The passenger next to you might get up every 20 minutes or everyone flying with you could be really loud. But that’s just bad luck. Most of what you need to survive a long flight comfortably are things you can anticipate and control. Whether you’re traveling cross-country or overseas, follow these three tips for a pleasant trip:
Watch What You Consume
Seven-hour flight? Or more? It’s so easy to consider long hours spent on an overbooked airplane as your chance to booze it up or eat salty snacks you’d never touch at home. But either strategy can backfire. When you drink even a small amount of alcohol on an airplane, you run two risks. Wine, a cocktail or beer served on a plane can contribute to the dehydration so common with airplane travel. Your body also has a reduced ability to absorb oxygen in flight because of the decreased pressure in the cabin. That puts you at extra risk for overreacting to alcohol in amounts your body can ordinarily handle. And if none of that worries you, what about sleep? Alcohol is a diuretic. Just as you’re settling down for a snooze, it will wake you up again to hit the lavatory. Better beverage choices include fruit juices or bottled water you purchase after you’ve made it through the security check. Just be careful of drinking carbonated beverages, because they can make you gassy mid-flight.
You also need to watch what you eat on a long flight for maximum comfort. Instead of relying on the airline’s menu, which can be heavy on the salt and low on protein and veggies, pack your own food. Good choices include dried fruit, whole grain bagels, or wraps made with crisp vegetables and lean protein, like chicken. Aim to eat at least a small portion of protein and carbs every couple of hours. This will balance your energy, help you sleep and put you in a better mood.
Dress for Comfort, Not for Style
If it will help you relax your standards, remember you probably won’t see the people who share your long flight ever again. But even if you are riding with two or three business colleagues the whole way, it’s still to your benefit to banish uncomfortable clothing for the duration of the flight. First comes practical footwear. For any flight that exceeds a couple of hours, you’ll want shoes that are easy to slip on and off and easy to walk in. Because you will want to get up and stretch your legs every 90 minutes or so, to avoid possible blood clots. Also, pick shoes that you can wear to race through the terminal just in case your connector is delayed or it takes a long time to make it through security.
As for an outfit to go with these shoes, think loose, even baggy. All those fresh-pressed business shirts, stylish belts or skirts with a defined waistband are not your friend in this situation. Yoga pants, upscale sweats, stretchy shirts or maybe a moisture-wicking t-shirt topped with a zippered jacket make good sense when you’ll be riding in a plane for a long time. Bring a lightweight wrap like a shawl or nylon jacket in case it gets chilly on the plane. Don’t wear anything that’s too large for you, though, because those extra folds of fabric can catch on other surfaces or bunch up on you while you’re trying to sleep. And make sure your waistband is comfy, so you can twist and turn to get comfortable to nap.
Long Flight Hack: What to Pack
A big part of playing the long-flight comfort game is knowing what to pack. This strategy has several components. First, while you’re still at home, make sure you know precisely what the airline will let you carry aboard. And learn the acceptable dimensions for luggage so you’re not surprised when you check in. Then make sure to pack as much as you can within whatever bags you will check. It really eases both the stress of flying and the discomfort involved in toting luggage during the flight if you can check the heaviest and bulkiest items. For the plane, pack as much as you can into the appropriate-size carry on luggage and stow it in the overhead bin. You don’t want to rob yourself of leg room on long flights by placing any boxes, large purses or last-minute purchases at your feet.
And be sure to stock a small carry-on with a few items that will make the flight pleasant. Be sure to pamper yourself a little. Bring a special lip balm, for example, to combat dehydration. Consider packing some single-use aromatherapy lotion packets, too, or some favorite gourmet breath mints or hard candies. Make sure your carryon contains a paperback or a handheld device to help keep you relaxed and entertained. It may seem over the top, but no one will bat an eyelash if you pack a night mask to place over your eyes when you nap. And even if they did, you’d be too busy having a comfortable flight to notice.