During summers growing up, the two-hour car journey to the campsite in West Wales seemed like an absolute eternity! My parents would load up a big full of goodies to keep my brother and I entertained and complacent – colouring books, activity packs, our Gameboys and Walkmans (remember those?!) with various games and CDs.
As an adult a two-hour car ride seems like nothing. It’s peanuts! The grown-up equivalent of that dreaded journey is a long-haul flight – hours on end of sitting in the same seat in the same clothes with the same people. While I don’t claim to be a seasoned expert on the subject, I think I’ve experienced my fair sure of long-haul flights to be able to cough up a tip or two to make the horrible, stuffy journey that little bit more comfortable…
It’s all well and good wearing your tightest jeans or LBD on that short-haul two hour flight to Italy – you look good, feel great and ooze confidence. When it comes to long-haul, such attire is a big no-no! Bearing in mind you’re about to spend hours on end sitting down on the same seat with minimal leg-room, you need to forget about looking good and concentrate on feeling good. Tight clothes – particularly socks and trousers – raise the risk of developing in-flight health issues such as Deep Vein Thrombosis, which could potentially be fatal. When it comes to long-haul, the looser the better. Opt for long skirts, leggings or loose-fitting slacks paired with a couple of different length/style tops layered on top of one another. Cabin temperature fluctuates non-stop throughout the whole flight, and by layering you can add or subtract clothes as and when the barometer changes.
Bring your own entertainment
Just like during those childhood trips, keeping yourself entertained is a must on all flights, no matter how long. Long-haul flights in particular are the perfect opportunity to catch up on all the latest films and TV shows, thanks to the brilliant in-flight entertainment systems found on most airlines these days. Sometimes you might even hit the jackpot and find a film which is not yet released in your home country! There’s only so many episodes of the Simpsons or cheesy rom-coms you can take in one sitting, though, and bringing your own preferred source of entertainment will help combat any boredom. You can’t go wrong with an e-Reader or good old-fashioned paper book! Other suggestions are: an adult colouring book and pencils, tablet, iPod, playing cards or other card-based games.
Don’t forget headphones!
Most airlines that provide entertainment also provide headphones, although sometimes these come at a small cost. I tend to find them pretty bad quality, though, and find it extremely difficult to keep them in my ears, which is why I always make sure to bring my own with me! Be that extra bit prepared by getting noise-cancelling headphones, perfect for blocking out screaming babies and snoring passengers!
To be completely honest, despite the 40+ flights taken in my life, I still haven’t quite cracked how the whole drinks situation works. Are you allowed to ask for water? Do you have to wait until the air hostess comes around and asks? Whatever the way it works, one of the most important ways to make your long-haul flight bearable is to stay hydrated! That incurable thirst you get on a plane after drinking the thimble full of water they give you with your meal is horrible, which is why I always buy a large bottle of water after security but before boarding. That way I can make sure I get enough water, stay hydrated and healthy during the flight! Alternatively, take your own empty water bottle and fill it up as you go.
Take your toiletries
A lot of the bigger international airlines provide you with a teeny tiny disposable toothbrush and enough toothpaste to suit a garden gnome for overnight flights. The problem with this is that I always get the overwhelming urge to brush my teeth every couple of hours on a plane, so it’s never enough. Always take your own toothpaste and toothbrush, as well as any other essentials such as anti-bacterial hand-gel, deodorant, face wipes and lip balm to make sure you stay feeling fresh and clean throughout the flight. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination looking and feeling like you’ve been stranded on a desert island for a year.
Where possible, try and catch an overnight flight as opposed to an all-dayer. This way you not only get to save on a night’s accommodation, but by sleeping through the night, that long and boring 16-hour journey suddenly becomes 8 hours of consciousness and 8 hours of surprisingly refreshing sleep! If you’re really keen on getting a good night’s kip, you may want to invest in earplugs and an eye mask. Some airlines even provide these for you (hello, Oman Air!).
Don’t be shy
Start up a conversation with the person sitting next to you – getting to know somebody new is a great way to pass time and you might even walk away with a new friend! If your new neighbour is travelling alone they’ll probably be grateful for the company, just as you would be. If you’re sat near a family with young children, start up a game of I Spy – not only will the kids have something to do, but their parents will love you for the distraction! It may even be that you find yourself chatting to someone from the country you’re heading out to, and they can give you loads of advice on where to go and what to see. Obviously if you try to chat and they seem less than interested, give up – you don’t want to be the annoying, chatty parrot.