As exciting as traveling is, there are certainly some aspects of it that are less enjoyable. Lugging your suitcase up two flights of stairs in an elevator-less metro station, not being able to find your Airbnb, and long international flights are my least favorites. Still, at least for the flight portion, there are things you can do to make the experience better.
These are my most effective long haul flight tips and tricks. I hope you find some use of them!
What To Take On A Long Haul Flight
Before my recent trip to Japan, I purchased a new carry on bag and had it packed with all my airplane essentials three weeks before I my flight. I tend to be overly aware of the germs on a plane (especially the tray table, seat-back pockets, pillows, arm rests, and carpet) and I am always equipped with disinfectant of various kinds. These include, but are not limited to:
- Hand sanitizer
- Lysol wipes (for the tray table)
- Tissues and/or napkins
- SARS mask (this is maybe a bit extreme, but some people prefer it)
As for toiletries, I also keep a selection of chapstick or Aquaphor, a mini-toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash, healthy snacks, hand lotion, Melatonin, face wipes, eye mask, and maybe even some ear plugs.
If you want to be really prepared, like I do, you can even print out directions on how to get to your Airbnb or hotel from the airport, just in case your phone doesn’t work or you lose it. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Jet Lag Supplements
I gotta say, until about a year ago, I had never tried jet lag supplements, despite how passionately my sister recommended them. Once I did, however, I was low-key pissed at myself for waiting this long. My favorite brand of jet lag supplements is the homeopathic Miers Labs. The directions say to start taking it at the beginning of the flight and then follow it up every two hours until your plane lands. However, my sister and I found that it really works best if you take two or three tablets the night before your flight and two or three the day following your arrival.
Dress For Success
I always find a happy medium between my day to day clothes and straight up pajamas for my international flights. I never wear pants that are tight at the waist, rather I go with older and worn-in jeans or leggings. I also sport a comfy t-shirt, zip-up hoodie, boots, and warm socks. My feet and legs tend to get very cold on planes, so I will also pack a decent blanket and maybe a scarf to keep myself warm.
Don’t Be Late
It’s a pretty crappy feeling to miss a flight, and equally as stressful when you’re cutting it close, time-wise. That’s why I make sure I get to the airport with plenty of time to get through security, find my gate, recharge all my electronics, and relax before boarding. If you have an early morning flight, I also recommend getting up early to eat a hearty breakfast, stretch or work out, and double-check that you have everything you need for your trip.
Don’t forget your passport!
Avoid The Sickness
The air on a plane is terribly dry and this can have a negative impact on your immune system. In fact, 1 out of 5 people typically get sick after a flight. No one wants to start their trip off with a cold, so here are some ways that I try to keep myself healthy:
- Get plenty of sleep the night before
- Drink a ton of water (not from the tap, bottles only)
- Avoid any alcoholic beverages on the flight
- Avoid touching your face (this is a BIG no-no)
- Use hand-sanitizer often
- Take Vitamin C or immunity supplements up to three days before the flight
Don’t Be Afraid To Glare
Okay, hear me out. If you find yourself sitting next to someone who takes their stinky shoes off for the entire flight (as I did, both to and from Japan) or in front of a kid who won’t stop kicking your feet, it can honestly ruin your entire flight. I’m not too big on confrontation, so I’m not afraid to give people a death glare if they’re being disrespectful, noisy, or stinky. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really work on kids, so if you really can’t stand that kicking, you’ll probably have to tell one of their parents.
Never Too Much Entertainment
I will never forget the time I had my phone stolen in Amsterdam and then had to take a three-hour train back to Paris. I was absolutely out of my mind with boredom, as I had no books, iPad, or other form of entertainment. Whether you’re taking a train, bus, or flight, you’ll need to keep yourself busy in order to stay sane.
I always travel with an iPad because you can stock up on eBooks, movies, TV shows, podcasts, music, Duolingo lessons, and everything in between. Other than that, I keep a notebook and pen, perhaps one paperback book, and my phone on hand.
Get The Window Seat
Airplanes provide a rare opportunity to see the Earth from above. You’ve gone through all that trouble to get up in the air, so you might as well get a window seat so that you can see your departure and arrival city from incredible heights. Even if you have to pay an extra $30, I’d say it’s more than worth it.
One of my favorite all-time flights was when my friends and I went to Europe for three weeks in January of 2017. Honestly, what made it so amazing was how we took off. Our flight left at midnight on New Years and we saw all the fireworks going off over Los Angeles. They looked like tiny little lightbulbs popping out and it was incredible.
Pack Your Carry-On Lightly
No one likes lugging around a heavy backpack. It messes with your back, can slow you down quite a bit, and can make you extra irritable if anything goes wrong. In order to minimize your carry-on weight, pack as lightly as possible, only including things that you will need for your flight and immediate arrival.
The Post-Flight Clean Up
After every flight, and before I grab my luggage, I head to a bathroom in the airport to freshen up. I usually start by changing my entire outfit, all the way down to underwear and socks. Then I re-apply deodorant, wash or rinse my face, comb my hair, and brush my teeth. Ten-hour flights can leave you with flat, dry hair and a general feeling of gross-ness, and this fifteen-minute ritual will have you ready for the first part of your trip.
A long-haul or international flight doesn’t have to be a bad experience. In fact, it can be a great chance to catch up on some work, read a good book, or finally watch that movie that’s been on your list. As long as you’re prepared, that flight can act as a perfect beginning to your trip!