Some flights are better than others, but at the end of the day, you are never going to get off a plane feeling refreshed and revived.  Dry air, cramped seating, and all of the stale accoutrements of in flight service make air travel these days a less than satisfactory experience.  Nothings worse than a true long haul flight, trans-atlantic being one of the worst I think – it’s not quite long enough to get some sleep, yet long enough to sit there in a daze for 6-9 long hours.

Having recently endured what I have to describe as a particularly brutal long haul flight, here are some tips for making the most of it.

Stalk the Airline for Better Seating

I absolutely refuse to sit in one of those middle-of-the-middle seats – you know, the ones in the middle of a row of 5, where an act of god is required for you to get out of the seat to use the loo. Avoid this if at all possible. How to improve your chances for a good seat? Check your airline’s website regularly – better seats do open up, especially if there are multiple classes of service and airlines upgrade their elite customers to the premium cabin.

If you can’t see seats online, call – be nice but checking in often can usually result in grabbing any open seats that become available. Last resort, check in at the gate with the agent – they sometimes can swap you, it can’t hurt to ask.

BYO Amenity Kit

Even in the premium cabin, amenity kits are looking sparse these days. Make your own, as it can really make a trip more enjoyable – or at the very least, distract you from your uncomfortable position. What to include? A few ideas:

  • Lip gloss and a small tube of moisturising cream, so you don’t feel 20 years older walking off the plane
  • A small bottle of water (purchase after security)
  • Reading Materials
  • Ear Plugs, for when the babies start screaming
  • Headphones, in case there’s in-flight entertainment
  • An eye mask, for that feeble attempt at sleeping
  • Snacks since food might not be easy to find when you need it.
It really depends on how long your flight is and what your destination is, but a bag that has some of these essentials can help you feel a little less bruised.

Try to Plan for Sleep

A terrible flight flies by (pun intended) when you’re asleep. Try to plan for getting some sleep while you’re en route. If you’re in heading east to west, you’ll be likely travelling overnight, and there’s no hope for getting a full night’s sleep – but try your best. Getting up earlier the day you depart can mean you’re ready for a nap at least. As well for heading back west, these flights generally travel over more “day time” but still try to have a couple of hours rest.

Most advice suggests avoiding alcohol due to the dehydration factor, but personally I like to have a glass of wine with lunch/dinner – the extra hour of sleep it affords is certainly worth the side affects of the alcohol.

There’s no getting around the realities of long haul flights, unfortunately; airplanes are just crowded and cramped, period. But plan ahead and pamper yourself as much as possible, and you’ll come out the other side ready for some sightseeing – after a hot shower of course.

Photo by author.

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 at 10:00
Category : Holiday Tips
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One Response to “3 Suggestions for Long Haul Flight Survival”

  1. Kevin Spilling says:

    Hah… I have all those apart from the lip gloss on a short haul !!!

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