If you’re a committed traveler, with a travel bucket list a hundred yards long, there is a good chance that you’ve got at least a couple of long-haul flights in your future.
While most air travel these days is little more than a glorified airborne coach trip, and you can just about survive in the cramped conditions because you only have to bear up under them for a few hours, long-haul travel is a completely different beast, one you’ll have to prepare for.
To help you spend your travel time in as much comfort as possible, and to enjoy the stress-free holiday of your dreams, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to take the sting from long-haul flights.
As with any travel, the best way to stay comfortable is to do a little planning in advance. Most long-haul flights involve several connections, but just because the computer at your favorite travel site thinks you can de-plane, get your bags, get through security and get to another gate in 20 minutes doesn’t mean it’s actually possible, so double check your timings.
You should also keep an eye out for planes with more than one aisle, this means you can get up and move around without dodging as many other passengers and crew.
If you’re going to be plane-bound for between 18 and 24 hours, regularly scheduled meals and an entertainment system are also a must.
Surviving the Wait
Being stuck in the departure lounge is no-one’s idea of fun, but there are a number of ways you can liven up the wait for your gate or lessen the disappointment of delayed flight. What you need to do to keep happy is to break your need down into comfort, entertainment, and sustenance.
Airports tend to be huge drafty spaces in even the warmest of climates, but the plane you’re getting in is almost certainly going to be stuffy and close, so make sure you have a thin jumper or cardigan that you can shuck on and off at a moment notice. A travel pillow to support your neck as you doze is also a must.
Keeping your mind of checking the departure board is also key, so you’re going to need to keep yourself entertained. Books and magazines are fine, but they tend to be bulky and you’re going to need to keep mobile so you can head off when your gate is called. Thankfully most of us have a mobile phone on us at all times, and a modern smartphone can handle nearly all of your entertainment needs.
Try replacing your paper book with an audiobook: not only does that free up your hands, but it means you can bring a whole library with you without slamming your luggage allowance. Companies like Audible or iTunes have millions of books for you to choose from.
If you’re into gaming, good news: development of games for the mobile platform outpaced consoles and computer games last year. From AAA titles to indie games, there’s a whole host of amazing and entertaining titles for you to choose from.
Since you’ll want to keep mobile (pun intended) it’s best to stick to titles that you can pick up and put down in an instant without losing any progress, making games like the engaging Plants vs. Zombies, the button-mashing madness of Alto’s Odyssey, or a rapid-fire Pokerstars Zoom game, where the whole point is that there is a quickly revolving door of players, an ideal choice.
Obviously, the best way to enjoy your long-haul flight is in the comfort of first class. However, the significant expense associated with that kind of ticket means it’s not available to most travelers. Additionally, the days of just asking to be upgraded at the check-in desk are long gone.
If you do want to get upgraded, you’re going to have to find out how your particular airline goes about it. Some only offer unused seats in first class to those who purchase an additional ‘potential upgrade’ rider with their tickets, some prioritize those spending their Air-miles, and some even use a bidding system.
Even if you don’t get upgraded to first-class, the key to stress-free travel is making sure you take a minute every now and then to center yourself and try and stay as calm as possible. Hopefully, by keeping your destination in mind, and employing some of our tips, even the longest flight won’t have a sting in its tail for you.