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Stay Comfortable On Your Long Haul Flight

Here's how to do it

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Beyond Cashmere socks and upgrades


Pinterest always yields the same results, and they don’t seem to reflect my experiences. Cashmere blankets and matching socks do not seem terribly “essential” to my travels. Not everyone can afford to upgrade to business class as a matter of course, either. So here is my little guide to making the most of cattle class

Get some exercise!


The week before your long-ass flight, get some exercise.

Cardio is great! However, I wouldn’t increase your workout or try anything new in the week preceding your trip. Also, lay off the weights 24 hours before, unless you are completely comfortable 24 hours after a session.

Pack a Lunch


It takes 24 hours of travel door to door on my journeys, and that means long layovers in airports. We all know airport food is unhealthy and expensive. My husband and I both have “funny tummies,” and have decided that it’s best not to take chances with food that might cause either of us to get sick. I usually pack something like the following: A wrap which consists of anything you would put in your favorite salad, wrapped up in a tortilla. My husband’s favorite is chicken bacon ranch. Carrot sticks, celery strips, sliced bell peppers and a bit of hummus (placed in my liquids bag) makes a good snack. Frozen fruit will double as an ice pack and keep it all cold for a few hours, and then serve as a sweet treat. Throw some plastic utensils, a couple of napkins, and a mint or chocolate, and you have a nice little airport picnic. All of the above is TSA friendly, cheaper than any meal you can find at any airport, and so much healthier.

Of course, we also pack snacks with us to get through the day. Fresh fruit is great, but remember to consume it before you arrive at your destination, due to customs regulations. Granola bars and protein bars are always found in my carry-on luggage as well as hard candy and gum.

Carry on....

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Pack your carry-on bag for the purpose of maintaining comfort on your long flight.

Mine always has toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, ear plugs, contact solution plus a spare pair, my glasses, a magazine, a book, pen and paper, a small fleece blanket, travel pillow, a change of clothes, comb, makeup, small mirror, closed toed slippers and fuzzy socks. This bag goes in the overhead bin, unless you wish to rest your feet on it.

One Personal Item


This bag contains items that may need to be accessed quickly. The purpose of this bag is to hold what you would need for comfort on your shorter flights, and while passing through security. Mine is a canvas, zippered bag. It contains my laptop, pen and paper, passport, medications, my phone and chargers, headphones and adapter, my MP3 player, a magazine, gum, sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizer. Also, my water bottle. Bring it to the airport empty, and fill it after you go through security. Think anything that you will need for your shorter flights while in your seat, or while going through security. It is so much easier to just reach into your “one item” bag to dig out your boarding pass and passport, and to throw all your electronics into than to have to situate everything in line.

Attitude is everything


This is a bit like childbirth: You have no control, and your dignity is long gone. It’s a big, stupid game, and you have no choice but to play by the rules. TSA has a job to do, and their own rules. They don’t make much sense. Oh well. Play along. The airlines have their own rules as well, and some of them don’t make much sense, either. PLAY ALONG. The FAA has their own rules, too. PLAY ALONG. If at any point you have problems, or things aren’t going your way, try to go with it. Don’t appear angry. Don’t yell. Don’t refuse to follow orders. If you must insist on better treatment, then by all means, do so, but be incredibly respectful. Once you get into that security line at the airport, your rights fly away. Does this sound disheartening? I’m sure it does, but if you want to fly to your destination, you sure as hell better comply.

I have seen a woman in the security line refuse to remove her belt, and refuse to allow the TSA agent to pat her down because “it’s very expensive!” I have seen a man refuse to remove the water bottles from his carry-on bag. I have been behind people who are comically overdressed for a walk through security, peeling off belts, necklaces, watches and bracelets at the very last second and holding up the line. All of these people were rude and combative.

I have witnessed people yelling at the gate agent over things he or she could not control, such as a seat change, weather delays, and other such things.

Right in front of my eyes people have verbally abused the flight attendants because they ran out of Diet Coke, or became too drunk to be served a sixth vodka soda.

