How to deal with long flights

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As someone who regularly has to travel 24 hours or more, I can say with some certainty that no matter what you do it’s going to feel a bit like torture. With the luxuries or first class outside mine and most peoples reach, we need to make the best of a challenging experience.

There are some strategies I use that help make the experience more pleasant.

During the flight

  • Get plenty of sleep during and before the flight. For long flights try to travel at night when you naturally feel like sleeping. Traveling is exhausting, sleep will allow your body to rejuvenate and repair itself. I don’t recommend self-medicating, but some people report some success using Melatonin to help regulate heir sleep patterns.
  • Drink plenty of fluids as you can get dehydrated quickly inside a plane. If I don’t drink I can see a noticeable difference in my skin. When we lose too much water, our bodies may become out of balance or dehydrated. Severe dehydration can even lead to death, but most often you are going to feel sluggish, irritable, weak and may suffer from headaches.
  • Do as much stretching as possible and get up and walk around whenever you can. Avoid sitting with crossed legs. This is far more convenient if you are able to snag an aisle seat. I hate stepping over people all the time.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks during the flight as they will lead to dehydration and tiredness. I cheat a bit with a cup of green tea before arrival. I also try to stick to warm drinks when I can – it’s a habit I picked up from living in Taiwan. Lastly, avoid tomato juice. Why tomato juice? It’s full of sodium. This I remembered thanks to a helpful stewardess who shook her head when I considered it as a drink choice. Rely on your stewardess, they are full of information.
  • Eat light meals during and before the flight to avoid an upset stomach. Since you are immobile during the flight it’s hard to allow proper digestion. Despite having experienced great onboard service, I always feel much worse after eating a big meal. Even the best food is relatively unappetizing. Eat light snacks, fruits and a fresh salad instead (airlines would have to work hard at getting fruit wrong). Lately I’ve taken this further with avoiding in-fight food all together. I bring some nuts to keep me satiated and just continue to drink water. I arrive hungry, but refreshed, and ready to eat whatever is offered locally.
  • Take your shoes off and wear loose socks. Your feet and ankles swell immensely on long haul flights – even with exercise. This will increase your comfort (it took a couple days to remove the ‘cuts’ from my socks after one particular flight) and reduce your chances of Deep Vein Thrombosis.

Upon arrival

  • Eat a light protein rich meal at the local time zone meal time. Make it fresh and avoid processed foods. This will help your body recover and not further stress it with greasy, hard to digest food.
  • Reset your watch. Don’t think about it, just immediately adhere to the new timezone.
  • Drink as much water as time and your patience will allow, 5 plus glasses should be your target.
  • Exercise!
  • Go to bed when everyone else in your new time zone goes to bed. It’s important to disciplined about your sleep time. You may be surprised just how fast you adjust to the new time zone.

As I find travelling light adds to my comfort, so I don’t recommend bulking up with books and magazines or carrying many devices. A decent airline will provide you with enough entertainment to get you through 3-4 hrs of idle time with a kindle or iPad helping you get through the rest. And when you land you will appreciate the reduced weight on your shoulders.

Photo via ton3vita.