How to Survive a Long Flight
Did you miss me? After my last post, I realized that I had a lot more to say about traveling, and general tips in order to have a smoother trip. Therefore, Jordan and I decided that we want to post travel tips more often - which is why this is the second travel tip post this week. Maybe it is redundant, but I think we all can benefit from discussing these things. Anyone who has ever traveled has had great experiences, as well as some unfortunate ones. Those hard experiences can teach valuable lessons, though, and I think that sharing those stories with others is such a great way to teach and to learn. We learn from our mistakes, and help others to not make the same mistakes we did. Some of these tips are blunders that we have made, and some are an accumulation of advice that we have heard from others and have put to use.
Now, some of this advice may not be new to you, but maybe you will learn something new. That is my hope, at least. So without further adieu, let’s get into it.
Before You Leave Your House
Yes, some of the keys to surviving your trip start before you leave your house. In my previous post, I addressed the importance of packing efficiently, knowing the airline’s luggage and weight restrictions, and things like that. Those parts are absolutely important, but now, I am going to address something you may or may not have thought of.
· Mind Your Passport
Did you know that your passport is incredibly valuable? This is a two-fold question. Obviously, your passport is valuable to you. If you want to get to the country, you NEED your passport. You also need it if you are buying train tickets or things like that while abroad. So yes, make sure you have your passport before leaving the house. Seriously. Triple check yourself to make sure you have your passport and drivers license before leaving the house. Also make sure you have your itinerary printed off.
The second part of this is that your passport is valuable to other people. In every country, there is a black market specializing in American passports. People can make a lot of money off of your passport. So for that reason, you need to keep that thing safe. But in the unfortunate event that your passport is stolen, you will need to go through the complicated process of getting a new one while abroad.
Because of this, it is important that you take photocopies of your passport and drivers license, and possibly your visa (not your debit card) if applicable. Have them printed off, and keep it in a safe place, away from your actual passport. Additionally, give one of those photocopies to a loved one before leaving. This is just another way to protect yourself.
· Dress the Part
Okay, this one may seem silly, and maybe it is just a pet peeve of mine, but bear with me. The first time I went to Europe, I traveled with a group called People to People Student Ambassadors. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about traveling when I went. One of those tips was to dress appropriately on the plane. We were required to wear khaki pants, a matching t-shirt, and clean sneakers.
So here’s the deal. Everyone outside of the U.S. thinks that Americans are a bunch of fat, lazy, slobs. Obviously that isn’t true for everyone. However, whether you like it or not, when you are abroad, you are an ambassador of the United States. If you look sloppy on the plane, you are going to be treated poorly. Heck, I’m not going to wear a dress onto the plane, but you should be able to find a happy medium. I know it sucks that we get judged on appearances, but that is life.
By all means, be comfortable. Just remember that there are ways to be comfortable and appropriate. If you want an easier flight, try to put a little effort into your appearance. I think this is easier for men, to be honest. Wear a nice t-shirt or polo, and some clean pants or shorts, and you’re set. For girls, we tend to make things more complicated. Need inspiration? Look online. There are tons of fashion bloggers who address what they wear on a plane. You don’t have to dress like a model, but you should look put-together. Okay, rant over. I will link a few fashion bloggers who post their airport attire.
- Post from The Flight Attendant Life blog: Best Outfit for Air Travel
- Post from Travel Fashion Girl: What to Wear on a Plane
- YouTube personality, Carly Cristman travels frequently, and always posts pictures of her travel outfits on her Instagram. Some of the clothes are a bit more extreme or revealing than I would recommend traveling in, but you can get some inspiration on her page: https://www.instagram.com/carlycristman/
- Utah fashion blogger Cara Loren posts travel photos as well as general outfits which can easily transfer from everyday wear to travel. Check her Instagram and website for inspiration: http://www.caraloren.com/p/outfits.html
- When in doubt Pinterest it out
· Arrive Early
Here’s my advice. For international flights, you need to arrive at the airport at least three hours early. Some will say two hours, some say one. We say three. International flights are a different animal than domestic flights. You are dealing with stricter rules, additional requirements, and constantly changing flight times. Arrive early. Yes, it will be boring to wait three hours for your flight, but it is better to wait a few hours, than to miss your international flight. Those things are hard to book.
