The Loneliness Of the Long-Distance Passenger
Having lived in eight different countries before reaching double digits, and with family now spread out across the globe, I’ve taken my fair share of international flights. They’re long and they’re boring, but they don’t have to be unbearable. Here’s a few things I’ve found that help:
* While business and first class usually give you an amenity kit for the flight, good old coach doesn’t do it anymore—and if you’re like me, you’ll likely be flying coach. No matter! Just pack your own amenity kit; I usually just find an old toiletry bag and fill it with an eye mask, a pair of earplugs, some Evian spray, a lip balm, antibacterial hand cleaner, a few Advils, some Wet Ones for freshening your face after a sub-par sleep, and a moisturizer. That way, you’ve got everything you could possibly need for your comfort all in one place, and don’t have to go rooting around in your bag for that Chapstick every few hours.
* Check out a site like SeatGuru.com before you fly, and take note of the “good” and “bad” seats–the former will usually be near the emergency exits, giving you more leg room; the latter will be near the toilets. Generally, the further toward the front of the plane you can sit, the better–you’ll be closer to the exits when it’s time to disembark, which means you’ll be able to make it to Immigration a little quicker. And you know what that means? Less time standing in line.
* If you want a specific seat–the aisle is nice for those who want to stretch their legs on long flights, but you can’t beat the window seat for sleeping–make sure you ask as soon as you check in, if you haven’t already been able to reserve it online. If you’re not having any luck, ask again at the gate, and then ask again when you get on the plane–if a passenger doesn’t show up, there may be a spare seat or two going.
* Get up and walk around the plane every hour, if you can. Many airlines now also have in-flight videos with exercises you can do from your seat to reduce your chances of developing a blood clot. I usually go to the very back of the plane and do a few stretches–even a few yoga moves, if no-one’s looking–to break up the journey.
* Water, water, water! Drink as much as you can. The cabin crew on long-haul flights are usually very good about coming around with plenty of H20, but you can always make your way back to the galley and ask for a glass; they’re usually happy to oblige. However, pressing your passenger call button and following it up with anything other than “help, I think I’m dying!” when the flight attendant arrives is usually not the best idea.
* Don’t forget your socks! Airline cabins are notoriously Arctic, and while that might be bearable for an hour-long flight, it’s quite another story when you’re flying from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and risk losing a toe to frostbite after sitting shivering for 14 hours. A pashmina also makes an excellent cover-up, and doubles as a blanket too–I always bring about five different layers!
Those are my insights, gleaned from years of long-distance travel. Any tips of your own for surviving international flights?