If you live in Australia, you’re likely cursed with the resignation that most countries you travel to will be at least 10 hours flight away (if you live on the East Coast) and you shall suffer these hours in economy. Likewise if you ever come to Australia. Sorry peeps. It’s worth the trip here, I promise!
So that’s led me to this post. I recently travelled for work. I was gone for 3 weeks, travelling alone, and the destinations were Boston & London. Flights were: Sydney – Dallas – Boston. Boston-London. London-Dubai-Sydney. Plane was an A380, except for the Dallas-Boston and Boston-London legs.
The flight from Sydney to Boston is about 15 hours. London to Sydney is 22 hours via Dubai (fuel stop).
The flights on their own are epic, but add to that is the time it takes getting to the airport, the preperation…and if your flight is at night, this really means you’ve been in “travel mode” for nearly the whole day before you even embark on a 22 hour flight. It’s meant to be an adventure. We should all be so lucky to be on such a journey, so how do you make it as enjoyable and as comfortable as you can?
I’ve been able to travel for work & play, so I had some time to prep for this trip. Here are my tips to survive a 22 hour or long-haul flight, and I hope can help you with your trip if you ever embark on such an adventure. These tips also work for a 44-hour train trip like the one I took from Beijing to Tibet. 🙂
1. Check your seats before you fly. I use Seat Guru.
2. Choose your seat according to your behaviour: Are you travelling alone? What kind of a traveller are you?
Do you sleep for hours on end and barely need to move? Window seat might be best for you.
Do you like armrests and don’t really care? Maybe the middle seat is your domain.
Or do you need the toilet constantly? Well, you are like me, my friend. Aisle seats, forever.
After you scope out what type of seat (aisle or window) you want, you can choose where you want it – front, back or middle of the plane.
It may cost you extra depending on your airline and whether you’re a frequent flyer. I paid AUD$25 for mine via Qantas’ website. Check your booking and airline to choose yours.
I always get an aisle seat because I’m like a pregnant woman on meth when I fly. Constantly needing the toilet and very fidgety. If you like to sleep, then choose the window seat. But for me, I need the aisle seat.
I don’t want to trouble anyone if I need to go to the toilet, or even worse, having to straddle my neighbour if they’re in a deep sleep in order to go stretch my legs. My choice? Closer to the back of the plane, as it’s generally much warmer there than in the middle (near wings).
3. Book a special meal: I usually choose a vegetarian meal as I find I get as bloated as roadkill in high-summer if I eat meat on a flight. The choice of a special meal is usually free of charge. The other advantage to this is you get served before everyone else.
After my meal, I normally ask very politely if I can have my meal cleared so I can go to the toilet. Soooo, if you’re on the aisle, up the back of the plane (close to a kitchen/ galley), it’s much easier for the steward to clear your tray, and take it to the kitchen. Just ask nicely. 🙂 And you get to use the bathrooms before it gets really busy.
4. Flight ettiquette. Google it. It’s a thing. Did you kow that middle seat gets the armrests? Or that it’s ok to have a chat to your neighbour and your stewards, but don’t over-chat if they want to sleep/work/chill? Or please don’t put your feet on my thigh/ a traytable/ a seat/ armrests when you’re trying to sleep? Or that you can use the plastic bag that the headphones came in as your rubbish bag instead of throwing garbage on the floor like a disgusting child? A great many useful, some may say obvious rules can be found on the Googlez. Don’t be a flying noob. 🙂
Like these guys on my London-Dubai leg, who thought the overhead luggage compartment was their own personal shoe rack…..Eewww.
5. Be showered as close to the flight time as you can. Some airports have public showers (bring thongs/ flip flops & a small towel or sarong) so check facilities before you travel. No one wants to sit/ sleep next to Stinky McStink-Stink.
6. Stretch before you get on the flight. Take about 10-15 mins to stretch out those arms, neck, back and legs.You won’t have this opportunity for another WHOLE day. Then stretch when you’re on the plane. But don’t do yoga or stretch on the floor of the plane. Please.
7. Hydrate before you get on the plane. Whether you like coconut juice, Hydralyte tablets or Gatorade; drink it. Don’t drink alcohol or coffee before a flight. Take some Hydralyte tablets on the plane and mix them with water every few hours. Diluted fruit juice in water also works.
For this trip, I used “1 Above” tablets on these flights – it was a hefty price to pay, but I didn’t get cramps and wasn’t as cranky as I usually am. I think it worked well.
8. Choose the warmer seats: If you’re a cold-body like me, and if you don’t have a fear of turbulence while flying, choose a seat up the back of the plane.
I check Seat Guru before I do this to make sure I am close to the toilets, but not TOO close, and close to a kitchen as well. The back of the plane does shake a bit more under turbulence, but I don’t mind that. I also have my ear plugs to shut out the noise of the kitchen & toilets. What I mind more, is the cold.
