Unless you have the resources to travel in business class, a long haul flight can be an ordeal under the best of circumstances. Throw in anti-social timings, awkward fellow travellers, minimal legroom and other irritants, and you have a recipe for disaster. Spending the best part of 15 or 16 hours crammed into a tiny space, breathing recycled air and eating airline food is enough to put anyone on edge. And as airlines engage in a race from the bottom to slash comforts and space, things can only get worse. Thankfully, seasoned travellers have come up with some hacks that make life in economy class a little more bearable. Follow these top tips for a more comfortable journey…
Limit Your Carry-Ons
While spiralling charges for checked-in luggage, long wait times at the carousel and innovations in smart cabin bags – such as one that can charge all your gadgets – are inspiring more and more people to attempt to travel with hand luggage only, this can come at a cost if you’re a long-haul passenger. As more people compete for the limited overhead locker space, increasingly you have to stash your bag under the seat in front, which limits your already cramped legroom and can make for a much more uncomfortable travelling experience. Do you really want to avoid the charge more than you want to cramp your living and sleeping space for 15 hours?
Find The Best Seats
Frequent flyers know all about a site called Seat Guru – it lists the seating layout of all major aircraft, letting you see exactly what that seat number will translate to on your flight. If you are very fixed on a favourite position within the plane, this can help. You may need to consider the relative merits of aisle vs window for a longer flight – being by the window means you could get trapped in by a sleeping passenger in the aisle seat, while your sleep may be disturbed if you choose the aisle. ‘Bulkhead seats’ – those behind a wall separating sections of the plane – are most coveted as they give extra legroom and avoid someone reclining their seat into your space – but be aware there is often nowhere to stash a carry-on bag other than the overhead locker.
Keep Calm and Fly On
If you are a nervous flyer, long-haul can be especially hard. Develop some coping mechanisms – first of all learn some breathing and mindfulness techniques to keep panic in check if you can feel it start to escalate. An app like Breathe2relax or a self-hypnosis podcast can also be of some use. Try to analyse the rational element of your distress – airline accidents remain very rare, despite the headlines we see, and flying is significantly less of a risk than the average car journey. If you have ever been involved in a previous incident, a specialist firm such as Slack & Davis can support you. Familiarise yourself with the usual mechanical noises involved in take-off, flight and landing, so they don’t cause undue alarm. If your fear is severe and you need to travel, some airlines now offer nervous flyer courses that aim to remove the fear from your journey.
Supply Your Own Entertainment
In-flight entertainment can be patchy, with the selection depending on the airline – and if you aren’t into the latest blockbusters, you may struggle. A far better option is to fill your tablet and a memory card with downloaded books and shows that you want to watch. You may never get a better opportunity to catch up with that box set than now! It’s better to have too much material that runs the risk of running out and being stuck mid-flight. A portable power bank can help to keep your device charged up for the whole flight.
Beat Jet Lag
Flying through time zones can take a big toll on the body, so try and be proactive about minimising the impact. You can do this by staying hydrated and avoiding salty foods, as these will make you feel worse. Try a workout the morning before boarding to ensure you are physically tired and prepared for sleep when you board the plane. An eye mask, cashmere travel blanket and some noise-cancelling headphones can go a long way towards helping you sleep in the plane environment.
Try A Sleeping Aid
The more time you can spend asleep in the air, the better – not only does it make a long journey go quicker, but you have more chance of arriving at your destination feeling rested – this is especially important if you have onward travel arrangements to consider. If you have trouble drifting off, it may be wise to consider using a sleep aid, which as a melatonin tablet. This is a naturally occurring substance that triggers our sleep patterns. For best results start, taking up to three days before travel. There are some over-the-counter aids available too that are heavier – but if you have complex onward travel arrangements that you need to be alert for, and you aren’t used to them, they may be a little heavy-going. Antihistamines like Benadryl contain complexes which can keep you calm and drowsy, also.
Wake Up Refreshed
Once you have managed to get to sleep, the absolute worst feeling is being awoken by the seatbelt sign coming on for landing, feeling groggy and disorientated. Before going to sleep, it’s a good idea to check the scheduled landing time and set the alarm for at least 45 minutes prior to arrival. That way, you have time to wake up slowly, grab a drink or snack, use the bathroom to freshen up and get all your things together before the approach.
When it comes to flying, laying down, some simple preparations can go a long way. Choose your outfit carefully – jersey separates are comfortable and lightweight, plus they don’t crease easily. Wear several layers so you can adjust according to the fluctuating temperatures of your journey. Try not to choose anything with a restrictive waistband or details like rivets that dig in. Always bring a travel wrap or shawl as airline-supplied blankets are rarely sufficient. Also consider packing some healthy snacks as you may find yourself hungry at awkward times, especially if you’ve slept through a meal service.