Tips for Surviving the Long-Haul Flight

If you’ve ever been on a plane for longer than six hours, you know the pain and suffering of the long-haul flight. You may even wonder how you ever survived the ordeal. There are problems like sleep deprivation, dehydration, and boredom, not to mention the risk for deep-vein thrombosis.
However, there are a few ways you can survive a long-haul flight with some comfort and creativity.
First, you’ll want to upgrade if possible. Relinquish all those frequent flyer points and score perks like seats with added legroom, fully reclining chairs, entertainment and extra space. At the very least, get into the Economy Plus section of a plane. This is not the time to cheap out on airfare.
Think long and hard about your seat choice. Your preference might change when you realize you’re going to be on the plane for a while. Do you want to have to climb over a sleeping person or have them climb over you? The seat you may like for your short rides may not be ideal for longer rides. And don’t forget the exit row seats. Check Seat Guru for help with your decision. If you buy your tickets with your chosen airline, you can usually choose your seats when you book the flight.
Next, figure out what you’ll do to pass the time. Granted, getting some work done may be ideal as your time will virtually be uninterrupted. However, you will want mindless entertainment to rest your brain. Consider binge-watching movies, so either pay for the plane’s headphones or download several movies to your tablet, laptop, or phone. A book is a great alternative, so upload those books you’ve been meaning to read on your tablet and start turning those virtual pages.
Other things to consider bringing to help with your comfort would be eye masks, earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, neck pillows and whatever else will provide some form of protection against noise, light, and neck pain. Should you feel the need to nap or sleep, go with it. You’ll feel a bit rested and will have killed some time in the process.
You may want to consider a sleep aid to get on a sleep schedule (or maintain your current one). Melatonin, a supplement, or prescription Ambien may help, but try them out at home to see how they work with your system. Tylenol PM or Benadryl are over-the-counter alternatives, too, but again, make sure you test them at home.
Be sure you doze off, make sure your valuables are hidden both deep inside your bag or on your person where they’re not easily grabbed.
It’s important to consider your health, too. Hydration is essential to maintain on any flight but crucial on cross-country and international ones. Consider drinking electrolyte solutions such as Gatorade along with water. Avoid getting completely diluted with water though, especially if you have medical issues. You may have to visit the lavatory more often too, and that’s a problem if you have the middle or window seat.
Drinking plenty of fluids—nonalcoholic—also helps prevent deep vein thrombosis or DVT. According to the National Institutes of Health, the risk of developing DVT (blood clots) is higher on longer flights (four hours or more). NIH encourages walking up and down the aisle, flexing and stretching your legs to encourage blood flow. Wear loose and comfortable clothing, too. Your doctor may also recommend other measures such as blood thinning medication or wearing compression stockings, so be sure to check with them first. Hydrate well with electrolyte drinks the night before your flight and avoid diuretics (coffee, chocolate, soft drinks as they contain caffeine) and alcohol before your flight, too.
And lastly, let’s talk about how to avoid the airplane cold. Your body’s compromised ability to deal with normal bacteria and viruses is what causes you to catch that post-flight bug. Germs are everywhere on a plane: tray tables, seatback pockets, seats, pillows, blankets and even the water in aircraft sinks because of sitting in holding bins. Your best defense is bacteria-killing wipes. Part of your pre-flight routine should include a wipe-down of your area. Wipe down the arms, tray table, touchscreen, and any other hard plastic surface around you. And don’t stick items into the seatback pocket. Those things may not have been cleaned recently, so who knows what’s in there.
How do you handle a long-haul flight? What do you do to pass the time and stay healthy? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.
Photo credit: EIHEITAI-EISHI (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)