That’s a long time to be sat in the same seat. Add to that the fact that you’re surrounded by hundreds of strangers, packed into a relatively small space, and long haul flights can seem pretty unappealing. Unfortunately, they’re often the only realistic way to get from A to B, so nine times out of ten we just put up with it.
However, there are some good tips on how to survive a long flight: from what to do to what to wear on a long flight – if you plan and pack well, your double digits in the sky might not be all that bad. Read on to discover our top ten long-haul flight tips.
1. The obvious
Get an upgrade! Either splash out on a class or two (or three!) above, or try your luck with our top ten tips to get a free upgrade. The extra space, the better food and the flat bed in business can make all the difference to a long-haul flight; you’ll enjoy the flight more, chances are your sleep quality will improve, and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling all the fresher for it.
2. Book smart
If you don’t manage to get yourself that lovely upgrade, think before you book your seat.
If you sit near the bulkheads, you won’t have a seat in front of you, but you also won’t have any space for your carry on (at least during take off and landing). Many airlines use bulkheads for crib space as well, meaning you might be sharing your precious space with a baby. Bag a seat at the back, and you’ll have easy access to the galley to do your exercises and be social with the crew (if they’ve got the time), but note that being behind the engines means more noise.
If you’re a couple, a good trick is to book the window and aisle seat. The chances of someone booking the middle seat are much reduced – unless of course the flight is full. If someone does book the seat, it’s likely that they’ll be very happy to move to either aisle or window.
3. Dress well
Gone are the days when people would don their finest attire in order to fly. Everyone and their grandma’s at it today, so don’t worry about what other people are thinking – worry about your comfort.
What you’re wearing ultimately depends on where you are flying from, and where you are flying to, but the microclimate in airplanes can vary greatly, which only complicates things. The answer? Layers. Lovely loose layers that can be taken off and on without too much hassle.
Don’t forget to pack an extra set of clothing to help you feel fresh. This could be a change of underwear and new t-shirt, a full set of clothing, or a set of pyjamas to wear on the plane.
For the love of all things good and pure – pack water (just make sure you buy it after security). Stuff a couple of bottles (in the side pouches of your new and incredibly handy carry on bag), pack one inside, and have one in your hand. Yes, you can get free water on the flight, but it comes in what resembles a large thimble and you’ll have to wait until the crew have the time.
Humidity on flights drops to below 20% – a typical home is around 30% – and your body will suffer unless your replenish it with H2O. Caffeine and booze will only dehydrate you more, but as you are on vacation, it can be hard to resist that one free drink you’ll be offered. Drink it by all means – but before you doze off, down a couple of glasses of water. You’ll thank yourself when you wake up.
5. What to eat
A funny thing happens to your taste buds when you’re high in the sky. The combination of extremely low humidity and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of your little buds up to 30%. Add to that the fact that your sense of smell also drops significantly, and we’re left with a pretty poor experience when it comes to food.
Airlines do their best to combat this by packing their food with a hefty punch of spices and salt, but combined with our diminishing senses, it’s hard to turn reheated, mass-produced food into something we’d choose to have again. More often than not, we’re left with a meal low on protein and veg, but high on carbs and sugar (although one study found that carb-rich food actually makes it easier to cope with jet lag). The good thing is you are allowed to bring your own food, so be sure to stock up on healthy snacks, such as fruit, nuts and even some jerky to keep your system ticking over on long-haul flights.
If you’re lucky, you can get some pretty good films and TV series on a long-haul flight. From classic films to brand new blockbusters, you can easily pass a few hours staring at the screen, but after a while even the most die-hard film fan can get weary eyes.
To give yourself a break, try bringing other forms of entertainment, such as a book, or an e-reader (invaluable when you’re traveling for a long time – books can take up a lot of space!). Even changing from films and TV to the in-flight game options can help break up the monotony.
If you’re picky about what you watch, make sure you’ve got enough to watch on your tablet or phone – and pack a portable battery charger!