Living in New Zealand with family in the United Kingdom I have done my fair share of long haul flights. In fact, I have travelled back and forth between New Zealand and the UK something like 18 times in the last 4 years. That’s a total of 36 long haul 12 hr flights! A unlikely positive of enduring the endless hours of being squashed into a seat in a cramped, pressurised cabin, is that I’ve had plenty of time to figure out ways to make flying easier both for my body and my mind.
Following, are my tips for how to survive a long haul flight, which are sure to set you up for a great holiday.
1. Sleep well in preparation.
Getting a good few nights of sleep following up to your journey is important to ensure that your well rested body doesn’t attempt to catch up on lost sleep during the flight. Sleep deprivation on flights often results in an endless battle of frustration as you attempt to find comfort in a not so comfortable environment. Make a point of going to bed early in the week leading up to your flight. Although it can be hard to sleep well the night before your journey, if you have had good night’s sleep during the week prior, you won’t feel as tired and irritable.
2. Take your vitamins.
Take vitamin C and zinc (I personally have always used a good multi vit) in the few days leading up to the flight. This combination is the best way to fend off any colds and bugs that you may be prone to catching on your flight. These bugs are always prevalent on flights due to people from all over the world sharing the same air-conditioned space, ultimately exposing you to new germs.
3. Dress for comfort.
It is always a good idea to plan what to wear on the plane. Make sure your clothes are comfy as you’ll be sitting in them for a while longer than you’re used to. A comfy bra is absolutely essential so you are not tugging at yourself the whole flight! I also recommend a change of top and/or undies during a set of flights.
4. Choose your seat.
Usually people are aisle seat or window seat people and nobody wants the dreaded middle seat, so decide and make sure you book your preferred seat prior to the flight. Even if it costs you a little extra, you’ll be glad of it later.
5. Pack the essentials in your cabin luggage
Musts on any long haul flight are:
- A scarf – or something warm to cover your shoulders
- Ear plugs – to mute any noises, or the snorers, for a better rest
- Eye drops/Lip balm/Moisturiser – the air tends to make your skin and eyes dry.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste – to keep your teeth and gums fresh
- A couple of cleansing wipes in a zip lock bag – for a refresher
- Neck pillow – we recommend the J Pillow (which was designed by an airhostess)
- Warm socks – you won’t want your shoes on but you also don’t want cold feet
- Your favourite snacks – slow release energy like cereal bars or nuts.
- A good book – to pass time
- Water bottle – you must keep hydrated, especially in an atmosphere your body is not used to
- Herbal tea bag – for relaxation
6. Maximise your chances of a good sleep.
Try not to drink too much alcohol. OK, so you’re starting/ending your holiday and you deserve some bubbles, for sure – but limit it to 1 or 2. Alcohol can be good to help you sleep initially but your sleep will likely be shorter and you could wake up dehydrated and hungover.
Drink herbal tea – politely say no to the tea and coffee served and ask for hot water. Then use your own herbal tea bags of your preference that you packed.
Minimise time spent staring at the TV screen in front of you. As tempting as it is to watch 5 movies in row, research has shown that exposure to screen time before sleep can disrupt your sleep patterns and play havoc with your body clock, exactly what you don’t need when crossing time zones. Keep screen time to around meal times, and for your own sake, choose a short movie.
Read your book instead of watching something. Some people love it, others hate it, but there is no better way to make you feel sleepy than concentrating on reading a book when you’re tired.
7. Stay hydrated.
Drink lots of water. You’ll either have to fill up your own bottle of water after security or buy one, but it will be worth it as it can be a while before the hostesses get to you by which point you’ll already be thirsty.
Then, ask the hostesses to fill up your bottle so you can drink in between meal times. Make sure you drink it slowly and regularly.
Dehydration is one of the biggest factors that contribute to feeling jetlagged so if you can stay hydrated you’ll be winning!
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to sleep. Do what you want to do depending on how you’re feeling. If you wake up and feel awake, get up walk around, clean your teeth and read.
See the flight time as bonus time – free time to do some things you don’t have time for in your regular week, read about your destination in the guide book, get excited about your holiday!
Try not to clock watch – this is the worst thing to make your flight feel longer than it is. A watched kettle never boils.
9. Get up and walk around.
Keep moving, it’s healthier for you and you might meet some interesting people. Have a chat to the air hostesses and usually there are a couple of other inquisitive passengers around the alley area. You never know who you might meet on a long haul flight! It’s also a good way to get some extra food if you’re hungry.
10. On arrival.
After your long haul flight, if you arrive in the morning, stay awake. It’s no good heading to bed as soon as you get the chance, you’ll just feel rough when you wake up and find out it’s night time! It may take some coffee – but if you can make it through until at least early evening before heading to bed you’ll be better off the next day and ready for a full day of holiday action.