Some people get on a plane, store their bag and go straight to sleep, waking only to eat. Well, lucky them!
For most of us, travelling on long haul flights requires a bit more thought as to how to occupy ourselves and the key aims are to keep calm and keep busy.
Once you have gone through the rigmarole of boarding the aircraft and waiting for everyone in front of you to sort themselves out then you can get yourself settled.
The preparations for take off can take up to half an hour so just sit back and relax. Take off any restrictive clothing and footwear and make yourself comfy. When the air crew are ready they will come round and ask you to put everything away and buckle up.
During take off and landing you will be asked to switch off any electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and mobile phones.
During the flight you will be able to use them in flight mode only.
If your bag is not too big you can store it under the seat in front which makes it far more accessible than keeping it in an overhead locker and having to keep getting up and down to fiddle with things.
If you have a large bag then decant your flight needs into a smaller bag at the airport, keep it in the bigger bag and take it out on the flight to put by your feet, while the other bag goes in the lockers.
Wear something comfy and make sure you have some warm soft socks and a lightweight hoodie, cardigan or wrap.
If you are travelling from a cold climate to a hot one always have a carrier bag or folding bag and a pair of sandals or flip flops in your hand luggage.
You can then take off your jacket and shoes and store them in the lockers and when getting off the plane, chuck them in the bag and stick your sandals on.
This is also handy if you suffer from swollen feet and ankles during flights as you may not be able to get your shoes back on!
As soon as you get settled on the aircraft ,adjust not only your watch but your mindset to the time at your destination.
This is easier said than done as for the duration of the flight “time” is irrelevant, it is measured in “flight time remaining” which takes a while to get your head round the fact that you are existing in a timeless vacuum!
It may help to alleviate jetlag if you try to sleep at the new destinations bedtime as it is adjusting to new sleeping patterns that causes the worst effects.
I love this bit, there is nothing quite like it, my favourite time is at sunrise or sunset, the views can be magical.
However, if you don’t like take off and landing then a good way to calm yourself is to apply acupressure.
The acupressure point to use is on the middle of the inside of the wrist. Move your finger in a counter clockwise direction over this point for as long as you like. This apparently heals effects on the body of too much joy or emotion and diminishes nervousness – ideal for the job in hand!
If you suffer from ear pain due to the change in air pressure then I recommend EarPlanes which are special ear plugs that alleviate not only the pain but after effects such as deafness.
For more details please see EarPlanes : Off To A Flying Start
NOTE – If you are seriously nervous about flying then it may be worth going to see your doctor and ask if he can prescribe anything OR you can pop into the local pharmacy to see what remedies they can suggest.
Turbulence is quite scary the first time you encounter it, my daughter Tash says the best way to deal with it is to close your eyes, take deep breaths and repeat “ bumpy cloud, its only bumpy cloud ”!
I found that on my first long haul flight (which was a 12 hour stint from Heathrow to Singapore ) I started to get quite antsy after about 7 hours.
It was quite stuffy and noisy in the cabin and although tired I was finding it hard to sleep and was too jittery to watch any films or t.v.
I resolved NEVER to feel like that again and was dreading coming back from Australia as it involved an 8 hour flight from Sydney to Bangkok,an hour of sitting around in a boring airport and a further 12 hour flight to get home.
I decided that in future I would put more effort into keeping myself in a very calm state and I like to drift off into my own world and daydream about the trip, which takes me away from the reality of children crying or the person in front reclining in my lap!
Meditation is very helpful and at its most basic it involves closing your eyes, relaxing your shoulders and taking slow regular breaths.
This can be used throughout the flight and is especially useful during take off and landing.
Dehydration – Drink plenty of water, it is freely available. Avoid alcohol as it dehydrates.
Stiff joints – Exercise by going for a walk, have a good stretch and give yourself a mini massage.
Dry eyes, lips and skin – Put in eye drops and use lip balm and moisturiser regularly.
Swollen ankles – Keep active even if it is just rotating your ankles and flexing your legs. Aspirin can help to bring down the swelling.
Tiredness – Put away all your stuff and settle down under the free blanket, slow your breathing right down and give your body a rest, even if you don’t sleep it will relax you for a while.
Nervousness – Do your meditation and acupressure.
