The majority of my clients in 2022 so far have been traveling overseas. After two years of road trips and domestic flights, they finally feel comfortable navigating the complicated world of traveling abroad once again!
Over the last 20 years of overseas travel (including a recent flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa), I’ve gained valuable experience that I hope will help you on your next (or first) overseas flight. With some preparation, you can start your vacation off right and enjoy the experience!
Comfort is important when flying for several hours. Make sure you choose an aircraft with a great seat configuration and modern amenities such as charge ports and headphones. Not all airlines are created equal, so do your research.
One of the most essential long-haul flight tips is to think ahead and choose a good seat when possible. To decide the perfect seat for you, here are a few suggestions:
• Select an exit row if you want more leg room
• Select an aisle seat if you like to move about the plane (or have quick access to the restrooms)
• If you want a fairly decent night of sleep on red-eye flights, and your budget permits, reserve a lay-flat seat in the business or first-class cabin
I use seatguru.com to look at the airplane’s configuration. Once you enter your flight information, you will see which seats on that plane are considered premium and which might have a problem, such as limited recline or location relative to the bathrooms and galleys.
This is pretty obvious, isn’t it? What type of clothing will you be glad you wore after sitting on a plane for 7 to 15 hours? Long-haul flights tend to feel slightly chilly, so wearing several loose layers will allow you to adjust your comfort level as the flight progresses. It’s important not to wear tight shoes because your feet will expand at 35000 feet, and in case of emergencies, closed-toed shoes (preferably with laces so you can make proper adjustments when needed) are better than flip flops. You can always remove them and don a pair of cozy slippers or socks in-flight (amenity kits in premium cabins usually come with warm socks in case you forget to pack them in your carry on). Compression socks also help minimize swelling in your legs and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Trying to sleep in coach can be tricky, but it’s still possible with some help. When you think about it, you’ll be on the plane for approximately a whole day or night, so it’s worth bringing a few long-haul flight essentials. If you are seated in the main cabin, you may want to bring a good travel pillow to avoid getting kinks in your neck. A good sleep mask (mine is slightly weighted for extra comfort) and a pair of earplugs or noise-canceling earbuds also help tremendously.
Rather than downing a bunch of cocktails which may make you sleepy but will make it difficult to stay asleep for any decent amount of time, try some Chamomile tea to help you get sleepy. If that doesn’t work for you, an over-the-counter sleep aid can help if taken in moderation. Just make sure you know how these medications affect you before trying them on your trip!
To help my body adjust to the time zone of my destination, I find that changing my watch to my destination’s time zone helps me to adapt to the new time zone more easily. Be mindful of the local time if you still have connections to make, as you might get confused and miss a flight. Once you know the time at your destination, try to stay awake when it’s daytime there and get some sleep when it’s nighttime.
I find it helpful to pack a couple of days’ worth of clothes in my carry-on roller bag in case the airline loses my checked luggage, but I also keep essentials in my backpack that I stow under the seat in front of me so that I can easily reach them during the flight. Basic toiletries, such as a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste, a small hair brush and travel-sized hairspray, will help you feel refreshed when you land. I also keep my noise-canceling headphones, phone/iPad charger, water bottle, sanitizing and makeup remover wipes, hand sanitizer, medications, and essential documents like a passport and vaccination card so they are always with me.
You’ll probably be fed multiple times on a long-haul flight, but traveling through time zones often means you end up with meals when you might not be ready for them. Or you may sleep through a meal (that often happens to me on an overnight flight and I miss breakfast). To avoid getting “hangry,” keep some slow-energy release snacks like cereal bars, nuts, or dried fruit in your carry-on luggage.
It is important to stretch your legs and arms on a long-haul flight to avoid the risk of developing DVT. It helps to keep the circulation flowing in your legs by getting up every two hours and also doing gentle exercises at your seat. Moving about the plane once in a while can also be much more conducive to getting some healthy rest than popping a sleeping pill.
Aircraft cabins are often arid places, and there’s a good chance of becoming dehydrated. Bring a water bottle on board so you don’t have to wait on the flight attendants for refills. Regularly drink plenty of water and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. If your skin tends to dry out, bring a travel sized moisturizer and take some eye drops if you’re prone to dry eyes. Staying hydrated is instrumental in staving off jetlag, as well.
If you have a long layover, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the airport that will be your home for several hours. It is good to know what kind of food and shops they have, operating hours, and locations. You don’t always have to have a first or business class ticket, or be an elite member of an airline’s frequent flyer program to use the amenities at airport lounges. Some lounges will allow passengers to purchase a day pass, but it isn’t as common as before COVID, so make sure you check in advance if you aren’t an elite member of an airline’s frequent flyer program or holder of a premium cabin ticket. Do you want to take advantage of sleeping pods or day rooms? Baggage storage facilities (if you have enough time to leave the airport and tour the city between flights)? You can find all this information on the airport website.
What better time to abandon your cares and do nothing than on a flight? There is no mobile phone coverage, a crew waiting on your every need, and someone else is in charge of getting you to your destination. Use the time to catch up on that book you haven’t had the chance enjoy, get lost in a few movies, or get excited about your destination by perusing a guidebook. By looking at those long hours as bonus time, your long flight will immediately become a positive thing rather than something to dread.
I hope you find these ten tips helpful! Reach out to us when you are ready to start planning your next trip, and we will help get you on your next long-haul flight!
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