Flying the "friendly" skies: How to survive a long-distance flight

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Author: Nymala Ingasy


I've traveled on planes most of my life. My first plane trip came when I was only 8 weeks old and I've been traveling off and on ever since. The longest flight I've ever been on was the 12-hour flight .from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, but there are longer flights out there. Having spent so much time in a steel tube at 30,000 feet in the air, I've developed a few tricks to survive in relative comfort. I thought it would be a good idea to share some hints and tips on how to survive a long plane trip.

1) Hydration, hydration, hydration! It sounds really silly, but the recycled air in a plane is very dry. I've seen some ladies mist themselves, others use moisturizer while in flight, but the simplest way to keep yourself hydrated is to drink water, lots of water. Bring your own bottle on board. Bite the bullet and pay for a larger bottle in the airport or bring an empty bottle from home. The flight attendants come around during the flight with water pitchers and small plastic cups, but they will refill your bottle without much fuss. Keep drinking even until you think you'll slosh. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later.

2) Avoid, avoid, avoid! Because you're high in the sky, dealing with thin, dry air, it's better to avoid things like caffeine and booze mid-flight. This can be difficult because of the temptations. Airlines (generally) don't charge you for alcohol on international flights. On Air New Zealand, they came through during dinner service, holding bottles of red and white kiwi wines aloft, ready to pour if you asked for it. It's ok to have *a* glass of Coke with dinner or *a* glass of wine, but caffeine is dehydrating, and can make jet lag worse, so try not to overdo it. Alcohol can affect you more in the air and your hangover can be worse, so be careful there too.

3) The internal clock. Jet lag can be awful. When I flew to Norway in January, I fell asleep at odd hours for the first few days, which was embarrassing, but it can be a lot worse. As soon as I sit down in my seat on a long haul flight, I use the "Indiana Jones" map screen (the screen that shows a map of where the plane is currently flying) to set my watch's time to my destination's, and then I take my watch off. There's little point in checking your watch while you're in flight and it can be disorienting. You can always check the map screen if you want to know where you are in the world. Acting like you are currently at the same time at your destination helps a lot with recovering from jet lag.

4) I like to move it, move it! DVT, short for deep vein thrombosis, is totally a thing, and can be deadly. When you're crammed into an airline seat for a long trip, your legs can swell, and this can cause blood clots to form. The best way to combat it is to move. Do a few in-seat exercises, some stretches, move your legs, and get up to walk to the bathroom or the galley if you can. If you move every once in a while in flight, you'll be in much better shape when you arrive.

5) Dress for comfort. During a return flight from Auckland one year, I met the rock and roll grandma. She had dyed blond hair, bright red lipstick, a leopard print top, and skin-tight black leather pants. Don't do that. It's a bad idea, not to mention the scariness of looking at this lady for 12 hours. Dress warmly and comfortably with shoes that you can loosen or take off during the flight and clothing that isn't constrictive. I also bring a light sweater that I can zip up, especially if they don't provide a blanket.

6) Entertain thyself! Airlines today usually have entertainment right in your seat. On my flight home from Norway, Air Canada had tv shows, movies, music, and games at the touch of a screen. You aren't always guaranteed an entertainment system, though. My flight back from Amsterdam had nothing in the seat backs and were showing an anemic set of movie choices for 7 hours. It's a good idea to bring your own entertainment. I also recommend a portable charger, a sleep mask, ear plugs or earphones, and a travel pillow.

There are lots of tips and tricks to making a long flight more bearable, and a bit of discomfort shouldn't stop you from going places. Half the fun of the trip is simply getting there! Happy travels!

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