I am less than a year old in my first passport photo. You can see my parent's hands holding me up. I was on my fifth passport by the time I was twenty-three. Needless to say, I've been a frequent flyer for a long time. While I won't say that I'm the ultimate flight expert, I have picked up a number of tricks along the way to make a long flight go smoother. Here are some of the strategies that have helped me endure many a 14-16 hr flight.
- Dress Comfortably - your new jeans and heels may look awesome, but you'll end up cursing your sore feet and inability to twist yourself into a pretzel to sleep due to the constricting fabric of those oh so skinny pants. Throw fashion out the door or opt for the yoga master or sporty version of yourself; i.e. soft stretchy pants and a super comfy top. Even if you're leaving from or arriving somewhere hot, don't forget that airplanes are infamously cold. Your best strategy is to pack a light jacket and socks into your carry on.
- Take Your Own Entertainment - when I started criss-crossing the globe (which wasn't that long ago) private entertainment systems were not a thing. There were TVs every certain amount of rows that showed whatever the flight crew felt like putting on. It could be things you'd just seen or didn't want to see and so packing your own sources of entertainment were imperative. Nowadays, each passenger has their own nifty little TV, complete with games and scores of movies to make the trip fly by. The only problem is that sometimes these systems glitch and if that's all your counting on then your flight might end up being the most boring 15 hrs of your life. Seem far fetched? On one of my 14 hr flights from Sydney to Los Angeles the entire entertainment system crashed just an hour into the flight. The crew announced that there was nothing that could be done until we landed and so I spent the rest of the trip reading a fabulous book I'd brought along. I could only hope that my fellow passengers had done likewise. More recently Justin and I were on a similarly long flight from India to Los Angeles when I discovered that there was an issue with my TV's audio. It would work for a little bit and then cut out for long periods of time. During these cut outs I was very glad to have yet another good book stowed in my carry on. The point is, bring a book, magazines, games, something on all your long flights, just in case.
- Get An Aisle Seat - I know you can't always land an aisle seat, but if you get to choose your seat while booking your flight, don't get drawn in by the possibility of good views from a window seat: go for the aisle seat. The reason is that most people find it uncomfortable to wake a sleeping neighbor so that they can get out to go to the bathroom. I would much rather be asked to move from my aisle seat by my neighbor so that he or she can get up than vice versa. If you didn't get to choose your seat then ask for an aisle seat while checking in, in case any are still open.
- Try New Ways of Sleeping - think you have no option but to sit there with a neck pillow while your backside goes numb and your ankles swell? Time to think outside the box. While I admit that trying out new ways of sleeping is much easier for small people, some of the following ways can be used by anyone.
- Put down the meal tray and lean over it using either the airline pillow or your arms as a head rest. This is one of my favorite ways to sleep on a plane and can be modified by kneeling in your seat while leaning over the tray. It works great until the person in front of you decides to lean their chair waaay back and then it's time to move on to something else.
- Put your feet on your seat with your legs against your chest and your arms encircling them. Now rest your head against your knees for a comfy nap.
- If you have a friend or partner seated next to you, put up the armrest between your seats and place your pillow in their lap. Now lay down sideways with your head in their lap and they can place their pillow on your back/side for a similar sleeping position as the tray table in point one. It's a great way for both of you to catch some good sleep.
- If the person in front of you has leaned too far back for you to utilize the tray table method, try placing your pillow against the back of their seat and then leaning forwards and placing your forehead against the pillow to keep it in place. It's a surprisingly comfortable method.
- Pack Freshening Products - you're about to began your final descent into the airport where your fiancé who hasn't seen you in three months is waiting for you. You head to the bathroom and realize with horror that you look like you just escaped a war zone and smell like you rode on a bus for three days with some chickens in your lap. And alas, all your toiletries are packed in your check in luggage stowed beneath the plane. Avoid this mistake by packing some choice "freshening items" in your carry on. For me that means a stick of deodorant, toothbrush and mini tube of toothpaste, and concealer/powder since my skin apparently hates me. It's amazing what a difference just those few items can make.