Whoever coined the phrase “It’s about the journey, not the destination” has clearly never been on a long flight. The hassle in the airport as you make your way through security and rush to ensure you don’t miss your flight is stressful enough. Pair that with sitting for hours on end listening to crying babies, trying to stretch out so that your legs aren’t cramped, having to scramble over strangers to get to the bathroom, feeling nauseous when you hit turbulence, being hit with the pungent scent of your neighbor’s bare feet, and feeling your eardrums crack on takeoff and landing, and you’ll be desperate to escape.
For most, unless you’re flying high in first class, commercial airlines are a necessary evil. They’re how you get from point A to point B, but no one really enjoys being trapped in a plane for more than a few hours. I doubt airlines will ever evolve to the extent of being more enjoyable than the destination, but if you’re properly prepared, there are some ways you can make the experience less painful.
1. Get your gear in order
The right gear can eliminate a lot of common in-flight annoyances. Some staples you’ll want to have on hand are an eye mask (for when your neighbor refuses to turn the overhead light off when you want to sleep), a neck pillow (to make sleeping in a cramped barely-reclinable chair slightly more comfortable), and earplugs (to shut out the sounds of snoring and screaming children). Some airlines provide blankets, but if you can fit one in your carryon bag, it’s a good idea to bring your own. Airplanes tend to blast the AC and the thin piece of fabric most airlines provide won’t compare to whatever you bring from home.
2. If you get nauseous easily, take Dramamine before the flight
Turbulence, while perfectly normal and not a cause for concern, is one of the most unpleasant things that can happen on a long flight. You’re uncomfortable enough as it is, and then you’re just supposed to remain in your seat like nothing’s wrong while the plane shakes up and down like a carnival ride. It’s enough to make some people feel ill; if you’re easily nauseous, prepare in advance by taking a motion sickness medicine such as Dramamine before the flight. The last thing you want is to be throwing up in the paper barf bags the plane so graciously provides.
3. Bring something to entertain yourself
Most large commercial airlines provide in-house entertainment these days for long flights, but you’ll probably get bored watching movies and tv shows the whole time, so bring other forms of entertainment as well, such as music, books, and magazines. You’ll have plenty of time to get through that book you’ve been trying to finish…and maybe even start another one as well!
4. Chew gum
To avoid that disconcerting feeling of your ears “popping” on takeoff and landing as you rapidly change altitude due to atmospheric pressure, chew gum. This can help counteract the pressure you’ll feel in your ears and the temporary hearing loss people sometimes experience.
5. Avoid the middle seat
If you get to pick your seats when booking your flight, go for the aisle seat or the middle seat. If you’re flying alone, the seat nearest the aisle is your best bet so you can avoid climbing over people and having them climb over you whenever one of you needs to get up to use the bathroom.
6. Power up
You may not be able to take calls from your phone while you’re in the air, but if you’re like most people, you can’t survive more than a few hours away from your electronic devices. So bring your chargers to keep them powered during the flight. It’s a good idea to bring external charging devices and extra batteries as well, just in case the plane doesn’t have electrical outlets.
7. Dress comfortably and wear layers
You never know what the temperature on the plane will be, so it’s best be on the safe side and assume it will either be an arctic chill or a sauna and not a comfortable in-between. Therefore, dress in layers so that you can remove layers and put them back on accordingly. You’ll also want to be as comfortable as possible for a long flight, so avoid itchy, abrasive fabrics or clothes that are too tight.
8. Pack hand sanitizer
When you’re in a confined space with stale,recirculating air and hundreds of other people for any amount of time, you’re at risk of picking up germs. Avoid getting sick by packing some hand sanitizer. You are allowed to bring a small, liquid hand sanitizer on board as long as it adheres to air safety regulations.
9. Bring snacks and water
Another thing you should do to stay healthy is to pack plenty of snacks and water. Even if the airline provides food and drink, you should have the freedom to eat and drink according to your own schedule, not the flight crew’s. It’s also important, for your health, to stay hydrated, so you may want to purchase some water bottles in the airport after you go through security.
10. Prepare for jet lag
If you’re traveling to a different time zone, jet lag is pretty much inevitable. But you can make the transition a little easier by preparing for it in advance. To avoid wasting the first few days of your vacation in an exhausted daze, prepare for jet lag by adjusting your sleep patterns in the days leading up the flight, booking your flight so it arrives during the day, and generally getting enough rest.