Ultimately, does it all matter? No, not really. It’s certainly not worth getting kicked off a flight and put on the no fly list over not wanting to follow the rules or not getting your way.

Know Your Rights


Look it up! Know how much compensation you are entitled to in the event that you are “bumped” from your flight. Know what you can and cannot take with you. Find out what your baggage weight limits are. Know what time you will have to arrive at the airport. The more you know, the more at ease you will feel.

Choose the Right Outfit


Now, I’m not advising you to make fashion choices that will supposedly get you free upgrades. I’m talking comfort. My go to airplane outfit starts with a bra that does not have an underwire. I’m not Tits McGhee, but I’m not Miss Tiny Titties either. The underwire can cause you problems going through security, but it’s not a huge deal. Alternately, you could bring an extra underwire bra in your carry-on and change in the ladies room once you get through security.

My undies are chosen for comfort as well. I choose a pair that does not bind in the waistband or leg bands. Next layer is a tank top and leggings. Over that is a long, loose fitting maxi dress. Wearing layers is something that people from the northern states do all the time for comfort. Too hot? Peel off a layer. Too cold? Layer up! The best thing about my big dress is that I don’t have to worry about slouching, modesty, or how I look when I fall asleep. It’s also cozy and warm on those cold planes. I wear compression stockings on my legs under the leggings, and slip on shoes.

Whatever you choose to wear, make sure it is non-metallic, comfortable in all positions, especially sitting, and doesn’t look ratty. Do not accessorize. You will just have to strip off your belts and necklaces at security. Go ahead and wear those thigh high boots on the plane to save space in your checked bags if you wish, but you had better not hold up the security line while you take forever getting them on and off again. High heels are not a good idea, either.

Bring a shawl, scarf or hoodie. Remember what I said about layers? Also, an extra shawl or hoodie can serve as a cushion for your bum or back.

Mind the Time (Zone)


Research what the time difference is in your destination. The time difference between my home and my destination is forward SIXTEEN HOURS! Since I have medications that must be taken at a certain time, I need to prepare before my trip. One of my meds must be taken on an empty stomach, I cannot eat for an hour after taking it, and must be taken four hours before taking my other medications. At home, this means that 5:30 am is perfect. In Sydney, that same time is9:30 pm, and would not work. I have to decide whether to simply skip my dose on the plane, or adjust my time. My doctor and I agreed that once I board the plane, I will be on destination time, and will act accordingly. I settle in, buckle up, and set my phone to Sydney time. Try to follow the same routine as closely as possible to home.

Jet Lag!


Lessen the effects of jetlag! As stated previously, set your phone to destination time. Try to follow your evening routine as closely as possible. Personally, I cannot sleep any more than two hours at a time under the best of circumstances due to a sleeping disorder. I do “force” sleep by taking a dose of melatonin, Benadryl, and an alcoholic drink. Yeah I know there are some of you who will say, “You can’t do that!” “Please don’t drink alcohol on a plane! It’s dehydrating!” “That will disrupt your sleep!” I always do this, and it works for me. You can talk to your doctor for advice if you wish, but I would advise you not to take Ambien or any new sleeping medication without knowing how it will affect you. I have read many stories of Ambien Zombies In The Sky. These poor people take a dose of Ambien for the first time ever and awake to find out that they have stripped down, raided the galley, caused a commotion, or otherwise embarrassed themselves, with absolutely no recollection of these events. Some take a new pill and discover that it makes them vomit. Not a good time to find that out.



Yeah yeah yeah. You have heard this ad nauseum. I come from a rather dry climate, and do not find the air in airplanes to be particularly drying. However, so many people state this complaint. Yes, drink plenty of water. You can use a little bit of Vaseline, coconut oil, or lip balm on the inside of your nose to prevent drying.

Many people warn against drinking caffeinated or alcoholic drinks while flying, citing dehydration. I have never experienced this personally, and I do take advantage of the complimentary libations while over the ocean. Of course, I do drink plenty of water as well. Just be smart. It goes without saying that it is never a good idea to become intoxicated on an aircraft, and the last thing you want is to be hungover AND jetlagged.

