Vacations are fun, especially if you’re traveling to the other side of the world. What’s not fun are the long-haul flights that come with them — those eight, ten, and even fifteen-hour flights that make you question why did you decided to go to this far-flung destination in the first place! While long-haul flights are never going to be the best part of a trip, they don’t have to be the reason why you decide not to travel in the first place.
Hydration is essential to reducing the level of jet lag you’ll feel once you reach your destination if you’re crossing several time zones. Additionally, for health purposes, the cabin air is usually drier than normal, which will cause dehydration faster than normal. On a long-haul flight, you’ll start feeling the dry air around your nose, mouth and throat, and in cases, if not addressed in time, breathing could become uncomfortable and even painful. Drink water often and try to avoid dehydrating beverages like alcohol and coffee. This is why most airlines offer water throughout any long flight.
Since you’ll be drinking water, you’ll probably feel the need to go to the bathroom once or even a few times during the flight. Sitting next to the aisle will make this task much easier since you wouldn’t have to inconvenience anyone else every time you want to go to the bathroom. Additionally, if you feel like you’re too cramped in the middle or window seats, sitting next to the aisle helps alleviate the claustrophobia by having that empty aisle space next to you.
If crossing time zones, try to coordinate your sleep during the flight to the same time as your destination. This way, once you get there, your body will adjust better to the new time zone. Alternatively, if your flight is eight or more hours long and you arrive at your destination late at night, sleep only during the first half of the flight and stay awake during the second half, this way you’ll feel tired and ready to sleep once you arrive.
This is a pro tip to help you keep an extra empty seat. When booking the flight, select your two seats with one seat in the middle empty (for example, your seats will be 29A and 29C, with 29B empty). People tend to dislike seating in the middle seat next to strangers, so if the flight is not full, there’s a chance that seat might stay empty and available for you two to sit more comfortably or lay down to sleep. Should it be occupied in the end, then simply offer the person the window or aisle seat and explain you’d like to sit together.
If you have circulatory problems, try walking down the aisle towards the bathroom every couple hours. This will help keep the blood flowing properly through the body and avoid any swelling that could occur in the feet. If walking is not much of an option, at least stand next to your seat for two to three minutes and raise your legs as if walking up steps.
A good idea for any traveler, but especially if you’re older or have circulatory issues, compression socks are an essential travel item. They aid in keeping blood flow around your legs, avoiding pain and swelling.
Several airlines already have quick instructions in their in-flight magazines to stretch and exercise your body during a long flight. Should they be available, follow their illustrated steps. Should they not be available, you could do the following. In addition to what was mentioned in tip #5, do the following exercises for 20 seconds each.
While most airlines offer entertainment onboard, many of them don’t necessarily have a broad selection of movies and music to keep you entertained. Additionally, should your return flight happen just a week or a few weeks after your departure, it is possible the airline will still have the same movies on offer, so your return flight might feel a bit boring if you already watched everything that piqued your curiosity. Try bringing your own entertainment in the form of a tablet or laptop with several movies, playing cards (if traveling with others), puzzle games (like Sudoku), music and more.
Long haul flights might not be the best part of a trip, but they don’t have to be the worst either!
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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