Let's be honest. Any plane trip longer than three hours is almost guaranteed to be miserable. Tiny spaces, crummy food, obnoxious people you want to drop kick out the emergency exit......There's a lot of things conspiring against you. I've read a lot of blogs over the years that promise that by following their advice your tiny economy seat can be just as comfortable as business class. I'm saying it now: That is a lie straight from the darkest depths of Hell. If you're on a long flight, it's going to be uncomfortable. There's no avoiding that; However that doesn't mean you need to suffer unduly. I've been on a few nasty long flights in the past couple of years. (I'm getting ready for another one. 24 hours in the air broken up by a 21 hour layover. Yay.) So I've accumulated a little bit of wisdom that I've decided to share with you, my dear reader :)
BEFORE YOU BOARD
There are a few things you should do before showing up at the airport.
Honestly you should spend the week leading up to your departure drinking as much water as is healthy and safe to do so. Dehydration at high altitudes is ugly. The environment on a plane doesn't help either. Planes have low humidity levels so it doesn't take very long to dry out. Drinking water will help keep your skin from feeling gross and the inside of your nose from drying out. (for a little while at least) It will also help prevent headaches. The stewardess on the planes pass out cups of water but I find it helps to bring a bottle with you so you're not at their mercy.
2) CHARGE ALL DEVICES
Nothing is more soul crushing or panic inducing than having your phone at 3% with no charging station in sight. Many airports have charging stations for your devices but understandably these are high in demand. I like to keep my Ipad fully charged and loaded with movies and books so that I don't spend as much time on my phone. I've also discovered the wonder that is a portable battery. If you get a chance to charge your devices on the go do so but don't tempt fate by depending on a charging dock at the airport or on the plane. (Disclaimer: please be considerate of your fellow flyers, don't be that one guy charging all of his devices at the same time leaving no space for other desperate souls)
3) ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF
You know what's not a good idea? Shoving your passport in the bottom of your bag. Ideally you want your carry on bag to be grab and go ready. Passport and cash cards need to be easily accessible (Just be aware that what is accessible to you is also accessible to shady people) If you don't plan on checking your luggage and opt instead for carry on that's fine. Just be aware that whatever you stow overhead is not going to be easy to get to once you've sat down. So keep a small bag separate from your luggage that has your snacks, coloring books and water bottle. Nobody likes having your junk or sweaty armpits in their face as you lean awkwardly over them to fish out the earbuds you hid in your socks.
Word to the wise: If you check your luggage keep a spare pair of undies in your carry-on. Along with a toothbrush. Checking luggage is taking a leap of faith that your suitcase will make it to its' final destination. You won't know until you get there because you never see it again once it gets sucked up the conveyor belt. Sometimes S*** happens. I spent the night in Japan last year because my layover flight was delayed, and let me tell you........Life feels better with clean underwear.
4) DRESS PRACTICALLY
I have a confession to make......I deeply admire those people who show up at the airport in their fluffy pajamas and slides. They've ascended to the final plane of not giving any cares. These people know that things like belts and shoelaces are obstacles. I watch in envy as they serenely float through the security line. As opposed to those fashionistas who show up dressed to the nines and then spend five minutes and seven bins later stripping out of their finery only to shuffle awkwardly off to the side for a pat down. Don't be that person.
The best things to wear for long flights are loose, comfy clothes. Try to avoid jeans or other stiff materials. That shirt with the annoying tag? don't wear it. Compression socks are a good investment because they stimulate blood flow which helps prevent DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) Try to find a pair of shoes that can be quickly slipped off and on. I find that wearing tight shoes is extremely uncomfortable after a few hours.
THE BARE NECESSITIES
(you see what I did there)
Space is a premium if you're flying economy so in terms of your carry-on, less is more. Ideally your IN bag (immediate needs) should be able to be stowed under the seat in front of you with room to spare for your feet. The following is what I consider to be the basics of an IN bag.
1) Water bottle
I cannot stress the water bottle enough. Bring an empty one with you and fill it at the airport. Trust me, your nasty dry throat will thank you for it.
These are a marvelous invention. A good pair of headphones will not only double as noise canceling ear plugs, they are also the universal signal for "I don't want to talk." Some airlines will hand out complimentary earbuds but these are usually trash that make your ears sore. So bring your preferred headset.