Tray Tables Are GROSS.


Bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down the tray table, arm rests, seat belt buckle, and anything else you touch in your seat. I have personally witnessed people using the tray table as a changing table, even though a changing table was available in the lav! SO GROSS! I also wipe down the tray table before deplaning, just as a courtesy to the next person who sits in that seat. Don’t be afraid to offer sanitizing wipes to others in your area.

Plastic Bags Are Great!


I always pack extra one gallon and one quart zip top plastic bags in my carry-on and in my “One Item” bag. I always tuck one into the seat pocket in front of me, and place trash in it. Then I don’t worry about leaving a mess. When the flight attendants come around collecting trash, you can dump it out into their trash bag, and re-use it.

They are also good to use as an air sick bag in a pinch. Simply place a couple of napkins or something absorbent in the bottom of a quart sized plastic bag. Then, place a second bag inside the first, with more absorbent material in the bottom of that one. A sanitary pad can work well in a pinch. I have done this and used them, and it works well.

In Flight Entertainment


People seem to have this fantasy of slumbering peacefully while tucked comfortably in a cozy seat, gently waking as breakfast is served. HAHAHAHAHA! This does not happen! Even on a sixteen hour flight, the majority of your flight time will be spent awake, seeking entertainment, or trying to lessen the annoyance of the passenger nearby who can’t seem to understand basic manners.

Bring noise cancelling headphones, and an adapter. Charge up your phone, bring your laptop, load some new movies and music on your devices. Bring a book and a magazine. I usually keep my phone plugged into the USB outlet on the in flight entertainment screen in front of me. It’s very slow to charge a device.

Since it can be very easy to burn though your entertainment, I offer you this advice: Only do one thing at a time. Don’t watch a movie or listen to music while you eat. If you are in the middle of watching a movie, and meal service begins, pause your movie until you are finished eating and cleanup has finished. Same with reading and listening to music. Just do one at a time.

Some buy the wifi service, but I generally don’t. It’s slow, and I really don’t mind being disconnected from social media for a few hours. However, if you have work to do online, and I mean actual work, then it may be worth it to you.



It is important to get up and move regularly to prevent blood clots, and general stiffness. I usually try to get up and use the lav every hour. I take a lap around the plane, check out the snacks on offer in the galley, and stretch a bit. Don’t be that person who attempts to do yoga in the galley or stretches in a way that causes anyone else discomfort.

There are a lot of exercises you can do in your seat as well! Wiggle your toes, lift your legs!

Travel Gadgets


There are some really cool gadgets out there that can help make sixteen hours in a metal tube so much more enjoyable! I swear on my foot sling! My legs are short, and my feet don’t touch the floor fully. While you long legged people may find this enviable, I can assure you that it is not pleasant. No, my knees aren’t in my ears, but my circulation is compromised. My legs swell and get numb, and I am at greater risk of developing blood clots. The sling elevates my legs and removes the pressure. Alternately, there are little folding foot rests that you can buy for the same purpose. They would be good for using if there is no seat in front of you to hook a sling onto, such as the bulkhead.

There has been some chatter about using seat locks that prevent the person in front of you from reclining their seat, but I really think this is kind of a jerk move. Use at your own risk, as some airlines have banned the use of these devices.

There is a plethora of different travel pillows in different designs and materials. Look online and find out what works for you.

Spa In The Sky?


I have seen a lot of blogs touting the idea that you should treat long haul flights as spa days. They encourage people to apply facial masks, and use all kinds of beauty treatments. Not a good idea. First, an international flight is not the time to try a new skin product, for fear of having an allergic reaction. Do you really want your face to swell up and break out when you can’t do anything about it? Besides, think of the people around you. Many people cannot tolerate strong smells, and packed together like sardines, they have no recourse. You will also look like an idiot. Oh yes you will. I don’t see a problem with wiping your face with a cleansing wipe before going to sleep, or putting on a little bit of makeup after breakfast service at your seat, but really anything more than that is just in poor taste. We are all traveling, and we all look like crap. No one really cares.

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