Easing the Challenges of Long-Haul Flights

Almost without exception, the flight to your destination is the least enjoyable aspect of travel.

Minimal leg and elbow room, mediocre dining options, the obligatory incessantly-crying child and a sleepless night are the makings of a long-haul nightmare. Even in first class, with its capacious cocoons and voluptuous cushioning, dry eyes, dry skin, sore throat and potential jetlag are not the nicest way to start your annual vacation.

However, for seasoned travelers, such as our Travel Designers, even the longest of flights can be a breeze and an experience you might almost call enjoyable… almost!

Long-haul flights are an unavoidable necessity if we are to enjoy far-flung destinations and unconventional cultures. With a collection of simple tips, we will make your flight sail by, allowing you to arrive rested, fresh and ready to begin your adventure. 

Whatever length of flight you may be embarking on, don’t book your next ticket without first reading my five top tips for comfortable, easy air travel.

In Flight by Tim Gouw from Pexels

1. Pick Your Seat

Though they may all be the same price, all seats are most certainly not equal.

By making your reservation as early as possible, you will have the greatest choice of seats available throughout the airplane. Aisle seats are always a good idea. Many people prefer the window, allowing you both a view and a wall to rest your head against, but the inconvenience of needing to ask your fellow passengers to make way every time you need to stretch your legs often outweighs this benefit.

Travel Designer, Kim Killick, suggests “booking the back of the plane as there is less movement, cleaner bathrooms, it’s often a bit emptier, and due to their shape some planes only have two seats instead of three so there’s no concern about being stuck in the middle.”

Our Inside Sales expert, Graeme Parker, also suggests an aisle seat, though in the middle of the plane, so as to have bathroom access in both directions.

A little-known trick with aisle seats: reach underneath the arm rest all the way to the back and you may well find a button to raise it, giving you more leg room and easier access and exit to your seat.

There are a couple of exceptions to these rules, however. If you are taller than the average passenger, opt for an emergency exit seat. You’ll have to accept some simple terms and conditions and run through a one-minute safety check, but it is well worth it. Lastly, if you are on a shorter transfer flight, opt instead for a seat at the front of the cabin. First in, last out!

Pexels Sourav Mishra 1309644

2. Make Your Bed

Some flights will offer you a comfort kit on longer flights and the small investment is worth making. Comprising socks, blanket, eye mask, a small pillow, sometimes even hydrating spitz and moisturizer, these comfort kits vary greatly from airline to airline, but they do offer many of the basics for a good sleep. Graeme likes to take this one step further, investing in a high quality, compact sleeping pillow. 

With so many air miles to her career, Ruthie Detwiler is all too familiar with long-haul flights. For her, along with essentials such as an eye mask and large scarf of thicker sarong, pharmaceuticals are essential, but don’t go over the top. A mild over-the-counter sleeping pill can often be a blessing, but too strong and you will be stiff, aching and still on a different planet when you arrive, increasing your likelihood of jetlag.

Emirates First Class In Flight
On Emirates Airlines, First Class is so indulgent you might wish never to arrive!

3. Create Your Cocoon

When quizzing my staff about their favorite in-flight tips, I mentioned that I always made sure not to forget my foot stool, much to their perplexity. There are numerous options to be found in quality travel stores or on Amazon, but my inflatable footrest has given me many flights in far greater comfort.

Though perhaps not viable for the longer-limbed, a footrest eases back pain and helps you find that cozy, curled-up position that allows you to drift off with ease. 

Where I won’t fly without my little stool, Travel Designer Pam Longhoff’s essential item is her noise-cancelling headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones used to only be available in the large headset style, which can be bulky and uncomfortable if trying to rest your head. However, in the last year or so, many companies have created incredibly effective in-ear headphones with optional noise cancelling, such as Apple’s new AirPods Pro or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds2

Not only do these allow you to listen to tranquil meditation music to help you drift away, they also block out external noise, including that crying baby and the constant drone of the aircraft.

Apple Airpods Pro

4. Stay Dry, But Not Too Dry

Hydration, or lack of it, is a major issue on airplanes. You need to drink plenty, but too much and you’ll be excusing your way to the bathroom every 30 minutes. Take regular small sips of water rather than lengthy drinks to maintain hydration. Tempting though it may be, declining the offer of alcohol is also a good idea. One drink with a meal isn’t so bad, but several can increase dehydration. The same is also true of coffee and some soft drinks, so opt instead for herbal teas, fruit juice or best of all, plain old water. And don’t open those delicious, salty peanuts!

In-flight dehydration also extends to your throat, sinuses and skin. Candies often increase your saliva production, keeping your throat and sinuses fresh and lubricated. Opt for natural, low-sugar candies if possible, as the artificial ones can have the reverse effect.

Your skin will simply love you for remembering a hydrating spritz and moisturizer, if you haven’t received them in your comfort kit. I will categorically refuse to fly without my little ‘shower in a bottle’, and the cool, revitalizing spray is so wonderfully calming, as well as keeping your skin fresh and healthy.

Also, take the time to wash properly after your meal. Brushing your teeth improves oral hydration, while a refreshing splash to the face, even a change of clothes, can work absolute wonders in helping you feel fresh and vibrant.

In flight Drink

5. Leave the Lag Behind

Jet lag can drag on for days. It’s exhausting and debilitating, yet while some suffer more than others, there are some good tips, in addition to the ones above, for easing it or even avoiding it completely.

As soon as you can after boarding, begin to familiarize yourself with the destination time zone. Change your watch to the local time, consider your habits throughout the flight according to destination time and try your best to forget what time it is ‘at home’. This will encourage your body to sync to your new schedule as quickly as possible.

Try to exercise prior to departure, even two days before, as regular exercise improves your ability to sleep. Likewise, when on board stretch regularly when awake. The feeling of stagnation and immobility only increases lethargy, so take a quick stroll around the cabin when possible. Similarly, big, heavy meals can cause your body to slow down, increasing your chances of jet lag at your destination. Eating light, simple meals keeps your body feeling lighter and fresher.

When you arrive at your destination, it’s more than likely that you will feel a little jaded. However, don’t allow yourself to fall asleep if not the appropriate time of day. Take five or ten minutes to meditate or simply breathe slowly and rhythmically, then shower, shave if needed, change your clothes and step out into the world. Fresh air and daylight are both vital in alleviating or avoiding jet lag, recalibrating your body’s circadian rhythms, and this will also establish a routine of daily activity that your body will quickly recognize as normal, even if it’s 3 a.m. back home!

Lastly, try your best to go to sleep at your usual bedtime in your new timezone, or as close to it as possible. In other words, if you usually sleep at 9pm at home, do so at 9pm local time in your new destination. Going to bed too early, especially if it is still daylight, will only confuse your body further and potentially even exacerbate your jet lag.

Jet Lag In Flight, Happy Travel Tips

Long-haul flights can be taxing but, until they make supersonic flight a reality, they are a necessary discomfort if we wish to explore foreign lands. However, with these handy gems of advice, your next flight will be as comfortable, acceptable, even enjoyable as possible.

Bon voyage!