A long-haul flight is a matter of time, distance, and sometimes it's even a state of mind. An overnight flight to Paris where you enjoy some sleep doesn't feel nearly as long as a two-hour commute to Tulsa with a toddler enthusiastically kicking your seat!
But there's no disputing that long-haul flights are now longer than ever. Flights from Singapore to New York clock in at just under 20 hours! It's time to rewrite the rules of surviving long-haul travel. Classic travel advice like reminding passengers to charge their devices, bring along some bottled water, and pack an extra sweater no longer cut it when you're stuck in the economy section for nearly a full day.
So, by all means, bring along your inflatable pillow and cozy compression socks as planned -- but consider these more modern supplies for surviving super long-haul flights as well.
A tote bag and some disposable grocery bags
Personal space is at a premium on any flight. But when you're flying for 16 or 18 hours, every centimetre counts. Relocate unnecessary items, such as the duty-free catalogue and the in-flight magazine, from the seat pocket to the overhead bin. Claim the entirety of the pocket's valuable space to store your snacks, toiletries, and entertainment.
What can't easily fit inside should be stashed in a packable tote bag, the kind you might take to a farmers market. What you want to avoid at all the cost is the inevitable spread of your odds and ends across the floor, against the wall, and in the crevices of your seat. It's not only a loss-risk -- it's also a waste of glorious personal space. Have a plan to keep things contained and make your space as organized as possible.
With that in mind, be prepared to stash your trash. It doesn't take long for plastic wrap, water bottles, empty snack packaging, and used newspapers to start encroaching on your floor space. A few extra disposable grocery bags will help you keep trash at bay.
Peppermint or lavender lip balm
Lip balm provides an obvious service on a long haul flight with dry, harsh air. But that's not where it really shines. It's also your first line of defence against horrible smells. Even if your neighbours have the best personal hygiene in the world (dare to dream), after 15, 18, or 20 hours the air will get extraordinarily ripe.
Here's where a high quality, strongly scented lip balm (or another solid-style moisturizer) earns its keep. Scoop a little bit of balm from the side of the tube and rub it under your nose and even inside the front of your nostrils. It acts as your own private aromatherapy shield against the scents of other people, their food, and even their digestive mishaps.
Slippers or loose fitting shoes.
Comfort is key here. You won't want to be in your hiking boots or business shoes for an hour or two, let along 10 or 20. However, you REALLY don't want to be one of those barefoot passengers (see the section on smells above) or in sock feet where yucky stains can easily soak through the fabric. A pair of hard sole slippers are cozy, protective, and let your feet breath. Soft ballet style shoes and versatile Birkenstocks can serve the same purpose.
I never board a flight without a bag of M&Ms. Hey, who doesn't want a yummy sugar boost on a tiring flight? But my colourful candy isn't exactly the kind of fuel that helps you survive a mega-flight. Alas, airport snacks and airline meals tend to be heavily laden with simple carbohydrates. Candy might be delicious but a lack of protein over an 18-hour flight will leave you irritable, antsy, and prone to digestive woes.
Do a little airport grocery shopping for your flight. Ask the sandwich shop for a sub that has double meat and cheese -- and maybe whole grain bread as well. Cheerfully pay for extra tofu or chicken in your salad bowl. Pass on potato chips in favour of nuts, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, and guacamole. Stash a carton of chocolate milk in your bag instead of chocolate candies. Okay, maybe ALONGSIDE the chocolate candies! Let's be civilized travellers! And eat up; you don't want to bring seeds, fruit, and cheese into a foreign country.
Thermos travel mug
Embracing water and avoiding dehydrants like alcohol and caffeine is one of the oldest and soundest pieces of travel advice. Alas, it was likely first written by someone who never dreamed that one day travellers would spend nearly 20 hours in the air! Water will save your skin and your health, but caffeine will save your sanity.
A double-walled, stainless steel travel thermos style mug is your new best friend. Preboarding, head to the best coffee shop you can find on the departures side and ask for your favourite fancy coffee, tea, or hot chocolate beverage -- extra hot, if they don't mind. Two or three hours into the flight, it will still be piping hot and will help boost your energy and spirits, especially after the first mundane meal.
Rinse it out and -- politely -- ask the flight attendants to fill it with boiling water when you're in the final hours of the flight. Add in your own gourmet tea bags, sachets of instant lattes, or even freshly ground coffee beans from home (my travel thermos has a French press style plunger in the lid!) and you'll have a reviving beverage that puts every tiny styrofoam cup of airline coffee to shame. And, I suspect, you'll actually consume less caffeine than if you're continuously sipping on sodas and beverage cart coffee refills.
If you're taking a super long flight, we hope these tips help make your time in the air more enjoyable. Happy trails!