How To Survive a Long Haul Flight – 10 Tips

There’s nothing like the feeling of jumping on a plane to visit faraway places.  The excitement starts as soon as you get to the airport.  International airports are filled with travellers from around the world.  Some you’ll find sleeping, others waiting excitedly for their planes.  The moment your flight is called you realise this is it.  You are on your way.  You also know that the flight ahead of you will be a long one, but you are eager to get to your destination along with hundreds of other people.  The realisation sets in, “I’m not going to be able to get off this thing for a very long time”.

Now being a girl from down under, everywhere we go in the world is a long haul flight and I’ve been on more than my fair share of them (I’ve become very saavy with my frequent flyer points, but that’s a story for another day). I am also a survivor of a very bad Deep Vein Thrombosis that almost took me away a few years ago.  I have learnt quite a lot about survival on long haul flights and how to manage your health and sanity while flying.  Here’s what works for me:

Business Class - Etihad1 Look for Business Class Deals for the long haul component of your trip – and travel economy on other sectors.

Some of these deals can cost not much more than an economy ticket and the points you can earn with some airlines mean that you get a free trip out of it. If you are a frequent flyer, you may also get an upgrade at the airport. No harm in asking.

It’s pretty easy to survive long haul in Business Class.

2. If you can’t afford business class, pretend! 

Take along a little bag of special things that make you feel a bit special.  Make sure you’ve got some ear plugs and a sleep mask in your kit.

3. If you can select your seat – choose the aisle.  

I’m a fan of window seats but not on long haul flights.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t see out a window on these flights as the crew usually insist that the window shades are closed for most of the flight anyway.  An aisle seat allows you to get up and stretch your legs, go to the toilet or find a snack in middle of the night.  There is nothing worse on your health or sanity than waiting for the people next to you to wake up before you can use the bathroom or stretch your legs.

Pick the aisle on long haul flights4. Tell the airline at check in that you have a bit of a problem and need to be able to access the toilet quickly.

I know this is a bit tricky but by doing so you are often given a seat with more leg room for free.  I’ve used this one so many times, and it’s kind of true.  Just be careful they don’t sit you next to a bulkhead that’s fitted with a cot.  I certainly don’t have anything against babies, but 14 hours sitting next to one can be uncomfortable for both you and their parents.

5. Drink plenty of water and limit your alcohol and coffee intake.

Yes that extra glass of bubbly might sound enticing but your health is more important. Besides who wants to be that obnoxious drunk on the plane.  Coffee too, dehydrates you and has the added bonus of not allowing you to sleep if you’ve had too much.

6. Try not to over eat.

Overeating on a plane comes with some unpleasant consequences for you and your fellow traveller.  Nothing worse than having a bad case of wind or worse at 40,000 feet.

7. Dress nicely, but comfortably.

A nice loose fitting dress and a pair of tights, teamed with a lovely scarf not only make you look good, but make the journey much more comfortable. Wearing flight compression socks will minimise your risk of the nasties.

8. Trick your brain into making you fall asleep.

I’m very tired and I’d like to go to sleep, I’m very tired and I’d like to go to sleep.

9. If you can’t sleep pretend you are at a movie marathon.

Watch those movies that you haven’t had a chance to see. Pretend you are at a movie marathon.

10. Make sure you get up and go for a walk regularly, and make sure you stretch.

Take this one seriously, from one who knows you must must must make sure your blood doesn’t get a chance to pool and clot.

No matter where you are on the plane, remember, it’s all part of the experience of your adventure.  Before you know it you will be at your destination.

Happy flying!