SF insider: How to survive a long haul flight

Published August 16th, 2013

It seems trite to complain about flying (especially when Louis CK puts it so eloquently [language warning!]) but I really struggle with long haul flights. I know, I know, first world problems right? But I struggle, I really do, even when I try not to. I get all excited about it and try and come prepared as much as I can, but inevitably, around 5 hours in, I’ve had enough and the realization that there is so much longer to go is a mixture of panic, sadness, rage and nausea. #firstworldproblems  

To try and avoid those in-flight panics (and attempting to eat all your feeling when the sad in-flight meals are handed out), I quizzed our resident SF insider to find out how to survive a long-haul flight.

“The worst was probably from Dubai to Brisbane via Singapore. It was 8.5 hours from Dubai to Singapore overnight, and then a 6 hour layover in Singapore and then another 8.5 hours from Singapore to Brisbane. It was really long - basically 24 hours from door to door. And they were both full flights. Pretty much everything about [that flight] was a nightmare. Three hours before landing I felt like I was going to die.”  

To avoid feeling that ‘I’m going to die’ doom, our insider recommends preparing as much as possible before you’re flight, starting with your state of mind.  

“Try and get a good nights sleep before the flight and don’t turn up hungover. When I get onboard I’m just like ‘Okay, I’ve got nine and a half hours, just accept it, it is what it is. I try and take the time to relax and watch movies. I always have a book in my bag too, as well as my iPad, laptop and iPod to make the time go faster. Never stare at the map – it just makes everything go painfully slow.”  

In addition to gadgets, planning for comfort is key to surviving endless hours in the sky.

“One of my must-haves for flying, regardless of whether I’m flying first, business or economy, is my hoodie sweater. Planes are so notorious for being cold so I often zip up my hoodie and literally put my hood over the top of me – because there’s always someone with their air-conditioner on, and more often than not its pointed at me. I also refuse to get on a long-haul flight without my noise-cancelling headphones. I have a pair of Bose headphones and they’re easily the best $300 I’ve ever spent.”

When it comes to sleep and avoiding jetlag, our flight insider is adamant there’s no quick fix.  

“Sleep when you’re tired. Some people try and stay awake to get into the time zone. So they’ll stay awake until its midnight in the destination they're going to and then they’ll try and go to sleep. But it just doesn’t work that way. You’re body is going to sleep when it’s tired, regardless of your sleeping patterns. It’s much better to just sleep when you can and hopefully it’ll help for when you get there. Some people swear by taking sleeping pills, but you run the risk of being even more jet lagged and groggy when you reach your destination.”  

Instead of trying to sleep or not sleep, staying healthy and hydrated onboard is a much better way to go.  

“Drink lots of water and keep away from alcohol. Alcohol actually effects you more when you’re in the air, plus it’s dehydrating. Caffeine should be avoided too so try to not drink so much tea and coffee. For meals, it’s a good idea to opt for the protean meal, because it’s low GI. It’s better to avoid heavy meals with rich sauces and stuff like that because it’ll just sit in your stomach because you’re sitting down the whole time. I steer clear of anything spicy too in order to avoid indigestion.”

“When I travel long-haul, I usually just order a bland meal (above). It’s almost guaranteed to be steamed vegetables and either steamed fish or steamed chicken. It’ll also come with a bread roll and some fruit. You can even order just a fruit plate if you want too. It’s very plain, but it’s just so much fresher and lighter than the standard meals that are drenched in sauces. You just need to order them ahead of time. Besides the meals served, I always take snacks with me on board as well like muesli bars or nuts, just as something healthy to snack on.”  

And when you finally land, our insider has some few tips to adjusting to life in the big, wide world again.

“On the day you arrive, try and stay up that day and get a big sleep that night – because you’ll definitely need it. Some people say that when you get to your destination, go to your hotel’s gym for a run on a treadmill, because that’ll make you a bit more energised and also help you to sleep better than night.”  

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