Going Through Security
Can I ask a serious question? What happened to common courtesy and respect? Honestly. Why have we become a society of people who try to make things difficult for others? Why do people feel compelled to try to break the rules or take down the system? Why are people doing this at the airport of all places??
Look, I know that TSA can be annoying. I know that the security checkpoint can be violating and ridiculous. I know that TSA makes us jump through ridiculous hoops sometimes. Trust me. I know. But the security checkpoint is neither the time nor place to express your discontent with the current system. The fact of the matter is that if you want to get through security and want to get to your destination, you must comply with the rules and regulations, and do as TSA asks. Everyone makes honest mistakes, like leaving your belt on while going through the scanners. If that happens, and you are required to get a pat down, you have to comply. Throwing a fit and yelling at the TSA agent will only land you in an airport holding cell. Obviously you can politely ask questions. But don’t be rude. I know it sucks. Just deal with it. If you want to make a change, do it from home, by reaching out to local government.
Once you make it through security, you’re home free. Follow the rules. Be respectful. You will get through it. You can complain to your friends about how annoying the security check was after you get through it.
There are two sections here. Part one is about your health. Part two is about how to occupy your time.
· Jet Lag
If you have a long flight, you need to be ready to deal with the inevitable jet lag. One thing I recommend is to plan your sleep according to the time you will arrive. Admittedly, this can be a complicated process. Especially since it can be very difficult to sleep on the plane. Do some math. Try to get at least a few hours of rest at appropriate times.
One thing that helps significantly in reducing jet lag is drinking more water than you normally would. For me, when I’m on a plane, I have a tendency of drinking minimal amounts of water, because I hate having to use the airplane bathroom. It’s annoying having to crawl over the other passengers in order to relieve yourself. Regardless of your dislike for the process, it is SO important to drink extra water. Your body dehydrates faster than usual when you fly, so you need to stay hydrated.
· Bring Snacks
This could apply to the “Before you leave the house” section, but I’m including it here.
When I say, “bring snacks,” I’m not talking about just bringing a bag of gummy worms and a package of Oreos. I am talking about wholesome food. If you want to take care of your health, you need to be eating and drinking appropriately. Like I mentioned earlier, drink tons of water. Additionally, avoid drinking soda and coffee while flying. Both of those beverages will make you jittery and more likely to experience jet lag, especially if that is all you drink. A little bit is fine, but as a rule of thumb; drink more water than other beverages.
One thing that Jordan and I have started doing, is packing sandwiches when we fly. When we went on our honeymoon, we bought two Jimmy Johns sandwiches on the way to the airport. We ate one after we went through security, and another one during our layover. This helps so you don’t spend a ton of money on expensive airport food.
Most overseas flights serve a meal. Depending on the length of your flight, you might get two meals. However, you might not like that meal. If you have dietary restrictions, you may not get a filling meal. If you are asleep when they ask for your food order, you won’t get a meal either. So if you are hungry often, pack some food.
* A note on bringing food * Don’t bring anything pungent. Seriously. Imagine the plane is an office break room that you can’t escape for 10 hours. Don’t pull out your hummus or tuna fish sandwich when we are all using recycled air. Be respectful of those around you.
· Ladies- Prepare for Your Period
Here is where things get personal- so personal. I’m going to tell you my most embarrassing story. If you are a man reading this, you are welcome to skip to the next bullet point, if you wish.
Hello friends who were brave enough to continue. Let us begin.
Story time. Remember that first trip to Europe that I mentioned earlier? Well that flight to Italy was full of learning experiences. Let me set the tone: I was 15 years old; traveling with a group of 20 other high school aged students. Prior to leaving, we were all required to attend workshops about traveling. One of the instructors warned us that the extreme change in altitude that you have on flights can make your period worse, and can even start your period. Being a dumb 15 year-old, I did not take that advice seriously. We were going to be abroad for an entire month. My period was supposed to start closer to the end of the trip, so I felt pretty confident that my flight to Europe would be uneventful.
