Air Travel

Six Essential Tips to Surviving a Long Haul Flight

Long haul travel doesn't have to be tedious and uncomfortable

Arrive refreshed and ready to go.

With the rise of ultra long haul aircraft (yes that is the plural form of the word) like the Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ and the Airbus A350, long haul travel is definitively the way of the future. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has challenged aircraft manufacturers to build a plane that can fly from the east coast of Australia to London or New York non-stop.

The scenario: You’ve found an amazing airfare from Sydney to Los Angeles for an incredible price. The dreaded 14-hour economy class journey is ahead. How can this possibly be comfortable?

What’s in this for you: Your actions before and during the flight will impact your perception of time, space and comfort. Here are my six essential tips to survive a long haul flight and make your journey that little more enjoyable, even if you are up the pointy end sipping champagne in business or first class.

1. What to wear
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What you wear on board determines how comfortable you are en route. Think smart with loose, comfortable clothing that allows ease to sit, move and stretch out comfortably. Don’t underestimate the choice of footwear either. You don’t want to look at someone’s bare feet at 30,000ft and odds are they don’t want to see yours either. Find the comfiest shoes in your wardrobe. Personally, it’s my sneakers. Ditch the skinny jeans, heels or dress shoes, they can be worn at your destination. Wearing tight clothing will gradually increase the feeling of restricted movement and overtime the walls may just close in to appear closer than they are!

2. Carry-on is everything

Saying goodbye to your checked bag for 14 hours means careful selection is needed for what goes into your carry-on bag beyond the obvious passport, laptop, and earphones. Plan for all scenarios, the aircraft aircon may be set to Sahara heatwave or Antarctic blizzard and airlines rarely choose a temperature in between. Mistakes also happen, people spill things, bags get lost, you might find lunch inedible. I never travel without these essentials in my carry-on:

  • Sweater – if the aircon is set to polar breeze
  • Second shirt/shorts – I’ve had dinners spilled on me, and I’m not on fleek wearing braised beef. This is also insurance if checked baggage is delayed or lost
  • Pen – traveling internationally means there are forms to fill out for immigration
  • Power bank – the aircraft USB port won’t always work. Buy a cheap power bank to keep the charge at 100% in order to hit the ground running.
  • Lollies and Muesli Bars – just in case you get the munchies between meal services

Keep in mind that many countries now impose strict liquid and powder limits in your carry-on bag. To avoid drama and keep my bag well below the standard 7kg limit, I put all toiletries in my checked bag and drink plenty of water before arriving at the airport, and ask for bottled water onboard.

Carry-on Essentials
The bare minimum essentials for carry-on


3. Avoid the seating lottery

If I had a penny for every time I’ve seen or heard someone complaining they didn’t get the seat they wanted, I could afford an upgrade to Premium Economy. The complaint is generally followed by the airline staff saying something like ‘you haven’t pre-reserved a seat request’. If you value the view out the window or enjoy that little extra room in the aisle, then pre-select your desired seat. Many airlines are moving towards charging for seat selection depending on the type of airfare you’ve purchased. Agree or disagree with this practice all you like, you’ll be much better off a happy camper with your seat of choice for 14 hours rather than being grumpy stuck in the middle between two strangers!

4. Watch the time

‘I love jetlag’, said no one, ever. There is no silver bullet to beat it however a golden rule of long haul travel is to try and ‘slot’ into the destination time zone as soon as you can. For me, this is setting my watch before the plane takes off. Most onboard welcome announcements will tell you who the pilot is, how long the flight is going to take and the local time at the destination. Use this as a reminder to set your watch/phone to the destination straight away. If possible, plan your naps around your destination timezone. In the example below, when we take off at 11:15am in Sydney, I will convert this to LA time which is 4:15pm (depending on daylight saving for each country). With arrival at 6:05am I know I will want to aim to sleep as much as I can in the last few hours of the flight in order to maximise the full day upon arrival. Easier said than done? Yes. Impossible? No.

Virgan Aus SYD-LAX
Beat the jet lag as best you can, convert 11:15am Sydney time to LA time when you take off and plan your naps set to the LA time zone

5. Let me entertain you!

Many airlines now offer extensive entertainment systems with hundreds of hours of movies, TV and music onboard. Sometimes no matter how much content is loaded, you just might not fancy the latest Hollywood blockbuster or season seven of The Big Bang Theory…again. Don’t rely on the airline entertaining you the entire way. Being 2019, many streaming providers have made things easier than ever, by allowing downloads of TV shows and movies of your choice directly to your device. At the same time, download your favourite music and search your app store to find a few easy to navigate games. If you’re prone to being bored easily and you’ve booked a daytime flight, consider a window seat for an ever-changing landscape. If you’re still bored, go low tech and read a book. Maximising your options helps ensure you will always be entertained. As they say time flies when you’re having fun.

6. Please, go for a walk!

Personally, this is the most important activity on a long haul flight. The effects of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) are well documented and is a risk on longer flights. If sitting at the window or the middle, the person sitting in the aisle cannot expect you to stay stuck to your seat for hours on end, don’t be shy to get up occasionally. Go for a proper walk from the rear of the plane to the front. If you’re on a widebody aircraft with a large exit area, use it to stretch the back and leg muscles. You might feel a little (or very) awkward, but you need to take your own health seriously over how you might look for a minute to keep your body working.

These six essential tips to survive a long haul flight should have you feeling relaxed and ready to holiday from the moment you touchdown! There are many more tips and tricks out there which I’m excited to share. How do you manage long periods up in the sky? Let me know by commenting below!

Please note that products, services, and companies directly or indirectly mentioned in this article are used as examples and do not constitute my endorsement.

Feature photo captured @ sunrise over the Philippines en route to Hong Kong

©tylergoesplaces 2019

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