Wednesday, August 17, 2011

5 tips for surviving long-haul flights

Having recently returned from a trip to UK and Europe (from Perth, Western Australia), I thought I would summarise some of my tips on how to survive long haul flights.

1. Be prepared!
Here are some supplies that I have found to be useful on board long haul flights:
1) A small (<100ml) bottle of hand sanitiser.
2) A few of those moist towelette things that you get from some takeaway stores.
3) Eye mask.
4) A neck pillow.
5) A pen.
6) A double-pronged airplane headphone adaptor.
7) A pashmina scarf/shawl.
8) A very small multi-purpose moisturiser - for dry lips, hands etc.
9) A small bag of hard candies and some chewing gum.
10) Lightweight entertainment! Suggestions: an mp3 player loaded with long and interesting pod-casts/music, a small games console, a paperback, book of puzzles etc.  

2. Noise reduction
A recent article on WAToday confronted the negativity that is often aimed at the parents of crying children on flights:

"Sure enough, at 35,000 feet, crying began in stereo, with two tots screaming. Dads passed babies to mums. Mums passed babies to dads. The crying continued - two minutes, three minutes, four minutes. One baby finally quieted but the other, a girl about 18 months old, kept up the wail, arching her back, screaming her misery. Passengers started staring at the mother. They ruffled their newspapers. Turned up their overhead fans. Blasted the volume on their headphones. Anything to make the noise go away."

On my recent flight (from London to Kuala Lumpur) I was seated right next to several families with young children (several of which were crying and screaming for long periods). Was I annoyed or irritated? No! The reason? I always bring two things on ANY flight: ear plugs, and "isolation" headphones (which I use simulaneously). The exact type of headphones that I used was: "Direct Impact, Extreme Isolation". Although the isolation headphones are rather bulky (and need careful storage during travel so as to avoid damage), they are just excellent for reducing noise during flights. Even without screaming babies or chatty teens, the sheer noise from the engines is enough to exert a stressful influence on the ears. Being able to block this can greatly improve your ability to survive any flight with minimal psychological and physiological impact. I have found that with the ear-plug, headphones combo, I don't even need to play music to block out most sounds. Whilst watching a movie or listening to music, the blocking-out effect is absolute,...what bliss!

3. Drugs
I don't want to give you the wrong impression here. I do not advocate prolonged or excessive use of any drug (legal or illegal) as I believe when it comes to drugs and the human body, less is best! Although I prefer not to overload my liver in the long-term, I can hardly ignore the beneficial and useful phsyiological effects of drugs in the short-term. Antihistamines, naprogesic, paracetamol,.. ahh blessed be those little magic little pills for the relief that you deliver! With a little bit of help, the right combination can turn the unbearable eternity of long-haul flights into a fleeting blur. In my cabin bag I take a small stash of: paracetamol, ginger capsules and sleeping pills (in my case, temazepam). The ginger capsules work like gold on motion sickness, settling the stomach and battling any pangs of nausea. And I can't speak highly enough of using sleeping pills to get through a night on a plane. They are only recommended when you have longer than 8 hours on board. Although I did not sleep continually for the whole 8 hours, time passed very quickly and I was continually shocked upon checking my watch to find that 2-3 hours had passed in what felt like a 30 minute nap. Sleeping pills are also good for reducing the physical discomfort of sitting in the same position for hours at a time. You do have to be disciplined with sleeping pills though, and make sure that you don't use them upon returning home as they can be addictive and highly disruptive to natural sleeping patterns.

4. Clothing and hygiene
Aeroplane cabins are notoriously chilly. Even if the weather is sunny and warm at your departure and destination,... you should always be prepared for <20 celsius temperatures on board. This may not be an issue for the more thick-skinned, but if you are in any way sensitive to the cold, be warned! On my recent flights I wore leggings and a long-sleeve cardigan under a winter jacket. At times the cabin warmed up and I could lose the jacket,... but I am very glad I had the leggings. One thing I always try to do for a flight, is to put on an absolutely fresh and clean set of clothes before leaving for the airport. This can be hard when you are travelling and laundry facilities are hard to come by, but wearing clean underwear, socks etc really helped me last the extra mile. In the past, when I did not do this, by the time I reached my destination I felt super gross, like I would on a Sunday morning after a big night out; hungover, nauseous, with that somewhat clammy feeling of being still dressed in the clothes from the night before. This is not a great feeling! I also recommend bringing a toothbrush and toothpaste and brushing your teeth at the airport before boarding, for similar reasons. I also believe that being clean also helps get through immigration and customs!? Apparently having a beard or looking stubbly can cause problems for male passengers passing as they disembark. Bizarre I know, but I have seriously been told this by several male friends.  

5. Manners and courtesy
I know this sounds obvious to many, but some passengers do not seem to realise that by they can actually improve their own flight experience by extending good manners to those around them. Aeroplane flights are like a macrocosm of karmic retribution. Smile and thank all air attendants as they check your boarding pass and direct you to your seat. Pay attention to the lifejacket demonstration even if you have seen it a million times before. You cannot anticipate what needs you may have during the flight,... what if you become sick, what if you need to make a special request? If you have been polite and courteous to the cabin crew, then it will be much easier to call on their assistance if required. Courtesy to the other passengers around you will also go far. Make sure that none of your belongings intrude on their space. Keep your elbows from overhanging over the arm rest. Don't make too many unnecessary noises (eating very crunchy food for long periods, rustling through loud crackly plastic bags for belongings, talking or laughing at an excessive volume, using game consoles etc with the volume on). If you are waiting for another passenger to move for some reason, be patient. If they have wriggling children, try and be empathetic. By extending human decency to the people around you, you will have a much more pleasant experience. Other passengers will be more obliging and less annoyed if you need to climb over them to go to the toilet. Also, if there is ever some sort of emergency, you never know whose hands your life might be in!

Do you have any tips for surviving long distance flights?


Apex said...

Great tips. Your 5th point makes me think of our flight back to Perth from Japan where you and C sat smack bang in the middle of a Japanese school group on the plane.

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