9 Ways to survive long-haul flights

BY Richard Mellor

1st Jan 2015 Travel

9 Ways to survive long-haul flights

Boredom and discomfort alert: a monstruous 12-hour flight beckons. Here are 9 ways to make it bearable – or even fun

Sit right

A good seat is absolutely vital. While some carriers charge a fee for selecting seats in advance, most allow passengers to choose their spots for free inside 24 hours of departure. Exit rows aren’t always the best: to make the best choice, find out the model of plane on which you’ll fly, then consult SeatGuru for recommendations of where best to deposit your derrière. If you’re long-legged, avoid aisle seats: there’s nothing worse than finally nodding off, only to have a careless passer-by accidentally kick you back into consciousness.



The best seat is an upgraded seat. So adopt a butter-wouldn’t-melt face plus weary, timid smile and ask boarding-desk staff if they happen to, just maybe, have any vacant first-class seats?


Improve your odds

Sleeping is the single best way to make airplane hours disappear. Give yourself the very best shuteye chance by bringing earplugs (to drown out babies and snorers), face masks (daylight) and inflatable neck pillows, just in case in-flight amenity bags prove scarce. Natural slumber aids – melatonin or sleeping pills, not two quarts of whiskey – are also an option, as are doze-inducing soundtrack tapes.



If you can’t achieve unconsciousness, a conscious trance is the next best thing. Whether it’s using pre-downloaded guided meditations, an in-flight mindfulness programme – newly offered by some carriers – or your own practised techniques, zone out and check into your own relaxing headspace.


The right rags

Yes to comfort, no to cold. Wear stretchy, cosy clothes – leggings, velour tracksuits, tanks, long-sleeve tee shirts, cardigans – and bring cashmere socks and an extra sweater, as airplanes can get mighty nippy. Slip-on shoes will help with swelling feet and curling up, plus make customs much easier. And scarves can double as pillows blessed with pleasingly familiar scents.



Planes naturally dehydrate us, causing peaky skin, headaches and even deep vein thrombosis. Buy the biggest-size water bottle possible after you’ve passed customs, and get attendants to refill it for you at least once during the flight as you glug away. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, but give consideration to electrolyte drinks. Nothing trumps some good old H2O, though.


Move around

Sitting still for long periods of time also risks inducing deep vein thrombosis, not to mention plain old cramp. Stroll a lap of the plane a couple of times, and even neck with flight attendants if possible to pass a little more upright time. Do some stretches en route to further get that blood a-flowing.


Prep your entertainment

It’s all very well pre-filling your e-reader or iPad with books, films or complete TV-show seasons – though you’re quite right to doubt the in-flight entertainment choices – but you must actually be into said content, otherwise the journey will be a yawny, dissatisfied grind. In advance of travel, read a few chapters or watch one episode of something enticing to tantalisingly whet your appetite: then the flight, on which you gleefully binge on the entire remainder, becomes a treat, not a chore. Oh, and make sure you’ve charged said equipment: realising during take-off that your iPad has only 10% power is the fail of all fails.


Pack pen and paper

Write a short story about that exotic-looking lady two seats over, and the love affair she tearfully called off hours earlier. Or the chap behind, who’s almost certainly an international hitman. Maybe do some drawing, or use this rare down-time to compose a long-overdue letter? A little serendipity will get you far.

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