Posted by: englishdubai | March 13, 2008

The Long Haul

My favourite technology blog is lifehacker. A treasure trove of useful morsels of technology and life tips that I often find invaluable.

The other week the author the blog asked the readership “What is the best way to deal on extended flight without going crazy?” The question certainly provoked a lot of response with over 200 comments – I read them all with great interest and thought about writing a response. Instead I thought would post my own tips right here. In the last 18 months I have accumulated over half a million air miles so I think I am in a reasonable position to dispense some advice.

1. Upgrade

I would always want to spend air miles or beg the check in staff to get an upgrade to Business Class if the flight was more than 12 hours in duration. If an upgrade is not possible then read on..

2. Comfort

Loose clothing is a must for an extended flight – after all you would not really want to get into bed in your best suit for any length of time. Equally I am a great fan for removing my shoes and putting on some of the air plane socks they hand out. Also, I always like to have a change of pants, socks and t-shirt in my hand luggage. In the event of a delay or if you have to do another leg then a quick change of clothes can really make you feel much better

3. Sleep

I read a lot about – setting your clock to your destination and sleeping only at the time you would in the new time zone you are heading to. Also a lot of people recommend some form of sleep aid. I for one am not a fan of this approach. Generally I sleep when I am tired – after all this flying recently I can be out like a light sat bolt up right and prefer this position rather than being reclined whilst in economy.

4. Entertainment

Based on the fact that only the lucky few can sleep for all 12 hours of a long haul flight there comes a time when you need to beat the boredom. Carriers such as Emirates, Qatar Air and Virgin all offer excellent in flight entertainment options with a wide choice of movies, tv and music. However if you a frequent flyer on the same carrier, one can easily exhaust their content and ultimately watching tv/movies of your own choosing is the best way I find to pass the time. So my gadget of choice is sadly not the iPod touch but rather the excellent Archos 605 (with extra external battery). The bigger screen and huge disk space makes it a real entertainment power house whilst on the move. I load it up with a season or two of whatever show has my interest and I am a very happy passenger.

I tend not to read novels on planes as I find it dries my eyes out to much and I end up with a headache. I have also stopped carrying Nintendo DS or Sony PSP – I find I just do not have the brain or eye power for it while flying long haul. I do like to have a magazine with me though for take off and landing when I can’t plug myself into an electronic device.

5. Noise Control

It has been well researched that one of the major contributing factors to tiredness on air planes is the noise on board (engines, children and gossiping cabin staff). I used to wear ear plugs but now I prefer in ear headphones that block out the noise to the same degree but also prove excellent sound quality for the archos/ipod/in flight entertainment system. I tried the well regarded Bose QuietComfort headphones for a while – but I went back to in ear models (Shure E4C) as they are smaller to carry, do not require recharging, do not make my ears hot and I can comfortably put my head to the side to sleep with them on. In the end the noise reduction is about the same.

6. Cabin Location is your best friend when deciding where to sit. For short haul I like to be as near to the front as possible but for long haul, my preference is the aisle seat in the two seats at the back of the plane where it narrows from the usual three. If this configuration is not available I would go for something away from the galley and toilets as it tends to get crowded. I am not usually a fan of the window as I just do not find it comfortable leaning against it to sleep. If you have long legs then exit seats are a winner, though I would stay away from bulkhead seats as these are usually over run by tiny children.

7. Hydration

Airplanes are dry. Really dry. Humidity is usually less than 25%. I always ensure I bring a bottle of water on the plane with me and take every opportunity to take on board water, fruit juice and the occasional soft drink. I also like to have a chapstick on me as well as a good quality moisturiser for my hands and face. I stopped drinking alcohol on flights a long time ago I found all it would give me was a headache and I hate drinking alone.

8. Circulation

Airplane literature is full of examples of exercises you can do to keep the blood flowing – I try to keep my feet rolling and stretch out when I get up to use the bathroom. I can only smile when I see some people doing a full callanetics work outs – it is absolutely the right thing to do but one does look vaguely ridiculous doing it.

9. Transit

If your long haul trip involves a stop over – try and get access to a lounge. A long hot shower, some hot food and a good web surf has powerful restorative properties.

10. Seat Mates

There is not much you can do about the seat mate you end up. If the flight is fairly open the crew typically will not mind you moving seats once the plane doors have closed. But make your move early as others may have the same idea as you, but are oddly not confrontational if you strike for that two open seat spot first.

I somehow feel better for writing this and while 99% is common sense, 1% is born of eight or nine hours of being uncomfortable for one reason or another. Whilst I never really look forward to doing a long haul flight preparing for it can make it slightly less painful.


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