Taking that first flight longer than six hours?

These tips help you avoid total exhaustion after a long flight to your dream vacation.

Oh, the excitement! The anticipation of the unfamiliar! Learning history, walking new places, meeting people, and eating different food! Let the adventure begin!

It’s been too long since I crossed an ocean and my bohemian self is eager for an extended plane ride. With that hovering in my thoughts, I re-think the tricks I’ve adapted to survive changing time zones.

With my first European adventure (from the USA), I learned to stay upright until my usual bedtime. When I succumbed to an upon-arrival or afternoon nap, it takes me days to acclimate. Limiting caffeine and alcohol, and putting my head to the pillow as usual, finds me refreshed the next morning.

After several trips west to east, I had the opportunity to take some jaunts to Hawaii. Experiencing both overnight flights and early morning departures, if I followed the same plan—vertical until bedtime—the next day I was well-adjusted. (Since I am rarely well-adjusted, this is a treat.) 

Red wine in crystal glass looking down from above
skip the alcohol–no matter how pretty

The more you fly, the more you observe others, applying and refining what works for you.

Take Off!

The airplane lumbers down the tarmac. Maybe you squeeze the armrest or press your face against the window. Your heart beat speeds up a little bit as your anticipation of adventure increases. Bravo to each emotion! You’re doing something new!

1. Travel with disinfectant wipes. These cloths are handy for cleaning trays and armrests. Yes, call me Felix Unger. (*Pre-Covid-19. It’s more essential than ever to take precautions. Don’t forget to pack a few masks.)

2. Take hand-sanitizing wipes. Although the bathrooms remain surprisingly clean (thank you, flight attendants), I’m a freak about clean hands. The liquid stuff serves a good purpose, but the packets convenient.

Carry On Bags and Other Luggage

3. We check a bag because husband overpacks for every trip. The essentials are tucked in my backpack: toothbrush/paste, eyedrops, mascara, underwear. You get the idea. The things I have to have for an overnight.

4. It’s wise to make copies of your passports and each carry a copy of the other’s. Email a copy to yourself and to a friend. You never know.

About Carrying Food on a Flight

5. Please, argh, don’t carry on McDonald’s. Nothing has ever smelled so foul as Mickey D’s in a confined space! Extended flights are among the last where dinner and breakfast are included. Vegetarian meals have defaulted to Indian cuisine. I love Palak Paneer, Pakora, curry—yum. But to eat it when I’ll be sitting for hours? For me, that’s not a good idea. Stick with food you know agrees with your digestion without an after dinner stroll.

6. For snacks, we’re partial to Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers. Because they are chewable, they help with the cabin pressure by making our ears pop. Sometimes I’ll take Reese’s Pieces or a cut up apple—depends on if I’m feeling bad or healthy! 

7. Whatever your antacid of choice is, don’t forget to pack them for your flight. They can be a real tummy saver.

8. Breakfast varies by airline. It can be something pretty decent or a dried up roll with maybe a real egg on it. This is when that cut-up apple comes in handy. Keep it fresh with a shot of lemon juice skirted into the baggy.

Remaining Comfortable Flying Overseas

9. Skip the alcohol, or have only one drink. Consuming too much alcohol will dehydrate you, drying out your skin and causing discomfortable. It also puts you in danger of irritating your seat mates.

10. Drink water. Buy a couple of bottles before you board and drink up! There is usually a cart in the rear galley offering glasses of water. Drinking a lot of water keeps you hydrated and causes you to get up and walk to the bathroom.

11. Speaking of getting out of your seat—do so! Without disturbing others, (don’t leverage against the seats around you—someone is sitting there!), unhook the seat belt, and move. Walk the aisles at least three or four times depending on the length of the flight. This helps circulation and you’ll feel better. 

12. Compression socks. If you have any circulation issues, talk to your doctor about the pros/cons of compression stockings/socks. They can be invaluable for containing swelling in your feet and legs.

Plan on sleeping while the pilots do their job?

13. My husband takes half an Ambien and he’s good to zonk. Me? I’ve tried everything, I simply can’t sleep on a plane. I read, write on my Mac (if there’s room), and junk out on movies I’ve downloaded. 

14. Note about sleeping: If you are a snorer, try a Breathe Right strip (or something like it). Your seat mates will appreciate it.

15. Ear plugs, ear buds (don’t rely on the airline headsets—they aren’t the best) or noise canceling? Take your pick, but take one.

16. Wear loose shoes, but be cautious about removing them or you may not get them back on. (That’s when the compression socks work exceptionally well.) It’s normal to swell up on a flight, so loose shoes (and clothing), are more comfortable. Your feet will feel well when you disembark and take that long walk to exit the airport.

17. Find the right travel pillow. Formerly, I was a fan of a crescent-shaped neck pillow full of tiny beads. Then my niece got me hooked on a Trtl Pillow—what comfort! 

Jet engine as viewed through the window over the Alps

Miscellaneous Air Travel Tips

18. Be cordial to the unknown person beside you, but make it clear that you are going to read, sleep, or watch TV. Don’t start talking or you may be listening for the duration of the flight.

19. Motion queasy or a nervous flyer? Bonine works—even a half—or wrist bands can do the job.

Safety On the Flight and After  

20. I’m a fan of PacSafe backpacks. They are slash proof, have an RFID pocket, and locks on the zippers. Every little bit of safety helps.

21. Jewelry. Think about leaving your bling at home. Taking diamonds or flashy jewelry with you attracts pickpockets and other unwanted attention. 

You’ve Landed!

Whether or not you’re a fan of flying, you’re reading this because your dream destinations are luring you onto the planes. Your determination to have an adventure will help you withstand the delays and overcome difficulties. 

When you land in that new airport, walk the long jetway, go through Customs, and emerge into fresh air. The first view means everything you experienced while flying will have been worth it. 

Let me know what tips you have for surviving long flights! 

Bon Voyage!