Surviving Long-Haul Flights
In the past I have taken long-haul flights to Dubai x2, Thailand, and South Africa x2. If you consider the fact that I have a fear of flying, you know that these trips were major accomplishments. I decided years ago that I would not let that fear get in the way of me seeing the world. This post will be three fold. I will share tips & tricks for surviving long-haul flights, tips to help those with a fear of flying and advice as a medical doctor.
1. Flight practice: If you do not have a lot of experience flying or if you have a fear of flying, take shorter flights to lead up to long-haul or ultra long-haul flights. Fly to places in the U.S., Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. Try to take longer flights each time. You can also look into flight simulation classes to help overcome your fear of flying.
2. Body Comfort: Wear very comfortable clothes and shoes. I usually wear shoes that I can easily slip on and off. In addition, I dress in layers. Bring regular socks and compression socks. If you tend to be cold on airplanes, pack a scarf, blanket and sweater in your carry-on bag. A nice trick is to spray your favorite scent on your scarf to combat airplane odors. I like to use a lavender spray since the scent is also relaxing. Bring a toiletry bag with facial wipes, soap, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm and lotion. These items will allow you to freshen up during your long-haul flights. The store Target is a great place to purchase travel sizes of these items.
3. Seat Comfort: Splurge on comfortable seats. Consider upgrading your seat using miles or cash. You can also check the website called ‘Seat Guru”. It has aircraft seat maps with symbols for preferred vs substandard seats. Try to avoid seats with restricted leg room. Due to my fear of flying, I will not sit in an exit row even though it has more leg room. However, this may be a great option for travelers on long-haul flights. For convenience, I will choose a seat closer to a bathroom. Bring a small pack of disinfecting wipes to clean your tray tables and your seat.
An essential for surviving long-haul flights is packing a comfortable travel pillow. Try to avoid that hilarious head bobbing I also brought a lumbar travel pillow for back support. But, I used the complimentary airline pillow in that position instead. Packing tip: Store larger items in a carry-on bag and place in the overhead bin for more leg space. For items you will use more often, pack them in a smaller bag and place under the seat in front of you. However, you may want to use your carry-on bag as a foot rest.
4. Stay Hydrated: Drink a lot of water to help reduce jet lag and dehydration. My skin and mouth get very dry on an airplane so I actually keep my own bottled water in the seat in front of me. I don’t like having to wait for beverage service or calling a flight attendant for a glass of water.
5. Watch Movies & Documentaries & TV shows: Hopefully your airline has great in-flight entertainment. I feel this is the best way to pass time on a long-haul flight. Since I often miss seeing movies during their theater release, I enjoy watching them on an airplane. I also don’t have much time to watch documentaries or TV series in my “regular life”. Therefore, I have watched entire seasons of shows on ultra long-haul flights. Unfortunately, I have been on some airlines that do not have great choices for in-flight entertainment. In case this happens to you, download movies and TV programs on your computer or Ipad/tablet.
6. Read Books & Magazines & Newspapers: Another great way to past time and survive long-haul flights is reading. Catch up on your latest book club selection or pick up a New York Times bestseller. I watched one of my best friends read an entire book on our flight to Dubai! I am a little embarrassed to admit this but I used to buy trashy celebrity magazines to read on flights. Whatever your preference, bring something with you to read. Journaling and coloring are also great options.
7. Listen to Music: If you fly often I suggest purchasing noise cancelling wireless headphones. I have a pair by Bose and they are awesome. If not, be sure to have earphones with you. If you have a fear of flying, I suggest listening to music during your flight. This works for me in several ways. I turn up the music really loud during take-off to drown out noises. During periods of turbulence, I listen to music since it has a calming effect. You can create mellow music playlists on Spotify or Apple music. Not all airplanes have inflight power outlets so bring a portable charger.