How to survive long haul flights

Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to fly first class or even business class, you’re with the rest of us in economy class and let’s face it, even with the recent technological changes, it’s a boring business.

However, there are things you can do to make that long haul flight a little more bearable and avoid that gut wrenching feeling of boredom and frustration.

Before I get stuck in to my tips for this, I want to have a quick chat about hand luggage and what I include and don’t include. Firstly, if you’re taking anything that you don’t want to be lost, try and get it in there. It beggars belief when people complain about losing their cases which contained their prescription medication in. In what world would you trust baggage handlers with medication that you absolutely have to take? Get it in your hand luggage and while you’re at it, don’t forget to include the prescription sheet from the doctor.

You’re going on the holiday of a lifetime so you’ve got yourself a brand new camera. Keep it with you at all times. I’m not saying there will be theft but if your case goes missing, it’s less of a hassle if it’s a ton of Primark clothes over an expensive piece of kit.

When I went to Thailand, we arrived (after three separate flights) tired and hot. Upon getting to the hotel, the room wasn’t ready and we were asked to sit by the pool until it was. I was bedecked in combat trousers, t shirt, socks and shoes. It was so hot and humid you could literally cut the air with a knife. I performed a frustrated strip tease, just at the point where I was going to pass my boxers off as swimming shorts our room was ready and the poolside were spared. From then on I always put a pair of swimmers in the bottom of my hand luggage along with a fresh pair of undies, just in case.

So what do I include in my hand luggage to make the flight go a little easier? I tend to put a bag within a bag for all these things. I got an amazing man bag for Glastonbury that is like Mary Poppins’ bag, if packed right, it has everything you need plus it saves rooting around in your main bag where everything falls to the bottom and the people next to you (who had just dropped off) are silently plotting a hundred different ways to kill you.

Inside this, I will put an emergency toiletry selection such as moisturiser, mints, deodorant, toothbrush and lip balm. Superdrug and Boots do brilliant travel sized selections for this. It’s amazing how grotty you can feel on a long haul flight so a quick refresh is heaven.

Don’t forget to put some painkillers in. If you start with a headache that you can’t shift, ten hours of flying is going to be pretty horrible.

An eyemask and earplugs are probably a good investment for a long haul. I’ve seen people leave a note on themselves to be woken for drinks and food, that’s dedication to the crappy airline food. Regardless of the free drinks, I always take as big a bottle of water as I can manage. You can literally feel yourself drying out until you resemble a Kettle Crisp so hydration is your friend. A few snacks can’t go astray. Man cannot live on mini tubes of Pringles alone so some of your favourite things will be welcome when you start hitting that halfway mark.

A pair of big socks is also a good idea. It can get mighty cold up above the clouds and a toasty pair of socks will mean you can kick your shoes off and get nice and comfy. Sleep generally eludes me on a plane but I am prepared to give it as much help as it needs. I wear as many layers and comfy clothes as I can. Soft, comfy stuff are the order of the day. This isn’t a fashion show. Remember, even Victoria Beckham travels in her slouchies and then gets changed before landing. I see these people getting on planes in heels and dresses and wonder who they think they’re impressing.

As well as the usual book, puzzle book and magazine, I will shove a pen and notebook in there. I like to see the time on the plane as an opportunity and usually ideas will come for all sorts of parts of my life when I’m trapped in this sensory deprivation. How frustrating if I’m scribbling it down on an airline napkin.

As soon as I get on the plane, I alter my watch to local time. It’s way easier to get used to a new timezone when you’re in the timeless limbo of an aeroplane cabin than it is on landing. I don’t tend to suffer much jetlag if I do that.

Call me a geek but I will have a look online to see what films and TV programmes will be showing. It’s quite nice to plan what you’re going to watch and to make sure you avoid it in the weeks preceding your flight. You can actually feel yourself looking forward to the flight now can’t you? When do you get the chance to watch movies back to back without distraction?

If the screen gets boring, I am armed with my trusty Kindle. At home I love a paper book but the choice and storage problems a Kindle solves won me over years ago. Get as many good titles on there as possible. One tip I do have is to start your book before you go. It’s really difficult to get into a book on a plane with all the background noise (yes I’m nosy) so to already been in that world makes it that much easier to lose yourself.

Playlists and podcasts are also a good move. Do yourself a relaxing plane playlist so you can drift away with your eyemask on, failing that, your favourite podcasts will let you rest those eyes whilst listening to any subject you care about. Remember to download all this before you go.

These are the things that get me through a long haul flight. I was banned years ago from clock watching and I’m happy to say it’s a habit I’ve broken. It does no-one any good, if you can, put your watch in your bag.

What are your tips for getting through a long haul flight? Let me know in the comments below.

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