Before you’ll have left for the airport, pack the following in your carryon or a small drawstring bag (which can count as your other personal item):
- A nice, thick eyemask
- Your trusty travel pillow
- Noise-cancelling headphones (or noticeable earbuds)
- A small iPod/mp3 player
- A soft blanket
- Compression socks
- Books, cards, games, a tablet with movies, anything to keep you occupied in the event there is no inflight entertainment
- Melatonin, dramamine, herbal tea(s) like chamomile, something lavender-scented, sleeping pills (talk to your doctor- do not experiment on the plane)
- Hand moisturizer, face wash, cotton pads, and lip balm
- An empty water bottle (to fill up after security)
- A toothbrush and toothpaste, or a wisp
- A watch
Make sure to wear the following. Comfort is the name of the game here- don’t dress to impress on a flight:
- Comfortable sneakers (no sandals or flip flops)
- Soft pants (sweatpants) or shorts *with pockets*
- A loose-fitting t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt (depending on where you’re going)
- If the cold bothers you on planes or are heading to a cold destination, wear a sweater or coat
Get Comfy: Once you have settled into your (hopefully roomy) seat, take off your shoes and socks and slip into your compression socks. Next, put on your watch and set it to whatever time it is at your destination. After takeoff is complete, plug your headphones into your iPod and listen to some calming music (this will help you rest and keep people from talking to you). And finally don your travel pillow, eye mask, and blanket and relax.
Time Is Everything: Why did I say to set your watch to your destination time? This is a trick to lessen jet lag’s effects on your body. Don’t pay attention to any other clock on the plane- whenever you’d normally sleep at your destination, try to sleep. If it’s daytime at your destination, stay awake. And if it’s time to eat at your destination, eat (this is why it might be prudent to buy some snacks in the terminal).
Prevent Grossness: Because plane cabins are often kept at just 5% humidity or below, make sure to periodically moisturize your hands and lips. Halfway into the flight, wash your face in the plane’s bathroom for some refreshment. After eating, just like you would at home, make sure to brush your teeth.
Do Not Disturb: If you don’t want to eat the plane’s meals, or if it’s time to sleep at your destination during the plane’s food service, fasten your seat belt over your blanket and keep your eye mask on. That way, the flight attendants will know not to wake you up for food or turbulence, to put on your seat belt.
Avoid Boredom: When all is said and done- you’ve made yourself comfortable, washed up, ate, and maybe even dozed off for a bit on your 12 hour flight- and you still have EIGHT MORE HOURS LEFT! Now is the time to make use of your flight’s (hopefully existent) entertainment system. There are different kinds of systems depending on airline and even specific plane. For long-haul flights, always avoid flights with no entertainment, as you will get very bored very fast. Here are the kinds of onboard systems you’ll find:
- Overhead: screens placed every few rows show set movies throughout the flight.
- Loop Video: seat-back TV’s with set programming that you can’t control.
- On Demand: a screen at each seat that allows you to pick from hundreds of options, play, pause, and the like.
- Personal Tablet: you’re given an iPad (or other tablet) with on demand options.
- Paid Streaming: you purchase programs pushed to your personal phone or tablet through the in-flight WiFi
Which brings me to another subject: WiFi. Essentially, unless you know you’re going to need to get work done inflight, don’t bother with the onboard WiFi. It’s usually slow and extremely expensive- totally not worth it for some casual browsing. I usually even ignore the WiFi factor when it is presented on Routehappy. Now, some planes are beginning to offer cellular data service onboard (subject to roaming charges on international flights), most of the time in beta testing mode. So until this service is perfected, it should be ignored by the typical leisure traveler.
If you plan ahead, keep your cool, and prepare yourself, you won’t have anything to worry about once that giant metal bird leaves the ground. And if all else fails, just hang on to this one thought: you are flying at more than 500 miles per hour over 35,000 feet in the air- think about how amazing that is! That also means you’re not tethered to any earthly problems or responsibilities. Keep this philosophical attitude during your flight and not even the thinnest seats, loudest baby, or the lamest onboard movie can deter you from having a great inflight experience.