It’s Travel Tip Tuesday! Here’s one that was originally published on 28 September 2015.
We all love long flights, right? They take us to exciting, faraway destinations, you can’t get where you’re going any faster than in a plane, and you get free meals (which you paid for with your pricey plane ticket)!
But after you get over the initial excitement of your flight… then what? Now you have five, eight, maybe even fifteen hours looming ahead of you. What’s a traveler to do? Even the lucky folks in Business Class have to find something to do on long flights. Luxury does not make the flight go faster!
For those of you who can sleep on planes, you are truly blessed individuals! For the rest of us, here are some options to keep you occupied.
Bring your e-readers! Bring your magazines! Bring your good ol’ fashioned books! If you’re an avid reader, maybe a long flight is a good excuse to unplug and get in several hours of uninterrupted reading. With no unexpected phone calls, texts, social media alerts, or anything else to distract you, you can start reading a new novel or finish that one that’s been sitting by your bed for the last couple of months. If you’re like me and you don’t have an e-reader, but you do have a smartphone, apps like Classicly, Nook, and Kindle give you access to thousands of books.
A word of caution: don’t get cocky! Even on 15-hours flights, don’t be tempted to bring more than one book (unless of course, you have an e-reader). Too many books will take up too much precious space and add weight. And choose a paperback over hardcover. Even just a few ounces can be frustrating to tote all over the world.
Also, don’t be afraid to leave a book in an airport or at a hotel and buy another one on your trip. Many hotels and hostels have lending libraries or “take a book, leave a book” policies in their business center or a corner of the lobby. Most airports will have plenty of books in English, no matter the native language of your destination.
OK, so this one’s not all that exciting to most, but it works for me! I typically have multiple to-do lists going in my Notes app, and being on a long flight gives me a chance to reorganize them. (Just make sure your phone is in airplane mode!) Once you have some of those things organized, you’ll also feel more relaxed knowing that’s taken care of and you’re not forgetting anything important.
- Plan Your Trip!
Didn’t get your itinerary mapped out before you left? Here’s your opportunity! Make sure to pack a guidebook (Steve and I like the Eyewitness Travel series) in your carry-on, along with a pen and maybe a small notebook (and if you’re like me, post-it tabs and a highlighter or two) to learn what exactly there is to do and why those things might be worthwhile. For instance, what exactly is Angkor Wot and why is it famous? This is your chance to find out!
- Watch TV and Movies
If your flight is five hours or fewer, you probably won’t have on-demand TV or movies to watch, but for flights in the six-hour range or longer, odds are you will have your choice of recorded entertainment. Steve and I both like to track our progress periodically on the flight map, but you can also listen to music, watch selected episodes of TV shows (sitcoms, dramas, documentaries, and the like), and watch movies (classic, new releases, kid-friendly, comedy, independent films, etc.). Some people bring portable DVD players and download shows and movies to their laptops beforehand, but for me, those things often weigh me down. To each his own!
Again, if you’re blessed enough to be able to sleep on a plane, DO IT! You’ll definitely be more refreshed than those of us who can’t. I sometimes take melatonin with me to help me sleep, but sometimes it just makes me more tired and I still can’t sleep, and even if I do get to sleep, it often makes me have really weird dreams or nightmares. I’ve gotten better about sleeping on planes, but I usually just plan not to!
- Listen to Podcasts
If you’re on top of things, maybe you’ll think of downloading some podcasts before you leave. I usually don’t think about it but then wish I had! iTunes U also allows you to take classes for free!
Be careful with this one. You definitely don’t want to eat all your energy bars in the first couple of hours, but eating is a way to pass the time when needed! I just heard a flight attendant on my last flight (about five hours from Quito to Houston) say that meals are included on international flights of six hours or more, and snacks are available for purchase on flights less than that, so plan accordingly. Maybe plan to eat something every three hours or so, such as a piece of fruit, protein bar, trail mix, and the like. This will keep you from overeating and give you something to break up the monotony every so often. Steve usually brings a cheese sandwich, hummus sandwich, and maybe some leftovers from the fridge as well. I’ve even brought a baked sweet potato before. As long as it’s not liquid, it’s game!
- Drink Up!
Drink LOTS of water because flying is dehydrating. Planes are pressurized to create an atmosphere as if you’re at 8,000 feet above sea level. Any more than that, and people start to get altitude sickness. I don’t claim to know all the science behind altitude and hydration, but I do know that being 8,000 feet above sea level will make your body lose more water somehow. I always take a full 32-ounce bottle of water with me on the plane, AND I take one of those little cups of water every time the flight attendant comes by with beverages, AND I’m not afraid to ask for more! Shoot for at least 8 ounces per hour on long flights (about 1.5-2 of the little cups they give you).
Coffee, caffeinated tea, and alcohol are all beverages that will actually not help you stay hydrated, and sugary drinks like cokes or juices will also make you feel thirsty more quickly, so I try to stay away from those. (For those not from the South, “coke” means any carbonated beverage of any brand, especially the sweetened and flavored kind.) I’m a coffee girl, so I’ll have one of those tiny cups of coffee with breakfast if I’m on a plane around breakfast time so I don’t get a headache, but otherwise I stick with water.
My one other exception is that sometimes I’ll bring my own tea bag or vitamin C drink with me and ask for a cup of hot water. I’ve never had anyone look at me funny for asking for a cup of hot water, and I even had one flight attendant say how smart if was for me to bring my own vitamin C drink because it was flu season, and every little bit helps! Whatever will keep you hydrated.
Since you’ll be drinking lots of water, make sure you also take the time to take care of business! It can get complicated unless you’re in the aisle seat, but even if you’re next to the window, you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Do Your Daily Routines
Since you’ll already be in the bathroom several times during your flight, use your time to do your daily and nightly routines as much as possible. I bring facial wipes with me to wash my face and use coconut oil as a moisturizer (since it’s a dry atmosphere), and I also take my contacts out and brush my teeth while I’m in there. Be courteous and don’t take up half an hour, but it does take up about five to ten minutes, and I feel better both during and after my flight if I’ve let myself do my “night time routine.” I do my morning routine, too: wash face, apply coconut oil, brush teeth, put on makeup (eyeliner and mascara only for me), and put my hair up if it’s looking tired, which it typically does on long flights. It takes up time, and it makes me feel a bit more alert as well!
Finally, try to walk the length of the plane every time you go to the bathroom, or at least once an hour (unless, of course, you’re a plane sleeper). This will help you keep those muscles moving to prevent muscle cramps, joint aches, and swollen legs and feet.
There you have it, my friends. I hope this helps you along on your next long flight, or perhaps it’ll help you prepare for your first long flight! What do you do on long flights that I didn’t mention here?