upgrade to business or
Don't carry on too much stuff. Even though you
technically can stow a bag under your seat, that doesn't mean you want to.
Think about how much legroom that extra-large bag might take up before you
decide to carry it on. On the flip side, if you have short legs go ahead and
stuff your bag under there; it can be a footrest!
Prepare to be Healthy
Pack plenty of food. You know what you like to eat and
how much/often you need to eat. I recommend packing a little more than you
think you will need in case of travel delays.
Nutritionists advise smaller meals with a good balance of
protein, complex carbohydrates, and plant-based foods to stay happy and healthy
on long-haul flights and avoid jet lag.
For business and first-class travelers, most airlines
provide a menu of complimentary gourmet food. In some cases, it's made to order
- different from the food served in economy.
Regardless of what class you booked, you can alert the airline prior to your flight and also your flight attendant of food allergies and sensitivities and they will accommodate you.
When you eat can be just as important or even more important than what you eat. Eating sends important cues to your body to help regulate your body's rhythm. Careful planning of when you eat
before, during, and after a long-haul flight can help you sleep better and avoid jet lag. This article from Travel and Leisure helps to explain how food can help with jet lag, Food As A Jet Lag Cure.
Stay hydrated. Air travel is dehydrating. That coffee you
drink to stay awake is dehydrating. That wine you drink to relax is dehydrating.
Dehydration exacerbates jet lag, so to stay healthy, you need to counteract all
this with plenty of water. Make sure your water bottle never runs dry and sip
on during your entire flight.
Pro Tip: peanuts and peanut butter are a great source of protein
for many people. However, if there is someone on your flight with a peanut
allergy, you may be asked not to bring these out - and why put someone at risk?
I recommend choosing snacks without peanuts in them (don't forget to check your
granola and energy bars too and pick flavors sans peanuts).
Prepare to be Entertained
Pack something to watch. Most flights will have in-flight
movies, but your choices will be limited. You might want to bring your tablet
or laptop loaded with a few movies that you know you will enjoy.
Pack something to read. Here again is where a tablet, or
even your phone or laptop, shines! Make sure you have downloaded some books to
read. I recommend more than one book, just in case you get bored of one or
Pack something to listen to. If popping in your
noise-canceling headphones and zoning out to your favorite music is your thing,
make sure you have all your favorite tunes loaded on your device. Maybe even
some new songs to keep things interesting.
Podcasts are another great option for audio
entertainment. There is a podcast for every single interest out there. You can
be entertained, or educated, or both. And bonus - podcasts take up less space
and use less battery than movies - so load them up!
Pro Tip: Your device can also help relieve anxiety and help
you get to sleep. Try downloading a meditation app (like Headspace or Calm).
This article, Why You Should Meditate On A Plane and How To Do It, provides
more info on the benefits of meditating while traveling and some how-to tips.
Prepare to be Rested
To rest, most people need to be able to block out light
and noise. A good eye mask and a pair of noise-canceling headphones or simple
earplugs are a must. Most airlines provide these sorts of amenities on
overnight and long flights, but why chance it. Especially if you are picky
about the style, I recommend packing your own.
You also might want to bring your travel pillow. Travel
pillows have come a long way since the only option U-shaped inflatable neck
pillow. From luxury down jackets that convert to neck pillows to scarves that
hold your head up while you sleep, there is an option for everyone. Here's a great link to travel pillows.
Prepare to Have Happy Kids
Traveling with young children adds an entire additional
layer of complication to your travel plans. But, with a bit of extra
preparation, the entire family can still enjoy the journey of getting there.
You might want to consider breaking up a long-haul
flight with a 2-3 day rest and recover by planning a stopover somewhere.
Shorter travel days mean kids (and parents) aren't likely to get as exhausted,
making everyone more susceptible to melt-downs and even sickness.
Also, adding another destination adds more excitement and
adventure to your trip.
Consider kid-friendly versions of all the preparations we
have already covered, in addition to a few extra tips and tricks for keeping
them healthy and happy.
In addition to bringing a few of their favorite things
that you are sure they find entertaining, it's always a good idea to bring a
few new surprises to entertain the kids on a plane. Even the act of opening new
gifts itself is entertainment! Think engaging toys - such as new coloring books
and art supplies, new games, new books, etc. You can enjoy a mix of things with
them, and that they can do alone for when you need a break.
Checklist for happy kids (and parents):
Check your stroller at the gate. If your flight happens to get delayed, your child(ren) will have a comfortable (and confined) place to rest.
Pack plenty of your child's favorite (healthy) foods. There are few things worse than a hungry child, besides being excited about sugar or coming down from a sugar high.
Think protein and complex carbohydrates to keep their bellies full and their mood calm.
Help them to get wiggles out before they get on the plane. Take advantage of all the space in the airport and run around. Kids need to move their bodies to burn off energy, and hopefully, they will be ready to sleep when you get in the air.
Be prepared to combat the change in air pressure on takeoff and landing with a bottle (or breast) for babies and chewing gum or hard candy for those old enough for it.
Experts tell us to avoid too much screen time for our children, but having a few movies or electronic games available on your tablet can mean the difference between misery and joy on a long-haul flight. Go ahead and make an exception here and indulge in some electronic babysitting for a few hours.
Pack a clean outfit (or two) in your carry-on, as well as plenty of wipes to clean up all the
messes kids (and adults) often make.
Consider bringing their car seat on the plane. Kids are used to sitting still in them; it will help rein them in and may provide some comfort since it's something familiar.
And lastly, remember: this too shall pass. An unpleasant, uncomfortable long-haul flight. It might seem like a never-ending nightmare, but it will be over at some point, and the rewards of a fantastic trip with be well-worth the relatively short time spent on the plane to get there.
Ultimate Long-Haul Flight Packing List
Food (I covered this in detail already)
Teabags if you have a favorite tea or another drink mix
Refillable water bottle
Small toiletry kit with travel versions of everything, you need to feel (and smell) fresh
Facial wipes or cleanser
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
Hand and body lotion (you can save space by choosing something that works on your face too)
Eye drops (if you're prone to dry eyes)
Small comb or brush
Tablet or e-reader
Book or magazine if you prefer a physical version
Cards or other small games
Small notepad or pen
Battery charger and cords - for your phones, tablets, and even laptop
Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones
Socks (compression if you're prone to feet/ankle swelling)
Slip-on shoes (or wear these the whole time)
Motion sickness remedies
Baby aspirin, if recommended by your doctor
OTC pain medication in case your back hurts from hauling heavy luggage or your neck
hurts from the awkward sleeping position
Any prescription medication you need - please make sure any medications you rely on
are in your carry-on luggage and NOT your checked bag
An extra change of clothes (in case of spills or lost checked luggage)
Pajamas or just super-comfy clothes if you need to change to sleep
With a bit of planning and preparation, your next long-haul flight can be comfortable and even enjoyable!