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Everyone gets excited at the thought of boarding a plane and jetting off to some far away land, filled with mystery, new cultures and of course sunshine. Being based in the UK I’m quite lucky to have all of Europe on my doorstep, I can see pretty much all of it for less than a 4-hour flight. On the other hand soon as you start talking about Mexico or Australia then it’s the dreaded long haul flight! So how exactly do you get through a long haul flight!?
Firstly we’ll look at some of the reasons why flying long haul is simply soul destroyingly abysmal and then we’ll check out a few bits of kit that might make life more bearable/help you cling onto your sanity.
Right so what makes long haul so bad?
To be honest not everyone feels the same way, I used to work with a chap that loves flying so much him and his wife flew from England to Australia only to return 2 days later, at the cost of over £10,000!!! First class mind. Would he have done this in cattle class with the rest of us…. I just don’t know.
Right so that’s the crazies dealt with, now to what in my opinion makes flying long haul so bad:
Turbulence: The actual flying itself does not bother me at all. Well apart from when you hit a nice little patch of turbulence, I can hear the gasps now. Flying along without any problems, then all of a sudden, things start to rattle, the lights blink on and off. You lift the little window flap, fully expectant to see thunder storms on the horizon but all you see it the wing flapping up and down like you’ve decided to fly to Mexico on the back of an eagle. You sit there willing the engine to stay attached to the wing. That piece of state of the art engineering that you boarded back in Manchester now resembles nothing more than a $50 million mass coffin.
Them masks drop down out of the ceiling and I’m kissing my ass goodbye!!!
Timeline: For this one I’m going to use a rough timeline of traveling from the UK to Perth Australia.
So you arrive at the airport 2 hours before boarding as recommended. You queue up at the check in desks, dump your bags and off you go to the security check point, queue up there. Before you know it, you’ve made it to the duty-free/departure lounge. Well there’s only one thing for it… You’ve got to go and get ripped off at Burger King, shortly followed by getting ripped off for magazines which are a must have if you are going to get through a long haul flight.
So now you’re armed with a belly full of grease and a bag full of your favorite literature, you’re good to go.
Your gate is now open so off you go to queue again!! I’m done with the queues by this point. Is it excitement to arrive at my destination and explore or am I being impatient like a petulant child!? I don’t know but I’ve had enough!!
Now the queuing is over and you’ve come to the realisation that you’ve dropped a bo***ck! You didn’t book an aisle seat. Sandwiched between two randomers you’ve never met in your life for the next 8 hours until the half-way change over. I say 8 hours but it’s more like 9.5 by the time the pilot has done his pre-flight checks and announced that there will be a delay. Remember that literature I got ripped off on earlier!? Yeh I’ve read that and we haven’t even taxied to the run way yet!!!
9 hours sat bolt upright, randomer on the left has fallen asleep and is slowly creeping towards me, can I really just push her face back before she starts dribbling on me!? Guy on the right has got his table folded down with open cans, drinks and sweets on it…. I can feel the deep vein thrombosis setting in and I need the toilet… First world problems eh!?
That was the first flight dealt with and now I’m sat on Abu Dhabi airport for the next 3 hours, waiting for the connecting flight. At the time I was a smoker. Yep, you guessed it, the smoking room was closed for renovation.
By this point I’m absolutely dreading the next 10-hour flight to Perth. Luckily for me the connecting flight to Perth was serviced by Emirates and the plane was pretty empty. I had a row of 4 seats all to myself and a bag full of over the counter sleeping pills I had brought with me to counteract the jet lag once I’d got to Perth. The lovely air stewardess kept waking me when the food trolley came around and I pretty much sleep the journey out.
I arrived at my friends house in Scarbourgh, Perth 28 hours after I left my home in the UK. I left the UK in June, the middle of summer, arrived in the middle of winter. A surreal experience!
Tips to get through a long haul flight.
Take a mate: Traveling solo can be one of the most liberating experiences you can have but in all honesty, when you’re bored to tears on that 11 hour flight I’d trade it all for a game of cards.
Talk to other passengers: This one isn’t always that easy. Sometimes you’ll be sat next to business people who spend the whole flight typing away on their laptops or as like above someone lucky who falls asleep all the way to the destination.
Book a good seat: Booking a good seat can have many advantages depending on which one you book, for example:
- Aisle seat; easy access to toilets and just getting up to stretch you legs whenever you feel like it without worrying about disturbing fellow passengers.
- Exit row; If you want extra leg room to stretch out then go for an exit row.
- Seat at the rear; Being at the back of the plane means less screaming babies as most of the provisions are towards the front of the plane.
For some airlines you might only be able to do this a couple of days prior to your flight, get online and find out!
Wear comfortable clothes; I personally don’t do skinny jeans but after 10 hours sat down on a plane in a pair… you don’t want kids!?
Painkillers; Long haul flights are bad enough without dealing with a headache/ear ache.
Take some snacks; Waiting to get up to altitude so the food trolley can come round, sometimes feels like an eternity so take some food with you. It’ll save you a lot over buying in flight.
Split your journey; If at all possible it makes great sense to split the flight in two. Fly half-way to your destination, spend a couple of days there and when you feel you can deal with the second leg book a flight onwards. This also gives you flexibility in flight times and may also save you a little money along the way.
Kit for getting through a long haul flight.
Everytime I get on a plane I always see someone with a bit of kit that I wish I had to make my light more comfortable. Here’s a list so you don’t be like me and forget until you need and it’s too late:
Kindle; Reading is a great way to pass the time, especially when waiting in the departure lounge, flying and even when you get to the beach. Get yours on Amazon.
Travel pillow; Ever tried sleeping upright on a plane without one!? Pretty much impossible to fall asleep without you head supported, soon as you drift off and relax your neck, you end up rolling into your neighbor and before you know it you wake up in a pool of dribble on someone else’s shoulder! Also, the last thing you want to happen is to arrive at your destination with your neck ceased up so bad it looks as if your constantly trying to lick your left shoulder… Get one on amazon now!!
Travel blanket; You’ve just spent nearly a $1000 dollars on a plane ticket, the least they could do is turn the bloody heating on. I wonder if that’s reserved for first class these days? How many times have you nearly frozen on a long haul flight!? Find one on Amazon!!
Eye mask; Finally you drift of to sleep, next minute all the lights come on and your awake. In my opinion, sleep is imperative to getting through a long haul flight. Don’t let anyone ruin it for you! (throw in some ear buds as well). Get yours on amazon!!
IPod; listening to music can transport you away to anywhere. Load it up with tunes, headphones on and drift away to anywhere you want to be. Plus when is having an iPod full of your tunes to hand not a good thing. Get yours on Amazon!!
Deep vein thrombosis stoppers; It’s widely recommended if you going to be sat down for more than 4 hours at a time you get some of these socks. That goes for flying, being a passenger on a train, coach or even a car. DVT can be life threatening so this one my not keep your brain from melting but might just keep you alive. Get some on Amazon!!
Can I take electrical items onto a plane in hand luggage.
At one point a good few years ago this wasn’t a problem but since all the terrorist attacks of recent years taking things onto a plane in hand luggage has got, understandably more difficult.
The do’s and dont’s of acceptable hand luggage changes all the time, so check out this up to date list of everything you can and can’t take in you hand luggage.
All in all, getting through a long haul flight is never easy. With a little prior planning and a few sleep aids/entertaining gizmos it can be a much more palatable experience. Until the brain boxes in the aviation technology field invent another Concord, long haul travel is going to be part of a travellers life.
Have you any interesting experience and tips to flying long haul!? Fill that comments box!