The plane I flew on was an A380, and there isn’t too much of a difference in temperature throughout the flight, but the reason I get an aisle seat up the back is also so I can have access to the snacks (usually located near kitchens & back of plane), toilets and to get to know the attendants.
Once the flight attendants get to know you, they’re more likely to be helpful. However, if you’re in the middle of the plane, even if the attendants wanted to help you out with hot water or a drink, it’s harder for them to get to the kitchen (especially if a meal service is in progress). So if you’re nice, have a chat, and sit at the back, the easier it is for a stew to help you out with your requests.
9. Be nice to the flight attendants, A.K.A. be a decent human being: So once you’re on the flight, don’t be an asshat. If you ask for something, acknowledge that they have over 300 or more, other people to serve. Don’t demand, they are not your servants. Being arrogant doesn’t work in normal situations, it won’t work on a flight, either. For passengers who have been awful, here is a site where they are (justifiably) shamed for their behaviour: Passenger Shaming
10. Use anti-bacterial wipes: As I’m going to be spending nearly a day of my life in one seat, I always give my arm-rests, tray table & screen a quick clean. I’m not germ-phobic, but sometimes the cleaners don’t detail the seat as much as they should due to time.
Or if you’ve seen the Passenger Shaming site I just shared, you will know people are grubs and leave messes that many cleaners will weep at seeing. Also some people love putting bare feet on tray tables & arm rests….you know…where my hands/ food normally go.
I do get a certain amount of satisfaction from cleaning off the previous passenger’s chocolate* smears from the tray table that I’m going to be using for the next 22 hours. *I think it’s chocolate.
11. Inflatable travel pillow: I prefer these to those bean bag ones because they don’t take up room when deflated and I can adjust and inflate the pillow to “my” size. Easy to set up, easy to deflate and store. Also doubles as an ebook holder when you’re reading. You can adjust it to be perfect angle so you’re not having to hold it constantly. I used mine below to prop up my Kobo on the tray table. 🙂
12. Bring a change of comfortable loose clothes to sleep in. I usually change into my loose trackies before I get on the flight (sweat pants to you non-Aussies) and get comfy. Being a cold-body, this means I’m also wearing:
- 2 x pairs of socks: 1 x DVT socks & 1 x thick socks. I recommend spending money on good quality DVT socks and thermal/ snow gear socks. The floor of the plane gets extremely cold and having warm feet keeps me comfortable and helps me sleep.
- 1 x long-sleeved thermal top
- 1 x loose t-shirt
- 1x leggings – if I’m super-cold I wear these under my loose trackies. Basically every flight.
- 1 x over-sized hooded jumper. By “over-sized” I mean the hood is ultra-big. It doubles as an eye-mask without the constricted feeling or the “too-tight” strap marks. 🙂 Mine is an old Bond’s zip-up hoody. Yes I know I look like an Assasin’s Creed cos-player when I’m sleeping but it’s a comfortable, satisfied sleep. So I win. And I look cool.
13. Tip for changing in the bathrooms on a flight: If you do order the special meal, you’ll likely get to the bathrooms before the rush of exploding humans.
Even still, use those toilet seat liners or paper towels and line the floor with a few layers BEFORE you put your naked feet or socks on them. Always wear your shoes when you go to the toilet. ALWAYS.
14. Shoes: Always wear shoes. Choose close-toed with enough room so your feet in thick socks will still fit so you can be warm and snuggly.
I wear comfy sneakers or flat ankle boots which aren’t tight across the toes. Your feet will swell on the flight, so there’s no point bringing purrty tight shoes that will cripple you when you need to go to the toilet. Stay comfy.
15. Ear-phones/buds or ear plugs:
For listening to music: I use Ultimate Ears – Pros. They block out all sorts of noise. For example:
Crying baby in the row in front of me? Nope. Can’t hear that.
A talky-shouty businessman telling his seat mate about his IPO and his angel investor? Nope, can’t hear that obnoxigen.
Want to immerse myself in meditation music to pretend I’m in a spa in Bali? Why, yes, I CAN. I just plug them in, close my eyes and whoosh! An hour’s disappeared. They do cost a bomb, but having tried over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones, in-ear noise cancelling ear-buds, I think these work better and are more comfortable. I can wear them in my sleep.
I used to work for Logitech (who owns the brand), and was lucky enough to get a pair of these while I was still with them. These in-ears are custom moulded to fit your ear, same as hearing aids. They fit in perfectly and block out all the noise. I’ve found them irreplaceable when I travel, and I now NEED them when I fly. I’ve been in 2 situations when a poor kid’s been wailing away less than 3 rows in front or behind me and I have not heard a peep once I’ve popped them into my ears. It’s been 5 years or so since I got them, and they are still going strong.
