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11 Survival Tips for Your Next Long-Haul Flight

Luke Armstrong | Aug 17, 2020

You’re on a plane for a long time. Maybe you’re taking that famous 17-hour flight from London to Sydney. Maybe you’re going over the Pacific. Perhaps you’re over the Atlantic right now using the plane’s WiFi.

Whatever the case, you are going to be in a plane for a very long time. You worry, “Am I going to go crazy in these skies? What do they do with people who go mad 30,000 feet in the air?” It’s best not to find out.

Here are 11 survival tips for your next long-haul flight that will keep your sanity intact.

1. Do Yoga on the Plane

It’s called chair yoga. It’s seriously a thing now. People are doing it in their office chairs. College students are yoga’ing in their desks. People might look at you a bit funny as you do your chair yoga, but remember what Dr. Seuss said, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” 

2. Read a Book Cover to Cover

Rarely does life give you the opportunity to sit down and read a book cover to cover. But rarely does life fly you across an ocean. So if you find yourself on a long flight, was there ever a better opportunity to grab one of the many unread books lying around your house?

Reading a book from cover to cover offers a much fuller experience than absorbing the narrative over weeks. Give it a try next time you’re marooned in the sky. 

 3. Prism Glasses so You Don’t Damage Your Neck Reading!

I tend to be the guy on the plane who people look at and wonder, “What’s that weirdo doing? He just did a bunch of chair yoga and now he’s put on some very strange glasses.” 

Prism Glasses are optical glasses that allow you to read in bed or watch TV while lying flat on your back. These game-changing (and neck relieving!) spectacles use mirrors to turn your view to a downward 90 degree angle, eliminating the need for head movement. Not just a solution for those with limited neck mobility, Prism Glasses are great for preventing neck cramps or eye strain from having your head buried in a book for hours on a never-ending flight. 

 4. Bring Your Favorite Snacks

Eating delicious food is a great way to pass the time on a long flight. If you bring your own snacks, you won’t have to buy the super expensive airline food (which despite the high price tag usually leaves me hungry for more). 

So bring lots of snacks. Bring all your favorites! But control yourself — hour seven of an eight hour flight isn’t pleasant if you eat a box of granola bars during hour six. 

5. Catch Up on Emails, Missives, and Life 

I tend to be super productive on flights, mainly because I don’t have much choice. All the low priority tasks I’ve been procrastinating can be procrastinated no longer when I’m on a plane ride. Finally I have time to catch up on emails, clean my inbox of all the accumulated spam mail, and unsubscribe to all those E-newsletters I don’t remember opting in for. 

Completely out of excuses, I open my inbox on planes and organize the shelves of my digital life. Just be sure your flight has Wi-Fi or that you’re working out of an app that allows you to do what you intend to do offline. 

 6. Be Prepared for All Seasons Onboard

Some like it hot. Others like it cold. On the same flight some passengers might be discarding layers while others are asking for blankets. Wear layers so that you don’t get stuck being too hot or cold on your flight, Goldilocks. 

7. Bring Proper Neck Support 

Having taken over 100 flights, it's clear airline seats were not designed by chiropractors. Those horseshoe shaped neck pillows might just save you days of a sore neck — they are worth the 15 bucks!

8. Pass the Time Engaging in Conversation With Your Fellow Passengers 

Sometimes I’m in the mood for a long chat, sometimes not. When two people in the mood for a chat sit down next to each other on the plane, a conversation begins. If it’s a good one, it might be the only activity you need to entertain you the whole flight. 

I’ve made some friends I still keep in touch with years later. These friendships developed from a plane conversation (Hi Cherie!). So if you are a social person who enjoys a good chat, look for an opportunity to chat those high altitude hours away. When the airline attendant tells you to fasten your safety belt for landing, you may be shocked that the flight went by so quickly! 

9. Use the Time to Study the Language of your Destination 

Most long-haul flights indicate international flights. And international flights generally mean you’ll be traveling from one language to another. So what better way to use the time on the plane then to cram some language lessons in? After a few hours of study, you should be able to memorize a few key words and phrases that will stay with you the rest of the trip. So if you want to be able to locate bathrooms, order a beer, and tell the waiter you are allergic to shrimp, don’t waste time watching movies, get studying — you have a language to learn!

10. Use the Time to Meditate

You entered the plane just an ordinary person, meditated for ten hours, and deplaned as a Buddha. Okay, probably not.

But consider the stresses and anxieties that can fill the hours before you get on the plane. What better use of your long flight than to reclaim your lost zen?

11. Upgrade to First Class (for free!)

You know that awkward eye contact that is made between first class passengers and coach passengers as the ‘coachers’ walk back to their subpar seats? It’s gotta be guilt we see in those first class eyes — they’re guilty they have it better than the rest of us! But maybe you could have it better too. Here are some tips for getting bumped to first class for free! 
  • Dress the part. According to Inc., dressing like you belong in first class and the person behind the counter might just hook you up with a seat there! 
  • Ask for an upgrade. It never hurts to ask, “Would it be possible to upgrade me to first class?” Ask with a big, kind smile and you may just get your wish! 
  • Be early. Some flights are overbooked, and the airline knows it needs to put some coach passengers in first class to make it all work. Usually the early bird gets the worm with these! 
  • Travel solo. It’s easier to upgrade one than two. 
  • Travel during peak times. 
  • Give up your spot. If a  gate agent asks for a to give up their seat, volunteer and ask to be upgraded on the next flight — you might get first class and a travel voucher! 
  • Check your seat for broken arm rest, recline, or tray tables. Point out any problems to a flight attendant and ask to be upgraded! 
  • Join the airline's loyalty club for more upgrade opportunities. 
  • Let flight attendants know if it's a special occasion — birthday, anniversary, etc. Maybe they’ll want to help you celebrate with an upgrade! 

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