If you’re like me you’ll hate flying. It’s not fear of flying, it’s hatred of the boredom, the crying kids, the discomfort of trying to concertina yourself into too-small seats and popping ears that make flying great distances awful.
If you’re a seasoned adventurer you’ll know most of these tips and tricks that make flying intercontinental rather more bearable, but if it’s your first time flying more than two or three hours then the advice that follows could make your flight bearable.
Your Flight Starts Long Before You Embark
Preparation for a long haul flight really starts when you book your ticket. Book a ticket for a terrible time of day. Honestly, if nobody else wants to take that flight you’ll get your seat cheaper and have options if you’re flying an airline that allows seat pre-booking. Always book a seat by the exits. You get plenty of legroom and the only concession is that you have to promise to help people off in the event of a crash. Order food you know you like. If you have any dietary requirements don’t rely on them having options at 50,000 feet. And this is no time for experiments, if you don’t know what surstromming is, don’t order it.
The next stage of preparing for your long haul flight is not packing. You’ll think you’re crushing it buying all the clothing and equipment you’ll need at home well in advance of your travel date. What will actually happen is that you’re going to buy a lot of stuff that you won’t need and you’re going to have to carry it around with you everywhere you go and wait when you check it in and at baggage claim to collect it. Why not travel light and buy what you need when you get there? Just take the essentials with you and the stuff that’s harder to get once you’re there. Check out the reviews on a site like travels2go before you buy. For the smaller stuff, it’s very unlikely that you will be heading anywhere today that won’t have a few local shops where you can buy the supplies you need.
When you arrive at the airport with your incredibly reduced luggage, you’ll be dressed in several thin layers of your most comfortable clothing. Air quality on a ‘plane is rubbish and you never know if you’re going to be in a draft or sitting next to someone who needs the aircon on all the time. A few layers means that you can add and remove clothing to maintain your temperature. Wear support socks too, even if you’re not afraid of DVT, they keep your feet from swelling and getting sore and swollen.
A trick that I love is wearing foam earplugs pushed in as far as they’ll go. Not only do they keep you from hearing howling kids and droning adults, they stop the air pressure from changing rapidly, meaning no popping ears! Without earache and a raging sinus headache, you might actually get some sleep.
Talking of sleep, do take an eye-mask and neck pillow. Boredom is the worst thing about being stuck in a ‘plane for hours on end, so if you can sleep through it, so much the better. It’s really hard to concentrate on a book and the movies are never anything that you’d really like to watch so sleep is the best option.
If you really can’t sleep, drink plenty of water and not so much booze. As mentioned, the air quality is really low so keeping hydrated is a must. Drinking too much alcohol will make you need to pee, therefore losing more moisture and the altitude affects the way the body processes alcohol so you may get far more drunk than you expect or give yourself a stinking hangover, not a good start to your arrival in a new country.
Now, about that food you ordered when you booked your flight. Try not to eat it too quickly. Spinning it out will help your digestion, remember the altitude has messed with your metabolism, but leaving something for later gives you something to look forward to.
Sitting in one position in a cramped space is going to get pretty uncomfortable very quickly. Get up and go for a walk, have a good stretch or, if you’re trapped in a window seat with sleeping or grumpy neighbours, start doing chair exercises. It’s not perfect but it will stave off cramps and muscle stiffness.
As well as foam ear plugs, another must have is noise cancelling headphones or earbuds. Noise cancelling means that you won’t need to damage your own hearing to blot out the sounds of children and engines, and you won’t disturb those sitting around you with your own music. If you’re the sort of person who wants to try to read when in flight, put lots of short stories on your reader. With the many interruptions, disturbance and short attention span you won’t be able to get into a good book but shorter tales will keep you amused.
Another thing you’ll want to keep handy is your toiletries. Take a deodorant, alcohol free wipes toothpaste and toothbrush in your seat pocket. Having to struggle to get them from your bag in the overhead locker every time you want them is going to get really old.
Now when you land you should be able to walk straight up to passport control with your carry on, and stroll right out of the airport and into your next adventure.