You would think requisite sitting and vegging out for up to sixteen hours while you are served drinks and snacks would be an easy task. But, even seasoned travelers find long-haul flights draining. When you are buckled in next to a neighbour that claims your shared armrest (instead of politely using it as a neutral territory, space divider) or, when you are jarred awake from a fidgety child’s karate kick to your seat, the prospect seems less indulgent. Before boarding you need to physically and mentally prepare for the worst. Once you check your bags and appease security, the following tips will help you best use your extra time at the airport to get ready for the long aviary journey ahead.
1. Drink Water
As you sit in the aircraft, the dry air in the cabin is continuously re-circulated. The humidity is significantly lower than in our households, and this dehydrates the body. During your flight, you may feel as if you are being transformed into a gigantic prune as the atmosphere mercilessly sucks all the moisture out of your nasal passages and eyeballs. This is why you should drink water to hydrate your body before the in-flight dehydration process begins. In the USA, you can fill your water bottle in an area near the toilets, but you may want to carry a thermos if you are flying through nice airports in Asia. Here, water towers dispense the liquid at three temperatures: chilled, warm and nearly boiling. Nearly boiling water may be hazardous, but if your nose and throat feel parched on the plane, simply open your thermos and inhale the steam before taking a soothing sip.
2. Hydrate Your Skin
For the same reason that you should drink water before your flight, you should also apply lotion and lip balm before boarding. Your skin will dry out, leaving you uncomfortable and itchy in the low-humidity cabin. Seal extra moisture into your skin by applying lotion liberally – especially on your hands and face. If lotion is not in your carry on, check to see if the airport toilets have lotion dispensers next to the soap. Otherwise, simply take a wander around the cosmetic section of the duty free area to “sample” the hand and face creams. Lotions and creams with Vitamin E should be especially helpful in keeping the skin moisturized. Your skin will thank you by not cracking and drying out into a scaly Godzilla-inspired motif.
3. Organize Your Technology
Chances are if you make it to your gate early, you will be able to cadge a coveted spot next to a charging station. If you realize that your phone, music player, etc. are out of juice, you can plug in your devices until they are fully charged up. Or, consider purchasing a powerbank to ensure that you can charge your devices once you reach your destination. If your items are near full-charge, many planes will have USB chargers for you to use after take-off. Some airports also offer free Wi-Fi, so you can make sure to download extra songs, TV shows and movies before you board. You can also connect to send your family and friends a quick email or chat message to let them know you are safely at your gate – or connect via video chat to confirm with whoever will greet you on the other side, rather than racking up international phone calls on your bill.
4. Rearrange Your Items
Whether you chucked everything willy-nilly into your bags five minutes before you left home, or specifically placed your heaviest items in your wheelie suitcase, now you can re-arrange your items between your carry-on and personal item. The larger carry-on is stowed in the overhead storage bins, while your personal item can slide underneath the seat in front of you. Store your most valuable items- such as your computer and camera here- in addition to your passport, cell phone and music player if you cannot carry them on you in zipped pockets. Your items are much safer next to you, rather than jammed overhead 10 rows because the luggage rack filled up quickly. In case you are on a turbulent flight, during which the ‘fasten seatbelt’ signs are continuously illuminated (or you’re vertically challenged and can’t be bothered to shove your bag in the bin more than once), place any items you would like to use during flight in the small carry-on, as well. For comfort, pack your toothbrush, slippers, and your own headphones. For entertainment, bring a magazine, and a novel or guidebook, to do last minute research. And, you’ll never go amiss with a scarf, tissues, and earplugs.
5. Move It
Maybe you rushed around all morning, but sitting on a flight for sixteen hours, you may feel as if you’ve developed Restless Legs Syndrome. When you sit for long periods of time, blood pools in the legs and feet, which can lead to discomfort and swelling. Long flights require you sit in one position for a long time, which is a risk factor associated with blood clots. Even though you should do small exercises while seated, such as rotating your ankles, it is best to stretch your legs before you take off. So, stroll through the airport – even if you’re off balance wheeling your roller suitcase, and nearly collapsing under the weight of a large backpack. If you are traveling as a pair or in a group, you can leave your luggage with a fellow passenger. And, when it’s your turn to watch the bags, indulge in some gentle stretching. You may look like a weirdo, but your body will stay limber, and you’ll probably have lots of space because other travelers are less likely to sit by you. Double-win!
Alison Roberts-Tse, a London-based freelance travel writer, has been haphazardly scribbling in journals since she was a small-town small fry in Wisconsin. Her work has been featured on We Said Go Travel, Travel Dudes and BonAppetour among other travel sites. You can find useful travel tips, transparent reviews and outlandish tales from more than 20 countries on her award-winning blog, Up&AtEm Travel.firstname.lastname@example.org