Long Haul Flight Tips : Tips to Survive a Long Plane Flight
Matthew Eaves often travels the globe, working at international venues advising business, governments, broadcasters and individuals on how new and emerging technologies can enrich learning.
Page last updated: Wednesday 5 July 2012
One thing that really bugged me before going on a trip to New Zealand was knowing that it would be a very very long journey from bed to bed.Here was my route outbound:
– Wake up, get up, SHOWER, get changed, get in brothers car – 1 hour
– Drive to London’s Heathrow Airport – 2 Hours
– Arrive one hours before check-in and beg for extra leg space – 1 Hour
– Check-in and wait for flight – 2 hours
– Fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 13.5 hours
– Wait for second flight to Auckland NZ – 3 hours
– Fly to Auckland – 9 hours
– Get of plane, get bag and check it in internally for flight to Christchurch – 1 hour
– Wait for flight to Christchurch – 2 hours
– Fly to Christchurch– 1 hour
– Get bag and meet person taking me to accommodation – 30 mins
– Drive to accommodation – 30 mins
– SHOWER (36 and a half hours after last shower!!!!)
As you can imagine, when I finally got to New Zealand I was shattered, totally wrecked…but my kiwi colleagues kept me awake for 5 hours to ensure I was getting into their time zone pattern. When I finally went to bed I slept for 22 hours solid.
I’ve written a book on this subject, and there are lots of lessons I’ve learned by travelling long distance in ‘Cattle Class’…. some tips are from travellers, others are my own from years in the air…. here are some, in no particular order…
Learn even more from the book! (from just 99c/99p)
- Take a toothbrush and toothpaste in hand luggage. Thai Airways provide free toothbrushes and toothpaste in the toilets on the plane, check your airline offers this service too!
- If you want to see the kind of food an airline serves check out airplanemeals.net is a traveller driven website where those in the air take pictures of the food and then post them up on the web for everyone to see!
- In departure lounge sit as close to the gate exit as possible, be first on the plane, another tip will tell explain 🙂
- Check with your doctor, getting him/her to reflect on your current and historical medical history in order to be sure that you are able to take ‘Aspirin’ before you fly. If you are able to take ‘Aspirin’ take an ‘Aspirin’ every 10 hours to thin your blood and avoid blood clots. Make sure ‘Aspirin’ is in its own box, do not take loose. Seek medical advice on this tip before you fly.
- Make use of the $20ish (US) lounges at the half way airport, you can shower there! I did not find this out till my return flight. For about £10 this is a bargain, you won’t smell. (So take a change of underwear and shirt in your hand luggage).
- NZ do not like you taking food into the country; you even have to declare packed sweets. Don’t bother taking any food what so ever, you will be asked about it, and if you declare it you will be put in ‘The Red Lane’ and have to wait a long time to speak to someone about the food you are bringing into the country. Fruit and Meat is a $200 instant fine. Take ‘The Green Lane’; don’t risk missing a connecting flight!
- Do not put spray deodorant in hand luggage – use roll on deodorant.
- Do not take razor blades in hand luggage.
- Carry a pen; you will need to fill out a visitors form on the plane for your destinations customs, if you are on an outbound trip.
- Some countries have strict rules over transit passengers, some medical drugs need paperwork when passing in transit through the USA. The penalty for illegal drugs in Malaysia is death.
- When they bring round the hot towels during the flight put it over your face and breath through it, it sorts out all your nose, mouth and ears which will become congested by the cabin pressure air. Once you’ve cleared out your head, then use the towel to clean as much as your arms and neck as you can.
- If asking for extra leg space, chances are you could be placed next to the toilet area on the plane, and you will be delighted by the constant queue of people standing next to you waiting for the toilet while you try to sleep. Insist that you do not want to sit next to a toilet.
- For entertainment value for those placed next to the toilets, watch and observe the non-English speaking passengers trying to open the toilet doors.
- Rush onto the plane, seriously, get there first to your seat before the passenger in the seat next to you arrives. By arriving first you are claiming the ‘arm rest’ passengers are unsure which seat it belongs to. Also, you get to put your bag directly over your head in the locker, meaning that if you need anything in the flight, it is right by you, and not three miles down the cabin because there was no space for your bag over your head by the time you arrived late!
- Get an aisle seat, its far better to be disturbed, than to disturb.
- Get a window seat if you have a strong bladder and want to rest your head against the window and have a sleep.
- Before take off, ask for a pillow as your neck is uncomfortable (it will be, and pillows are in limited supply, be first).
