Unless you’re one of the lucky few: oligarchs, lottery winners, Premier League footballers or tech billionaires, that can afford their own luxury suite-in-the-sky , chances are that most of your long-haul flights will be a torturous ordeal, the tedium only briefly punctuated by patches of unnerving turbulence; attacks of cramp, and awkward conversations while queuing for the bathroom with your legs crossed.
Travelling “cattle-class” needn’t be so unpleasant though, if you plan ahead.
1. Jet Lag
If you’re crossing time zones then you may encounter jet lag, so try and book a flight that arrives either late-afternoon or in the evening, meaning you have less time to stay awake when you land. Don’t plan too much activity for your first day or so, instead letting your body gently acclimatise to its new rhythm.
2. Seating Arrangements
Try to reserve an aisle seat. That means if you want to stretch your legs, visit the bathroom or poke your head through the first-class curtain for a look at what you’re missing, you can do so without difficulty. Plus if your neighbours want to do the same, you won’t have to put up with them climbing over you.
3. Creature Comforts
The thin blankets and tiny pillows provided by major carriers are about as helpful for sleeping as a seagull nest outside your bedroom window. Bring your own travel pillow and warm blanket, an eye mask, ear plugs (vital if you’re sat next to a family with a baby), and wear comfortable clothing such as a tracksuit.
4. Avoiding An Early Kick-Off
One of the worst parts of plane-travel is if the person sat behind you keeps kicking the back of your seat. If it happens to you, address the problem directly straightaway, with a cool head, instead of letting the torment build up for hours. Also please note: slamming your seat back just after lunch or a hot drink has been served may seem like a fitting punishment, but others may feel it’s a little extreme.
Most long-haul flights come with a range of entertainment options, from in-flight movies to flirting with the stranger across the aisle, but these hours spent trapped in a metallic tube are also a great opportunity to deal with any boring admin you’ve been putting off for ages, such as reorganising the apps on your devices, or deleting old pictures to make space on your camera’s memory card.
Stick to bottled, still water, and plenty of it. Flights dehydrate you, and alcohol simply makes it worse. Fruit juice and sugared soft drinks stimulate you, making it difficult to sleep. Plus, if you keep yourself well-hydrated, you’ll be making plenty of trips to the bathroom, a good way to get some exercise and stave off the risk of DVT.
7. Stay Healthy
Plane cabins are notorious breeding-grounds for all manner of unpleasant bugs which are easily spread through the air-conditioning and confined space. You might be shocked to learn how quickly and far a sneeze can spread. So minimise the risk of getting ill by packing hand-sanitizers, wet-wipes, even a face-mask if you really worry about it. And if you’re unlucky enough to be sat next to someone whose general health outlook is bleak, ask discreetly if there are any spare seats elsewhere.
Airline food has improved over the years, but it’s still a long way off haute cuisine. If you don’t care too much for reheated mini-meals, bring your own healthy snacks to keep you going instead. And in the days before you fly, lay off the curries and other foods likely to give you an upset stomach, if only for the sake of your neighbours.
9. Expect The Unexpected
Hold luggage does have a habit of going missing from time to time. It’s always a good idea to keep valuables in your hand luggage, and also to pack a change of clothes and some basic toiletries too, in case you have to wait a few days to connect with your main bag.
10. Avoid The Rush
On landing, it’s bizarre how many people spring to their feet and get their stuff from the overhead lockers before waiting uncomfortably for ages until the doors open. Why bother? You’re only going to save, what, a few minutes? You still have to negotiate passport control and baggage reclaim. So stay in your seat, finish the book or movie on your tablet, and take your time.