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Long flights can be tough. I remember my longest one yet– to Singapore. I wasn’t prepared in the least. As a young adult, I boarded that plane with such excitement. First leg – Dallas to Tokyo. Second leg – Tokyo to Singapore.
Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite survival tips for long flights that have helped me over the years. Those flights to and from Asia taught me a lot about traveling on an airplane, lessons that have spared me plenty of travel headaches over the years. My hope is that some of these tips will help you on your next long flight, wherever that may be.
Survival Tips for Long Flights
I can deal with almost anything during a short hour-long flight.
A crying baby. A full bladder. A middle seat.
But when you start adding on hours in the air, it becomes more important to be prepared, and these survival tips for long flights can become critical.
Pick Your Seat Accordingly
Upgrade – Long flights almost demand that you pick the best flight your pocketbook can handle. First or Business class not an option? Sometimes upgrading to a certain row, which gives you a few more inches of legroom, can be the difference between bliss and misery – at least if you suffer from incredibly long legs.
Aisle or Window? – Think long and hard about this, especially if traveling solo. If you’re taking a red eye flight and need to sleep, do you need that window panel to snuggle up against? Do you need to get up often and use the restroom? Might want to consider an aisle seat so you don’t have to climb over sleeping passengers.
Fight Against DVT Risk
The longer the flight (and the more inactive you are in flight), the higher your risk of developing DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis. DVT, where blood clots can develop, can be life-threatening. Learn the risks of DVT here.
I have a family member who has had a couple of small blood clots in the legs. Because of that, I made sure I know how to fight against the risk while on an airplane.
Exercise – It’s important for long flights (even short ones in my opinion) to exercise, but that means more than just a brisk walk up the aisle to the restroom. Stretch your toes up and back, flexing your feet, and hold in that position for a few seconds. Then point your toes and hold in that position before repeating. Do this every 20 minutes or so.
Avoid Crossing Your Feet/Ankles/Legs – Avoid while in-flight as doing so may increase your risk of developing DVT.
Compression socks – Consider wearing compression socks to reduce your risk during flight.
I didn’t use to think hydration was that important. After all, I didn’t want to drink that much on a flight in order to avoid needing the restroom. But take a long flight without hydrating, and you will quickly learn.
Purchase Water After Going Through Security – Drinking water is important, but you can’t always count on the flight attendants being able to serve you. I can recall many flights when the turbulence was too much to allow for drink service. Make sure to purchase water after going through security, (or bring your own empty collapsible water container in your carry-on to fill at a water fountain). Not only does this ensure you will have water whenever you want it, but helps in times you have a little cough or need to take medicine.
Bring Eye drops – If you suffer from dry eyes in the least, you might just find yourself needing eye drops during your flight (or shortly thereafter). Try the single-use containers so that you don’t have to carry around small bottles. They couldn’t be easier to use. One single-use container lasts me an entire flight and then some (you can use one for 24 hours).
Moisturize – Don’t forget your skin. Pack a TSA approved size moisturizer for your face or hand lotion for your arms/hands.
Dress in Comfortable Layers
I’ve been both miserably hot and terribly cold on flights over the years. On a long haul flight, that can be almost disastrous. I don’t sleep. I can’t relax. It’s terrible.
So even when I’m leaving Texas when it’s 100 degrees outside, I wear some sort of pant. The weather outside does not determine the temperature inside my airplane. So I fight this with layers.
Dress like an onion, so you’ll be able to peel off or put clothing back on quickly. A lightweight zipped sweater or jacket is a must. Why zipped? You don’t want to bump into a fellow passenger trying to remove or put on your sweater. Also consider wearing closed toe shoes with socks. If your feet tend to get cold, sandals are not a great idea.
Power Up Electronics
While many airplanes have USB ports to keep your phones and tablets charged, don’t count on it. Some airports are overflowing with outlets, yet others leave you hunting for a rare find. Have all your electronics powered up completely before heading to the airport. And don’t travel without a portable charger. Grab this portable Anker external battery pack, which can charge an iphone 7 almost seven times. It lasts me all day, in remote locations, taking photographs and posting on social media constantly. I never fly without it.
Some airplanes don’t have WiFi and occasionally in-flight entertainment goes down due to technical difficulties. Be sure to download games before boarding, ones which don’t need WiFi to play. Download a movie or two while you are at it.
Bring a Good Neck Pillow
If you can sleep against the panel and snag yourself a window seat, you might be set. For those of us in the aisle or dreaded middle seats, consider a good neck pillow. While many people put the opening under the chin, I put it on the back of my neck, so that my head is supported if it falls forward. Do not try to get away purchasing a cheap one with microbeads. They’re less comfortable, and you’ll be wishing you would have purchased something sturdier.
Long gone are the good old days of full meals on 3 hour flights. Don’t be disappointed by the snack menu on your flight, which usually offers a handful of carb-heavy options. Take your meal/snack situation into your own hands. This is especially important if it’s a turbulent flight and the flight attendants cannot serve the cabin. On our most recent flight to Hawaii, I made sure to have a stash of turkey sticks for protein in addition to other carb options.
Place Medicine in Your Carry-on
Never pack medicine in your checked luggage. Always carry any critical medicine in one of your carry-on pieces, and I highly recommend it to be in the carry-on piece that is within reach at your feet and under the seat in front of you (handbag or backpack). You don’t want to worry about climbing over sleeping passengers or trying to open luggage in the overhead bins during a flight. Keep asthma medication, low-dose aspirin in case of chest pain, etc. within easy reach.
Large Bag or Backpack
Looking at this list, I have recommended you carry plenty of items with you onboard and within reach. Because of this, I do like to travel with a large handbag or a backpack. From iPads to lightweight jackets and snacks to medications, be sure to find the best option to travel with. The Patagonia backpack was my most recent purchase and it worked incredibly well during our Alaska trip this month. I also LOVE my waterproof (perfect for travel) LeSportsac travel tote, with 3 large outside pockets perfect for phone/charger and other items you may want to reach quickly on a plane.
Cancel the Noise
Prepare for Turbulence…and Incontinence
I have been on more than one flight where you simply could not get up to use the restroom. Pilots made an announcement due to turbulence or possible weather issues. And that spells mess for many of us. Mess for kids who haven’t yet learned to control their bladder, adults who experience incontinence, women who are pregnant, or those who have a few too many complimentary drinks. Whether you are a parent, a caregiver, or are just taking care of yourself, it’s smart to be prepared.
You should never let the fear of bladder leakage prevent you from traveling, even on those long haul flights. Depend® brand has a number of products that can help, like super soft and flexible Fit-Flex® Underwear that protects all-day long. Wear them and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re supported no matter how long the flight. For more resources, advice, and even funny stories, head here to join the incontinence community.
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