Most flights have a wide variety of movies and games for your pleasure but if you're nearsighted like me it's better to have your preferred method of entertainment within easy eye access. Books, movies, or coloring pages, whatever is your preference; keep it close to you in your IN bag.
The rest of this list are things that aren't really necessary but come highly recommended if your looking for the least amount of misery as possible.
This almost made it on my essential list so its at the top of this list. I'm really bad about this actually. I have a difficult time eating properly while flying so I'll pack snacks then not want them, or I'll forgo snacks and bitterly regret my decision later. Learn from my mistake: pack the snacks. It's better to have some options than no options. Also the reason airplane food tastes so weird has to do with the high altitude affecting your sense of smell and taste buds, making them duller. Airlines counter this by serving foods with strong flavors and smells........... (I want to punch whoever thought onions and bell peppers were a good idea on a plane.)
Being trapped in a tin can hurtling through the sky can be unpleasant. Being trapped with nausea and a raging headache is worse. A couple of alka seltzers and Tylenol go a long way towards improving your overall condition. Painkillers can also help ease the soreness that comes from sitting too long. (note: Please be responsible with taking medication. Mixing and matching is generally frowned upon)
3) Neck pillow
It was going to show up at some right? Some people name and love them. Others could care less. you decide.
4) Eye mask
The perfect instrument for blocking out the outside world. Paired with ear buds and a do not disturb sign the plane could go down and you'd never even notice.
5) wet wipes
I'm a major advocate of wiping down every surface with antibacterial wet wipes to prevent the spread of the plague. People are nasty. Enough said.
Do you hate feeling like your face is stretched too tight across your skull? Yea me too. Which is why moisturizer has a special place in my IN bag.
7) Scarf/ Jacket/ Blankie
Anything that you can cover yourself up with basically. I don't know about you but for me having that extra layer between me and the people around me is comforting. Also sometimes it's cold.
8) Sleep aid
I include this with a stipulation. If you snore, don't take these. Please, I'm begging you. Obnoxious snorers inspire murderous thoughts. If you are in the aisle seat, don't take these. Please, I'M BEGGING YOU. When you are dead to the world the people on the inside are trapped. We don't want to crawl over your unconscious body. That's just weird. If you are seated in the exit row, don't take these. The rest of the airplane is depending on you in case of an emergency; please don't sleep through a crisis.
9) toiletries and undies
See above statement about toothbrushes and undies.
EXTRA RANDOM TIPS
1) If you like to sleep on long flights, choose a window seat. If you prefer to move around, sit in the aisle. Try to avoid the middle seat like the plague. As far as I can tell there are no benefits to sitting in the middle.
2) Bring at least $50.00 in cash with you. You never know when it might come in handy, especially in international airports.
3) Let your bank know ahead of time that you are traveling. If they don't put a virtual sticky note on your account; chances are when you swipe your card at a Starbucks in Shanghai your bank account is going to think some Nigerian prince has hacked your account and freeze it. That's not good.
4) Exit rows usually have more legroom. (But they cost a little bit extra)
5) If you have a long layover. (Long enough to shower and take a nap.) consider getting a lounge pass or even checking into a hotel. Lounges are nice because there are less people which equals more security (And more wifi). They generally serve decent food buffet style and offer amenities such as showers.
6) If your neighbor seems like a cool person...... Go ahead and talk to them. I'm not a huge people person but even I admit that conversation passes the time. Everyone in an airport has one thing in common; you're all going somewhere. Boom. Icebreaker.
7) If you usually wear contacts, consider switching to glasses for the flight. I've found that contacts dry out easier on long flights which leads to itchy eyeballs. Nobody likes itchy eyeballs.
8) CONTROL YOUR KIDS!!!
Now for you moms that are traveling with a breastfed newborn; Bless your soul. You are a champion among all humans. Tired, fussy toddlers that haven't slept in a horizontal position for more than an hour? I get it, you're doing your best mom and dad. Traveling is hard and a child's tolerance for discomfort is low. I UNDERSTAND. I'm right there with you kid.
HOWEVER!!! You parents that think airplane snacks are sweet and sour gummy worms with a large coke from Mcdonalds, You parents who allow their children to climb over other adults, you parents who ignore your screaming children, you parents who encourage your child to yell to their friend 6 rows behind them................. You are raising monsters and I personally hate your guts.
Did I leave anything out? Do you have any advice that you would like to add? Leave your comments in the comment section :)