Editor’s Note: We recently held a contest to “Win Your Dream Travel Job” where we selected 4 finalists to travel the world shooting video. For 60 days, these teams traveled–on trains, in cars, and on long flights–and filmed in some of the world’s top destinations, documenting their experiences along the way. Go here to watch their unforgettable journey!
The last thing you want to do on vacation is show up in a new country completely jet-lagged, haggard, and cranky after a hellish red-eye flight. When you only have so much time to spare, every day counts! Viator’s Dream Travel Job Team Europe duo Ryan and Asha know this all too well.
But taking a long-haul doesn’t have to be the worst thing in the world. In fact, they can even be quite enjoyable. These tips will help you make the best of it!
Before you go
Select your seat way in advance. You probably already know that your seat preference makes a great deal of difference when it comes to enjoying your flight, but this is especially true when you’ll be flying for 7+ hours. (And who actually enjoys the middle seat, honestly?) SeatGuru helps you figure out the best place to sit, based on the aircraft you’ll be flying with!
Pack all the right stuff. If you’re the kind of person who can sleep through a hurricane and wake up feeling refreshed, we envy you! For others, a couple of items might help keep your sanity intact, especially when you’re sleeping and dealing with space constraints.
For starters, bring ear plugs, noise-canceling headphones, and a sleep mask to block out the light from your neighbor’s video screen.
For peace of mind, bring hand sanitizer! (Unfortunately, hygiene on most airplanes isn’t exactly top-notch.) And yes, a good airplane pillow can be bulky and a pain to carry around, but they’re usually always worth it.
Prepare your body. Before your flight, go about your normal evening routine as much as possible. Exercise, eat your dinner, and carry out your regular activities until it’s time to get to the airport. That way, you’ll be more inclined to just sleep during the flight’s overnight hours as you normally would, no matter how uncomfortable your seat.
During the flight
Pack some medication. There’s nothing wrong with a little sleep aid when you need it the most. Try a Tylenol PM, or Benadryl. These are over-the-counter drugs and generally safe for most people.
If sleeping is a really big issue for you, you can seek prescription drugs like Ambien. A word of caution, however: if you’ve ever taken the drug before and you have no idea how it’ll affect you, the results could be pretty negative. Follow your doctor’s orders and take a “test run” at home before your flight.
Stay hydrated. This is a tip to live by! Drink lots and lots of water, and electrolyte beverages like Gatorade when possible. Avoid caffeine (coffee, soft drinks) and alcohol up to a day before your trip, if possible.
After you make it through security, purchase some water before boarding. Service can be slow once you’re on the plane, and serving sizes for water are usually pretty small.
Deal with the dry air. On top of staying hydrated, you’ve got to deal with the dry airplane air that can make the final hours of a flight unbearable. Carry drops for your dried-out eyes, and a saline nasal gel. You simply dab some gel on a cotton swab and use it coat the inside of your nose. Not a fun process, but it works! Bring a small container of moisturizer as well, especially for your hands.
Be entertained. This is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people rely on an airplane’s video system to stay entertained in-flight. News flash: electronics aren’t fail-proof, and sometimes the selection just isn’t that great. At least pick up a handful of magazines, or bring a portable gaming system like Nintendo DS.
Avoid DVT. Staying hydrated is important to your health for more than obvious reasons. Have you heard of deep vein thrombosis? It’s the formation of blood clots in deep veins, especially in your calves, and can be a threat in longer flights. Water will help prevent any clotting from happening, and travelers are also encouraged to get up and move around whenever possible. Walk up and down the aisle, do some stretches, etc. Whatever it takes.
You can also wear compression socks…we hear they’re the latest style these days.
Stay awake! The effects of the red-eye aren’t over when you step off the plane. Your primary mission upon landing is to get used to the new time zone as much as possible…and that means no naps! Do your best to stay awake until evening, when you can pass out and sleep until morning. Many travelers recommend getting in a quick workout, which will get your heart pumping and help you stay energized into the evening.
Take it easy. Some light exercise is good, but don’t over-exert yourself on your first day. If you want to be well rested, don’t hit the bars, and stay out in the sunlight as much as possible.
Have all your information ready. If you’re stepping off a plane after a red-eye, chances are you’ll be bleary-eyed and out of sorts. Plan far ahead how you’ll reach your accommodations or get to where you’re going… otherwise figuring it out might not be the easiest thing to do when your brain feels like sludge. (Plus we’re all a little cranky when overtired and impatient, right?)
- Candice Walsh