Surviving long haul flights

There's no easy way to do long haul, so be prepared. Here are some tips to get your mind off how squashed you feel right now.

back of aeroplane

This is your view for the next 20 hours

If you want to visit New York, LA, the Far East, Australia, or New Zealand for a holiday, you better resign yourself to being on a long haul flight.

You are going to be spending several hours, or even a couple of days crammed into a tin can with wings breathing re-re-cyled air with zero privacy and no leg room. There will be bad food and dreadful movies and everyone has to develop their own coping mechanisms. If you travel with a friend they will display all their worst and most irritating bad habits, and if you travel alone you’ll get sat next to the official plane crazy person.

The alcohol option

Some travellers pick the Peter Buck option and get intimately acquainted with the drinks trolley in the hope of settling their nerves and passing the flight in a stupor that they barely remember. Which is fine if they’re friendly drunks and not sat in the window seat. You don’t want some aggro bloke getting out of his seat and climbing over you to get to the toilets every twenty minutes.

The sedative option

You could make good friends with your doctor before you go and get a nice big bottle of valium. This is the true reason why most passengers don’t end up beating drunken aggro bloke to a pulp when he climbs over them for the fortieth time. They want to sleep right through and wake up in another country, without the in-flight movie or official plane crazy person even registering on their radar.

The audio-book option

Think audio-books are for old people or those too lazy to read? They’ll come into their own when you are on stuck on a ten-hour flight in turbulence and concentrating on a page of words starts making you giddy.

Pretty much all the bestsellers are available in audio books; and you can now download them direct to your iPod or MP3 player. So you can choose from anything from Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter, Richard Hammond and his wife describing the crash that nearly ended his life, or the Freakonomics boys explaining why drug dealers still live with their mums.

The best option – sleep!

If you are able to sleep, do it. In economy seats this isn’t so easy, especially if you’re over five-foot tall. If you’re lucky, the flight won’t be full and you can grab a spot on the plane where two or more seats are free next to each other.

Get out of your seat as regularly as possible, even if it’s just to walk up and down the plane. Reading trashy page-turners can kill time, and splashing a bit of water on your face is a good way to freshen up. You may end up feeling grimy and silently seething at the annoying people around you. It’s best to grit your teeth. Grab your travel guide from your hand luggage and plan something cool to do once you’ve dropped your bags off at the hotel and before the jet-lag really starts to kick in.

Good luck.

Photo of aeroplane by Shutterstock

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015