Flying can be stressful. Long-haul flights are even more stressful. No matter how calm your personality, flying over ten hours in economy class is going to make you slightly stressed. By being strategic with your planning and packing, long-haul flight survival in economy is possible. Here are my tips to take advantage of your time.
#1. Pick a Direct Flight If Possible
I love to travel. Saving money on travel means that I can have more adventures. So I fell victim to the trap of undervaluing my time to save money. I saw a cheap flight with two layovers, and decided to take advantage of the deal. After being bumped from one flight and having a second flight be canceled due to equipment problems, I ended up spending 10 hours at O’Hare. Did I mention that the United lounge was being renovated?
I have learned my lesson. It’s better to spend more money so that you will arrive rested at your destination. You will also be less likely to lose your luggage and won’t have to worry as much about flight delays, tight connections, and other hassles that come with multiple connecting flights.
#2. If You are Prone to Headaches, Pick a Boeing 787
When choosing a flight, look for information on the plane and the carrier. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has lower cabin pressure and higher humidity than other planes. If you are sensitive to altitude changes or humidity, choosing a 787 means that you will arrive at your destination feeling better.
Choosing the right carrier will also improve your comfort level. Google Flights displays information about leg room under flight information. For example, I found a flight on a Boeing 777 from Chicago to Tokyo with an economy seat with 31 inches of leg room. I found a second flight also on a Boeing 777 with a different carrier that had an economy seat with 34 inches of leg room. Three inches might not seem like a big deal, but it matters when you are sitting in the same seat for twelve hours.
#3. Be Strategic When Choosing A Seat
I prefer aisle seats for long-haul flights since I can get up easily to stretch my legs. However, if you have difficulty sleeping, a window seat may be your best bet. When traveling to different time zones, I try to get my internal clock on schedule with the new time zone. I use Jet Lag Rooster to help adjust my schedule during the week before the flight. As soon as I board the plane, I switch my watch to the new timezone and try to sleep or stay awake accordingly.
To sleep easier, I use a contoured eye mask for extra comfort. I also bring a memory foam pillow and use the supplied pillow as a lower back support. I use ear plugs or noise cancelling earbuds and a white noise app to help me get to sleep. You can choose different sounds such as air conditioner or pouring rain to help you fall asleep.
#4. Pack Your Carry-On With The Essentials
I keep my in-flight essentials in a small bag that I place under my seat. Besides an eye mask and headphones, I bring an extra pair of contacts, a portable toothbrush and toothpaste, make-up remover wipes, moisturizer, a water bottle, compression socks and some healthy snacks such as gluten-free chocolate protein bars or homemade trail mix. I also include a change of clothes if for some reason my flight is delayed.
#5. Bring Offline Work For Maximum Productivity
In plane Wi-Fi can be slow and patchy. I download any important documents and files beforehand to make sure that I will have access to my files. Evernote Premium can allow you to set certain notebooks as available offline. Writing projects are great for long haul flights. Place all of your essential documents in an Evernote offline notebook and take advantage of the uninterrupted time to concentrate on your task. For maximum productivity, I carry a portable powerbank to keep my devices charged during the trip.
#6. Use Apps to Make Your Airport Time Productive
I have written before on some of my favorite travel apps and how to cut stress out of travel. Here is another app to add to your arsenal: use LoungeBuddy to buy a day pass to an airport lounge. You will have a quiet(er) area to work while you are waiting for your flight.
#7. Don’t Worry: Your Flight Crew Will Be Well Rested
Are you an anxious flyer? Don’t worry. Long-haul flights have two crews that switch out during the flight so that you will have a rested crew during the entire flight. If you are curious, here is a tour of the hidden crew rest areas. I’m a little jealous. Some of the rest areas are better than first class!
If you feel yourself getting anxious, use a guided meditation to distract yourself during takeoff and landing.
#8. Hydration is a Must
Keeping hydrated is essential for avoiding headaches and jet lag. Bring a large empty water bottle or buy the largest water bottle you can find. Ask the flight attendant to refill it for you. Most flight attendants are happy to help you. On one flight I had a flight attendant suggest that I dump the left over juice from the peach cup that I had bought into the water bottle. She filled the water bottle up for me and I had free peach-infused water. Yum!
#9. Be Sure to Stretch and Move
After the seatbelt light goes off, get up and walk up and down the aisle to stretch your legs. You can also do some in-seat yoga stretches to help with muscle aches.
#10. Enjoy Some Downtime
Resist the temptation and don’t work the entire trip. Your brain needs downtime to work well. Take advantage of the free time you have to watch a movie or read a good book. I download a few movies onto my tablet and carry a book or magazine for takeoff and landing. You’ll arrive at your destination mentally refreshed.
What are your tips for surviving a long-haul flight? Let me know in the comments!