On average, eight million people fly per year, so many of us have been in the same predicament. Cramped into the metal box of an airplane, breathing in the extremely dry recycled air, the hours stretching endlessly before us. I used to dread long flights, wondering how I’d get through the flight without losing my mind. Alas, several years later, having successfully survived a few such flights, I’ve finally figured it out.
There are several key factors involved in getting through long flights, and by long, I mean eight-plus hours, or even six if you’re impatient like me. These include variety, comfort, and ease. Having plenty to do is also the crux of it – sitting on a plane for hours on end without nothing to do seems like hell on earth.
The below tips include having a multitude of television and films to entertain you, good literature, and games. What you eat and drink on the flight can also make or break the arduousness of your trip – stay away from heavy foods. What you wear is also incredibly important – remember, these are clothes you will be in for the equivalent of a day on the ground, only you don’t have the freedom of movement.
Check out the tips below for ways to survive what may seem like a torturously long flight.
15. WALK AROUND
Do not sit for the entire ride. I repeat, do not sit for the entire ride. Blood clots can be a serious problem for long plane rides, and deep vein thrombosis can be an issue as well. Walking around is an effective way of lowering your risk for both. Walking also stretches your legs and prevents that uncomfortable cramping, especially in economy’s tight seating area. I would recommend getting up once an hour (yep, once an hour) and walking the length of the plane. If that seems too frequent, make it once every two hours. To make this easy, choose a seat in the aisle seat or exit row. Your legs will thank you once you land.
This is of course the easiest go-to for long flights — to sleep through the whole thing. But if you’re going to do this, make sure you have the holy trinity of long flight gear: headphones or ear plugs, an eye mask, and a blanket. Not the gross blanket you get from airlines, but your own. Use the airline blanket for your lower back. Wait until the plane is firmly in the air, notify the attendant whether or not you’d want to be awakened for the meal service, and sleep away. If you’re going to use a sleep aid, try it out at home before using it on the plane.
13. FAKE SLEEP
… But if you are like me, and are the type of person who can only sleep in his or her own comfy, comfy bed, here’s another suggestion: fake sleep. Hear me out. Now, this involves all of the steps of the above, except for actual… sleeping. All you are doing in this case is closing your eyes and resting. This gives you a long period of time to relax and destress by simply closing your eyes and tuning out the world. Do this for twenty minutes, an hour, two hours – it’s entirely up to you, but it’s surprisingly relaxing and effective. Plus, it’s extremely effective if you end up sitting next to an annoyingly talkative passenger.
This is probably the most crucial aspect of any long flight. Airplane air is incredibly dry, and without hydration you’re just going to be uncomfortable. What I usually do is bring TWO one liter bottles and make it my goal to get through both. Yes, you will have to pee frequently, but that’s a good thing, as you want to keep that blood circulating (see step one above). But your body will be refreshed, and you’ll feel surprisingly good when you land. There are plenty of reusable water bottles you can purchase if you’d rather not purchase one in the airport (you can’t bring water bottles past security) and the flight attendants will happily refill them for you.
To me, this is the holy grail of surviving a long flight that is eight-plus hours long. Here’s what I do: in my notes folder on my phone, I schedule what I’m going to do for each hour of the flight. For example, hour one is reading a book, hour two is watching a movie, hour three is playing a game. You get the gist. I even check each step off as I go along. This is an amazing way of passing the time and makes it go by astonishingly fast. Try it for yourself and watch time fly.
Load plenty of books onto your Kindle, iPad, phone — or bring one or two handy paper books. But make sure to have a variety of things to read. Spending the entire eight hours reading one thing will make the time drag by. I try to load at least a dozen books to choose from, knowing that I will finish one or two of them — and several magazines. Per my scheduling tip above, I flip between the books and magazines accordingly. Again, this will make the time go faster by providing a variety of options.
9. WATCH TELEVISION
You will probably end up watching several episodes of television shows. You can either binge one show for several episodes, or several different shows to choose from. I would advise to change it up – perhaps watch a sitcom, a documentary, a one hour drama. Again, variety is key when it coms to passing the time. Most flights have screens built into the seats with a wide selection of television shows, but if you’re more picky about what you watch, load your device with the multitude of shows you think you’ll want to watch a week or two before your departure.
