How to survive long-haul flights

I wish I was one of those people that can sleep anywhere. I have some friends that think long-haul flights are an opportunity to catch up on sleep.  How do they do it?? I’m lucky to snag some restless sleep in 30 minute increments!

If you can sleep on a plane pretty easily, no need to worry about this post.  It doesn’t apply to those lucky few.

Everyone else – well, we have to figure out how to spend 8 or more hours in a cramped, dry, tube.

The longest flight I’ve ever taken was 12 1/2 hours.  Eesh.  That’s where I learned my mental stamina for long-haul flights starts to wane after 8 or so hours.  Come the tenth hour, I’m downright antsy.

I find myself experiencing a few problems on long-haul flights:

  1. Boredom
  2. Discomfort – either from being cold, hungry, or forced in to generally the same physical position for a third of a day
  3. Inability to sleep

If you can find ways to squash each of these problems, your long haul flight may become marginally less miserable.

Boredom

Most long-haul flights I’ve been on have excellent entertainment options.  The best TV series or new movie releases are usually available, so that makes it easy to stay entertained.

I always pack my Kindle Fire tablet, too, so I can read or watch my own movies at my leisure.

To prevent boredom, I recommend:

  • Your favorite headphones
  • Personal book or movie options (stored somewhere compact, like a tablet or cell phone)
  • Cell phone games -or- some other portable gaming system, like a Nintendo Switch
  • Guidebooks, if you haven’t planned your trip much

Discomfort

I find discomfort to be the worst part of being stuck on a plane.  Sure, I get bored, but the antsy-ness is mostly due to being stuck sitting in a seat that grows more uncomfortable with each passing hour in a tube filled with recycled air.  I usually end up either hot or cold, too, depending on cabin conditions.

To prevent discomfort, I recommend bringing:

  • Some kind of jacket.  You can put it on if you get chilly or use it as a cushion if your tush needs a break from Economy class comfort
  • A reusable water bottle.  You should drink more water than you think you need.  Drink water any time a beverage is offered to you by the Flight Attendants, and drink more water while you’re at it.  This will give you an excuse to get up and stretch (aka use the restrooms) and you’ll stay hydrated.
  • Moderately healthy snacks, and maybe one unhealthy snack.  Most of the time, transatlantic flights load you up on food.  One of my recent flights, however, only served one meal and two snacks – for a twelve hour flight! Having some granola bars, nuts, or cheese – plus a chocolate bar 🙂 – can make the flight a little more bearable.
  • Lotion, cuticle oil, and/or chapstick – because no one wants to feel dry for 10 hours.
  • Nail clippers and/or nail files – because hang nails are extra annoying when you can’t do anything about them.
  • Primping products – Tic Tacs, face or body wipes, peppermint facial spray (it’s like mouthwash for your skin), a travel hairbrush, and deodorant can help remove some of that grungy feeling.  I always go primp just about an hour before landing.

And, finally –

Inability to sleep

I’ve tried everything short of prescriptions to sleep on an airplane.  Nothing has ever given me restful sleep – it’s just made me feel groggy and drowsy for my entire flight and entire first day.

Because of that, I don’t personally recommend taking any supplements.  If you aren’t able to get at least 4-6 hours of solid sleep, it’s my opinion that those supplements make functioning harder.

What has helped me catch a little sleep is:

  • A nice, neck supporting travel pillow.  This one keeps me from drooling on my neighbors or getting an achey neck.
  • Good ear plugs.  Cancelling out the screaming children and coughing passengers is important!
  • Comfortable eye mask.  I like this one because it keeps my eyelashes from getting caught when I open my eyes.

A drink or two may help, as well – just be careful not to overdo it.

And, one last thing related to sleep: be an opportunist.  Usually I find myself enjoying the free entertainment too much.  I’ll feel myself get drowsy and I check my show or movie and say “I’ll nap after this 30 minute episode is done.”  Make a vow to yourself that you will snag some zzz’s whenever the mood hits – because, if you’re anything like me, the drowsiness will pass as soon as “Young Sheldon” is done.

Do you have any advice to add?

2 thoughts

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