One of the hardest things to prepare for in my business travel career was my first flight to Manila. I was anxious for days beforehand. To be fair, it’s 26 hours of travel time, with the longest leg about 14 hours. Before then, the longest I had been in one plane was seven hours on the way to Europe. Before that first trip I spent hours on the internet, scouring travel websites about what would make my trip the most comfortable. I brought some crazy stuff on that first trip, including a seat cushion and seatback organizer. Seven (or eight?) trips to Manila later, experience has shown that while I do need more things than for a short flight, staying comfortable on an international flight comes down to a few key tricks.
- Wear comfortable clothes. The single most important thing you can do to be comfortable on a long flight is to wear the right clothes. Yoga pants, sweatpants, leggings, jersey dresses, maxi skirts…as long as the fabric is soft and it doesn’t pinch you should be fine. My new favorites are yoga pants that look like regular pants (pictured: Athleta Bettona pants). I try to stay away from any buttons or zippers, including on my shirt, because they tend to dig into the skin after ten hours on a plane. Compression socks are very helpful—they help keep up circulation in your feet and legs, and minimize swelling in your feet and ankles.
- Bring sleep aids. If you need to hit the ground running when you land, do your best to sleep on your flight. Anything that makes you feel like you’re in a dark, quiet room will help you sleep. Whenever I take long flights I bring an eye mask, pillow, and blanket, and listen with noise canceling headphones to a white noise app on my iPhone. And of course, there is always pharmaceutical help: I prefer to travel with Tylenol PM, while my best friend prefers wine, and a coworker uses Ambien. Slippers help too—keep my feet warm and cozy without having to wear shoes the whole flight.
- Entertain yourself! Before you go to sleep, there will likely be some time to kill. There are usually movies available to watch (one of my favorite things about international flights!) but if you anticipate needing other things to do bring them as well. Knitting, a book (or eReader), Sudoku….there’s not much worse than sitting on a ten hour flight with nothing to do!
- A few key toiletries. I don’t need my entire toiletry bag, but a few items will make a flight much better (I call it my Comfort Bag): face wipes, moisturizer, disposable toothbrushes, lotion , and lip balm. Another idea: put a hydrating face mask on as the flight starts (last week’s beauty tip!).
- Stay hydrated and fed. Drinking plenty of water is key on long flights. Also, I always pack a few snacks (almonds, crackers, dried fruit) in case the meal service is taking a long time.
Tip: On the last international coach flight I took, it seemed like there was way less room between my seat and the one in front of me. Sitting by the window it was basically impossible for me to get to anything under the seat in front of me, so I would recommend getting your most important things out ahead of time.
With planning, it is definitely possible to travel internationally in relative comfort. Pack a few key items and you will arrive refreshed, excited, and ready to go!
Readers, what are your tricks and tips for being comfortable on international flights?
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