Are you ready for part two? Check part 1 here. Now that you’ve done all the planning for the flight, and are all set, what are some of the things that can help you get the most of your flying experience?
In part 2, I’ll be giving you my very best essential tips for those long-haul flights, as well as tips on how to actually get some sleep when you’re on a plane. And finally, I’ll show you some simple exercises, stretches that everyone can do on board the plane so they stay relaxed and avoid cramped and painful muscles especially for the upper and lower back.
Essential Tips for a Long Flight
Now, let’s talk about the flight itself. How do you make many hours at your seat work for you?
- Gadgets! Bring your own headphones, preferably the noise-canceling kind, so you can shut off the noise of the plane’s engine, crying babies, chatter and whatnot. Make sure your gadgets are fully charged, and bring an extra portable charger. Another thing to consider is bringing a headphones splitter – to share music or movies with your seatmate. Who knows but you might meet your new BFF or next SO on your upcoming overseas flight?
- Load your phone or tablet with movies, podcasts and books just in case your budget flight has no entertainment or the one that it comes with fails, as they sometimes do. It’s good to give yourself choices of entertainment – if magazines are more your thing, pick some up before you board.
- Make your own DIY your own personalized self-care kit – a soft shawl, an eye-mask, hand cream/moisturizer because the air on the plane gets really dry, your toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, cologne, even shower wipes. Take note that the maximum amount of liquid you can bring is a 100-milliliter bottle, though.
- Hydrate. People dehydrate very easily at high altitudes, so you may want to bring your own refillable bottle on board and ask the flight attendant to fill it with water since dehydration can make you feel ill. Although coffee and alcohol will be readily available on most flights, these drinks actually contribute to dehydration, so water is your best choice. But water can lead to more bathroom trips, so if you plan to drink a lot of water, do yourself and your seat-mates a favor and choose an aisle seat.
- Get up and walk around. On long-haul flights, the worst enemies to your health are dehydration, which I talk about above, and deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, which happens when a blood clot forms in the deep muscles of your legs. Get up and walk once an hour or so when you’re awake, and do some flexing and stretching exercises even when you’re in your seat. To learn more about DVT and how to prevent it, check out this article.
- Be loyal to one particular airline, especially if you take the same route often. Enroll in frequent flyer programs and accumulate miles to exchange for free flights, upgrades, promos, lounge access… the more loyal you are to a particular airline, the more rewards you get. Airlines call them rewards programs for a reason, and you’ll be glad you stayed loyal.
- Bring healthy snacks. Airport food can be incredibly expensive, and airplane food can be bland, especially if you’ve had one airplane meal after another for 20 hours or so. Bring your own energy bars or trail mix with you. True confession time: chocolate on a flight makes me happy, and my boyfriend has taken to slipping Milka bars into my purse before I leave on a long flight.
How to sleep on the plane
Ahhhh…sleep. My goal on each flight is to get at least a few hours of sleep. Nothing makes time go faster than getting some shut-eye, and you get to your next destination or stopover feeling somewhat better when you’ve slept. But how do you get any sleep at all in a seat that is less than 17 inches, and only gives you 31 inches of legroom?
- First, determine your sleeping style – what will make you most comfortable and contribute to sleep? Are you a leaner or a stretcher? If you are a leaner, pick a window seat. You’ll have the window wall to put your pillow on, so you can just lean over and close your eyes. The disadvantage is that when you have to go to the bathroom, you need to wake up your neighbors. If you are a stretcher, take an aisle seat. At least you can put your legs out toward the aisle. However, when the cabin crew comes with the meal cart, or whenever someone walks down the aisle to go to the bathroom, they may bump your feet and wake you, depending on how much you stretch out.
- Build your “nest”. That’s why it’s so important to have a good pillow with you. Most airlines give blankets, but if you find them to be too thin, use your jacket so you don’t get too cold. Use your eye mask if you’re traveling during daylight hours.
- You can move your seat to the recline position – but always, and please, I really do mean always, check to see that the person sitting behind you doesn’t have a drink on their tray table, which can spill if you move your seat back to abruptly. Make eye contact and let them know that you want to lean back, and be okay if they say no. There’s very little space on the plane and often, so many passengers, so let’s make nice and share!
- Secure your valuables. Don’t assume that your wallet is safe. Another advantage of sitting by the window is that you can keep your bag beside you against the window wall. Keep your valuables close to you, and keep your bag closed, and preferably, locked.
- When sleepiness hits – take advantage. Don’t try to finish the movie, book or game you’re in the middle of. Turn everything off and go to sleep.
- If you really want to sleep for a long time, it’s a good idea to tell the cabin crew or your seatmate that you don’t want to be woken up for meals. Additionally, make sure that your seatbelt is fastened and visible while you sleep (you can keep it a little loose for comfort’s sake), otherwise, the crew will wake you up when the pilot turns on the fasten seatbelt sign, they will be obliged to wake you to make sure.
- Stay in the back of the plane. Families with small children are put at the very front, and in the back, you’ll be far away from their noises, which will help you sleep.
Stay loose on long flights with these simple plane exercises
Again, staying rested and relaxed is our goal on a long flight, right? But this is challenging to do in such cramped spaces, and so one simple but helpful solution is – exercises you can do on the plane. Now, I’m not talking about a full cross-fit workout in the aisle, but, in the interest of keeping your mind, body, and spirit in a good state, here are some physical activities you can do to lessen the stress of travel.
- Torso twists are your best friend if you have lower back pain. The best thing about them is that you don’t have to leave your seat or even bump your neighbor. Simply put both feet on the floor in front of you and twist your torso, first to one side and then the other. Make sure that your neck gets a good stretch as well.
- If there is sufficient space, put one ankle on the opposite knee. Now lean your elbow into your knee and press down. For an added stretch, flex your foot several times as well, and then switch sides. This is really good for your hips and derriere.
- For your upper back, you can do a hug. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Put your arms around yourself, tucking your chin into the inside of your elbow. You can also give your neck another gentle stretch by dropping the right side of your head to your right shoulder, and then the left side to your left shoulder. This is also a good stress reliever, and so if the flight was difficult, this should help.
- One last stretch while sitting: reach your arms out, palms facing out to the left and right, and put the palm of your right hand over your left hand. Lace your fingers together. Bring your hands in by bending your elbows until your fingers are in front of your face, and then stretch your arms out again till they are straight in front of you.
- If you’ve gotten up to go to the bathroom, you might as well get some good stretches in there. While waiting in the lavatory line, and especially if there’s enough space, do a simple shoulder stretch that will help your shoulders and upper back relax. Clasp your hands behind you, lacing your fingers together, and squeeze your shoulders close together. Raise your head and chest. If you can, lift your hands even higher to stretch your back.
- And if you can, as a final exercise, while waiting in line, hang forward from your waist. Hold on to your elbows with the opposite hands. This full body stretch is guaranteed to improve your circulation after longs hours of sitting down.
So there you have it, the tips and tricks in my arsenal to help you weather long flights well. Traveling is such a wonderful and uplifting experience, so let’s not allow long flights to be so stressful and exhausting that it spoils our joy and fun.
Hope you enjoyed this! And I wish you great flights in the future!