I’m heading home to the States soon for a visit. Of course, I am super stoked to be going, but I am less than stoked about the over 24 hour door to door travel time. As this will be my 6th time going on a long haul flight, I have some things that I always do to make the experience less horrible. (Don’t get me wrong, the 12 hour flight sucks no matter what. Well, I guess if I was in first class it wouldn’t suck, but I’ll have to wait and try that myself to see.) Everyone has different things that work for them, but these are the tried and true things that seem to help me.
1. Load up the computer and iPad with as many movies and tv shows as possible.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, it took me a while to figure out just which type of entertainment worked best for me when my brain is completely fried from the recycled air. Movies are good because if they can keep my attention, it is an easy way to get through two hours. Shows are nice for when I’m having trouble concentrating. The best for me, though, are standup comedy specials. They keep me entertained without having to focus too much on what is actually being said.
The downside to these is that sometimes they actually make me laugh aloud, which probably bothers the few of my fellow passengers who aren’t wearing headphones of their own or sleeping. Shows that are serious and plot heavy are guaranteed to make me flip to that torturous map channel and check our depressing progress.
2. Sleep when you can.
There are a lot of people who have a rule that try to go into the flight sleep deprived so they have a better chance to sleep through the flight. Others try to sleep only on a specific schedule so they can get a jumpstart on combatting their jetlag. For me, going in sleep deprived just makes me feel sick and gross (and after a 12 hour flight, it is ten times worse). What works best for me is to get as many small naps as possible. (Probably in a variety of amusing positions.)
3. Drink a lot of water.
Before, during, and after. Planes are notoriously dry and will leech any moisture right out of you. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fish when it comes to water. I need it pretty much constantly. So before any long flight, I try to keep really well hydrated beforehand and even more so on the plane. The added benefit of this is that I am forced to get up and walk to the bathroom every so often. Which brings me to another habit:
4. Get up and walk around frequently.
If I’m not sleeping or in the middle of a movie, I try to get up and stretch every hour or so. Yeah, it’s a hassle to get out of my nest (blankets, various things that are on the tray table, etc), but it is worth it in the end. Everyone knows that there are a lot of health benefits to occasionally exercising on the plane, but it is also a really good way to break up the time.
5. Pick your seat carefully.
If you have the time, spend time getting the perfect seat. The flights to and from the States on ANA tend to have a 3-4-3 configuration. The aisle seats of the middle 4 section are the best, in my opinion. This means that the poor souls trapped in the middle two seats have another escape route. Which means that if you choose to sleep, it’s less likely that they’ll have to wake you. Unless they are feeling particularly sadistic. And after being trapped in a metal tube that long, I can’t actually blame them.
There are also websites like seatguru.com that can tell you what seats are good and what are bad. Some are too close to the bathroom, some are particularly narrow for some reason, etc. If you’re worried about that, it’s worth checking.
6. Pack snacks.
Again, this is probably a no-brainer, but it’s something I always forget. I might grab something at the airport, but I always regret packing “real” food. This year, I have a battle plan. I’m going to make a bunch of homemade Cliff/nut/fruit bars, make a few sandwiches that don’t need to be refrigerated, and throw in some fruit. While I can normally eat most of the food on the flight (I don’t ham, which means that anything hamburger or pork related is out of the question), I always find myself craving something “fresh” tasting. I’ve some really good ideas for airplane bento lunches that I want to try out. I even ordered some almond butter because it seems less likely to cause and allergic reaction in any of the passengers than peanut butter.
7. Bring disinfectant wipes.
Bringing food brings up another issue: the ridiculous amount of germs on the plane. I wash my hands a lot, but I always end up forgetting to bring some kind of wipe for the disgusting tray tables. Even on ANA, which is a pretty clean airline from what I’ve seen, I don’t trust every surface not to be crawling with germs. And with hundreds of people packed in there, sharing the same air, someone is bound to have something communicable. But, hey, at least if I get sick in the States I’ll understand my doctor.
With all of this in my head, I think I’m ready to tackle the challenge of the flight home. It’s a mental challenge more than a physical one, anyway, but what waits for me in the States makes the whole thing well worth it.