Long haul flight essentials can make all the difference to your trip. If you’ve ever flown long haul, you’ll remember that spending 12 or more hours in the air can be a challenge. There’s the unique atmosphere on the plane – dry, sometimes chilly and loud – the close proximity to a large number of strangers, and the need to remain still for long periods of time. My own upcoming long haul journeys have sent me back to old travel journals and onwards to an intense scrutiny of other people’s long haul experiences. This is what I learned to help us on our long haul flights.
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- 1 Long Haul Flight Essentials: Preparation
- 2 Positive Attitudes To The Flight
- 3 Long Haul Flight Essentials: Positive Preparations
- 4 Making The Most Of Onboard Long Haul Flight Essentials
- 5 Long Haul Flight Essentials: What You Bring With You
- 6 Sleep: That Long Haul Flight Essential That’s So Difficult to Achieve
- 7 Long Haul Flight Essentials: When They Become Non-essential
Long Haul Flight Essentials: Preparation
There’s a job to be done before you leave which is bringing together everything you need to entertain yourself onboard. There are books and magazines to be downloaded to your e-reader, and films or box sets for your tablet. Make sure you have your earbuds or noise cancelling headphones. And a spare set of earbuds wouldn’t go amiss. Got a book you’re itching to read? Resist temptation and save it for the journey. Line up your old favourites and pick a familiar friend as your travel companion.
Then there’s the more physical stuff. If you love real card games or solitaire, bring your deck. Do you have small projects that will travel well – maybe stitching – and don’t require implements that won’t make it past security?
Do you journal? A new crisp travel notebook and some pens can be ready for action.
Positive Attitudes To The Flight
How To Avoid Pre-Departure Stress
I have learned from experience that having your head sorted in a positive way can make a lot of difference to your flight experience. My mum was an ex-pat for many years, most of those years requiring long haul flights for me to visit her. At times, I would be the person arriving at the airport burdened less by excess luggage and more by mental baggage. Had I handed over everything about a current work project? Were the cats ok at the cattery? Had I really turned the oven off?
So now among my long haul flight essentials is a pre-departure list. Covering everything from work handovers (so much easier now I work for myself), getting the house ready for departure and simply allowing myself time to decompress before I leave, it’s invaluable in getting my head into a better place before I lock the front door. Tick.
A Word On Stress Management
Despite travel being an immense pleasure, it also comes with stress and anxiety. We all have travel worries, whether they are things that also affect us in our daily lives or are specific to the journey like a fear of flying. It helps if you can bottom out what the issues are before you travel. Then you can do your best to address or make them more manageable.
When we travel together, we can do our best for each other. One of us is nervous about stranger contact and likes to avoid a middle seat. One of us is a nervous flyer and doesn’t want to see out of the window. Sorted. There’s something to be said for having one another’s backs. If you’re travelling solo, think about what could help. Whether it’s a meditation app once you are able to use it, music that means something important to you, or the presence of your much loved travelling bear in your pocket, do what it takes to get you through.
Read More: 50 Travel Hacks From 50 Years On The Road
Long Haul Flight Essentials: Positive Preparations
Having done all of the things above, you’ll be in a good headspace when you board your flight. But what about all those long hours looming ahead? I know that the thought of twelve, fourteen or even more hours in one place can make me twitchy. What am I going to do? How will the time pass? How long will it take to get back to normal when I land?
A Plan Of (In)Action
The best strategy that has worked for me is having a plan for a series of things I can do while in the air. A movie or two from the in-flight entertainment? Check. A book or more on my Kindle? Sorted. A journal entry about our upcoming trip? Of course. Games? Absolutely. There’s comfort in novelty, so don’t forget that new box set. And there’s also great comfort in familiarity; coming back to a favourite book is like visiting an old friend. Get downloading and be prepared for your trip.
Don’t forget the delights of just looking out of the window. The flight map will tell you what you are seeing. And what’s outside is often very memorable, whether it’s the big red centre of Australia, or the rugged ice of Greenland.
I keep building my list of things to keep busy until I’ve covered the hours. And then if I should be fortunate enough to get some sleep and not finish the list, that’s a bonus. But there’s no danger of me sitting in my seat, mentally drumming my fingers, wondering whatever I am going to do with myself.
Arrive With Endorphins
If at all possible, I like to arrive for a long flight having done a fair chunk of my daily 10,000 steps. Before you enter into the confined space, your muscles will have stretched, your heart will have had the benefit of exercise, and your endorphins will be boosted. That makes for a better experience, and counts as one of my long haul flying essentials.
Choose Your Flight Outfit Wisely
Even if you are an avid social media addict, there’s a time for comfort, and a long haul flight is just that. Don’t commit to anything that you haven’t previously worn and found to be perfect for chilling. This is not the time to find out that your waistband digs in, you have a hole in the back of your leggings, or that your hoodie works its way tight to your throat every time you slouch in your seat.
