There are two things I dread when traveling to North America and to Europe – first, that tedious (and costly) process of applying for a tourist visa, and second, the actual flight to my destination. Those who reside in Metro Manila, already used to travel times of up to two (2) hours per way, would have no trouble handling short-haul flights to various islands in the Philippines, or even to international trips to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Medium-haul flights (lasting 2 to 5 hours) and long-haul flights (lasting over 5 hours) are trickier and require more preparation. Below are some tips on how to survive your first long-haul flight:
Not all airlines are created equal
Ticket prices should not be the only thing you consider when choosing a flight. Not all airlines offer the same quality of service, so it becomes important to compare them to to get the most bang for your buck. Select 2 to 3 airlines within your price range, find out what planes will be used (usually stated in the itinerary — even before payment) and compare services and ticket inclusions (checked baggage, meals and snacks, etc.).
If you choose well, you could have better meals, get more leg room; have additional storage space for your personal items; access a wide selection of movies, TV shows, documentaries and games; use internet on the plane; receive items such as eye masks, headsets, ear plugs, toothbrushes, disposable slippers, blankets and pillows; be served wine and spirits (like Bacardi, Bailey’s, Jack Daniel’s etc.) for free; and have mouthwash and sanitary pads in the restrooms. These are services and facilities you can experience with an economy ticket, by the way.
In the same way, you can choose an airline that offers nonstop flights to get you to your destination in the quickest time possible, or have extended lay-overs in a city you’ve never been to before. Some airports offer free tours to travelers who are passing through and only staying in the airport for a few hours. You can read more about this here.
The right seat matters
Select an appropriate seat based on your needs: an exit seat, if you like having more legroom and standing space; aisle seat, if you predict that you will need to stand up and/or use the restroom frequently; or window seat, if you like having a view during lift off and touch down. You can choose a seat near the exit or close to the restroom, or upgrade to a preferred seat for a more comfortable experience. Make sure to check the available seats before check-in. In one of my flights, the middle rows were bare and some passengers were able to lie down. All four middle row seats to yourself, can you imagine? That’s almost like being in business class! Almost.
Pack your essentials in a carry-on suitcase
On long-haul flights, airlines allow passengers to have one carry-on and one personal item (handbag, laptop bag, etc.) on board. Check the specific guidelines on your airline’s page to be sure about what you can and cannot get away with. There are specific size and weight restrictions that vary depending on the type of plane.
If, like me, you prefer not to carry bags while you rush through the airport to make it to your next flight, or while you wait in line at the immigration or security check, pack your essentials inside a small suitcase, preferably with four wheels. In my carry-on suitcase, I make sure I have at least one set of extra clothes and underwear, a pair of socks, my medicine pouch, toiletries, makeup kit, neck pillow, a shawl or jacket, snacks (chips, cookies, chocolates), and copies of my return ticket and hotel bookings. My handbag will hold my wallet, passport, phone, phone charger and power bank.
Survival tips for long-haul trips
Get some sleep. Adjust your body clock to match your destination’s time zone to avoid jet lag. You can do this slowly, by moving your sleeping time a day or two before, or abruptly, by taking a non-addictive all-natural sleeping pill (they exist!) when it’s time for bed. Keep yourself awake by reading a book or watching TV and movies.
Move your body. Avoid fatigue and body pain by stretching your neck, back, arms and legs when you can. Do a little bit of exercise by standing up and walking around the plane. Just try not to wake your fellow passengers when you do this!
Hydrate. The air is dry when you’re inside a plane, so it’s important for you to keep your skin moisturized. I shamelessly put on a moisturizing face mask – yes the white ones popular in Korea – when the cabin lights are switched off. To keep your skin glowing and looking good, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages and soda, even if they’re free. If you can’t resist them, make sure to ask for an extra cup of water. If the flight attendant passes by with cups or bottles of water, take two. It will force you to stay hydrated during your trip.
Keep your hair in place. Your hair will get oily and dirty over the course of the trip. To stay fresh and avoid breakouts, tie your hair in a ponytail or a bun to keep hair strands away from your face.
Ditch the make-up. Allow your skin to breathe by not wearing make-up during your flight. If you can’t step out of the house without makeup, you can wash your face on the plane and then reapply before your arrival. But believe me, other than your flight attendant and the passenger sitting beside you, no one will see what your face looks like.
That’s it! Hopefully these tips will help you get through your long-haul trip with ease. May you have a pleasant flight experience and start off all your international trips on a positive note. Have you tried any of these? Did they work for you? If you have any other tips and advice that I may have missed, feel free to comment below!