Long plane rides are without a doubt one of my least favorite parts of traveling. I’m not afraid of flying, but I hate every moment of it. The crowded airports, the long lines, the boring 12 hours in one seat, the horrible airplane food, the noisy children….ick. I have a pretty consistent day dream that mankind invents teleportation and it suddenly becomes possible to visit far flung locations without all the pain of transoceanic flights. Then I think about how it will probably be so expensive that I won’t be able to afford it and so I will just be bitter about it (much like I am now about the existence of first class). Then, when it is affordable everyone (and their children) will be traveling all the time and exotic travel locations will become so crowded with tourists they will feel like Disney World. Then I start to worry that this mass migration of people will lead to a diminishment of cultural diversity and we will be one step closer to 1984…
But, I’m getting off topic…for now, the only option (short of a multi week boat ride) if you want to visit Timbuktu is to fly. And as painful as that may be, I have found that there are some ways to improve the experience somewhat.
1. Develop a Routine
The more you know what to expect, the more comfortable you will feel during your flight. When I travel I like to wear a simlar outfit (jeans and t-shirt/sweater) and carry the same bag. This way I know where my important documents are, I know what compartment my computer is in, I know what I need to take off at airport security, and I know if I am suddenly missing something. (Was I wearing a belt before I went through security?) Once these things become habit you can use your mind for something more productive (like thinking about how much you hate every single person working the check-in desk).
2. Reward Yourself
For some reason airport security is my own personal version of hell. Something about all the endless lines and people really stresses me out. I don’t want to carry this stress for the rest of the flight so I make a point to reward myself after I get through security. Usually this just means buying a snack or magazine. Airports are super overpriced, but I think that a small treat helps me forget about the horrible check-in/security process and start my trip on the right foot.
3. Pick a seat you like
I prefer to sit by the window so I make sure to always request one when picking a seat. I know I can lean against the wall to sleep better and that my carryon bag can be stowed between my feet and the side of the plane. I also know people wont try to climb over and wake me up as I sleep. Other people like the aisle because they can get to the bathroom quicker and they have more space to stick out their feet. Heck – there might even be some weirdos out there who like the middle seat. Whatever floats your boat plane. But, no matter what your preference, if you manage to score that seat you will be much more comfortable. If you’re really hardcore, you can visit Seat Guru and make sure you really do get the best seat in the house.
4. Pack a great airplane bag
Trust me you don’t want to depend on the airline to provide you with all the neceassry creature comforts. In your carry on bag (which you will keep at your seat) make sure to pack the things that will make your flight better. I like to bring headphones, warm socks, a book, music player, a few snacks and a pashmina. When I sit down I can use the pashmina as a blanket or pillow, take of my shoes and put on my nice socks and listen to music while I read my book and wait for take off. I don’t have to wait for extra blankets or headphones to be passed around. I also have snacks ready if I get hungery off their schedule or if (more likely) I am repulsed by the food.
Every couple of hours I like to go to the bathroom and try to make myself feel less gross and a little more human. Brush my teeth, comb my hair, wash my face, and drink some water. I usually carry Colgate ”wisps” which are one time use portable tooth brushes. I also like to have a small bottle of lotion to help combat the dry skin that is so common on air planes. Its amazing how much better you can feel (and look) after these quick pick me ups. Almost good enough to face another 10 hours next to that sweaty fat guy who keeps falling asleep on your arm.