Travel Advice/Travel Tips - The flyer's guide to air travel comfort
One of the keys to having a good experience on those long, international flights is to plan the things that you can control in your on-plane environment. If your flight is a short flight (two or three hours), many of the issues noted below will not be of concern. Conversely, if the flight is more than four hours, the issues discussed below may be very important to you.
The article that follows is fairly long, so you might want to use the links below to jump to the parts of the article of interest to you.
Seating: Considerations for a long flight
First, try your best to snag seats that are in a good location. We realize that this is not always possible, as some fares require check-in before seats can be assigned.
If you are comfortable and capable of operating the exit door mechanisms on planes, then you should know that the exit row seats are often the most comfortable seats in the economy section of the plane.
Other seating issues are mainly in the area of “avoids”. Avoids include:
Some people adore bulkhead seats and others despise them.
Finally, for the safety conscious, seats over the wing structure are regarded as the safest, due to the structural integrity of this section of the airframe.
If you are traveling as a couple, try to book a flight where the seating configuration is two seats on each side of the center row.
At all costs, avoid the center seating section unless you are part of a large group and enjoy crowds. Even then, you should reconsider.
As we all know, the person who will sit next to your companion does not have a hope of fitting into that seat. Of course, you can be fairly sure that they will not be able to exit the seat without assaulting everyone between them and the exit with various lobes of their body (we’re being polite). Of course, your place at the end of the row allows you to get up and let them escape to freedom.
Make sure to prepare an in-flight bag that contains
In regards to reading material
Most everyone overestimates how much time they think that they will read on a flight only to find out that talking, eating, walking, trying to catch a nap and the airlines video services (you did book a flight with movies, didn’t you?) take more time than they thought.
Before you settle into your seat, make sure that you grab a pillow and a blanket. Some flights are cool and the blanket will help keep you comfortable. If you are sitting next to a window, the blanket will be appreciated since the skin of the plane will radiate cold as you reach higher altitudes.
Take off those shoes
Once you are settled in your seat and you have cleared takeoff, remove your shoes, and put on the flight socks we mentioned earlier.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids as the air on planes is dry and you will be evaporating fluids rapidly. Avoid Alcohol if you want to have a better chance of avoiding jet lag. Finally, even if the crew is not serving, you can usually find a tray of drinks in the galley for your refreshment.
Reset your watch
Make sure you reset your watch when you board the plane. It is helpful if you start thinking and living in the destination time zone as soon as possible. In addition, there is at least anecdotal evidence that this helps combat severe jet lag.
Next, be sure to get-up and take a short walk every couple of hours. Sitting for prolonged periods in seats as confining as airline seats promotes decreased blood flow and, in extreme cases, can lead to serious medical difficulties (for example, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) involving blood clots and associated problems). In addition to taking a short walk around the plane, consider doing some in-seat exercises and stretches. These are great aids in promoting relaxation and beneficially result in increased blood flow.
Dealing with uncomfortable ear pressure
Shortly after takeoff and slightly before landing you may experience uncomfortable pressure in your ears. Many people rely on chewing gum to relieve this pressure and this technique often works quite well. If you do not have gum handy, a gentle yawn can be used to relieve the pressure. Alternatively, extending your lower jaw so that your bottom teeth are as far forward of your top teeth may clear the pressure. (See our article Ear Health and flying)
Finally, take some time to snooze. Many international flights take place at night, depositing you in your destination at the start of the next day. Others, mercifully, have you arrive near bedtime. In any case, get some rest. Even if you do not sleep for a prolonged period, a nap will revitalize and refresh you. Catching a few hours sleep is even better than a nap but many people do not sleep well on planes. If you are one of them, we suggest accepting it rather than taking a sleep aid as this often increases difficulties with jet lag (see Avoiding Jet Lag)
Meal selection is first come first served and based on where you are sitting and where the attendants start the service (usually close to the galleys on two galley planes and at the front of the plane if the only galley is in the back of the plane). On some flights, meals will not be served and you will have the option of purchasing a pre-packaged meal.
Quite honestly, the food on planes has decreased in quality in recent years and the meals are about as far from culinary delights as you can get. Frequently, the snack meals are better than the full meals.
Nevertheless, the meal is an opportunity to take in some calories while passing the time during these long flights. So, don’t pass it up. If your flight is an international night flight, be sure to have a crack at the breakfast that will be served before landing, as it is one more cue to your body that you have entered a different time zone.
Finally, take a snack with you. Although it is rare (due to the length of most international flights), turbulence can delay and sometimes cancel meal service.
Well, we covered a diverse number of topics but if you follow our guidelines, we think your in-flight experience will be reasonably enjoyable.