Travel Tip Tuesday: The Coach Curse: How to Actually Enjoy the Long Haul Flight

If you’re like me, flying any level above economy is an unattainable luxury that’ll likely never happen. To me, it’s just a waste of my precious souvenir/hotel/restaurant funds. In this case, it really is about the destination and not the journey.
That doesn’t mean I have to suffer, though. From my study abroad experience I found that flying internationally can be pleasant and actually relaxing. Here are my methods of not only making it through but – believe it or not – enjoying that often dreaded flight.

Make use of entertainment. 

Most international flights now have screens on the back of each chair. This means your own personal television to watch movies, TV shows, and even play games. Want to check on the flight status? That’s on there as well.

If you’re sick of the provided entertainment, turn on your fully charged e-reader, iPod, computer, etc., and play with that for a while. I highly recommend looking into purchasing an e-reader, such as a Nook Simple Touch (what I use), as it’s light and compact. I also have an iPod nano, which is the only place I have my music besides my computer, which allows me to use other devices separately. I can listen to my nano’s music while playing a game on my iPod touch, for example. This way I don’t use up too much battery.

Keep warm.

Cabins are often cool, so be sure to pack some kind of bulky sweater in your carry on. There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep upright and feeling cold.

I also recommend purchasing some neck or lower back heating pads from a pharmacy department. That wonderful warmth between your back and the seat is sure to help you sleep, and its extreme stickiness means that it won’t slide around and annoy you. I personally use these regularly as I have shoulder problems, and the heats lasts for at least seven hours.

Another tip is wearing Uggs or similar boots. I’m slowly turning away from my precious Costco boots as I don’t want to support animal cruelty anymore, but I know they’d make the flight much more relaxing. I plan on taking some cotton socks and covering them up with the provided blanket while I cozy up in my boyfriend’s old soccer sweatshirt.

Avoid potential nausea.

I remember as a child, flying to or from India, almost throwing up several times from motion sickness. As an adult, I have better control over nausea but I don’t like to take chances when I have several hours stuck in the metal tube ahead of me. I now take a small capsule of Dramamine with me, which I find in the toiletry/travel item section at Target, or in the pharmacy in Walmart. It’s relatively cheap and last several hours. I just take it an hour before take off and it works like a charm – I haven’t experienced nausea since I’ve started it.

Stay comfortable.

While those cabin-provided pillows are certainly better than nothing, they certainly don’t support your neck or allow you to really sleep. In my carry on I keep an inflatable neck pillow that I can make as hard or soft as I want right on the spot. My neck won’t bend in awkward positions or hit my neighbor’s shoulder with a pillow on each side. In fact, I normally put the pillow backwards so it’s under my chin and my head won’t lean forward. I use the provided pillow for back support.

I also sometimes use an eye mask to block out the light. I specifically saved one from a previous flight that has a dark lining, as I have found that masks with a light-colored lining don’t allow complete darkness. The mask tends to annoy me, though, since my eyelids and nose become irritated from directly touching the fabric. I haven’t ordered it yet, but I found the solution to the problem in Rick Steve’s Sleep Mask, which lets you sleep comfortably without your eyelids pressing against the inside.

Get an aisle seat.

While looking out the window certainly is an amazing site, I usually prefer the aisle seat. It feels much less crowded, you can flag down a steward, and you don’t have to bruise anyone’s knees while climbing over them to get to the bathroom.

You can have your coffee and drink it, too.

If you’d like some coffee at a non-serving time, bring some individual steeping bags with you, such as Folgers. I personally drink PG Tips English tea, so I bring a small sandwich bag full of tea bags in my purse. It shouldn’t be a problem for the steward to bring you a cup of hot water, cream, and sugar, and it should be pretty cheap or free.

Make a friend – or don’t.

One of the most confusing things about being an introvert is the mood swings that come with having to be social. On the way back from Spain, my elbow neighbor and I didn’t even bother to look at each other until the last couple hours of the flight. Once we started talking, however, we chatted about our travel adventures and bonded over our new love of afternoon tea until we walked through the terminal and came upon my awaiting family. What I love about flying is that I totally don’t have to talk to anyone except the steward if I don’t want to, and I won’t come off as a snob like I normally would if I didn’t interact with the people around me. You never know what you might come across, however; my mom once had a conversation with her seat neighbor and ended up using it as a sale opportunity as he invited her to do a presentation for her product at his company.

Don’t let the idea of a long flight intimidate you. It’s a concept that is exaggerated so much that people are exhausted before they even check in at the airport. If done correctly, a long flight can not only be manageable but relaxing. Think of how you relax at home and try to incorporate that into your carry on in creative ways.

A happy journey = a less stressed arrival!

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