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surviving a long-haul flight

May 18, 2010

When I accepted my job, I knew that a good portion of my time would be consumed by traveling.  As such, I’ve had my fair of long-haul flights (always economy class) and have come up with my own coping mechanisms.  Getting to Sydney was my longest flight yet and motivated me to share some of my strategies for surviving a long-haul flight.

5.  Know your airports Getting from point A to point B is long enough without missing a connecting flight.  Try to know your airports as much as possible.  For instance, a 50 minute layover in Singapore is not a problem.  A 2-hour layover in Heathrow is a problem.  Why is this?  Because one is a good airport and the other is a crime against humanity.
4.  Choose your seat ahead of time. Most airlines will offer a seat map when you book your flight.  Take the time to choose your seat immediately.  If the seat map isn’t available call the airline directly and ask them to assign your set.  I love sites like seatguru.com that help you decide which is the best seat to choose.  During day flights, I love an aisle seat so I can get up whenever I want.  On overnight flights, I love the window, so I can pass out against the wall.  Either way, I always make sure I lock in my seat well before the day of my flight.
3. One carry-on and one personal item. They aren’t big, so make ’em count.  In my carry-on:  a pair of PJs, at least one change of clothes, my 1-quart plastic bag back complete with toothbrush and toothpaste, and my camera gear.  These days, just assume the airline will lose your luggage. For my “personal item” (purse) I have a book, my passport, my glasses, iPod, a bottle of water to stay hydrated and a bag of nuts.  Why nuts?  Because airplane food blows and nuts are a great snack to keep hunger at bay.
2.  Leave the PJs in your bag. This might be a controversial one, but I can’t handle it when people show up for flights dressed like they just rolled out of bed.  I admit that dressing comfortably for your flight is important, but long haul flights mean you’re probably going to another country–don’t let the rest of the world think we walk around in flannels.  Please.
1.  Ear plugs and eye-mask. Easily my dorkiest accessories, yet also my most cherished.  For me, these two items are the difference between 5 hours of solid sleep and 8 hours of restless fidgeting.  Not to mention nothing says “please don’t engage me in awkward conversation” to the person next to you like something over your eyes and foam shoved in your ears.   My favorites are domed eye masks like these from Samsonite and Hearos.  (These also come in very handy for noisy hotel rooms)

I always love hearing what others do to make it through their flight times, so feel free to share.

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