Are you planning a long-haul flight?
For most of us, the thought of jetting off to some far-flung country thousands of miles away is pure bliss, but before you get there, you need to get through the flight. We look at some long-haul flight tips that will help your trip to, well, fly by.
We all know that airplanes are dry environments, which can leave you feeling dehydrated and make the jetlag worse. So, go with the usual long-haul flight tips: don’t drink too much alcohol or caffeine and get water whenever you can. However, we advise that you go one step further and take water on board with you. Yes, you get free drinks and food on long haul flights, but you could spend your flight permanently thirsty, waiting for the drinks trolley to come around only to get a thimbleful of water.
You can get good hydration sprays, too – some airlines provide them onboard. Also, make sure you bring moisturiser (less than 100 ml tube or pot) and lip balm to help you stay soft and fresh during the flight. Eye drops can help, too.
Our long-haul flight tip: As soon as you get to through security, buy as much water as you can comfortably carry (within reason – aim for at least a litre per person), making sure you leave it sealed until you are on the plane. That way, you can control your own hydration and you won’t be torn between being incredibly thirsty and the oh-so-British worry that you are being “that” demanding passenger by asking for more water.
The sign of a successful long-haul flight is that you feel a little buzz of disappointment when you find out you are about to land, because you just want to finish the book, film or game. If you are travelling with children, keeping them entertained for hours on end is even more crucial, to prevent them (and you) from going stir crazy. Airlines have in-flight entertainment systems that have films, tv series’, games and news, so you should find something to keep you amused. If there are only a couple of films that take your fancy, save one of the good ones until the last three hours – these are the hours most likely to drag by. Preloaded tablets and e-readers and a good, old-fashioned book are great, too. Pack your charging cable in your hand luggage so you can charge your device on the plane.
Our long-haul flight tip: take the time to familiarise yourself with the airline’s entertainment system. You might find great diversions, such as live plane cameras or time-consuming games. For children (and adults!), pack comfy headphones as airline headphones are notoriously faulty and can fall out of little ears – not to mention their undetermined hygiene! If you want to watch a film together, bring a headphone splitter, too.
Choose your seats
Pre-booking seats can be a good idea to ensure that you are not separated from your group and that you get a comfortable position. Sometimes, a set number of leg-room seats are blocked off when you go to pre-book in case a passenger with special requirements needs them, but you can always ask to change when you check in (mention that you have a bad knee and you could do with a little extra leg room). If you are travelling as a pair, booking the window and aisle seats can be a good tactical move as people are unlikely to select a lone middle seat. If the plane is full, the person stuck in the middle will probably be happy to switch, rather than have you talking over them for 12 hours.
Our long-haul flight tip: many of the major airlines charge to pre-select seats. If you are travelling with a family, the cost could be well over £100 for all of you. Read the small print: most airlines state that they will do their best to make sure a child is seated with their adult. If that doesn’t work out, you have one of two options: 1) ask the person who IS next to your child to swap, or 2) enjoy your long-haul flight in peace, while someone else has to deal with the kids!
None of us want to travel in our pyjamas but, realistically, you are not likely to look like Posh and Becks on your flight either. Your chances of getting an upgrade because you are in heels and your best jeans are slim, to say the least, and you will regret wearing them well before the halfway mark. Opt for comfortable, cotton clothing that you can sit and sleep in with ease, but that doesn’t make you feel like a bag lady (or man). Choose shoes, sandals or flip flops that you can get on and off easily, and that have a little room to accommodate the inevitable swollen feet.
Our long-haul flight tip: it’s all about the layers! If you are flying for more than 10 hours, you are likely to be going from one extreme to the other as far as climate is concerned. Hoodies and jumpers make great improvised pillows or blankets, and can be tied around the waist while you’re on the move.
We have all been there: you painstakingly make sure that all your carry-on items fit in one small bag, because you can’t bear the humiliation of being stopped at security, only to see someone with a suitcase, a handbag AND a backpack. The first thing to do is to check with your flight provider to see what you can bring as hand luggage. Usually, especially for long-haul flights, you can have one holdall of specified measurements, and a “purse” (handbag/man-bag to us). In your smaller bag, pack your documents, valuables and any other small items that you want to keep handy for the duration of the flight. Put other things: moisturiser, spare clothes, and your “just in case” outfit- in case your luggage gets lost – in the holdall. Put snacks in a carrier bag inside your holdall, so they are easy to take out and store under your seat before you stow the holdall. Stow the small bag under your seat (loop your foot through the strap if you plan on sleeping) and put the holdall in the overhead locker.
Our long-haul flight tip: you never can tell whether you will feel hot or cold on a flight. So, pack socks (flight socks are best, to help prevent DVT). A large fleece blanket may seem ridiculous, particularly if you are going to a tropical destination, but they can vastly increase your comfort, they roll up pretty small, and can double as a beach rug when you are there. Fleece is also incredibly light and quick-drying, making it the perfect travel accessory, both on the flight and when you reach your destination.
Ah, the sleep. How many of us have said “it’s ok, I’ll just sleep on the flight”, only to arrive, 12 hours later, red-eyed and exhausted? The trick for sleeping well is to not expect it, and to be prepared. Consider sleeping aids of the natural, prescribed, or over-the-counter variety, and bring a few basics with you to help you sleep. Most airlines provide sleep masks, earplugs, a blanket and pillow, but often they are not great: the blanket scratchy and small; the mask made of nylon; the pillow too flimsy; and the earplugs just ridiculous. You don’t want to overpack, so prioritise: if you can cope with the mask and pillow, just bring a pillow case to ensure hygiene, but invest in earplugs that you have tried and know work for you. You can get great, compact travel pillows these days, and it is always worth bringing a spare so you have one to sleep on and one to sit on, if the seats are uncomfortable.
Our long-haul flight tip: first up: time flies when you are asleep, so sleep when you can. Forget the film, the game, the book, even the food; if you feel tired, let yourself drop off. If you are planning on using sleep aids, make sure you try before you fly as in rare cases, they can have the opposite effect and can make you hyperactive (this is especially important if you are planning on giving your child a sleep aid, but make sure you ask your GP for advice).
The best bit of advice on long-haul flights is to treat your journey as part of the adventure. If you are going long-haul, you are likely to spend 30 hours or more in airports or travelling. Make it part of your holiday: relax, enjoy and soak up the feeling of not having to do anything, and of being waited on hand and foot for a while.