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The single most important flight tip to remember? The perfect flight does not exist.
Spending 15 hours sardined in a large metal tube with bad food, minimal space and insomniac babies isn’t conducive to creating a breezy travel scenario. But take a handful of forward-thinking and precautionary measures before and during the flight, and you’ll avoid an endless stream of travel headaches throughout your air-bound journey.
Observe, our fool-proof guide to survive a long-haul* flight – keep it handy next time you’re set to jet.
One day before… Pro tip: Check to see if you can upgrade your ticket to premium economy for cheap – airlines sometimes release cheap upgrade options on the 11th hour. Also, never reserve a seat in the first few rows of each seating section, as the first row is usually reserved for travelling families, as it’s where the bassinets are located (read: increased chance of shrieking babies).
Three hours before… Unless you’re late, don’t rush – the last thing you want is to be standing in a boarding line for an hour before a long flight, particularly when many airports are retail meccas.
Get to your gate at the time written on your ticket, keep an eye on the airport info screens for any changes, and remember – all duty free purchases must be finalised 20 minutes before your flight.
The first hour… Once boarding is complete, do a scan of the plane and take a mental note of any empty rows. After takeoff, ask a flight attendant if you can move to the empty row – a relatively comfortable sleep awaits.
Two hours in… Change out of your nice clothes and into something more comfortable. For some, changing into pyjamas or pyjama-like clothing acts as a placebo to aid with sleep.
Having something to change into before you land is key in looking and feeling fresh upon arrival. If you have a blazer or a shirt and don’t want to get it crushed, a flight assistant should usually be able to hang it for you.
Three hours in…By this stage, the complimentary booze will be doing the rounds. Alcohol combined with the pressurised cabin and air-conditioning is a recipe for dehydration, so do avoid it if you can. But, of course, you’re on holiday, so if you want to imbibe stick to light beer or small glasses of wine, and drink plenty of water throughout the flight. A plane hangover is infinitely more brutal than one experienced on land.
To eat or not to eat? Some suggest skipping meals helps to stave off jet lag – but that’s completely subjective. A general rule of thumb is avoiding any food that has historically triggered indigestion or a bloated feeling. Eat light, and try packing a few reliable snacks in your carry-on luggage.
Five hours in…It’s time to catch some Zs. If you struggle with sleep on a flight, try a natural aid such as melatonin before opting for sleeping pills. And if you do go the latter, make sure you’ve tested them out on land before taking on a flight. And, for the love of Pete, don’t mix sleeping pills with alcohol.
Eight hours in… If you’re awake, stretch your legs with a walk through the aisle. It’ll help combat DVT. Still hungry? Stroll to the attendant cabin, where a food cart bearing complimentary snacks awaits your arrival.
Ten hours in… Meal coming up but you feel you need to sleep? Sleep when you need to sleep. A flight attendant can deliver food to you when you wake up.
Twelve hours in… By now, you’re probably awake and for some reason your face feels like its just spent two days in a sandstorm. Drink plenty of water and moisturise. Your face, hands and lips will thank you later.
Fourteen hours in… This is your chance to freshen up before you arrive. Get in one last stroll before the descent and change back into your regular clothes, wash your face and brush your teeth. You’ll come off the flight looking a million bucks – or at least, a cool thousand.
Fifteen hours in… You’ve arrived – and survived.
*15.5 hours is the average flight time from Sydney to Los Angeles.