The opportunities and experiences which become available when you travel long haul are unbelievable, and certainly a fair reward for the hours you have spent in the air journeying to get there.
Though if you are like me you will have often wondered, as you coast along at 8,000 feet in limited space, if taking yet another ten-plus hour flight to paradise is really worth it.
Over the years I have religiously researched top long-haul flight travel advice in order to make each journey better than the last. As soon as someone returns home from a distant adventure, I quiz them for their hacks and tips to discover how to make any trip that involves hours in the sky more bearable.
Below is a guide to the best advice, personal experiences and travel hacks that I now swear by and follow each time I board a plane.
Be Airline Smart
The first thing you should really consider when travelling long-haul is the airline provider you trust to deliver you to your destination in comfort, and within budget.
My personal favorites are Emirates, Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic. I would choose them again and again when taking to the skies. Emirates new planes are comfortable and roomy, even in economy. They also have all the little extras which help make half a day or more of flying that little bit more enjoyable, such as a huge range of films, free eye masks and toiletries, and delicious and regular light meal and drink service.
Air New Zealand has a great range of premium wines and all the seats have plenty of legroom, and Virgin as always goes above and beyond with service.
If you are choosing between two and the price between them isn’t too extreme, I would wholly advise you go for the best rated airline as it will make a lot of difference when in the sky.
Choose Your Seats
Many airlines now allow you to pre-book and choose your seats way in advance of taking off. This is something I would really advise you to do if you are flying economy, as you can at least improve your long journey for a fraction of the flight cost.
It also helps get rid of those pre-flight ‘will I be stuck in the middle seat’ jitters, which trust me, you can do without.
I always use http://www.seatguru.com to find the best available seats on the plane I am booking, and leave it to the experts to decide!
My top tip if travelling without children: avoid the front few rows in any section, even if they do offer the extra legroom. This is because this is often where families with young children are seated as default, especially on Emirates planes as they have the drop down hanging cots on the walls.
Pack An Expert Carry On
Taking everything you need, without overloading and having to carry around a huge bag of non-essentials, is a pretty good skill to get mastered when it comes to long-haul flights. Have a look at what I always include in my flight bag below:
- iPad with shows and movies downloaded in the Netflix app in case there’s nothing great on board. Also included a writing app to blog on the go.
- Ear plugs. I swear by the Howard Leight foam plugs.
- Lavender sleep spray, or roll on oil, as well as Valerian extract tablets to help you get some sleep when up in the air.
- A couple of good books, including a Lonely Planet guide to your destination, for on-board planning.
- Thick slipper socks. Nothing worse than wearing shoes for a whole flight, and they also help to disguise the not so flattering flight socks you’ll have on underneath.
- Makeup remover, cleanser, and moisturiser. No one wants to fly for hours with a face full of makeup, and the aircon really dries out the skin. Reapply SPF loaded foundation and a light coat of mascara ready for landing.
- Powerbank – in case you can’t get near an outlet and you need to keep your phone going for in-flight playlists.
- A travel game. We love Bananagrams, Scrabble, Uno and most recently we have come across Hive, which I would wholly recommend.
- Eye mask that blocks out all light.
- Vaseline, to avoid in-flight lip chapping.
- Notepad and pen, handy for also filling in your landing cards when on the plane.
Not pictured but always in the essential hand luggage bag:
- Change of clothes
- Jumper and pair of leggings
- Makeup bag
- Inflatable foot rest (no more awkward hanging legs when trying to sleep)
- Travel pillow, memory foam
- Antibacterial wipes – always wipe down your seat and tray before take-off to reduce the chance of catching an in-flight bug
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Bottled water
Keep hydrated, and eat little and often
I can’t stress enough the importance of drinking a lot of water when onboard a long-haul flight in order to help you feel good both on and off the plane.
Make sure you take walks around the plane and do some stretches, it will help your circulation, reduce the risk of a blood clot, and reduce the aches and pains which come with sitting in a small space for hours at a time.
I always try to book an airport lounge pass before taking off. It helps you start your adventure right. Away from the crowds, stress free, with plenty of drinks and magazines to pass the time after check-in. I find that whenever I have a good airport experience, I enter a flight in a much more positive and relaxed mindset, and it makes the journey a lot easier to handle. Just go easy on the free alcohol though, it may seem fun at the time, but six hours into your flight you may regret that third large glass of Sauvignon Blanc (or at least your bladder will).
Time it right
Over the last couple of years, we have really started to realise the benefits of a well-timed flight. Landing a couple of hours before bedtime in your destination to help you get right into the new timezone, or the morning in the UK seems to work perfectly for us, and keep jet-lag at bay.
Sometimes it’s worth really checking your flight times are sensible so you don’t spend a couple of days struggling to adjust rather than enjoying your trip!
These are just some of the things I always try to stick to when adventuring further afield, however in reality spending hours on a plane is never going to be the best or most comfortable experience.
Overall, if you just bear in mind that the journey is just something you need to do to take you to a destination well worth the travelling, then it becomes a lot easier to power through. It won’t go on forever!
Do you have any top tips I have missed? Share them below and help out your fellow passengers…