Short flights are bad enough, but having to deal with long-haul flights feels like punishment.
Every time I have to sit on a plane for hours and hours, I ask the gods what I’ve done to make them smite me. Does it have something to do with the exorbitant amount of money I spend on makeup? My tendency to leave laundry in six-foot piles on the floor? Probably. In any case, I’ve felt the universe’s flying wrath quite a few times since I caught the travel bug a few years ago. You probably have, too.
Luckily, the internet is here to counteract some of the world’s suckage. (That might be the most ironic thing I’ve ever said.) Here are a few little tips and tricks that’ll make your next long-haul flying experience decidedly less terrible.
1. Go for a pre-flight jog.
Although most of the time I’d never, ever suggest jogging, working out before a flight is a great way to stave off the jitters. Just think about how long you’re going to be sitting. You’ll want to sprint by the time you get off that plane.
2. Step away from the fancy clothes.
This is an example of me needing to take a dose of my own medicine. As much as I love being overdressed for every occasion (and I can’t be the only one), comfort is key when you’re running to gates and cramming yourself into tiny seats. Ladies, opt for pieces like leggings, flats, and slouchy tees. Gents, ditch the suit and tie and try some comfy jeans, a tee, and a hoodie.
3. In that vein, become one with layering.
On your flight from, say, Los Angeles to Sydney, you will without a doubt experience every season. One second, you’ll sweat your face off, and the next, you’ll start to freeze solid. By layering pieces you can take on and off easily, you’ll stay one step ahead of the in-flight elements. Plus, it’ll save room in your luggage!
4. Minimize carry-on baggage.
There are few things more terrible than struggling with heavy luggage full of stuff you don’t need after enduring a marathon flight. Pare down on what you’re carrying on and then do it again two more times. Get yourself down to one small personal bag and a lightweight carry-on suitcase.
5. But don’t forget the essentials, even if they’re clunky.
You know what the most annoying thing to carry around an airport is? A neck pillow. You know what you’ll be really angry about not having on your flight? A neck pillow. Even though packing light is essential, especially when it comes to the stuff you personally have to lug around, don’t skimp on things like pillows, travel blankets, eye masks, headphones, and so on. Slay that creature comfort game, people!
SeatGuru (linked above) will help you tackle boarding with a game plan. You can enter your flight number on the site and it’ll show you the plane’s layout. Never go in blind, folks.
7. Pack the essentials you’ll need to freshen up, like extra underwear, toothpaste, and face wash.
You’ll probably take off and land on two different days, so treat your carry-on bag like the one you carried to sleepovers in third grade. You don’t need to channel your inner Kim Kardashian and pull off a full-blown outfit change, but changing your socks and underwear and washing up will make you feel all shiny and new.
8. Your skin is going to go through the ringer, so guys and girls alike, pack moisturizers and introduce sheet masks into your flying routine.
Plane air wreaks havoc on your skin, so be sure to pack moisturizer, lip balm, and my personal flying favorite, sheet masks. These things look seriously alarming, but they’re packed with serum that’ll bring your skin back to life. They’re also great for scaring babies and getting back at them for the complimentary migraine.
9. Bring forms of entertainment that won’t kill your battery.
Books can be clunky, but bringing along stuff to keep yourself busy without scrolling through your phone is never a bad idea. Into drawing? Pack a sketchpad. If journaling is your thing, write about your experiences the old-fashioned way.
10. Get your shop on.
Sitting for hours on end isn’t healthy, so take advantage of the fact that most terminals are shopping hubs. It’s for science.
11. Stop fighting for outlets.
Everyone’s least favorite thing to do in airports is share outlets, so be your sneakiest self and get in a little USB charging action by plugging into the back of one of the 6,000 televisions in your terminal.
12. Put your work down and relax.
Nothing says “I’m totally chill and ready to do this” quite like working in a total frenzy until you step in line to board, right? Wrong. Sure, terminals have free Wi-Fi. And yes, you probably have a few assignments that need to get done, but for the sake of your mental health, veg out a little before getting on a plane for what will ultimately feel like 35 years.