- Hold out on using your iPod for as long as you can before using it, you will appreciate it more towards the end of your journey before the battery dies.
- I’ve had some interesting conversations of flights with strangers, some other passengers are handy at
- Alcohol is free, drink a little to help you fall to sleep. Also drink (and eat) in the free bar in the pay to enter lounges at your transit airport (free with your $20 shower).
- Remember that compression of the cabin will increase your shoe size by 1 size, so, if you take your shoes off, be prepared to walk off the plane without them on, as they might not fit back on.
- Sports trainers are comfortable when flying.
- Consider Bose headphones, they remove plane noise.
- Some airports require the removal of a laptop from its bag through every security check, make this an easy job.
- Always complement the check in staff, thank them, and wish them a nice day. If everyone is nice to them they will become even nicer content people and we’ll all enjoy check-in after a frustrating long queue to get to check-in. If we’re all nice, globally then check-in could be faster!
- Wear baggy clothing, think long and hard what you are going to wear, keep it baggy, keep it light.
- Keep your passport safe at all times, make it easy to get access to them when going through customs points and spot checks, please don’t be the person that has to empty their bag looking for it and hold everyone up.
- Yawning helps removes the popping sensation in your ears on take off better than any other means.
- Buy a plastic bottle with a lid, ask the air aircrew to fill it up for you when it is empty, it is much easier than drinking (and spilling) from a plastic cup supplied by the airline.
- Drink a bottle of water every hour; leave your seat every hour and walk up and down the plane.
- Check who is sitting directly behind you, I had David Bellamy in the seat behind.
- Some airlines will allow you to check your bag to destination. For example, I checked my suitcase in with internal flight airline Qantas from Christchurch to Auckland to London. I changed at Auckland for Malaysian Airlines. I did not see my bag for 36 hours till I arrived at Heathrow. It was the last bag off the belt.
- When you leave some airports, they will charge you to do so, in Thailand they charge 500 Baht for leaving their airports on an International flight. Ensure you have the right money, it has to be cash. I unknowingly spent all my money, before having to use a cash machine to grab out another 500 Baht.
- Make sure you’re credit and debit cards can be used oversees, phone your credit/debit card issuer if you are unsure.
- Have you checked with your mobile phone company that you can use your phone in the country you are going to?
- Do you know the cost of calling home, texting home and the price other people pay to call your mobile (cell) when you are in another country?
- Don’t buy the plug adapter you’ll need for foreign countries from the airport, it will cost loads there, check your local hardware, DIY or superstore, where they cost a third of the airport price.
- If you are taking a present with you, for someone else, don’t wrap it until you get to the destination. Customs will unwrap it if they want to look inside. Obviously, don’t take scissors or sharp objects in your hand luggage.
- Buy the book you are about to read on the plane before going to the airport, airport bookshops are rip off merchants.
- MARK YOUR SUITCASE!!! – Do something really distinctive to your suitcase, so when it comes round and round the belt you know it is yours, and others know it is yours. Put a big yellow star on it, or something! Some companies sell straps which you can get your name stitched on.
- Pack what you need and research the climate in advance to get the right kind of clothing for the environment.
- Find out if you’ll be able to wash your clothing at the place you are staying, if you are, take less clothing, remember you’ll bring back more things in gifts and bargains you buy at your destination. The general rule is, if you’re suitcase is difficult to close prior to your journey, then you’ll not be able to close it with all those extra things you are bringing back on your return journey.
- If two of you are traveling together, pack half your clothing in each others suitcase, if one suitcase goes missing, you’ll still have access to your clothes. It is amazing how many suitcases go missing in transit.
- Going somewhere tropical? Got bug spray? You can also buy those things which you plug into the wall in the room you are sleeping in and it emits a smell which annoys bugs, who then stay away from you when you sleep.
- Write the address tags for your suitcase (outbound: where you are going / inbound: your home address) in advance, not while you’re in the queue for check in!
- Make your long flight on time when you schedule airport parking reservations
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And finally, I have terrible trouble sleeping on planes. The passengers next to me on the flight from Kuala Lumpa to Heathrow knocked themselves out for 7 hours with ‘Night Nurse’.
Buy the book! (from 99c/99p)
‘How to survive a long haul flight’ (the book!) has now in its second edition and is available from stores and online now and on the Amazon Kindle.
It took three years to finish writing and is full of tips, advice and suggestions from industry experts and travellers from around the world.
The 168 pages include sections on booking, preparation, packing, the airport, being airborne and advice for arrival.
