I am writing this snatching time away from packing for a trip to Myanmar, entailing a 12½ hour first-leg flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. In April, it’s India, and in May, I will embark on a 16 hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa. Needless to say, an article I ran across in Independent Traveler about surviving long flights caught my eye. Here are a few of their tips, with a few personal anecdotes.
Upgrade. Do whatever it takes to get into the premium or first class seats. Burn up all your frequent flyer miles, accept odd or inconvenient itineraries, add a couple short flights, take puddle jumpers, do whatever it takes to get those miles and upgrade. Many airlines are offering premium seats with extra space and legroom. Although I consider it a waste of money most of the time, the additional bucks for one of these seats makes sense on a long flight.
Escape. Work may take up some of the time, and you might catch a few zzzz’s if you’re lucky, but you need something to help those middle hours vanish. Good headphones so you can hear the movies will help a lot. I once spent a 13 hour return flight from New Zealand watching an entire season of The Newsroom. At the end, I was worried the flight would be over before I finished the final episode.
Don’t carry on too much stuff. Although it’s tempting, anything that is under the seat in front of you just means less legroom and a more cramped living space for 15 or 16 hours.
Board relatively rested. Although I can never seem to do this myself [look at me now, it’s 2:30am and I fly tomorrow], it is a good idea. Most people cannot sleep on airplanes no matter the length of the flight, so don’t give yourself a double whammy by boarding too tired.
Secure your stuff. Long-haul flights may be an opportunity for unscrupulous travelers to size up the location of your wallet, wait until you fall asleep and make a move on your luggage. The article’s author suggests you secure your valuables deep inside your bags, or better yet, keep things like your passport, credit cards and cash in a money belt under your clothes. This peace of mind should help you sleep a little sounder.