Long flights 10 hours or more can be a never ending nightmare. After an exhausting, horrible flight it can make you not want to travel internationally again. But there are ways to make these long haul flights a little better.
Choosing Your Flight
The first thing is to choose your flight carefully. Look at the seat layout of the plane before you book your flight. For example, on my last flight from Los Angeles to London, traveling with my teenage son, I looked at the seating layouts for the flights I was considering. The first flight a 3-5-3 layout, meaning there was 3 seats on the sides and 5 seats across the middle. Since there was only two of us traveling I was looking for a flight that had 2 seats on the sides so that neither of us would have to sit next to a stranger. This way if we moved around, bumped or leaned past the arm of the chair we wouldn’t be disturbing another passenger. On long flights you tend to move around a lot and I didn’t want to have to worry about making sure I didn’t cross over into their space. Try to find a flight with a seat layout that allows only your travel party to be in the row of seats.
Your seat choice is also important, not only which seat in the row you want but also the row of seats itself. Let’s start with the seat in the row, your choices are aisle, window or a middle seat. Most people don’t want a middle seat. The prime choices are either the aisle or the window seat. There are advantages to both. The aisle seat lets you get up and down without having to set over someone to get out or wake them up if they are sleeping so you can get by. It can also make you feel less closed in so if you have any amount of claustrophobia, if you do the aisle seat is your best choice.
The window seat also has advantages; you will have a place to lean your head against which will help you get more comfortable when trying to sleep. You will also have control over the window shade so you will be able to open and close it when you want and if your anything like me and you like to look out the window, you will have an unobstructed view.
You will also want to consider which row you pick. You can find detailed information on seats and rows on seat guru. The site will tell you which seats and rows are good and those that are not so good. Seats that have no other seats behind them, usually backed up against a divider wall, don’t lean back. Exit rows offer extra leg room but there is an age minimum. Some airlines charge extra for the extra row seats because of the extra leg room.
You will also want to pay attention to what’s outside your window. Is the seat over the wing so you won’t be able to get a good view out the window or is there a giant engine just a few inches from the window making it a noisy ride? Choose your row carefully. It can make a big difference in your flight experience.
Eating & Drinking
To help avoid jetlag make sure you stay hydrated but avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol will intensify the jetlag plus at the high altitude will be magnify the effects of the alcohol. You will also want to avoid drinking too much caffeine. Try to stick to water, juice or drinks like Gatorade, which Gatorade is not served on planes so you will have to bring your own. You can buy small packets of powdered Gatorade which you pour into a bottle of water.
Make sure that you eat but don’t overeat. If you can’t stomach airline food bring your own snacks. Try to stay away from a lot of sugery foods.
Overnight fights are the easiest. Usually you will have your overnight flight when traveling from the U.S. to your overseas location and you will travel with the sun on the way back. Getting some good sleep will help you adjust to the time difference better and get on the local time schedule. Sleeping on a plane is not always an easy thing to do. Many people take sleep aides once they get on board which is what I do. It helps me relax and fall asleep so when I land I am not exhausted and want to go to bed at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
Using a U shaped neck pillow will not only give you a place to lay your head but it will also help keep your head from bobbing up and down as you fall asleep. Taking a late overnight flight will help you fall asleep more naturally. If your flight departs at noon and your flight is ten hours with an eight hour time difference you would arrive at 6am and unless you slept on the flight, once you arrive you will be exhausted and ready for bed only its 6 o’clock in the morning.
It will be harder to sleep on the return flight since you will have day light throughout the flight. Wearing a sleep mask will help block out the light which will help you fall asleep easier.
Timing Your Arrival Time
Your arrival time is just as, if not more, important as your departure time. Most people concentrate on the departure time but you need to look at the arrival time. You do not want to be arriving at your destination at 1am. You want to arrive at a time when businesses are open and there are plenty of people out and about who can help you if you need it. You will also be able to get a better view of things during the day time so it will be easier to get your bearings.
What to Wear
Comfort is the key. Rather than worrying about looking stylish or wearing your favorite outfit you need to focus on what is comfortable. Wear breathable fabric clothing such as cotton. Wear loose fitting clothing, something that has a little stretch to it. Choose clothing that will be comfortable if you crunch up in the seat. Avoid clothing that wrinkles easily. Also wear comfortable shoes and if you wear sandals take a pair of socks with you that you won’t mind wearing and walking around the plane in. In order to get really comfortable you will want to take your shoes off but probably won’t want to walk around barefoot. Also your feet can get cold on planes so they will help keep you warm during the flight.
After a long flight you will feel better if you can freshen up a little bit before you land. It is so refreshing just to be able to brush your teeth. Pack a tooth brush and paste in your carryon bag. For you ladies a little makeup touch-up will do wonders. You don’t need to bring your entire makeup bag, a compact and lipstick, maybe an eye liner, is just enough to help freshen up your face. And don’t forget a comb or small brush. You can even pack a small travel size hair spray to help touch up your hair.
Some airlines will give you an amenities package which usually contains a tooth brush and tooth paste, an eye mask for sleeping and a pair of funky socks. I have even seen some that have a small bottle of cologne, a shoe horn and pen. However on some flights you won’t get anything so don’t count on getting one.
It doesn’t take a lot to make you feel fresh, revived and ready to go. Doing a little homework about your flight beforehand can be the difference between a pleasant flight and a nightmare.
Plane Seating Charts
Alcohol at High Altitudes