8. WATCH MOVIES
I give this advice with a huge grain of salt. Do not pass a ten hour flight by watching five movies in a row. Your eyeballs will kill you, the time will stretch, and you will find yourself constantly checking the clock. No, in order for this to be effective, only watch one or two movies. And try to stick to the light hearted stuff – comedies are perfect. Who wants to be bummed out on a long flight? It is also important to time these correctly – one for early in the flight, say hour two, and the last for the last part of the flight. Four hours will be gone so quickly you won’t have time to blink.
You may think that this goes hand in in hand with walking, but it’s in its whole separate category for a reason. Walking keeps your blood flowing, while stretching keeps your muscles loose and relaxed. You can do stretches once an hour in your seat, or you can head to the galley area to perform some. Don’t worry about feeling self conscious – chances are you won’t be the only one. Some exercises you can perform include basic neck rolls. You can also do something called a cat cow movement, which involves rolling your shoulders, and arching your chest outwards.
6. PLAY GAMES
Like watching movies or television, make sure to space this out. Often there are games included in the inflight entertainment, and that could be enough to occupy you for at least an hour or two. If you’re a casual gamer, load up your device with your favorite app or game and space out your playtime between movies, television, and napping, and you’ll pass the time while having fun. Some good games to play on a long flight include Plants Vs Zombies, with short levels, or Spirits, in which you have to guide spirits home through various challenges.
5. WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHES
This is imperative. I’ve seen people in suits, dresses, and tight uncomfortable looking clothing on flights. Don’t do this. You’re saving yourself a lot of hassle by simply wearing the right clothes. The key word here is loose. Loose, breathable pants, shirts, and compression socks for circulation. For guys, comfy jeans and a T-shirt is your best bet. For women, cotton or linen pants and cotton tops are ideal. I would stay away from long dresses or skirts – it gets cold on flights. If your flight is overnight, bring a change of clothes and underwear in your carry-on and change right before you land – believe me, it will make a world of difference and help you feel refreshed.
4. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
Airlines tend to provide passengers on long flights with two meals and two snacks, but no one is writing home about plane food. You can abet this by ordering a special meal – meatless meals tend to sit better on long flights, and there are often options to order your meals when you book your flight. An even better option, however, is to bring your own food. Stay away from smelly choices like bananas and tuna and stick to easy to pack, non-smelly foods like peanut butter sandwiches, crackers, trail mix, carrots, apple slices, celery sticks, and so forth.
3. AVOID ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE
I’m a nervous flier, so I’ll admit this one is tough for me. But alcohol and caffeine are incredibly dehydrating, and you don’t want to exacerbate that in the airplane’s dry recirculated air. If you must have caffeine, go for a lower level of caffeine and drink beverages like tea. Chamomile, green, jasmine, and early grey are good varieties to have. You can also go for decaf coffee for the placebo effect. And if you absolutely must have alcohol, avoid the hard stuff and enjoy a glass of red or white wine or beer. Your best bet, however, is to stick to water for the duration of the flight.
2. UPGRADE / FLY BUSINESS CLASS
If you’re fortunate enough to fly business, it will make the flight so much smoother. Business class seats have more leg room, the flight attendants are more attentive – heck, life is better all around in business class. But if you can’t fly business, see if you can upgrade your seat instead. Most airlines have economy plus options, where you can pay for extra leg room for a fee. Now, it’s usually only a few inches, but if you’re taller this will make a world of difference in leg room. More leg room makes for a smoother flight – which is synonymous with a faster flight.
1. BRING A LIGHT CARRY ON
Don’t be one of those people who bring a massive backpack or purse to stuff under your seat. This bag will inevitably become a hindrance on your entire flight. Whether you’re in business or economy, it’s just going to take up much needed leg space. Instead, bring only the basics in a relatively small bag – chapstick / moisturizing lotion, water bottle, your device, paperback books and magazines if you have them, and honestly — that should really be it. Take stock of what you’ll need on the flight before you depart — preferably a few days before. Believe me, your flight will go by a lot faster without a cumbersome carry on.
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