For in-flight entertainment: I still bring my own “regular” earphones because the in-flight announcements are SUPER loud if you keep these UEs in your ears when it happens. The UEs are when I want to melt away into my own audio world.
For sleeping: I use my UEs. To get close to this, it’s easy – just pay for the cheap soft silicone ear plugs (for swimmers) so that you can mould them to your ears. Locks out all the noise. Does sometimes sound like you have a bad cold, but you’ll have a more comfortable and deeper sleep than using any big headphones. 🙂
16. Music Music Music: Whatever makes you calm, relaxed, happy – get it. If it’s Gregorian chants, Hawaiian ukulele, bluegrass, ska, metal…….get lots of it and have it ready for you to listen. You will need to go to your happy place, and music is the best way to help you get there. 🙂
17. Thermos: My trusty thermos. Yes. I am a grandmother. I love my teas. I love being warm. So a thermos full of hot water or a tea is desperately high on my list of needs.
The one I use is from Cheeki (an Australian company). It’s slightly larger than a disposable cup on planes.
I bring my own tea-bags wherever I go. All I need is hot water. Just fill it 3/4 full as part of the lid sits inside the cavity.
The lid has a “pop” top that you push down to release when you want to drink. Push it again and it goes back to being water-tight. So there’s no fiddly lid or attachment to remove for drinking or closing.
It’s great to use on a plane – no stress with needing a flat surface to place it, no issues with turbulence because of the water-tight lid. And I don’t have to feel bad about using those cups on the plane every time I want a tea. Which can be hourly.
18. Tea: I bring my own tea-bags. Peppermint tea is fantastic for digestion. When I feel the in-flight bloats, I have a soothing peppermint and my bowels say Thanks by not constricting or exploding on me. It’s a win-win situation. Green tea, chamomile and fruit blends are also good for a bit of variety.
19. Bring your own toiletries:
- Deodorant: you will need this. Repeat. You will need this.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste: The Qantas flight does give out free toothpaste/toothbrush kits. They’re placed near the snack area, but I like bringing my own. Good to use for the “bedtime” or “wake-up” routine.
- Personal/ facial wipes: Always good. And a good way of calming yourself by re-creating your home routine of having a “shower”.
- Panty liners: no laundry for 1 day. 1 whole day….They need something for guys, too imho.
- Tissues: Very useful.
- Lavender essential oil: I use it if I’m trying to sleep – rubbed on the back of the neck and on pulse points on my wrist. It can also be used for smelly people I may encounter. I, too, have had the misfortune of sitting next to the ass of Satan on a flight, but I learnt from that sad lesson. Dab a few drops on some tissues, then tuck tissues on either side of your headrest or into the sleeve on your wrist… and you have some relief. Or you ask a steward whether there are empty seats to move to (again, politely and without embarrassing your fellow passenger too much).
- Aroma spray: I make it up from an oil blend that I use at home. A quick “dose” of home that can be refreshing and calming.
- Dry shampoo: it’s great to add this to your list if your hair, like mine, feels like an Exxon oil spill after 1 night without a wash.
- Free snacks: Most flights between Australia to USA or UK will have snacks on hand. Virgin Atlantic and Qantas have these snack areas at the galleys and back of the planes. These normally include muesli bars, chocolates, soft drinks, cheese & crackers, apples, bananas. They’re freely available, so definitely have a wander and go to each area to see what’s on offer. Keep your energy and your hydration up.
- Bring your own snacks: It’s a long flight and you can’t be sure of whether you’ll enjoy the meal you’re given. There’s little or no choice so I like to bring my own food to avoid the hangriness. Rice cracker snacks are a good snack for me because they’re easy on my digestion and I can munch on them at any time of the flight. A plain egg or salad sandwich, fruit and some nuts are also good for when my body-clock is saying “LUNCH NOW PLZ” but the lights on the plane are off and everyone is asleep. If you want a “hot” meal, suggest you bring some instant noodles that come in a disposable bowl – all you’ll need is hot water.
21. Bring your own entertainment: favourite author’s book, ebook reader, movies on your laptop, your music collection, your journal, crappy magazines, colouring book (who am I to judge this new fad?). No in-flight selection is good enough for you to solely depend on for 22 hours. You will need as much variety to avoid the in-flight boredom, and the zombie-like-5-foot-stares.
22. Chargers & power cables: Bring your chargers/ USB cables. You can charge them on the plane (each seat has a USB charger). And if you’re travelling lots, I strongly suggest you get a mobile battery pack/ power bank. #electricityislife
So that’s my run-down for helping you survive the trip. 🙂
I hope the tips I’ve learnt from my travel experiences have helped you figure out what essentials you need on your trip, and if you have any tips or questions, please let me know in the comments section. Would love to hear more from travellers. 🙂
I hope this season sees you travelling with safety and that you will be met at your destination with joy.
Adventure is out there! 🙂
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