Click here to purchase a copy from Amazon or order ISBN: 9780955984402 in any bookstore in the world…
Loads of people comment on this page, and here are some of the best tips they have added so far:
- Marg: I have found my chances of actually getting some sleep is increased if I have a window seat. This way I have something to lean against without worrying that I am going to collapse onto some unsuspecting poor soul’s shoulder.
- Marg: I also like to be almost the last person onto the flight….the reason for this is to check out where everyone is seated. If I happen to see some vacant areas…then I check with the crew and after take off move to a roomier spot.
- Bill: I flew to and from New York last year and found that if you get a window seat near to the back of the plane you get a bit of extra leg room between the seat and the cabin wall. I think. I remember there being a lot of space there.
- Dunstan: I like to stay in the lounge, with my laptop plugged into the mains, until the very last! I figure they will always give me a final call and once you get around the corner there is always a queue anyway so you haven’t exactly delayed proceedings… I just hate queues so I want to avoid them & spend the mimimun time in the plane possible!
- Dunstan: Charging your lapton on the plane – especially for Cokaru the new Airbus A340-600 has in-flight charging facilities without having to buy one of those silly and expensive adaptors. You just plug in between the seats! The socket takes US, Au and UK plugs (very clever) but my AU iBook charger didn’t have enough clearance to fit in. Next time I’ll take my US adaptor or an extension!
- Anon: Bring ear-plugs and an eye-mask for sleeping.
- Anon: When you book your flight if you ask for a special meal you will get served first, then you can finish before everyone and beat the post-meal rush to the loo.
- Donna: if you are a smoker this one goes a long way….if someone is stopping for re-fuel in Singapore, not a lot of people know that there is a “tropical oasis” in an outdoor area of the transit terminal ….it also has a bar!!! It’s a great place even if you don’t smoke as it sprays light mist on you for the mossies and you get to chat to a lot of travellers!
- Trevor: If you cannot afford the $600AU noise cancelling headphones that you mentioned, there are cheaper once you can buy on the net. I got mine for $127 including postage, and they’re fine.
- Deborah: Pack a flannel & small towel to ‘wash down’ whilst balancing on tippy toes in the loo. If nothing else it will make everyone sitting close by outside, wonder what is going on!
- Julie: American Airlines provide headphones for free on International flights, but on internal USA flights, they charge you around $5 a pair, keep the international flight headphones and use them on the internal flights.
- Justina: Take your own headset, because the ones supplied are usually rubbish. Adapters are usually provided for plugging your headphones into the airlines strange sockets. Justina’s Blog.
- David: If you’re feeling sorry for yourself and envious of the chaps (business/first class passengers) at the front of the plane remember that they have all the senior (read old) stewardesses and you have all the fresh young new recruits.
- Chris Lambert: In the days leading up to the trip, start putting yourself into the other timezone as much as possible. Go to bed a couple of hours later or get up earlier if you can.
- Tony: Apart from that they have all been without incident, I manage to sleep a lot and after a copule of red wines sleep even more, the only jet lag I seem to suffer from is the journey home, and that lasts for a couple of days.
- Chris Lambert: (TAKE MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE FOLLOWING THIS TIP) On the plane, take calming/sleeping tables & a little wine when you should be asleep in the destination timezone, and decongestant (containing pseudoephedrine) when you should be awake. I reckon this reduces the jetlag recovery time by heaps.
- Rich: Will keep an eye out for David Bellamy.
Don’t forget to save time and money with discount airport parking on your next trip.
The other tip I have for falling to sleep, on planes, and in Hotels (I cant sleep in those either!)…is…
Try and remember every hotel room you’ve stayed in on business, and what they were called. It sounds boring, but it really does work. You’ll never remember the room numbers, but you will surely be able to remember the floor each room was on? You’ll fall to sleep trying! – How boring!
Also, if I have not covered everything you need here, then check out this link for transporting horses long haul.
Enjoy your flight(s). Oh, and check you’ve had all the jabs you need before entering a country that could mess with your system……some jabs have to be done six months before you arrive. Seriously!
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Please add to this by scrolling right to the bottom of this page….tell us all who you are, and where you are flying….its totally anonymous ……..THIS HAS BECOME THE MAIN PAGE TO FLY LONG HAUL BY, SO JUST SAY HELLO IF YOU DONT HAVE MUCH TO SAY 🙂 …….or even add a tip……. lets make this the ‘tip list that everyone fly’s by! :-)’. I’ll add your tips to the main body of this article, alongside your name! Incentive or what!