You are looking forward to a great holiday in a new, exotic location but to get there you have to survive the rigours of a long haul flight and, worse still, the long flight back. What should you take with youto make life a little easier? Here are a few suggestions.
Getting to Sleep
The best way to kill some time and get to your destination in good shape is to get some sleep but that can be harder to do than you think. There are so many factors working against you on a long haul flight. Day and night don't happen in the right places and you are out of your proper rhythm, . It's very noisy and your sleep is interrupted by cabin staff and other passengers. So what can you take with you to help you to sleep?
You should definitely have a neck pillow and an eye pad to block out the cabin lights. Sleeping is so much easier when you have the support of a neck pillow. Inflatable pillows are quite cheap to buy and take up very little space in your flight bag. Ear plugs for sleeping are a good idea. Mouldable wax ear plugs work better than the foam ones you are sometimes given on the flight.
A good pair of noise cancelling earphones (sometimes called noise cancelling ear buds) can be expensive but are invaluable on a long haul flight. Noise cancelling earphones help you to sleep by blocking out aircraft engine noise and help to keep you entertained as well.
Some people find it helps to take a sleeping pill. That is something you should talk to your doctor about.
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Staying comfortable on a long haul flight means being well organised. Being well organised means booking your flight early, getting the best possible seat you can, preferably an aisle seat or one you can get in and out of easily and that has lots of leg room. You want the best seat possible with as much leg room as you can get. Arrive early at the check in desk, if you can, and ask if you can be upgraded.
Part of organising for your flight is to have a good flight bag that is easy to get in and out of the overhead locker and that you can find everything in. There is nothing worse than not being able to find what you need in your flight bag or having it under your feet using up valuable leg room. A good flight bag should be easy to carry and easy to find things in.
Take any medication you might need with you. If you are a nervous flyer you might want to talk to your doctor about Valium or something similar. Take air sickness pills if you are prone to motion sickness.
Make sure you have a pen with you. You will need it to complete immigration paperwork.
Be prepared for contingencies like, God forbid, being parted from your luggage. Take a toothbrush and a change of underwear with you in your flight bag.
What To Take on a Long Haul Flight
One of the things that could stop you from sleeping is if you are not warm enough. It can be cold in the cabin when the air conditioning is working to full effect. The airline will usually give you blankets but it is a good idea to have a layer of clothing you can add if needed. A good idea for women travellers is to take something light but warm like a pashmina.
The atmosphere in an aircraft cabin can get very dry. It is particularly important o that you keep yourself well hydrated. It's a good idea to take water with you but an even better idea is to take an electrolyte drink like Gatorade that will replace essential minerals and help to properly hydrate you.
Some people find that their nose becomes very dry. A saline nasal spray is useful protection against this problem and can usually be found in the airport pharmacy. Hand cream and lip balm can also be helpful.
Avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis
The risk of deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is said to be tripled on a long haul flight although, to put that in perspective, the risk is still only one deep vein thrombosis for every 4656 flights. The risk of DVT is relatively low but it is important to keep the circulation going and to get up and move around at regular intervals. A pair of slip on shoes or flight slippers are a good idea so that you can kick of your shoes and be comfortable but move around the cabin at intervals as well.
If you are particularly worried about deep vein thrombosis it may be helpful to wear compression socks or compression stockings. Compression socks or stockings are relatively inexpensive and can be a big help. Most people do not need medication but if your circulation is poor or you think you are at particular risk you should consult your doctor.
Killing Time And Keeping Yourself Entertained
The hardest thing to deal with can be the sheer boredom of it all. You should definitely take advantage of in-flight movies if they are offered. You may have to use the airline's ear phones but if you have your own earphones that are compatible with the aircraft sound system it will enhance the experience, particularly if you have a set of noise cancelling earphones or noise cancelling ear buds.
The quality of airline music is often poor so you might want to download some favourite tracks of your own and take along your iPod, MP3 player, your iPhone or whatever works for you.
You should also take along a good book. Maybe start it off before you go as it would be a disaster to get on board and find you have a book you don't get along with. You might also want to take your travel guide; if only to remind yourself why you are doing all this!
If you are not much of a reader you could take a puzzle book or a portable game.
With the right precautions your long haul flight should go ahead without mishap and you will arrive at some idyllic location where you can sleep the whole thing off. There's still the long journey home of course but, if you are wise you will have allowed yourself a day or two to recover.