With the development of the commercial aviation industry, non-stop flights have become longer — no one could have imagined back in the 1950s that the journey from the UK to Australia which was made of nine layovers would become a 17-hour direct flight. As an expat, you are probably travelling more often than the average person; it’s therefore important for your mental and physical well being to know how to manage discomfort during eight, ten, or seventeen hours of flying.
Reserve a seat that meets your needs
What is a good seat for you, isn’t necessary for your co-passenger. If you are the type of flyer who falls asleep before the takeoff and wakes up just before landing, definitely secure a window seat. Not only you won’t be disturbed by walking-down-the-aisle-passengers and crew members, but also you won’t make those sitting next to you feel uncomfortable for having to wake you up every time they need to use the lavatory. Exit seats offer some extra leg room, but you must be physically able and willing to perform emergency actions, as well as not accompanying children under the age of 15.
Wear comfortable clothes
Don’t make long-haul flights more tiring than what they already are by squeezing yourself in tight jeans or wearing synthetic materials which don’t let your skin breath. The ideal traveller’s outfit has layers to help you manage the changes in temperature throughout the journey, and is composed of wrinkle-resistant items. For example, wear trousers that stretch, a t-shirt, and a cardigan, and choose comfortable footwear — remember feet usually swell during air travel due to inactivity.
Pack your carry-on smartly
Unless you are travelling business or first-class, every inch of your limited space in the economy class is vital for your comfort. Thus, it’s crucial to use the space under the seat in front of you to stretch your legs rather than keep your handbag. To achieve this practicality, you should limit the amount of stuff you bring on board, and store, all except the necessary, in the overhead bin. Keep in the pocket in front of you your book, headphones, neck pillow, and a toilet kit. The rest, such as your laptop, scarf, or notebook, you can reach out for when needed — it’s a good opportunity also to stretch your legs.
The cabin air is cool and dry, and the humidity levels are between ten to 20% — lower than in the Sahara desert. However, the average human body is used to higher numbers of humidity (30 to 60%). To reduce the symptoms of dehydration and jet lag (e.g. fatigue, headaches, nausea), and to make up for the water your body loses during the flight, you should drink about a plastic airline cup of water for every flying hour. If you cannot resist the in-flight alcohol, keep in mind that alcoholic beverages don’t count towards dehydration; quite the contrary.
Be kind to cabin crew
Generally speaking, being kind to people who serve you is a principle. However, when you are at 30,000 feet altitude, you have some extra reasons to bring your best self to the plane. The more the flight attendants positively notice you, the better service you will get during the flight — yes, the extra blanket and snacks will feel like a much-needed luxury after the seventh hour of flying. So, put on your big smile, leave your stresses outside the cabin, and let the people in charge help you enjoy your flight.
Get some sleep
Sleeping is probably the best way to pass the time on a long-haul flight. However, the limited space, the noise, and often the nerves can make it difficult for you. To create a more comfortable space, recline your seat back after you have given the person behind you a heads up, slip off your shoes, and wrap yourself with the blanket to stay warm and cosy. Use your traveller’s accessories (neck pillow, sleep mask, earplugs or earphones) for extra comfort.
Getting into the habit of moving regularly during the flight is essential to help your blood flow, and prevent from the unpleasant symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is blood clots in the legs. Toilet breaks are an excellent opportunity also to stretch your legs, as long as you choose to use the most inaccessible lavatory which demands a longer walk down the aisle. Also, there are basic stretching exercises for flyers, such as pointing your toes, pulling your calves, and moving your ankles in round movements.
Expand your network
Spending many hours next to a stranger and facing the same uncomfortable conditions are good enough reasons to get to know this person. Initiating a conversation with your co-passenger can help you find out something new about your destination, or who knows? — Maybe this is the contact you have been longing to help you find accommodation or give you expat advice because they have been there done that. As an expat, you should get into the habit of expanding your social network with every given opportunity, and this is definitely a good one.
Complete a pending task
If you left your office in a hurry the day before, or you have yet to complete a freelance project whose deadline is approaching, you can use the flying hours to make some progress with your work. Make sure your laptop is fully charged, and that you can access your documents while offline if you don’t wish to pay the extra charges for in-flight Wi-Fi.
Enjoy the in-flight entertainment
In-flight entertainment is a guaranteed way to pass your time in a relaxed and fun way. Whether you decide to do a movie marathon, listen to your favourite music, or play candy storm, airlines have made sure there’s something for every taste and age. However, we strongly recommend you avoid watching the interactive map on your screen, which shows the route along with facts about your flight (e.g. altitude, outside temperature, hours left to go), as it has the opposite effect than helping the time pass by fast. The map is actually a reminder of how slow and restrictive the flying experience can be. These days, many planes have power outlets (even for economy seats), so you may even be able to power your own entertainment device, if you have something you’d rather watch than what’s on offer on the built-in screen.
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