September 9, 2014

It started in college when Nick moved from New York to South Carolina. A little less than two hours, by the time I got into what I was reading, I was there. Easy peasy.

Then he moved to Saratoga Springs. From Long Island, I would spend an hour getting into NYC, then another 4 hours on Amtrak.

After that, I thought Nick was kidding when he told me he was going to be stationed near Seattle. At the time it seemed like the farthest possible place he could be stationed (haha!). That was a 5 to 6 hour direct flight, depending on the winds. It seemed like the longest flight ever, until we got stationed in Hawaii.

long flight tips

Now Nick and I are finally together, but it takes almost a full day to get home to see my family and friends in New York, depending on whether or not I have a direct flight.

I am so excited because I am going home again TODAY! I have gone home 3 times in the past year. That may seem like a lot but I have had important reasons. And my reason for trip #4 is my friend Christy’s wedding in Washington, DC! I have been looking forward to her wedding for over a year and am going to stay in New York for two whole weeks so that I can also see my family and some other friends.

Long Flight Tips

Nick and I during our first flight to move to Hawaii

So, anyway, including our initial move to Hawaii, I have survived 7 of these long trips.  I am usually alone because Nick just doesn’t have the vacation time to go home as much as me. But it must not be that bad because I keep doing it again and again. I used to panic about having to sit in one spot on an airplane for 10-11 hours, but now I have it down to a science.

So how do I survive these long, direct 10-11 hour flights? Here are my secret long flight tips:

First, there are a few things you can do before your flight to make the overall experience even better.

Before I even get on the plane, I:

Choose my seat carefully. When I am booking my flight, if there are three seats together, I look for a row where one seat is already taken. I always want an aisle seat because I get up to use the restroom constantly and I do not want to climb over people. So I look for a row where the window seat has already been taken. That middle seat will only get taken if the plane fills up so you have a greater chance of having a little bit of extra space.

And if I am traveling with another person, I look for a row of three where no seats are taken. If I choose the window seat and Nick chooses the aisle seat, there is a chance we will have the entire row to ourselves because no one wants the middle seat. If that middle seat does get taken, the person will most likely be more than happy to switch their middle seat for our aisle or window so we can sit next to each other.

Get in a good workout. This is great for me for a few reasons. First, it will hopefully tire me out enough to get some sleep once I am on the plane. Second, I tend to eat kind of badly when I travel, so this makes me feel slightly less guilty. And third, when I get on a plane to go on vacation, I know I am not going to get in a lot of workouts. So I really try to make this a priority even though it is sometimes a very busy day.

Eat a good meal. Again, I am sure you will be rushing around like crazy trying to make your flight, but make sure you eat a filling meal before you get on the plane, something full of protein that you know will hold you for several hours.

Dress comfortably. Comfort is key. It is difficult to know what to wear when I am going from a hot climate to a colder one, or vice versa. It is tempting to wear a cute sundress and strappy sandals when I am heading back to Hawaii, but I know I will be cold and uncomfortable on the plane if I do that. I usually wear sweatpants and a t-shirt, and I bring a sweatshirt and fuzzy socks for the plane. If you want to change into something nicer to wear as soon as you get to your destination or a different clothes once you land, put whatever you need on the top of your carry on. That was you can just run to the bathroom and change before you even get to baggage claim, if you want to.

Now for supplies for a long flight. You will need serious supplies if you are sitting in coach and want to make a 12 hour plane ride comfortable. You can bring one carry on item and one personal item on the plane. I try to fit everything I need once I land in my carry on. I reserve a backpack that can fit under the seat in front of me solely with things I need for the flight. Make sure that that backpack/bag has a zipper. Things tend to move around during a flight and things may fall out and roll away without you even realizing it if you just have a button or clasp. This happened to me with some souvenirs I was bringing back to New York for Nick and I didn’t even realize it until after I had gotten home.

Every time I pack for a flight, my husband looks at me like I am crazy. But I need a lot of supplies! This is what I bring:

A “treat yourself” item. Treating myself to something little gives me something to look forward to on the flight. Is there a magazine you love but never have time to read? Get it for the plane. Do you have a favorite candy that you usually don’t buy for yourself? That’s the perfect in-flight treat. So whether it’s your favorite magazine, a snack, a new book, or buying yourself a glass of wine on the flight, just treat yourself. It gives you something special to enjoy on the plane that you may not get to have too often.

