Flying is never super-enjoyable, but once you move into long-haul flights, the ones that span double digits for length, things can get pretty unbearable fast. Trapped in a crowded tin can with subpar food, subpar seatmates and a stiff neck can be quite uncomfortable, but there area few things you can do to make the experience go significantly smoother.
There are several different seat philosophies. Some people prefer the aisle seat for better legroom and bathroom access while others go for the slight privacy edge and better view offered by a window seat. One thing we can all agree on: nobody wants to end up wedged in a middle seat for 12 hours.
The easiest way to avoid that cramped fate is to choose your seat online when you buy your tickets. When you check in at the airport, make sure to confirm that your seat is acceptable.
Ignore those photos of stylish celebrities walking off their flights in 4-inch heels. When you're going to be sitting, sleeping and eating in one spot for many hours, comfort should be your highest priority. Skip anything tight, restrictive or scratchy and go for loose, breathable clothing that makes you feel good. If possible, dress in layers so that you can be comfortable no matter what the plane's internal temperature.
One of the biggest physical discomforts of long flights is the risk of dehydration. Not only can the internal atmosphere dry you out like a raisin, but dehydration compounds the symptoms of jet lag, making you one miserable new arrival.
It may be tempting to cut back on fluids to decrease trips to the bathroom, but keep drinking water throughout your flight. Skip caffeinated drinks, they can have a diuretic effect, and alcoholic beverages, which will sadly leave you less hydrated than before. You may also want to bring along a quality moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out.
The other, far more dangerous, health issue associated with long-haul flights is the risk of blood clots. Deep Vein Thrombosis happens when your blood pools due to inactivity and it can lead to very dangerous complications. It occurs more frequently on flights that last longer than 8 hours.
To prevent DVT, it is important to get up and move frequently on long flights. Stretch your legs, in particularly your calves, every couple of hours. Those who are at risk due to health history or medications may also want to wear compression socks.
The only way to truly escape the monotony of a long, long flight is through the dreamy release of sleep. Sleep on a plane isn't always easy to come by though. You may want to consider bringing a sleep mask and ear plugs to block out the fact that you are surrounded by people. Most airlines will provide a pillow and blanket. Some people prefer a pharmaceutical helper like a sleeping pill, but use caution and check with your doctor first.
Sleep doesn't come easy for all flyers, and when it doesn't, technology is your new best friend. While a book or a magazine might get you by on a short flight, once the lights are out and everyone is sleeping, a Kindle or iPad is key for staying entertained. Come prepared with a full battery, a juicy novel and several thrilling movies queued up and ready to go. With any luck, time will pass quicker than you think!
What are some of your tips to survive a long flight?
Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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