Long Haul Travel Survival

Going to China last year was without a doubt the longest I've ever been on a plane, the Shanghai to London leg with the delays was double the length of any trip before. I thought 9 hours was bad, but its nothing on nearly 19, this human body is not designed to be comfortable after that long in a small chair. Especially not in what is notoriously the worst seat in the plane - the very last row by the toilets! Add into that the abuse your entire body takes by going through that many time zones and its not the best experience in the world, well not in economy anyway.


I survived it, and actually came out with a list of things I thought would help me the next time I was flying long haul. I tried these on my recent NYC trip and yup, still worked. Some of these are the same old ones that you read anywhere (but that I have tried and tested) but others are ones that work for me, that I'm hoping will work for you too.

Think about what you wear


An oldie, but still true. I have a standard flying outfit - jersey dress and leggings. Simple, but add in a cinching belt at the other end I get my hourglass back and feel a million bucks. A scarf/wrap is a good thing to take as well (extra blanket) and a cardigan, and your jacket if heading somewhere you'll need it. Always a cardigan so it doesn't need to be a complete layer.


Also if you have long hair think about how its tied - I'll always loosely pigtail plait my hair once I sit down so its out of the way, doesn't get knotted and doesn't pull or dent my head against the seat rest.

Adjust to your timezone before hand


I adore Jet Lag Rooster. I've used the app twice now and both times it enabled me to pretty much have my normal sleep pattern when on holiday. Starting a few days before the holiday, I avoided light when it told me, stayed up with ALL the lights on when it told me to stay up and not a problem at all with jetlag or insomnia. I didn't bother with any of the fancy gadgets or melatonin tablets like they advise, I didn't need to.

You can work out a schedule that helps you adjust before you go, on the plane or after you arrive, and there is an app as well as the website so you can get notifications on your phone with what to do and when. It also reminds you to set the new timezone on your watch when you set off.

Prep for comfort before you board


You get to the gate early, you might find a chair or you might stand and wait for boarding. Don't. I always use this time to sort out my carry on so I have everything I need for the flight in the bag I'll keep by my feet, I try to fly carry on only, but I don't need it all with me. Nothing is more annoying than a huge bag taking up your foot room except maybe having to get into the overheads during the flight.

I'll also wash my face (and maybe more of me), take off my bra because I don't need that digging in, change my socks to a nice clean comfy pair, get all my snuggly layers on and generally go as far as I can without putting on PJ's to make myself as relaxed as possible. I'll even loosen laces etc so I can slip my shoes off and do anything else its easier to do when you can wiggle around without hitting the seat in front.

Check out your airline


On our way out to Beijing my brother and I loaded up our iPhones & Tablets with books, movies and silly old me, who can't sleep on planes, felt confident I could keep myself entertained for 14 hours. Except the Airline didn't allow any electronics that transmitted signals even when in airplane mode. That would have been OK, except their own entertainment system only had two English movies on. I must have seen Mockingjay 8 times, on a screen that made it look like a bad pirate version (the Chinese subs didn't help). Had I known, I would have picked up a brick of a paperback in the airport to abandon at the other end, instead I was carrying my heavy tablet which I couldn't use. On my way to NYC, knowing what the airline was offering, I had my phone on my out of habit, but barely looked at it.

Checking out what the airline has to offer works in other ways too - some airlines will give you a free bottle of water, saving you from buying several to keep you going, others might have a great amenity kit so don't worry about taking your own eye mask. You might also be able to check in and pick your seat way before you get to the airport and get a prime spot.

Don't dread it, fix what you hate


I really do love flying, the anticipation of a holiday, the view from the windows, but not all of it. Honestly, I have found one of the worst things about long haul travel is the dread of it. Friends say the same - flying with the kids wasn't as bad as they thought, or they didn't feel it was as long as it was. 

Wiggle your feet, get up if and when you feel stiff. If you hate the food, take your own. Whatever it is about flying that you personally hate try and think of a way to fix it. For me, its boredom - so I will have my e-books and I'll read those or play Scrabble while I listen to the movie, or do something else to keep my mind firing on all cylinders. If its tiredness, find a way you'll be able to sleep. If it is discomfort, consider an upgrade or try an airline with better economy seats. Whatever it is there is bound to be something that makes it a little bit better. The less you think about dreading it the less dreadful it tends to be.

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