We take off. Fast-forward five hours. We are flying over the Atlantic Ocean. My stomach starts to hurt. I assume that it is gas. As a person who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (yes, I’m sure you wanted to know that) I am no stranger to stomach pain, so I try to take a nap. When I wake up, I feel weird. Like, really weird. My stomach still hurts, so I decide that I should try using the bathroom. Maybe relieving myself will help. I think that the boy (who is a part of my travel group) next to me is asleep, so I try to creep past him. In hindsight, I definitely woke him up. I slither into the bathroom, hoping not to wake anyone else on the plane. As I lower my pants to sit on the toilet, I see blood. So. Much. Blood. More blood than any period should ever produce-ever. It’s a total massacre. I started my period on the plane. Not only that, but I bled through my khaki pants in a big way. It covered the ENTIRE butt area.
Naturally, I start to panic. What do I do? My young, 15 year-old self is also pretty stupid, and is not at all subtle. I clean myself up as much as I can- I mean, my butt still has a giant bloodstain all over it. I then return to my seat to fetch my backpack. Oblivious to the obvious horror on the boy’s face who sat next to me, I crawl back over him with my bloody pants, where I discover that I also bled on the seat. (Are you getting an image of how much blood there was?) I get my backpack, and crawl over that poor boy again, bloody bum in front of his face again. Why I didn’t ask him to hand me my bag, I will never know, but I digress. So I change into a pair of blue plaid shorts that don’t match my red People to People shirt that we were required to wear. Finally clean, I return to my dirty seat, which I promptly clean, and sit ashamedly for the remainder of the flight. Needless to say, I made that poor boy SO uncomfortable, and I was the gossip of my travel group.
The point of this super long story is that unfortunate things happen while flying. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. I just recommend that ALL ladies take measures to save themselves from suffering a similar fate as me. Wear a pad, panty liner or tampon or something like that if there is even a chance that you will start your period. Also pack a change of clothes in your carry on luggage (preferably one that matches your clothing). Now that I am adequately embarrassed after telling my shameful story, we can move on.
It’s always a good idea to pack a little bit of Tylenol or Ibuprofen, some Dramamine, and maybe some Pepto Bismol (the pills, not the liquid). But I want to remind you guys about prescriptions. Do you take any medicine or vitamins on a schedule? Some medicines, like birth control for example, need to be taken at the same time every day. It can be easy to forget to take your medicine when you are traveling all day. If you have to take any prescription medicine, set an alarm for yourself. But remember that when you land at your destination, you will be in a different time zone. Most phones update to the new time zone automatically, so your alarm may not go off. Double-check yourself, to make sure you aren’t missing any necessary dosages.
Occupying Your Time
The long flight is a good time to relax and participate in some idle activities. Some good activities are:
Being a bookworm, this is my favorite. My Kindle holds a charge forever, and has lots of books on it that I can read for hours.
· Listen to an Audiobook or Podcast
It’s similar to reading, but a little different. Ask Jordan and I for books to listen to, we can give you a list of great audiobooks.
Write your thoughts in a travel journal. Do some creative writing. Blog.
· Use an activity book
This might sound juvenile, but it’s a great time waster. I love coloring books. Jordan loves playing Sudoku. It gives your hands and mind something to do.
· Watch a movie or TV show
Many flights come with free movies, which is awesome. Take advantage of it. Or watch a movie on your laptop or tablet.
· Be considerate to everyone. For some reason common courtesy is a foreign concept nowadays, but it shouldn’t be. Everyone at the airport is trying to get to his or her destination. Don’t be rude and pushy. Don’t make snide comments to the person who is trying to get his bag from the overhead compartment because he is “blocking the way.” You are going to do the same thing when you get your bags.
· Be considerate to your flight crew. This shouldn’t have to be its own bullet point, but it is. The crew is there to help you, not babysit you. The stewardesses don’t want you to hit on them. They don’t want you to be rude. Sometimes things come up, and they can’t accommodate your request. It is easy to blame the airline for all of our problems, but at the end of the day, the crew is only human, and they don’t have control over everything. At the end of the flight, they are just as exhausted as you are, if not more. Be extra nice to them. If you grumble or yell at them, they will be less eager to help you.
· Bring your headphones. This is obvious, of course. Less obvious is to bring one of those adapters that plug into the seat for in-flight entertainment. The headphones the crew passes out is super uncomfortable. Save yourself some pain, and buy an adapter so you can use your own headphones. Something like this.
Okay, this was much longer than I had expected, but I think it was productive. What are your tips for getting through those long flights? Was any of this new information for you? Hopefully this was helpful! Wishing you a safe and happy flight!