Being trapped in an airborne metal tube for hours on end will take a toll on even the most frequent flyer.
But long haul travel doesn't have to be an uncomfortable experience. Here are here are some helpful tricks that'll make economy feel like first class — or in the very least, more enjoyable.
1. Choose your food carefully
One study found that carb-rich foods such as spaghetti, whole grain bread, and oatmeal make it easier to cope with jet lag. According to the study, higher levels of insulin make it easier to transition from one sleep and eating schedule to another. Carb-rich foods help induce insulin secretion, which is why they may be helpful in preventing (or minimizing) jet lag.
2. Pack snacks
Being hungry when you're on the ground is uncomfortable enough, but at least you can run out and grab a snack. Hunger on a plane means either caving in and buying the outrageously expensive snacks on board, or sitting there and waiting till the next meal is served — if meals are being served.
Your best bet is to bring protein-rich snacks that will keep you feeling full longer. Think almonds, peanut butter and crackers, cheese, yogurt, or even protein bars.
3. Don't stuff your face
According to Web MD, it's harder to digest while in the air, so although it's okay to eat, filling up isn't the best idea. In fact, depending on how long your flight is, you might want to eat just before boarding, and eat only snacks while on the plane. If you do choose to eat on the plane, keep in mind that warm foods are better than cold foods since they're easier to digest.
4. Request a special meal if you want to be served first
If you've ever sat next to a vegetarian (or someone who has requested a vegetarian meal) on a plane, you know that these "special" meals are the first to be served. So if you're hoping to get your food before everyone else — which means not having to wait for the full service and being able to get to sleep sooner — request a special meal. There are multiple kinds of meals you can request depending on the airline you're flying, from gluten-free to kosher, so make sure to check online before your flight.
5. Stay hydrated
While there's no magic number in terms of how much water to drink on a flight, health experts usually recommend drinking more than you normally do, seeing as air travel is incredibly dehydrating. Continue drinking throughout flight; don't wait until you're thirsty to ask the flight attendant for some water.
6. Avoid coffee
Caffeine will keep you up, dehydrate you further, and make you irritable.
7. Drink green tea instead
If decaffeinated green tea is an option on your flight, you might want to take advantage. The drink has been said to help stave off the onset of jet lag.
8. Keep your alcohol intake to a minimum
If you're the kind of person who falls asleep more easily after a glass of wine, then by all means order a small bottle. But keep in mind that although alcohol is a depressant, it can act as a stimulant for the first few hours after you drink it, which means it might actually keep you up.
Drinking too much can lead to multiple issues such as dehydration and grogginess that will only exacerbate the dehydration you're already experiencing, and the jet lag you'll most likely experience once you land. There's also the chance that you'll get sick, and no one wants to spend the better part of a long distance flight in a cramped (and possibly not-so-clean) bathroom.
9. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
While sweatpants shouldn't be your go-to travel attire, it is a good idea to wear more comfortable loose clothing on a flight — especially a long one. For men, this can mean a pair of jeans and a T-shirt; woman might want to try leggings and a sweater.
10. Wear layers
Long flights can mean going from freezing to overheated and back again. In order to keep your body at a comfortable temperature, it's best to layer your clothing. Don't just wear a T-shirt and bring a heavy jacket. Instead, wear a T-shirt with a sweater or sweatshirt over it, and then consider bringing a jacket as well just in case. This 15-in-1 jacket is ideal for hassle-free travel.
11. Bring a scarf
Even though this likely pertains more to female travelers than male travelers, a scarf comes in pretty handy on a flight since it can be used as a fashion accessory, a blanket, and even lumbar support (see below). Even expert travelers swear by them.
12. Bring a neck pillow
Sure, they're not the hottest accessory out there, but your neck will thank you. Plus, being physically comfortable will improve your general well being, and is likely to help you sleep.
13. Bring lumbar support
Why airplane seats were designed with a curve is beyond us, but their C-shape does nothing for the human spine, which looks more like an S, thus causing passengers achy backs and necks. Wedging a pillow, blanket, or sweater behind your lower back will counteract the seat's shape, and keep your spine in its natural shape.
14. Bring noise canceling headphones or earplugs
The ambient roar of a plane's engine (and background noise in general) is said to cause stress. Noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs will not only block out that noise, but also block out other sounds that will keep you awake, like crying babies and flight attendants who are trying to serve a meal.
15. Download white noise or meditation sounds
In the same vein, white noise or meditation sounds can block our ambient noise, as well as help you relax and sleep better.
16. Bring an eye mask
It's not the most flattering look when you're flying, but blocking out light helps with jet lag, as light affects your circadian rhythm. It also mentally prepares you for sleep, and blocks out the early breakfast wake up on long-haul flights.
17. Wear compression socks
Compression socks will help you avoid "economy class syndrome," aka swollen feet and ankles, leg pain, and even blood clots and deep vein thrombosis that one gets from being seated or in the same position for too long.
18. Do some in-seat exercises
If compression socks are a little too much for you, you can do some in-seat exercises to get the same effect. Airlines like Qantas and Virgin even suggest exercises, and Qantas suggests engaging in them for three or four minutes every hour. Exercises include lifting your feet off the ground by a few inches and rotating them in circles, keeping your heels on the floor and pointing your toes up as far as you can, then pointing the toes down while lifting the heels up, and rolling your shoulders forwards and backwards.
19. Bring your own entertainment
This is a no-brainer, but bring enough books, magazines, games, and movies to keep yourself busy instead of relying on the possibly terrible in-flight movie and shelling out $5 for headphones. Reading material is imperative, as there will be at least an hour between take off and landing during which you can't use your electronics or watch movies.
20. Charge all of your devices and bring an extra power pack
Traveling drains your phone's battery — while you're waiting, you're probably playing games, texting, or checking weather, traffic, or delays. Make sure your phone and iPad are fully charged before you leave, or, bring some extra juice in the form of a power pack.
21. Snag a window seat
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A window seat not only gives you a nice, solid wall to rest your head on for a more comfortable nap, but also means you won't be disturbed by passing beverage carts, and that you only have to get up when you need to go to the bathroom.
22. Sit by the plane's wing
Many experts claim that the seats by a plane's wing experience less turbulence, since they're closer to the plane's center of gravity.
23. Avoid bulkhead seats or those in front of exit rows
The former won't have storage space for your carry-on, and the latter won't recline.
24. Bring the flight attendants chocolate
Apparently, when flight attendants fly privately, they bring the crew chocolate — make yourself popular and do the same, you may get some perks and preferential treatment, or, in the very least, some good karma.
25. Bring lotion, chapstick, and Evian spray
Dehydration is the worst part of every flight as the recycled, pressurized air (which comes from super high altitudes and has almost 0% humidity) leaves most passengers raisin-like. Counteract the dryness by bringing hand lotion, Evian spray, and chapstick.
26. Wear closed-toed shoes
In the case of an emergency, closed-toed shoes are your safest bet. There could be fire, debris, or shards of glass. Proper closed-toed shoes will also let you move faster if need be.