Apart from squeezable ketchup bottles and post-its, flying is probably one of the coolest inventions ever: You get on a plane and a few hours later, set foot in a place where everything – from the language to the food, and the weather – is different. Depending on how long those “few hours” last, you will have to sit relatively still in a rather tight space for quite a while. Check out our 10 tips to make your next transcontinental or transoceanic journey fly by.
1. Pack your carry-on
If you want to look and feel like a million bucks after landing, we recommend to pack the following travel-size things in your carry-on bag: a toothbrush and toothpaste because brushing your teeth makes you feel awake and refreshed, deodorant to smell the part, and some lip balm and lotion to make sure your skin is glowing no matter how dry the air of bad the jet lag. Apart from toiletries, make sure you also have a pen and the address of the place you’re staying at (for the first night), so you can fill out all of your immigration forms without having to bother the flight attendants.
2. Accessorize & sleep
Up the comfort ante with earplugs, an eye mask, and noise-canceling headphones. Together with your neck pillow, this will help you relax, snuggle up as much as an economy-class seat allows, and improve the odds to get some shut-eye. Unless you don’t want to sleep and focus on the little screen in front of you…
3. Enjoy the entertainment
Time flies when you’re watching movies and TV shows. A lot of airlines let you check the movie selection online, so you can either plan your entertainment itinerary or complement it with your own collection. Even though movies are perfect to distract and delight, there’s a small chance that the in-flight entertainment system is not working: Always have a backup plan – like a book, computer games, movies, or music – so you won’t have to experience what it feels like stare at the back of seat for eight hours.
4. Mind the legroom
Carry-on luggage is great. Until you have to put it under the seat in front of you and your already-limited legroom becomes basically non-existing. Make sure you put all of your luggage in the overhead bin, so you can stretch your legs and feet often and somewhat gracefully.
5. Wear comfy clothes
Comfort is key when flying for hours, so bundle up in layers of clothes that you’d wear on your couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You know, things like hoodies, scarves (that could double as a blanket or neck-pillow), and extra pairs of socks to keep your feet happy and toasty. In case you don’t want to arrive at the destination looking like you’re wearing your pajamas, just pack a set of non-airplane clothes in your carry-on and change after landing.
6. Stretch and walk around
Sitting for hours is not only uncomfortable, it can also result in dangerous blood clots. Try to stand up, walk around, and stretch your muscles as often as you can – while observing the seatbelt-sign rules, of course! Some airlines suggest exercises in the inflight magazine or on one of the TV channels. If there’s no inspiration whatsoever, you can always twist your torso, wrap your arms around yourself, stretch your legs, roll your head and ankles, or stand up and bounce on the tips of your toes.
7. Hydrate and rehydrate
Drink. A. Lot. Of. Water. Flying will dehydrate your body, so you need to drink more than you’d do while being on the ground. Do not wait until you’re thirsty and have to climb over your fellow passengers to get the flight crew’s attention. Instead, buy or bring a reusable water bottle that you can fill after you go through security and top it off with the water served on the plane. Stay away from caffeinated drinks and alcohol, as they further dehydrate the body and make it more difficult to sleep. Feel free to bring some light snacks (fruit, nuts, crackers), so you won’t get hangry between meals.
8. Work out before you fly
Feeling relaxed and maybe a little tired is ideal when getting ready to sit in an airplane for hours: being active and getting some exercise before your flight can help with that. Making a mad dash for the gate is not quite what we have in mind here, instead, working out, swimming a few laps or going for a run or a brisk walk before you depart can do the trick. If you don’t have time, even walking around in the airport can help.
9. Learn a few sentences in the local lingo
Learning a new language is not only a good way to pass time, it will also make your after-landing life so much easier. You can use a book, save some audio files on your phone or watch videos on your tablet and greet the immigration officers, cab drivers and hotel receptionists like a local. If one language is not enough of a challenge, try learning a few sentences in the language of each of the countries you’re flying over.
10. Meet your neighbors
Striking up a conversation with the person next to you doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot – you never know whom you’re sitting next to and a lot of friendships, business deals, and travel plans started on planes. Plus, once you’ve introduced yourself and maybe even got into a little bit of small talk, asking ask for movie recommendations or even the cookie your seat neighbor hasn’t eaten becomes much easier.