My butt goes numb if I sit too long. Happens to everyone right?
This condition is worsened considerably when the seat I occupy is a cramped space during a flight. I'm 6-foot-4 and rarely have been able to get comfortable on a plane. I know I am lucky to be able to travel a lot. It's what I love. But the wear and tear on my body to get to some of these places often leaves me frustrated – and lamenting the fact that we don't yet have transporter machines in this day and age of modern conveniences. C'mon, science! Let's get it together already.
In recent months, I've taken several long flights back and forth to Southeast Asia. These flights go beyond what I would call long, actually. A 16-hour leg is pure torture, especially in the knee-scraping spaces I can afford on a flight. (To just once spring for a first-class seat. That would be glorious.)
Given that I have flown back and forth to Burma (Myanmar) and the Philippines in the past couple months, I wanted to share my best tips for how to best handle a long-haul flight.
Plan your sleep smartly. I cannot easily sleep on a plane. I will eventually nod off from exhaustion, but I cannot plan for a stretch of napping while seated upright. So, I have to try to get the right amount of sleep before the flight and find time after I land in the new location to catch up on rest and get acclimated to a new time zone.
Get extra rest. Get a full night's sleep before your flight so that you are fresh for takeoff. Once in the new country, it will be tough to shake off jet lag (especially the first night), but try to take a nap on your first day (a couple hours) and then stay up to your usual time before heading to bed.
Get the blood flowing and get your mind right. Arrive at the airport in plenty of time before your epic flight. You don't want to be rushing through security to your gate and running right onto the plane before taking off on a 14-hour flight. Instead, get to your gate area, have a bottle or two of water to stay hydrated and have a good stretch. Remember, you'll be in that cramped seat for hours. I like to do a series of arm, back and leg stretches to make sure I'm warm and have my blood flowing before I get on the plane. You'll often see me standing and doing a series of squats, stretches and general calisthenics at my gate area. Do I care that other people might find this weird? Not at all. I don't know them. Plus, they won't think I'm weird when their leg cramps set in while we're flying over Greenland.
Clean your spaces. Bring antibiotic wipes or hand sanitizers or gels or whatever to clean surfaces that you will be using or touching. This is a good tip always, but it's especially worth noting when you'll be in a cabin with 300 strangers breathing the same air and touching dirty surfaces that others have used on the preceding flights.
Roam the aisles. Onboard, get up regularly. You're going to leave your seat to use the bathroom and brush your teeth and grab something from your bag in the overhead bin during the flight. Use this time to walk up and down the aisle or find a spot to stand for a bit. This will ease any back and leg discomfort. I often can find a place while waiting to use the restroom to do a series of leg stretches. Also, take off your shoes. My feet and ankles end up swelling on these long flights. I try to keep to get as comfortable as possible by kicking off my sneakers or shoes and slipping on warm socks (some airlines even provide slippers).
Fuel up and water down. Hydrate often. I like to use a system of one water, one Diet Coke and one beer ratio for my fluid intake during a long flight. If you are thirsty, get up and ask an attendant for a drink. They are especially accommodating on overseas flights and will get you a drink outside of normal service periods. Also, pack a few healthy snacks like trail mix, almonds or protein bars to keep up your energy and as an alternative to some of the items offered on the in-flight meals that might not be appealing or on your diet.
Cancel the noise. The past year, I got noise-canceling headphones from Bose. At first, I thought the cost a little much. But now that I have them, I can't imagine flying without. They block out all the engine noise, saving you from headaches. They also allow you to hear the sound of the in-flight entertainment system much better. When you want to sleep, they provide your own personal cone of silence.
Sit back and (try to) relax. A 16-hour flight will never be perfect. I always emerge worn down and sore. I use these methods and am always finding new things that work for me to make the best of it. I am determined to avoid using drugs that knock me out for these flights. Plus, then I wouldn't get to watch about 10 in-flight movies during these trips. That reminds me, pack some eye-drops, too.
Help us out with more tips for staying healthy and happy on a ultra-long plane flight. Please comment below.
Thanks for reading,