13. Buy enough food to cover your meals to avoid loading up on sodium.
Airplane meals are full of sodium, which is a nightmare when it comes to staying hydrated. Enjoy a healthy meal in the terminal before takeoff and pick something up to eat during mealtime on the plane, like a sandwich, a side, and the biggest bottle of water you can find. Just don’t buy anything smelly, okay? Oh, and if you can, eat at the same time as everyone else as a common courtesy to the other passengers who are also starving.
14. Get to the end of the boarding line.
Patience is a virtue, friends. Everyone’s always in a rush to board, but waiting until the end has its perks. While everyone in front of you is rushing to their seats, hang back and ask a flight attendant if there are any upgrades available. You can sometimes score a free upgrade to business (or even first) class if there are empty seats!
15. Avoid the first few rows of seating sections at all costs.
Airlines usually seat large groups (like families) on the ends of seating blocks. Say no to sitting near angry babies. We all detest long flights, but as adults, we’re not allowed to scream about it. Go hate flying quietly elsewhere.
16. Sit near the wing if you can.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced awful bouts of turbulence that still give me nightmares. To cut down on the terror factor, try to sit near the wing. Because planes are designed to rock like seesaws in turbulent conditions, you’ll experience less movement in the middle. You know…physics and stuff.
17. While you’re waiting to take off, sync your watch and devices to your destination’s time zone.
Fall into your destination’s rhythm by getting your brain used to it early. That way you can adjust your sleeping schedule on the plane accordingly and cut down on disorientation upon landing.
18. Move around and elevate your legs as often as possible.
Deep-vein thrombosis is the least cute, so if you can’t bust out compression socks, try to walk around every hour or so to keep your blood pumping. If you’re lucky enough to be sitting in business class and you have actual leg room, you can also kick back and elevate your legs for a similar effect.
19. Starving? Order a special meal, like the vegetarian option.
If you skipped packing your own dinner and you feel like you’re going to pass out, request a special meal option to get served first.
20. Avoid carbs if flying leaves you feeling bloated.
Try not to load up on carbs if you become a bloated, monstrous version of yourself on planes like I do. Things like pasta are great for keeping hunger pangs at bay, but they’ll also cause your body to hold water. That’s especially bad if you’re not following this advice and not staying sufficiently hydrated, which leads me to my next point.
21. Drink water like it’s your job.
Remember that comically large water bottle you grabbed in the terminal? Finish that, and then ask the flight attendant (politely) to fill it every time a food or drink service rolls around. Staying hydrated might send you to the airplane restroom more often than you’d like, but getting through long-haul flights while you’re running on fumes isn’t fun.
22. I’m only going to say this once: BE NICE TO FLIGHT ATTENDANTS.
These people work hard (and, you know, fly around the world) to ensure that we’re as safe and comfortable as possible. The least we could do is be friendly. It just makes life easier for everyone involved, and there could even be some added perks in it for you in the end. After all, who doesn’t want extra pillows?
23. Don’t get wasted, even though you definitely want to.
As tempting as it is to get drunk and drown out the obnoxious cries of equally intoxicated frat bros on their first trip abroad, nothing will make you feel worse than pairing your jet lag with a healthy side of hangover.
24. Need a pick-me-up? Choose wisely.
I’m just going to slip into my hypocrite suit and tell you not to drink coffee on long flights. If it’s available, opt for green tea instead. It’ll give you the zing you need without the crash and jitters that, like a hangover, don’t go well with jet lag.
25. Trick your brain into sleeping.
Sleeping on planes will never be easy, but you can trick your brain into sleeping by carrying out your normal routine (or some version of it, anyway). If you can, change into a comfier shirt, wash your face, brush your teeth, and convince your mind that it’s bedtime.
26. If they look like they’re up to it, have a nice chat with your neighbor.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly a chatty person. That being said, a great conversation can eat up some serious time on long-haul flights. While flying home from the U.K. once, I gabbed away with the woman next to me for four hours. Obviously, you have to feel the situation out. If you have a basic grasp on body language, you’ll know if the person next to you is in the mood to talk.
Long-haul flights will never be fun, but you’ll be a pro if you master these tips. Where will the sky take you this summer?
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