15 tips that will make your 14 hour flight (or any flight for that matter) less awful
This was supposed to be the first post that I wrote in China. I figured since I hadn’t had the time to go around Beijing and do some crazy, interesting, an possibly illegal stuff to pique your interests, I was going to record what I was doing every hour on the hour during my 14 hour flight and create a mini-survival documentary (take notes Bear Grylls). Long story short, I just bought a new camera and forgot to charge it before I left, so no video. However, I thought I would at least relay some tips on how to survive in a 2 x 3 x 4 transparent jail cell known as a plane seat while literally traveling to the other side of the world.
1. Get a neck pillow
My head is small (7 1/8 for all you fitted hat wearers) and my neck was still tired of supporting it after about 4 hours. The alternative to an inexpensive yet comfortable neck pillow is attempting to sleep on the rounded plane wall if you have a window seat or resting your head on your own shoulder and waking up with a neck pain the size of China.
2. Bring a watch
Between my plane’s lack of electrical outlets and my phone being from the stone age, I had to keep track of time via the length of the movies playing for the in-flight entertainment. Even if you can charge your computer or have use of a phone, looking at your wrist is so much easier than digging through your bags for your laptop or worrying whether or not your phone will change the time automatically when you enter new timezones.
3. Make friends with the guy sitting next to you
There’s no politically correct analogy for my situation, so I’ll just tell it like it is: I was one of only a few Americans in a sea of Chinese people on my flight. It took 3 or 4 attempts before I finally found someone who didn’t shut me down because of my broken Chinese language skills (the guy across the aisle). Even if we could only understand 1/4 of what each other was saying, it was better than being silent for 14 hours, not to mention he gave me all of his food that he didn’t like.
4. Bring over the ear headphones as opposed to the in-ear buds
Imagine having those things in your ears for 14 hours. I don’t care how comfortable they make them these days, you could wrap them in a cloud and I still think they would get annoying. If you have a pair of over-the-ear headphones, problem solved.
5. Bring as many packs of tissues as you can
I don’t know if everyone else has been in this same predicament, but for some reason every time I have zero access to tissues, my nose runs like a river. It’s even worse when I’m at 35,000 feet, stuck in the middle of 3 seats, and there’s a line for the bathroom like you’ve never seen – trying to cut people in line so you can get a tissue is like trying to steal food from a pack of hungry wolves. Plus, tissues are also great toilet paper.
6. Wear loose pants
This one’s not much of a mystery. You’ll probably be feeling the side effects of airplane food (I’m talking about bloating here), and while wearing loose pants won’t prevent you from having to use the bathroom, it’ll make waiting in that obnoxiously long line that much easier. While we’re on the topic, you may want to consider bringing some Beano. You know what they say, take Beano before…
7. Charge your camera before you leave
Like I said, this post was supposed to be a bio-documentary on how I survived 14 hours in a sardine can. It was going to be so revolutionary that I already had the History channel throwing me offers for my footage. Of course me being me, I forgot to charge my new camera before I left and now you have to read this whole thing instead of watching a 2 minute clip.
8. Bring a water bottle
TSA will sometimes give you a hard time if you try and bring a water bottle through security, but you can always buy one on the other side and keep it with you. Stewards and stewardesses tend to come around in spurts (i.e. I’m pretty sure there was a 4 hour span when they were all sleeping), so on the chance you’re thirsty and there’s no one around to fill you glass, at least you’ll have the option of trying to refill your water bottle from those tiny sinks in the airplane bathroom. Drinkable water is drinkable water as far as I’m concerned.
9. Avoid coffee
If you have a weak system or are sensitive to caffeine, stay away from coffee. If you want to argue about the diuretic effects of coffee, do it with someone else – as far as I’m concerned, coffee makes me have to go to the bathroom and keeps me awake, two negatives when it comes to flying. Simple alternative – stick with the ginger ale.
10. Get up and walk around
Move around and get that blood flowing. Sitting in one position for 14 hours can be dangerous, as you’re at a heightened risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis. I noticed that every hour or two, a ton of older people did laps around the plane (walking of course). I don’t think it was because they hurt that much more than us young people, it was more so that after 70 years of living on this planet, they know when to listen to their bodies.
11. Bring pain/sinus/congestion reliever
I’ll accept that not everyone has the Nile flowing from their nose when flying, but anyone that says they don’t feel the pressure of a full grown elephant on every point of their head while flying is totally lying. I’m sure it’s possible to ignore it on a 2 hour flight, but you’re in for a treat if you think you can deal with it for 14. I bought a 3 pack of pain/sinus reliever, and with each pill lasting about 4 hours, it did the job just fine.
12. When booking your seat, go for the emergency row
As long as you’re capable of removing a door on the infinitesimally small (but possible) chance you crash, you’ll get yourself an extra foot of space or so. Who needs first class when you can be sitting in the comfort of the economy emergency row, in solidarity with your fellow thrifty travelers?
13. Bring snacks
The reasons are pretty much the same as bringing a water bottle. If you’re only offered food every 5 hours and/or you don’t like it, you’ll be glad you packed peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars.
14. Be prepared to not have access to electrical outlets or WiFi
Since all of the seats in the plane I took to Scotland had TV’s embedded in the back of every head rest, I just assumed it was now standard on every international flight. You know what they say about assuming…Anyway, if you’re a book worm, bring stuff to read, if you’re a techie book worm, bring a Kindle, and if you’re like me and have a special disliking for the activity of reading, pack some cards, a notebook, or pretty much anything that will prevent you from getting cabin fever.
15. Wear a sweatshirt
Ah, the good old layering rule. I’m going to say the temperature in the plane changed every half hour, and when it changed, so did I (i.e. put on or took of my sweatshirt). If you get warm, you can always take it off, but if you didn’t bring one to begin with and you get cold, you’ll be depending on those thin blue blankets that are provided on the plane, which are made mostly of mesh therefore defeating their purpose of keeping the heat in.
Just in case anyone forgot, I did want to reiterate what I said in my post “A Day In The Life“: my flight was actually not that bad at all, even sans my laptop, camera, phone, and personal in-flight entertainment.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!