HOW Many Hours?! 5 Tips to Take Long Flights Like a Champion

Beth with São Paulo-based contributor Patricia after a very long trip from the USA to Brazil.

I’ll be the first to say it — I’m 27 and I feel old. I remember the golden days of my youth — when I could curl my legs into the big comfy airplane seats and fall fast asleep, day or night. When “turbulence” was hardly a word in my vocabulary, and take-offs and landings didn’t leave me gripping my armrests (or the unlucky neighbor next to me).

Nowadays, a long flight isn’t anything to look forward to. I can usually last about an hour before my body starts aching, and once it starts I can expect to be uncomfortable for the rest of the trip. Yet it was a couple of months ago on a European girls’ getaway with my friend and partner in crime, Ticha, that I learned that a little preparedness goes a long way when taking a long trip through the skies. Here are some tips on how to make those long flights half-decent:

1. Sleep supplements. Thank you, Jesus.

I don’t often pop a pill with the first ache I get. Call me a masochist, but I believe there are certain things our bodies should just work through. But nothing’s worse than sitting on a 12-hour plane ride with an aching back and utter sleeplessness. When I know that there’s a long flight ahead or I need some extra strength for the next day, I take a couple of non-drowsy sleep aid supplements. Rather than knocking me out, they allow me to fall into a comfortable sleep when I’m trying to get some shuteye and don’t leave me clinging for just a few more minutes of darkness when morning comes. They really are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

2. Be glamorous. Cozy glamorous, that is.

I know, I’ll probably never fly first class either. With the prices that flights are reaching these days (and particularly international ones), if there’s a cheaper option, I’ll take it. Yet a couple extra dollars can go along way in making you comfortable. After purchasing a travel blanket, a neck pillow, and a sleep mask (and getting over how ridiculous I probably look wearing all three) I will never go back. If you can’t have a comfortable seat, take it upon yourself and MAKE it comfortable!

Do what you must to be comfortable while flying. Image from au.totaltravel.yahoo.com.
Do what you must to be comfortable while flying. Image from au.totaltravel.yahoo.com.

3. Dress warmly. A cold night on a plane is about as unpleasant as…actually, nothing is that unpleasant.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was one grueling night when the plane was so cold I had goosebumps on my arms and legs, and I was wearing pants and long-sleeves. And it was domestic! The flight was only about two hours, so I thought I’d be able to deal — but I was miserable. I’ve learned the hard way to overdress on planes and to dress in layers. Bring fluffy, cozy socks that you can slip over your feet when you get to your seat. Carry that heavy sweatshirt if you can’t fit it into your bag. Yes, you might look crazy if you’re leaving Maui, but you’ll be glad when you’re at 30,000 feet. It’s cold up there.

4. Don’t skip breakfast. Just don’t do it.

The good thing about long flights is that food is usually served. And if it’s international, you often get some solid meal treatment. Dinner? Served. Midnight snack? Why not? Breakfast? Well, I ate about an hour ago but…ok. If you’re traveling through time zones, you’ll have a little adjusting to do, and even if your night involved only about two hours of darkness, you should take advantage of the opportunity to subscribe to the new schedule. Help your body transition by eating the breakfast that’s given to you. You might not be in the mood for it, but you’ll thank yourself later.

5. Treat yourself.

Growing up, my mother trained us well. After a visit to the doctor, a long appointment, or some errands that seemed to never end, she would always promise to follow up our unpleasant encounter with a trip to McDonald’s for ice cream. And she delivered. And we are all ice cream addicts today.

Nowadays, I still like to treat myself to a McDonald’s cone for a job well done. Made it through a grueling exam? Had a ridiculously unpleasant day of chores? We’ve all been there, and it’s valuable to give your own self a pat on the back when you deserve it. Traveling is stressful, and often sitting on a plane is not particularly entertaining. Buy yourself that grande caramel double mocha frappuccino you never get or that book you’ve been dying to read. You’re worth the extra love.

Long flights don’t have to be miserable. What are ways you keep yourself happy on a particularly grueling flight?

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