If you were me, you would always search for the cheapest prices for the long haul flights you need to take to get to the other corner of the world. Even if this means flying around the world twice. I’m exaggerating, of course, but in this article I want to tell you about my 48 hours adventure, which included 5 different flights and a lot of sleepless hours.
One thing is sure, before boarding the first flight you need to prepare and to be informed on what is going to happen to your body while you’re up in the air.
One of the most common things that happen to your body when you fly is dehydration. On flights, the humidity on the plane is set to 10%-20%, while a normal indoor environment has a humidity of 30%-65%. Because the air is so dry, there are a lot of things that occur to your body on a long flight and you have to be aware of them in order to make sure you can prevent as much as you can.
Remember, a dehydrated body is very weak against fighting viruses and on a plane, because the air recirculates, it’s enough for one person to be sick for half of the people traveling on the same flight to get the virus afterwards. Also, dehydration can be very dangerous for people with breathing problems and it can also cause fatigue.
The first thing to do is to drink a lot of water, not only the glass you are offered with your meal. Try to avoid alcohol (one glass is fine if you are like me, scared of flying, to relax) and say a clear “no” to coffee and tea. Studies suggest that while flying you should drink 225ml of water every half an hour. I know that on a long haul flight, where you sleep most of the time, this is not a viable solution, but still, try to drink as much water as you can when you are awake.
When flying for a long time, remember to keep in your handbag a moisturizer cream and a good quality lip-balm. The air from the cabin will make your skin go dry and itchy, and your lips chapped. I wish I knew this before I boarded my third flight, crossing the Atlantic ocean. When I got to Toronto, my lips were so dry that I couldn’t even smile! Now I never fly without my lipblam, even on short flights. I rely on Burt’s Bees for hydration and on Blistex for dry lips. They both do miracles!
After spending more than 48 hours in airplanes and inside airports, without getting out to breath fresh air, my nose was in a lot of pain and my eyes were very dry. I suggest you pack a saline nasal spray with you and also some eye drops. If you are flying with a cold, make sure to use the nasal spray before the plane takes off. I almost lost my hearing in my right ear for flying with a cold and no nasal decongestant.
I also found it helpful to wash my hands and face a few times during the long haul flight.
During a flight, even if the cabin is pressurised, the maximum pressure will be much lower than the one you are used to on the ground. This can be very dangerous for people with heart conditions, because the lower pressure reduces the amount of oxygen absorbed by the blood. But not only people will heart conditions can be affected by this. One of the effects of the low pressure is to make you sleepy, that is why a lot of people have no troubles sleeping on a plane. Also, a major effect of a long flight can be the increased risk of developing a blood cloth. This is a serious condition that can lead to pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
To prevent the risk of developing a blood cloth, you must not stay in the same position the whole flight and you must also take walks around the aisle, every two or three hours. Compression socks also help the blood to flow against gravity. Don’t be shy to disturb your seat neighbor, if you don’t have an aisle seat, your healthy is more important.
Another effect of low pressure is the swelling of your feet. For this, I would recommend you to wear a comfortable and loose pair of shoes that you will take off during the flight. Make sure you are also wearing clean socks! Nobody wants to fly near a “smelly feet” person.
Avoid tight clothes and always wear loose and comfortable outfits when flying on long distances.
We all know that the in-flight food is not the best and it doesn’t taste great either. One of the reasons why is because while up in the air, your taste buds drop as much as 30% on high altitude. In my experience, after the first 24 of my 48 hours adventure, I could not look at airplane food anymore without finding it disgusting.
What you can do is that while on the ground, stock up with different fruits that you can later enjoy on the plane.
The temperature on a plane is pretty low, and if you are like me and love the heat, the blanket provided on a long haul flight won’t be enough. Always bring a jumper with you, in your hand luggage. You wouldn’t want to shiver for 8-10 hours! It’s better to prepare before boarding to prevent getting sick on the plane.
Make sure to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant in your bag, together with a pair of underwear and a T-shirt. While in transit airports, you will feel the need to freshen up and change, and it’s nothing wrong to brush your teeth in an airport’s bathroom (which by the way, are the cleanest I’ve ever seen).
If you have a long layover, try to make friends in the airport. You never know what beautiful stories you will find. I was denied boarding in Canada because they have overbooked the flight, so I was stuck in the airport for about 10 hours until the next available flight, with no option to get out from the secured area. But it wasn’t that bad, as I met two other travelers, and also made friends with the Air Canada customer service agent, so the hours passed by faster.
Also, check if the airports you will pass through have entertainment areas. I was stuck in Toronto Pearson and they have very nice areas with comfy chairs, Ipads to use for no charge and free WiFi. Plus, 2 plugs for each chair.
Last but not least, we get to the enemy of travel, the one that doesn’t let us enjoy our first days at the destination: the jet lag! There is actually no proven way of getting rid of jet lag fast and each person is affected differently. Some might feel it very hard while others not at all.
My personal advice is to drink a lot of water on the plane and, when arriving to your destination, try to stay awake until your normal bedtime hour. Also, if you are wearing a watch, set it to the destination hour before you board the plane.
My flight was “all over the place”, if i can say this. I flew from Havana to Toronto, from Toronto to Frankfurt, from Frankfurt to Milano, from Milano to Amsterdam and finally, from Amsterdam to London. For a week, at 3PM, I was ready to go to bed, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
Studies say that it’s easier for the body to adapt to the new hour when flying from East to West, rather than the opposite.
I hope these tips will be useful in your next long haul flight. Do you have any of your own tips for making a long haul journey more comfortable?