I usually treat myself in a couple of ways that goes along with my overall strategy for dealing with a long plane ride. I bring a good book, something that I know will suck me in for a long time. I start out the flight by reading and read as long as I can. It is hard to read for 10 hours straight, though. So, I also bring a season of whatever guilty pleasure TV show I am watching at the moment and treat myself to a binge session when I don’t feel like reading anymore. I also bring my favorite candy that I never ever eat — sour patch watermelon — and eat it while I am watching my show. The combination of reading and a show that I really like helps the time pass in a fun way.

After all, how often do you get a few hours away from the rest of the world, the Internet and your cell phone? I like to look at a long flight as “me time.” Glass half full, right?!

Snacks. Speaking of food, you do need some snacks. Even though I treat myself to something not-so-healthy, I try to bring some relatively healthy snacks as well, like a banana, dried fruit, and cheese and crackers.The key is to pick snacks that do not need to be refrigerated.

Water. You can’t bring water with you, but you can buy giant water bottles in the airport. They usually are insanely expensive, they are worth it. Planes are super dry and those little cups of water they give you will not be enough to keep you feeling hydrated.

Lip balm and moisturizer. Like I said, planes get super dry, and lip balm and moisturizer for your face and hands will make you feel so much more comfortable.

Entertainment. Do not rely on the plane’s in flight entertainment. Just pretend it does not even exist. Sometimes the TV in front of you will not work, or sometimes you will be on a plane that does not have entertainment. If you are lucky enough to have a TV that works with a good selection of shows and movies, then you just have more options. Bring a book, your tablet, whatever you have to keep yourself entertained. You can even bring two books if you have space, in case you get bored of one. There are also a ton of awesome games that you can download to your phone that don’t require the Internet.

Some airlines nowadays have charging stations in the seats, so bring your phone and tablet chargers with you in your backpack, just in case you have the chance to charge up on the plane. I don’t rely on this either, though, so I make sure my phone and kindle are 100% charged before I leave the house.

Travel blanket. Planes get cold and the blankets given on the airplane are usually pretty flimsy. If you are like me and are always cold, a travel blanket will be your saving grace on a long flight. It may even make it easier for you to sleep.

Foot rest. Everyone brings neck rests on the plane (which are also really great and usually just snap onto the strap of your bag so they don’t take up precious space) but I never see anyone with an inflatable foot rest. I invested in one years ago and it was one of the best investments I ever made in travel gear. You will get a few looks while you are blowing it up but you will be so much more comfortable, especially if you have short legs like me. Bring a pair of those fuzzy socks to slip on as well, and you will be super happy. This is probably the most important thing I can do on a plane to make myself more comfortable.

Noise canceling headphones. These are another great investment because they are way more comfortable than regular headphones and they help block out the noise of the plane, so you can hear your music or movie so much better. A must.

Hand Sanitizer/Wipes. Planes are notoriously filthy. Coming home from a long flight a few years ago, I got strep throat. Now I wipe down the seat in front of me/tray table area and use hand sanitizer before eating anything on the plane.

A pen. Depending on where you are traveling, you may need to fill out some sort of form upon your arrival. When entering Hawaii, for example, you have to fill out a plants and animals declaration form, even if you are coming from another state. Pens are usually very scarce. 

Medications. Pack any medications or anything you simply cannot be without inside your personal item that you will be keeping under the seat in front of you. Sometimes your carry on item needs to get checked as you are boarding the plane if there is not enough space for everyone’s luggage, and you may forget to remove these items.

One more thing …..sleep. I saved this one for last because for me, it is really difficult to sleep on the plane. But if you can figure out a good position – perhaps one with your foot rest, blanket, and an eye mask,  sleep is obviously the best way to make a flight go faster. If you know that you can sleep on a flight, try to get red eye flights.

And if you are the person picking someone up from a super long flight, bring them a bottle of water and a small snack. They will probably feel tired, thirsty, and hungry (and maybe even a little bit cranky).

So there it is, my scientifically proven way to make a long flight tolerable and — dare I say it? — enjoyable.

What are your long flight tips? I would love any tips as I plan to be making many more of these long trips!

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3 responses to “Tips for Long Flights… things you can do before you even get on the plane until you land”

  1. Holly says:

    These are fantastic tips!!! I always forget about socks and regretted that on my flight home from DC this weekend. And I also do the book and TV show switch–sometimes I can’t read or watch TV because I get motion sickness pretty easily so my “always have to have” item is Sea Bands. They help SO much with motion sickness and I can read or watch shows with very little problems!!

    • carolann says:

      Hi Holly! Those Sea Bands are a great idea. I have been getting motion sickness more and more lately. The flight over here to New York was pretty rough, but I never thought of getting those! I am going to try them for the way home! Thanks so much!

  2. […] wrote a post a while ago about how I make long flights easier — things I do before I get on the plane, […]

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