Tips to Stay Comfortable During Long Haul Flights
By Evan Wishloff
Put your hand up if you enjoy sitting in a cramped metal tube, breathing dry recirculated air with your knees up by your chin, for hours on end? Nobody? Didn’t think so!
If you’re reading this, you are likely bit by the travel bug, and with the world being such a big place, at least a few of your dream destinations must involve long-haul air travel.
So how do you maximize comfort and help the time tick by for those unavoidable long flights?
I recently returned from my 3rd trip to Cape Town, South Africa, which involves around 21 hours of in-air time to get there. I’ve learned a few things along the way that have helped for those long travel days - so here are some tips to make your next flight as enjoyable as it can be without spending tens of thousands of dollars booking a first-class sleeping pod.
Clothing: Dress for Comfort AND to Impress
Comfy clothes are a must when you’re going to be on an airplane for a long time. It’s uncomfortable enough sitting in a cramped airplane seat for hours, the least you can do is wear something comfortable. But, as important as comfort is, so is looking good...
No, that’s not because I’m vain!
It’s because scoring that elusive upgrade is all the more valuable when the flight is 9+ hours. I won’t dive into the details here, but I think you should always politely ask if an upgrade is possible when checking in, and being in sweatpants is not going to help your cause.
So what to wear? Outdoor apparel to the rescue! Brands like Patagonia, Icebreaker, Mountain Hardwear and more all have amazing travel pants options that look fashionable, yet are packed with techy features like stretchy materials and breathable fabrics for comfort. Same goes for shirts - you can find a stretchy, comfy, casual button-up shirt that feels as good as your favorite t-shirt!
Go from airplane to trail all in the same clothing with versatile apparel that can pull double-duty
So dress to impress, and try for that free or cheap upgrade while you’re at it!
Food and Drink
Almost all of my long-haul flights have been for sports, so nutrition and hydration have always been something I’m closely tracking. When you’re travelling for fun, you don’t need to be as obsessive over what you eat or how much you drink, but it still helps to pay some attention.
And for drinks, I’ve never been caught on a flight without my trusty Nalgene bottle. The dinky cups with a splash of water that the flight attendants will give you never come close to quenching my thirst, so I always start the flight with my Nalgene full. And since the recirculated air is so dry and dehyrdating, I’ll usually bring an electrolyte mix to add in. Nuun tabs are great and take up almost no space, but there are plenty of options out there.
But if you’re drinking all that water, don’t you have to get up to go the bathroom often? That leads into the next tip.
Get up and Move!
Yes, drinking lots of water will have you getting up to go to that tiny bathroom in the sky more often, but that’s a good thing. I’ll never understand those people who can go for hours and hours on end sitting. It’s a great idea to try to get up every few hours, take a short walk and stretch out your legs. Most long-haul flights are on larger planes, with a galley that you can go and stand and stretch in, that way you’re not the annoying person pacing down the aisles.
If you’re like me and sleeping on an airplane doesn’t come easy, you’re going to need something to pass the time. There’s usually some good entertainment options with your flight’s in-seat entertainment screen, but I still opt for having a few shows or movies downloaded on my own tablet for some extra choice. Yet, even then, there is only so much time you can spend staring at a tiny screen before your eyes go fuzzy.
So if you’ve got a travel buddy with you, you can bring a backpacking board game. Designed to be lightweight, small and portable for backcountry trips where every gram counts, they are also the perfect size and weight to easily toss into your carry on. A game of backgammon, chess, or checkers can be a great way to pass the time and give your eyes a rest!
Although this won’t help make the time pass any quicker, it is worth acknowledging that an airplane is a bit of a disgusting place when it comes to germs and viruses. I’m no germaphobe usually, but it is worth becoming one temporarily for your flight. The dry air in the cabin dries up your body’s natural defense system of mucus in your nose and throats, so it’s worth trying to defend your health when your body is more susceptible.
As soon as I get on the plane, I’ll use anti-bacterial wipes to clean the area around my seat, including the entertainment screen, tray back, and armrests to kill any errant germs waiting from the last passenger.
Finally, I travel with a TSA-sized bottle of hand sanitizer, and use it before every meal or anytime I touch my face.
There you have it - some tips and tricks from long travel days. Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments!
And if you have an upcoming trip, don't forget to check out Campers Village Travel Department - it's one of the best-stocked places around for all your travel essentials.