Long-haul flights are great if you are flying in first class, but economy seats are another story.
Last week, a YouTube video of Naomi Campbell’s airplane routine made the rounds. While it was fascinating to watch the supermodel prepare for her long-haul flight to Qatar, it was also wholly useless for those of us who spend our time crammed in economy class.As a freelance travel journalist, I know this all too well. In 2018 alone, I spent 180 hours in the air, flying everywhere from Siberia to Saskatoon for assignments — which doesn’t even begin to account for the time spent connecting to flights or travelling to airports. And yes, I did it all in economy class.Other than giving me a certain sense of shame for my carbon emissions (or, as the Swedish have branded it, flygskam) it’s also given me the flying prowess of George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air. But while Clooney’s Ryan Bingham may have been a pro at domestic travel, I’ve got the international game on lock-down.Want to know my secrets to enjoying an economy-class long-haul flight? Well, I don’t have any of those. What I do have, however, are a few tips on how to survive a long-haul flight like a seasoned traveller.Research your seat ahead of timeThere’s nothing worse than boarding your flight with a nearly dead cell phone and finding out that there’s no power outlet, or booking a window seat because you get motion sickness only to discover that you’re crammed beside a wall with no actual window. (It happens, trust me.)SeatGuru.com is a game-changer. This website takes the guesswork out of the equation. Search for your flight code, find your seat, and SeatGuru will tell you what you can expect to find on-board. It’ll even flag seats that may not recline fully or may be near noisy areas such as the lavatories.Make getting through security and connections a seamless process—literallyI wear the exact same outfit every time I fly: yoga pants, a long-sleeved tee, and a scarf that’s large enough to be used as a blanket on chilly planes. Far from fashionable, it’s my outfit of choice because it’s nearly seamless. No pockets means nothing to forget in them, and no belt or embellishments means minimal chances of setting off the metal detector.Create your own personal airplane survival kitMost people I know stuff their carry-on full of entertainment for their flight: books, magazines, e-readers, crossword puzzle books and the like. Not me. As far as I’m concerned, “stave off boredom” ranks much lower on my priority list than “don’t get sick” and “prevent jet lag.”As such, my carry-on is more like a mini-pharmacy, designed to maximize hydration and my body’s ability to battle my neighbour’s nasties. Humidity on planes sits as low as 12 per cent, so I ante up the hydration by popping an electrolyte tab into my water bottle. Throughout the flight, I use preservative-free moisturizing eyedrops, and a hypotonic saline nasal spray to help maintain moisture in my nasal cavity. (I also travel with facial mist, which I know is a bit “extra,” but I always feel more human after using it.)Apart from drinking loads of water, I have no clue if any of this scientifically does anything. But at the very least, pulling out my self-care kit every couple of hours kills time.On that note, embrace your inner germaphobeAccording to a 2018 CBC Marketplace report, the most contaminated surface on a plane is the headrest, followed by the seat pocket. The latter contains high levels of mould and E.Coli, partially due to passengers storing dirty diapers in it.That’s why the only thing Naomi Campbell and I have in common is that we both wipe down every nook and cranny of our seats with an antibacterial wipe before settling in. (I suppose the one benefit of economy class is that there’s less surface area to wipe down?)Stretch and move around the cabinI’m only in my mid-30s and reasonably fit, so I used to scoff at the idea of needing to get up throughout my flight. That all changed last year, when I wound up with a nasty case of sciatica after flying to Australia, back to Canada, and then over to Russia, all in a period of about two weeks.Stretching is now my religion. The human body is not designed to sit upright for 12 hours at a time. It may sound counter-intuitive, but my advice is to get up when there is a small line for the bathroom — the extra wait time gives you an excuse to get a full stretch in.Make your flight extra-cozyAs soon as I get on the plane, I ditch my running shoes for a pair of slippers. Not only do they keep my feet warm on notoriously cold planes, they make it so that I don’t have to put on shoes to walk down the aisle. Choose a soft-soled pair that you can throw in the wash immediately following your flight because no, that liquid on the lavatory floor isn’t water.Bring-your-own-everythingIf, like me, you suffer from extreme flight shame, you can at least reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce when you fly. I travel with my own set of plastic cutlery (available for purchase at most camping supply store—and yes, security will let you take it through), a reusable water bottle, and a reusable coffee cup.Apart from being handy for coffee, the sippy cup-style lid of KeepCup’s is helpful in case of minor turbulence or bumps from your seatmate. Not just for coffee, I’ve since discovered that flight attendants will happily fill reusable cups to the brim with any drink you request including, yes, wine. Huh. So maybe I do have some advice for how to make a long-haul flight enjoyable, after all.Related