Surviving A Long Haul Flight

How to ensure a comfortable long haul flight, to arrive at your destination in peak condition. Pre flight preparation and essential tips to take the pain out of long distance air travel.

Comfort is key here. For many of us, the thought of a long haul journey brings back those dreaded childhood memories of air travel, where excitement at the prospect of a journey was soon replaced by nausea, the onset of air sickness, claustrophobia, the terror of economy-class cramp, airplane bathroom horrors, and in the end (airline toys can only keep you so interested), the dull droning monotony of long hours spent on the plane. Fast forward to adult life and flying doesn't get much better. The coach-class cramp is worse, trepidation related to the obligatory bathroom trip is amplified (some people actually get dressed in there? Brush their teeth in there? - EEEEUWW!), and dehydration, scratchy eyes, sleeplessness and general discomfort reign supreme. But it doesn't have to be so"¦

The dehydration first. Not the thing you are most likely to be bothered by (especially if you're still thinking of excuses to avoid the germ-infested bathroom at all costs), but probably the factor most likely to do maximum damage. To avoid excessive bathroom trips (not to mention the general annoyance to those sitting around you), get hydrated well in advance of your long haul flight. If you're flying in the evening, spend the day downing several litres of glorious, hydrating, rejuvenating H20. Do not even consider any mildly diuretic drink, and alcohol especially is a strict no-go area. By the time you board the plane, you will be prepared for the journey, and will not have to drink as much water to see you through the flight. (But by all means, do continue to drink water, and go to the bathroom when you need to - if you can psyche yourself up to the task, it isn't so bad - promise).

Rule number two. Dress comfortably. Notice here that important distinction between stylish, well thought out comfort, and sheer sloppiness. The latter will not get you an upgrade and, let's face it, there is no better way to survive a long air flight than to travel first class! For women, easy, fluid wool suits do the trick (drawstring pants are a particular bonus for overcoming the bloat factor that is so frequently associated with air travel). Also very helpful for climate changes and/or when the cabin temperature drops to freezing (as it inevitably does at night - even when you are flying in the tropics) is the pashmina shawl. Cosy, but also refined and elegant. For men, tailored pants, a collared shirt and perhaps a pullover are likely to do. Not too casual, not too formal - and layered to cope with the change in temperature. Shoes are important. Many passengers have a preference for throwing them off and getting well acquainted with the airline-provided socks. By all means, yes - but have you ever tried to squeeze your puffy feet into by-then-two-sizes-too-small shoes at the end of a long flight? Again, it cannot be stressed often enough - go for comfort and a pair of shoes that will accommodate a slightly expanded foot. Women - stay away from heels. Anyone who tried to indoctrinate you into thinking that heels equalled elegance was obviously lying. There is nothing remotely chic about backache, or tripping as you try to manoeuvre your hand luggage up the plane stairs - besides, if - God forbid - you have to use the airplane slide, you will be compelled to leave the Blahniks behind. Not fun.

OK. So you are now settled in your seat, comfortably dressed, ready for your plane trip. Some extra precautions are needed to avoid, as much as possible, looking like you just got off a long haul flight when you get to your destination. Moisturise well. Alternatively, spritz your face on occasion with an energising, refreshing spray. Dry cabin air will probably necessitate the use of soothing eye drops. Many find that flight time provides an ideal opportunity for the application of a soothing eye mask - eye covers soaked in moisture-replenishing fluid. Saline solution drops are also a useful thing to have on hand when it comes to relief of a dry nose. Pack your hand luggage wisely. You do not want to be carrying a mountain of things, making life difficult for you, but you do want to have all essentials close at hand. A nifty travel pack that includes eye drops, moisturiser and lip balm is always a good thing to include. So is something to keep you busy, in case the in-flight entertainment proves wanting. A good book (something easy to get into rather than highly ambitious and literary), a magazine or even a Game Boy could come in handy. Long distance flights (all those hours wasted in the air!) in general provide the ideal time to catch up on all those niggly little things that you can never quite find the time to do. (Write that letter to a long forgotten friend? Work out your budget? Rub cuticle cream into your nails? Plan your CV? - the possibilities are endless).

Do use this time wisely, but if you are on an overnight flight, the best thing you can do is allow yourself to sleep. Generally, most of us are running on a sleep deficit, in dire need of any extra hours for snoozing, and flights still provide the best opportunity to catch a quick nap (it's not like you're going anywhere, is it?). Eat a light meal - try to signal to the steward that you would appreciate your meal as soon as possible - try to walk around the cabin for a bit before you sleep, and then settle into your reclining seat, lie back, eye covers on, and indulge"¦

Hopefully you will arrive at your destination well rested and ready to face the day. Bon Voyage!

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