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How to Deal with a Long Haul Flight

11 November 2011 4 Comments

When you are planning your next trip, you might decide to splash out a bit and choose a destination that might be far greater in distance than you have ever travelled before. You might be thinking it’s about time you saw more of the world, or possibly you have relatives that you want to visit. But if there is the prospect of a long haul flight, for many people this is a huge hurdle.

A long flight is often the main reason for people deciding not to travel. They regard the flight as being an evil that they just can’t overcome, and for that reason they very rarely leave their home country, but opt for trips around their own country instead, travelling mostly by train or by car. I know of people who have tried to conquer their fears of flying by travelling to places fairly near, therefore leaving just a short time up in the air, but the thought of being stuck in a seat for hours on end sends shockwaves of fear into their bones.

For people like myself, living in Europe, there are many beautiful places that can be reached fairly quickly by plane. For example, flights to Tenerife might only take a few hours, and would be the perfect way to help overcome that fear of flying, but travelling to Australia or New Zealand may take more than a day if you include a stopover. So it’s understandable why some people find this too daunting.

I remember my first long flight to New Zealand quite well. The first part of the flight was quite full, and I decided upon a window seat to see the world go by. I don’t have a fear of flying, but the thought of long haul flights does put me off a little. I remember sitting in the seat watching the animation of our flight path on the monitor in front of me, noticing how slowly we seemed to be moving. The thought of sleeping through most of it was very appealing, but for someone like me, completely impractical. I don’t sleep well at the best of times. If it feels like I have slept a while, a quick glance at my watch tells me otherwise. And being in the window seat makes it that much harder getting out of my seat if I need the toilet, or just to stretch my legs.

The second part of the flight was much better, however, as I had a row of three seats by the window all to myself. This way I was able to sleep by lying over the three seats. The time flew by on this flight. (Excuse the pun!). My flights to and from Australia were hard-going, but I have a strange way of going into a conscious hibernation – if that makes any sense – and my body just slows right down. I find I can sit for hours on end without ever needing to get up, although I do regularly stretch my feet and do the recommended exercises. There was also a lot of turbulence coming back from Australia, which consequently meant needing the seatbelt on at all times. After a while my stomach did feel a little tender.

I find the food is generally really nice on long flights, and there is always enough to drink. Cabin crew can often be seen walking up and down the aisles, so there is always somebody to help you if you should need it. There are monitors to view the flight progress, and to watch movies or television programs, or maybe just to play games. There is enough to keep you occupied, but you will get bored, this I can guarantee.

My advice would be to check in early if you can, and ask for an aisle seat. This way you can stretch your legs out a bit more, or go for a wander if you feel the need. Take your own music on an iPod or mp3 player. Keep your belongings in the overhead compartment to give you more room for your feet, and do the exercises shown regularly for your legs and feet. Take a pillow for your lower back, and a neck pillow to help you sleep, and use the blanket provided to keep you warm. Wearing warm clothes is also an idea as it does get very cool with the constant air flow throughout the plane.

Sleeping may be your best bet to pass the time quickly, but I would recommend staying awake for as long as you can to help reduce jet lag. It’s better to start battling jet lag as soon as possible to avoid wasted days at your holiday destination. If you can’t resist the temptation, sleep for a short while, and then make yourself stay awake after. I had absolutely no problems with jet lag whatsoever – neither going nor coming back – by doing exactly this. I made sure I slept only when it was night time at my destination, and because I was so tired once I had arrived, I slept very well.

I don’t claim to be an expert in any of this, but these things have worked for me, and if it can work for you as well, then this can only be a good thing in my book.

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Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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  • shane said:

    Hey Dan,

    “I find the food is generally really nice on long flights”

    I have to respectively disagree with you on that statement. Last month I was coming back from Europe on Aer Lingus the food was terrible (maybe it was because they were Irish! haha).

  • Craig Stevens said:

    Good article Dan. Very knowledgable and helpful.

  • dan said:

    haha, yeah that would be it. I’ve always liked plane food, and often finish it off before anyone else around me. I love all the little pots with different things to eat, it all ads to the excitement of the travel. In your defence, I don’t know anybody else who does like aeroplane food 🙂

  • dan said:

    thank you very much kind sir

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