I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found something very soothing about flying. I suppose I like that it’s mandatory quiet time. For me, a flight is often a period of transition where I can reflect upon the journey had, or the adventure to come.
That said, it’s taken many long haul flights to develop strategies for reaching this Zen-like state mid-air. After all, flying economy on a long haul flight can be challenging for even the most frequent of fliers. What’s worse is when the very thought of a long haul flight is what stops us from booking that dream holiday.
For many years, I was a very squirmy flier. After countless hours on a plane spent squashed in the middle seat and being the bearer of swollen ankles, I’m happy to say that I’ve learned from my flying mistakes.
Here’s my list of things that make flying enjoyable:
Break up the journey
Instead of tackling the 23 hours in one go, why not plan the trip so that you spend a night or two in a country that’s in close proximity to the halfway point of your destination. This will give you a chance to catch up on sleep, have a shower and explore another area of the world. When making the regular flight back to Toronto, I often stop off along the way at Hawaii, LA or Japan. The great thing about booking flights online is that you can book separate legs and it doesn’t cost you anymore money, in fact sometimes it works out cheaper.
Cheaper isn’t always better
As tempting as it sounds to save a few hundred dollars on a cheap flight, I highly recommend you calculate the flight hours before committing to the purchase. Usually, but not always, these flights are substantially longer. There’s a high chance you’ll end up either doing an entire lap of the globe or having an excessive stopover in a random country. At the end of the day, spending that extra money on a shorter flight route will be worth its weight in gold for the sake of your sanity, jetlag and overall health.
Pack wool socks
Smartwools are my preferred brand of sock, but a homemade knit sock from my Nan works just as well (and comes with a bit more love). Point is – the second you sit down, your shoes are off and your cozy socks are on. This prevents restless feet, smelly feet and, worst of all, cold feet.
Wear layers of cotton
Cotton is both breathable and comfortable. Wearing/or packing several layers of cotton allows for zero constriction, and easy adaptation to the all-too-often temperature changes on a flight.
Strategic meal selection
Airplane food is never reliable but always critical for avoiding the hungry grumps and killing some time. Because airplane food is highly processed and overloaded with salt, it often leaves you feeling lethargic and bloated. My strategy has always been to pre-order a vegetarian meal. Though unproven, I feel like they are a slightly healthier choice, as there’s a bigger serve of fruit and veggies. And, you’re served first! If you are super organize, pack your own food for the flight – nuts, fruit, herbal teas, homemade protein balls, sushi, salads and green juices are all great options.
Pack a travelling kit
One of my rituals when travelling is to pull out my travelling kit. It’s well stocked with wellness boosters, mind relaxers and little luxuries. First, pack some supplements that will give you that well needed health boost. Some of my favourites are B vitamin complex for energy, stamina and recovery (it also seems to help with jetlag), zinc to boost the immune system and spirulina tablets for bursts of energy. Other necessaries are an eye mask, lavender, rose face mist, face wipes, small pillow, relaxation music, a good book, travel journal, herbal teas and healthy snacks.
Deep breathing oxygenates your body, leaving it nourished and energized. Practicing Pranayama breathing (deep breathing) every couple of hours will reboot your body and leave you with a deep sense of overall well-being.
After clearing airport security, go and buy yourself several litres of water, for hydration is key to a good flight and your own well-being. Drinking plenty of water en-route prevents headaches, jetlag, bloating, water retention and other issues associated with dehydration. For a nourishment boost, make up your own vitamin water by adding a green powder to your bottle of water or try dissolving 2g of vitamin C powder and magnesium powder.
Get some sleep
Sleep is essential, especially when travelling, as it keeps your immunity and energy levels up. As tempting as it is, avoid sleeping tablets (or alcohol), as they will only leave you feeling unbalanced when you arrive at your destination. For a more restorative sleep, opt for a natural remedy like lavender oil, sipping a sleep-inducing tea such as chamomile and listening to relaxation music or a guided meditation. If you need something else to help promote relaxation and aid sleep, try valerian root tablets or melatonin.
As tempting as it is to take advantage of the free bar cart, don’t. A combination of the altitude, confined space and lack of fresh air will leave you feeling like you have a hangover after only two drinks. Avoid alcohol pre-flight and on the flight.
Walk and stretch
Aim to walk up and down the aircraft aisles at least every couple of hours, stopping at the back of the plane for a few minutes to do some basic stretches. This gentle movement will keep your blood flowing, aid restlessness and help with mind clarity.
Bring your own entertainment
Don’t rely on inflight entertainment to keep you busy and inspired. As with all things technological, systems may have outages or technical problems (but the flight will still go) or even worse, the aircraft may not have been updated with entertainment since 1981 so you’re stuck watching a small drop-down TV that often plays the same movie just in different languages.
To avoid this inconvenience (and the resulting boredom, restlessness and overeating), bring along your own entertainment. Keep your mind busy with a good book, doing crossword puzzles, journaling or listening to podcasts.
Ask for an aisle seat or upgrade to Emergency Exit
After booking your ticket, contact the airline to reserve an aisle seat. I personally find this is the best seat as you’re free to get up and down as you please – without having to feel guilty about waking up the passenger in the middle seat. Even better, splurge and upgrade to an emergency exit as the extra legroom makes for a more comfortable flying experience.
A neighbourly chat
Inevitably, what makes my flights the most interesting are the people I sit beside… In the last twelve months alone I’ve been a neighbour to a truly all-star cast. My absolute favourite was a Kenyan man en route to Australia to visit his family. He was on his first overseas trip and he was so excited, as we circled Sydney Harbour Bridge he looked like a kid in a candy store.
And that’s it! By following those strategies, I almost look forward to long haul flights – though it’s the trip afterwards or the grand return home that always pushes me through those final hours.
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