So keep it lazy and layered. If you are anything like me, you might find that your body’s thermostat gets tetchy when tired, leading to a mixture of chills and overheating. A blanket scarf can be useful in the absence of an actual blanket, or if it’s just not blanket enough for the job. And women? A sports bra or bralet. Just sayin…
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Making The Most Of Onboard Long Haul Flight Essentials
Depending on your choice of carrier, there can be plenty of onboard options to ease the passage of time in the air. Carriers with newer fleets often have a better choice of in-flight entertainment. I didn’t realise until recently that you can check out the entertainment offerings online, giving you the opportunity to plan your viewing. Whether it’s a box set or a couple of films, that can use up a good number of hours.
Getting an idea of the catering arrangements for your flight can also help you to adjust to the time at your destination. If there’s a gap between dinner and breakfast – even if they would be on the same day in your departure timezone – that’s a great chance to rearrange your body clock by having a sleep in between. Even a relaxing doze will go some way towards readying you for arrival ready for action. Or inaction, depending on your destination’s clock.
Long Haul Flight Essentials: What You Bring With You
First up for me is always a change of clothes. And something you can see yourself wriggling into in the confines of the plane toilet. This needs to be destination-appropriate, of course, meaning you can freshen up before landing and trundle onwards in comfort.
You might want some socks to add when at your seat; chilly toes can stop you sleeping. You could add a neck pillow and an eye mask for sleeping comfort. Test out the options to see what works for you. I can’t handle an eye mask that touches my eyelids, so I need the version that curves over your eyes. My ideal neck pillow is one that fits almost like a surgical collar. Your preferences may be totally different.
Then there’s making good use of your liquids bag. Toothpaste (and a toothbrush) is clearly a good start. Plus antibac, moisturiser (that plane air is dry), lip balm, deodorant and wipes. I’ve never quite plucked up courage to go for a sheet mask overnight, but if that’s your thing, go right ahead. Be considerate of your fellow travellers with anything strongly scented. It’s easy to trigger someone with a migraine or another reaction, and none of us needs to be the person that makes someone ill.
Snacks are always a good idea. If your stomach is interested in food, but there’s no sign of the lights going on for breakfast, now’s the time to dive into your stash of snacks. It helps to have at least some healthy choices, and to be aware of what can’t leave the flight with you due to import regulations (fruits, vegetables, meat). And if you, like me, have food allergies, the presence of snacks in your bag helps dilute the uneasy feeling that they forgot to load the special meals before your 14 hour flight.
Essential Long Haul Flight Essentials
Here I mean the things you’d be totally lost without when you arrive. This includes:
- your essential travel documents including passports, visas, itinerary, and even the street address of your first stop, as you may need it for immigration paperwork. I find it less stressful to keep them all together in a brightly coloured travel wallet, which is easy to find in my bag.
- prescription medications and copy prescription, including asthma inhalers
- spare glasses or contact lenses or reading glasses
- a small bag of essentials – sometimes called a walking pharmacy – with painkillers, stomach medicines, anti-nausea treatment (maybe ginger chews), basic first aid, maybe a sewing kit, Be sure to check all of the items in this kit are legal at your destination.
- currency and bank cards
- your tech, chargers and adapters, including the sim card for your destination if needed
- a paper backup of anything essential, just in case your tech fails
- anything valuable or irreplaceable, including your hard drive, memory cards and jewellery that has sentimental value
- a pen and small notebook
When you were thinking through your preparations, you will have created your list of things to do as part of your long haul flight essentials. Now’s the time to pack the items that can make that happen. You could find yourself with:
- books and.or magazines
- an e-reader
- your laptop or tablet
- playing cards
- a journal and pens
- something small and crafty, like a sewing project
Sleep: That Long Haul Flight Essential That’s So Difficult to Achieve
I’ve always found sleep to be capricious on a long haul flight. Even overnight, the noise around me makes it a challenge. Then there’s that strange sitting position, restless fellow passengers (and I guess that includes me, although I try to be still), and the flashing lights from screens in the cabin. It’s never fun. White noise apps are said to help, along with earplugs – and possibly better ones than those that get handed out on board.
Here’s some advice on catching forty winks onboard. Some of the points are common sense, but there are some additional thoughts here. Side sleeper? I sleep on my left, and for my next long haul I’m in seat A. That means I have the window to lean on to my left, my preferred side for sleeping.
Read More: Inside Flyer’s tips for how to sleep on planes
Long Haul Flight Essentials: When They Become Non-essential
Picture this. I’m heading to Adelaide from London, via Singapore. I’ve got a 14 hour flight, four hours off, and then another eight hours flying. To be honest, I’m fantasising that Beam Me Up Scotty could be reality. And when I arrive at my seat, I’m surrounded by a big group of students on the same itinerary. My immediate reaction is somewhere between feeling like Billy No Mates and picturing a rather raucous flight. Yes, I was being judgmental.
But it was one of the best experiences of my travelling life. My immediate seatmate began by introducing himself and then, gradually, the others. Over the first 14 hours, we shuttled seats, chatting about anything and everything from films to childhood accidents to our destination adventures planned. At Singapore someone generously treated us all to a shower and fruit smoothies. Not only was it much needed at that point, but it gave us all new energy for the second leg to Adelaide.
I look back on it now as one of the finest flights I’ve ever taken. It’s impressive how travellers’ tales bring us together. So if you get the chance not to need your long haul flight essentials, take it. The alternative is fabulous.
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