I travel often which has given me lot of experience in how to minimise the travel stress and strain that can occur. I just flew from London to Johannesburg on Emirates, which is 6 hours to Dubai and 7 hours to JHB with a 2 or 3 hour stop off. I’ve also flown a few times between London and Australia, which is a 25 hour journey door to door. Exhausting.
Aside from flying business class wherever possible, here are the many ways you can make your next long haul flight much more bearable.
Book your seats online – close to the front, without anyone sitting next to you. I like to be able to see a diagram of the flight so I can pick my seats, I always try to pick seats close to the front so that you can be off the flight first and don’t have to stand, cramped in the isles for 30mins while the rest of the plane dis-embarks. If I can help it, I try to book a window seat on an empty row so I can lie down and sleep, there is a knack to doing this though.
Always check your seats the day before or the day you’re flying to make sure no one else has booked a seat on your empty row, if so, see if you can move your seat to another empty row. Long haul flights often have empty rows. Even if you have to move further back in the plane, I would rather be able to lie down along a row of seats than get off the flight first. At the very least, book a seat with no one next to you, I simply hate being so close to strangers for such a long time.
Pack tight and light and ask a guy to help you if your bag is just too heavy, they are always happy to help. I try and take the smallest suitcase I can. It is an absolute pain to have to wrestle with a huge and heavy suitcase up and down stairs and escalators and the like, especially if you are using the London underground to get to and from the airport!
I tightly roll all of my clothes and pack them over my shoes at the bottom of the case. You can fit a lot more clothes in this way, rather than folding everything.
If I can help it, I travel with a carry on suitcase and a handbag. That’s it. No checked in luggage, I know, but it can be done. If I have to check in luggage, then I only ever take my handbag on the flight with me, saves time not jostling with everyone else trying to get stuff out of the over-head lockers.
Bring socks in your handbag. I know on Virgin flights they provide you with socks (at least they did the last time I flew with them a while ago) but if you’re not sure if you will get free socks, then bring your own, preferrable fluffy and warm.
The air con in the cabin can freeze your feet (especially if, like me, you wear ballet flats) and I just generally feel more comfortable with a pair of socks hugging my feet.
Also, if you get to lie across a few seats, I think its respectful to other passengers not to have your bare feet dangling near the aisle where everyone can see them. Especially if you are flying through or near countries where bare feet are offensive.
Take a big bottle of water. I usually always fly Emirates where I know the staff will be really friendly and usually don’t mind fetching me a glass (or three) of water if I’ve run out of water. My last flight, I didn’t bring enough water and I was shriveling up like a prune!
Now I know, buy a large bottle of water right before you board your flight, not before you go through security though or you will have to throw it away and you don’t want to carry something heavy around waiting to board. Trust me, things become twice as heavy inside airports!
Dont drink alcohol or coffee or soda’s. Again, flights are super dehydrating, you really don’t need that mini bottle of wine and will feel a lot better and more sprightly when you reach your destination if you just stick to water and fruit juice.
Choose the vegetarian meal. Flying really takes it out of you and meals with meat in them are heavy and take longer to digest, something which can become uncomfortable in your intestines when you’re sitting for long periods of time. The vegetarian option means no heavy work for your digestive system to battle through while you’re restricting it.
I generally stay away from the white rolls that come with a meal too as they can cause bloating and gas, not to mention they have zero nutrition as they have been processed to death.
Take face wipes (I LOVE these ones), (tinted) moisturiser, glasses & spare contact lenses (if you wear contact lenses), mascara and hair brush in your handbag. Airplane cabins are extremely dehydrating, they actually suck the moisture out of your body and you become thirsty and your skin becomes dry.
I like to take out my contact lenses and wipe my face clean with a face wipe, then slather on the moisturiser, and again when needed.
Of course I never go anywhere without wearing mascara or else I look like I’m home on the range plain and I wasn’t given pretty eyes to not dress them up! Also, all the awkward sleeping creates chaos for my hair, so I always pack my hairbrush.
Get a comfortable neck pillow. I was actually told to do this by my Emirate VIP air hostess friend (who’s wedding in Thailand I will be attending later in the year!). I hate being woken up because my head keeps hitting my shoulder or worse, the person next to me!
Neck pillows fill up the gap between your head and the window, keep your head upright, and can be hooked on your arm or handbag strap when walking around airports. Mine had a button so I could secure it round my handbag strap without losing it.
Bring a book or better yet, a Kindle or iPad if you want to read. Personally I find I don’t enjoy reading on flights, I prefer to watch movies or sleep but I always bring my iPad incase I have an urge to read. It’s lightweight and can contain thousands of books.
Try to sleep as much as you can. I once flew Johannesburg to London and took a strong sleeping tablet with a strong whiskey courtesy of the air hostess, a 12 hour flight became 2 hours, I was completely out of it for the whole flight – bliss!
Bring ear plugs incase you’re near screaming kids or snoring dudes. I’m a light sleeper and absolutely cannot sleep if I can hear repetitive or annoying sounds, like snoring and crying babies. I never go anywhere new without my earplugs and not those foam types either, I go with the putty type ear plugs, the only thing that really blocks out sound. Even if I’m not sleeping, I don’t want to listen to children squawking for hours on an already taxing flight.
Wear smart but comfortable clothes, especially slip on shoes like ballet flats for when you go through security. The less you carry the faster and easier it is to get through security. Handbag and coat should be the maximum.
I also find the smarter you dress, the better you are treated and you want the air hostesses to treat you nicely, believe me. So, don’t wear uncomfortable belts and tight clothes that will become constricting as your body swells in the altitude.
Bring a dried fruit and soaked nuts mixture to snack on between meals. This is something you prepare before your flight, almonds are best soaked in a bowl of water in the fridge over night, simply drain them the next day and mix with sunflower seeds and your favourite dried fruits.
This is a healthy and moisture rich (not to mention vitamin rich) snack which you will enjoy between meals when you get peckish on your flight, and you will, especially when you don’t know when your next meal is coming!
What do you do to make your long haul flight comfortable?