Overheating – Put on your overhead air-con unit and take off a layer until you cool down.
This is all about pacing yourself. There is no rush to get anything done, take your time over things and ENJOY the experience.
How often do you get the chance to sit down for hours on end and be able to devote it ALL to leisure activities!
If you have a tablet, ipod or smartphone then you can play games, listen to music, watch films or indulge in any other offline activity.
Any downloading will need to be done before you fly.
Make sure all devices are fully charged, and if using a smartphone keep a check on the battery life as the last thing you want on arrival is a dead phone and no way to contact anyone.
If with a travel buddy you could play cards or hangman or something similar but avoid any mini games with small pieces because you WILL drop them on the floor and lose them under the seat in front!
Read a book or magazine or keep your brain busy with a crossword or puzzle book.
Write up your holiday journal if you are inclined to keep one.
Go through your guide books and get excited about all the things you are planning to do. Make a note of any opening times of attractions and devise an itinerary.
Catch up with some knitting, this will give you something to focus on and keep your hands busy.
Play with your camera – take photos, erase any on your memory card that you don’t want and if you are not sure about how to use any of the settings this is the time to get up to speed.
Do note that on an overnight flight the aircrew may bed you down for the night! I remember once being horrified to find that at a certain time ( just when I was settling down with my book ) they turned out the main cabin lights, closed all the window blinds and brought us all hot chocolate!!
You could use the overhead spotlight or take a clip on book light to solve the issue.
IN FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Most airlines will have a choice of music, films, t.v and games to keep you amused. The screens are usually located on the back of the seat in front.
This can take up a good portion of the flight time and one of my favourite ways to pass an hour or so is to go through the music selection and choose songs for a play list.
This can then be listened to when you are in the mood to just sit and do nothing.
You could always invest in some noise reduction headphones and use those instead of the airline ones.
The sound quality is much better and the noise reduction feature also gets rid of the background engine noise.
You can also use them without plugging in to relax or sleep better.
Meals and snacks will be served regularly, including a meal as soon as possible after take off and another about an hour before landing.
You can bring your own snacks,sweets and fruit but be aware that some countries have strict entry policies on food and drink, so only bring enough for the journey or you will end up wasting it or trying to stuff it all before you land!
These have to be filled out on entry to most countries and one of my favourite unexpected questions was “ Have you been in contact with any farm animals in the last 30 days? ”
For those of you living or working in a rural area this may be of interest!
Immigration authorities such as Australia are notoriously strict on what may be brought in,not just food and drink so always check what the restrictions are before you leave home.
Keep the forms in a safe yet accessible place as you will need to show them to the immigration authorities on landing.
Also, for some countries you will be given a part of the form to keep with you during the length of your stay,keep this VERY safe as you will need it to get out of the country.
For further details on customs regulations for individual countries go to visahq
About an hour before the estimated landing time pop to the loo and have a wash and brush up, put your EarPlanes in and get changed into a clean top.
When back in the seat re-moisturise, put on a bit of makeup, tidy your hair and sort your bag out, making sure your passport and any other documents are in easy reach.
Do not leave this too late as you will be strapped in for the last 30 minutes.
When approaching the airport have a look out of the window for your first view of your chosen destination. I will never forget seeing the skyline of Manhattan for the first time, it took my breath away!
That’s it, the flights almost over and you are ready for the next stage – HAVE FUN!
FLIGHT SURVIVAL KIT
Socks and hoodie, cardigan or wrap (to wear )
Easily accessible flight bag
Folding bag for decanting and/or spare clothes if needed
Spare top, briefs, spare tampons or pads and flip flops or sandals
Tablet, phone, e-reader or ipod
Camera and manual
Book, magazines, crossword and puzzle books
Guide books, journal, notepad and pens
Travel games/playing cards
Knitting needles and wool
Reading glasses and mini book light
Noise reduction headphones
Water, soft drinks and snacks
Wet wipes, comb and small mirror
Travel sickness pills, aspirin, EarPlanes and any prescription meds
Clear bag containing :
Lip balm, moisturiser, eye drops, makeup items, deodorant,toothbrush and paste.
Remember that all liquids and pastes must be in containers of 100ml or less and only 10 items are allowed in the bag.
For more details on what you can take in hand luggage please see hand luggage restrictions and allowances.