Tips for Handling Long-Haul Flights

Trekking globally is a joy, but getting to your destination can be wearisome. Here are a few tips to alleviate the taxation that can plague long flights:

1. Aqua.  This seems fairly obvious, but try to board your flight with your own water.  Yes, it’s annoying that you have to pay triple the price for a bottle of water once inside the airport, but it’s worth it – especially on long hauls.

Elevation can dehydrate you considerably, and even though the good flight attendants have water available on their drinks carts and walk through with water, a glass may not be enough.  Plus, there’s the chance that you’re in a middle or window seat or asleep when the opportunity to rehydrate passes.  And, let’s not even get into what happens when you’re grounded on the tarmac.

This said, sometimes you’ll run into the odd airport/TSA agent who has an inherent Napoleonic complex and would like to confiscate your water with glee. If this is the case, I would suggest trying to see if you can carry on an empty water bottle and fill up once you’re in the air.

2. Vick’s Vapor Rub. Along with the changes in air pressure during take-off and landing, the dry atmosphere in airplane cabins makes it harder for your nasal passages to drain properly, so Vick’s can help, especially if you tend to deal with sinus pressure or colds.

Additionally, it’s always good to have some Vick’s in the event that you sit next to someone who smells a little funky. Also recommended: a travel-sized Febreze spray.

3. Sleeping pills.  If you have to be in the air for 12 to 20 hours, a sleeping pill can be a good friend.

Still, talk with your doctor and remember to test-drive a pill before your flight. It’s important as your body needs to work harder to take in the same amount of oxygen as it does when it’s closer to sea level (which can be particularly hard on the heart and kidneys) and this affects how your body reacts to alcohol and prescription drugs.

I know someone who reacted badly to a sleeping pill on a flight and one of the hostesses just kept repeating “everything’s different up in the air” as she sat with the passenger who was urged to lay on a blanket in the galley.

4. Compartmentalize bags within bags.  The idea here is to have things easily handy when you need them, and have things that you won’t necessarily need safely tucked away.

Pack a small bag with your necessities that you can stow under your seat.  This bag could include: toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, face wipes, facial moisturizer, hand moisturizer, eye glasses if you wear them, headphones, earplugs, neck pillow and/or eye mask, socks, music and book/magazine.

Most economy flights no longer provide socks, and it can get chilly up there, so if you combine those with a neck pillow/eye mask it can make getting some sleep a bit easier.  Earplugs are also handy to have if you want to sleep or, in case of talkative neighbor, pretend to sleep.

For your valuables, keep them tucked away deep and difficult to reach – either locked in the carry-on above or stowed close to you. And always check to see that you’re not leaving anything behind!

5. Move around.  It’s important to keep your blood flowing on a plane to prevent blood from clotting, and moving around is the perfect solution.

Circulation is inhibited due to lack of movement over extended periods of time.  This is especially true in the legs because they’re so far from your heart, and blood can collect in the legs.  If a blood clot forms in a vein in your legs and breaks off to move through your system it can end up in the lungs and cut off oxygen to your heart.

We’ve heard a couple of horror stories so stand up, walk around, and do some unobtrusive stretching in the back of the plane.


Image: Pavel L Photo And Video/Shutterstock.com


As a career sommelier, Kimberley Drake has overseen some of the finest wine programs and operations in America and Asia. Her accomplishments range from working as a sommelier at Jean Georges in NYC to opening Hong Kong’s Café Gray Deluxe as their chef sommelier. Kimberley can be reached at Kimberley@NewsWhistle.com.