This week’s article is inspired by clients on four separate trips who will be flying l-o-o-o-n-g distances very shortly. At least two of them have never been on a long-haul flight, and as their advisor it is my job to make sure they are prepped. They are not mandated to take my advice; my objective is to make sure they are aware.
If you don’t take long-haul (i.e., transcontinental, transoceanic…you get the idea) flights very often, you might not realize that a little preparation can go a long way to ensuring your comfort and tolerance. Even if the idea of New York to San Francisco fight is more than you can stand, take some of these ideas to heart to help you cope with the stress, discomfort, impatience or whatever it is that makes the trip daunting for you. Long hours in an uncomfortable seat on an unfamiliar airline (by this I mean of foreign nationality), perhaps underfed and bored to death, can be an exhausting experience physically and mentally. So consider these helps:
Don’t choose your flight based on price alone
A "don't" in a list of "do's". Bear with me. When it comes to booking flights for clients’ vacations, whether long-haul or not, there are several questions I ask beyond the obvious questions of which airline or seat they prefer. There are many factors that go into price, and most of them are not within your control (how many seats are left, refundability, upgradeability and many more) so here are some things to consider:
- the time of day of your departure: early flights are more popular and therefore supply and demand dictates that the airline will charge more.
- how many stops are you willing to tolerate? More stops can mean a lower price; so if you wish to arrive at your destination with enough time to make your meeting, hit the beach or have a leisurely dinner you might have to pay a little more than the less expansive route that has three stops and arrives just before midnight.
- also related to how fast you want to get there (and therefore, the price) is how long a layover you’re willing to put up with. Choosing your layovers isn’t always within your power, and as your advisor I will opt the route with a long enough layover to allow you transit through customs and immigration (and possible bathroom and meal breaks in an unfamiliar airport) before you have to check luggage and find your connecting flight. If you decide on an overnight connection to keep the price down, you’ll either spend the night in the airport or have to spring for a hotel – not so inexpensive anymore, is it?
- seat class is a major determinant, clearly: economy, premium economy (which goes by different names with different carriers), business and first class. You’ll probably choose your seat class by price so keep in mind the comfort of your seat, the proximity to the galley, restroom, bulkheads, exit rows etc. When your budget allows, opt for the comfiest seat you can afford.
Think about your long-haul flight as a by-the-hour experience, a higher cost on a comfortable aircraft with a stellar entertainment system and good food may start to seem fairly attractive when compared to a hellish flight on a cramped aircraft with overhead screens showing bad movies.
Weigh price against amenities, which can vary by seat class; if you are going to be on a plane for a total of 30 hours coming and going, and it costs an extra $150 to get a better flight on a better airline, ask yourself if you would pay $5/hour for a much better seat, with better food, better movies, and better service.
Choose Your Airline Wisely
You already are aware that not all airlines are created equally, and long-haul flights bring that out in unexpected ways: aside from seating, think ahead about what you will eat and your entertainment.
FOOD: On long-haul flights airlines tend to provide frequent meals and snacks but if you are picky eater you should do some research on the meal offerings of your various airline options. Almost all airlines have this information on their websites—or check out airlinemeals.net which has thousands of pictures from different meals available on airlines.
You are probably in the habit of packing food/snacks for your normal day at home or work anyway; for travel, just be mindful of liquids, or near-liquid (gel-like) foods, or anything smelly—you know what I’m talking about. You will coexist for many hours with your high-flying neighbors so don’t offend them with your can of sardines, convenient though they might be.
ENTERTAINMENT: How you are going to fill the hours on the plane? A decent in-flight entertainment system is absolutely critical and. Most long-haul airliners have seat-back screens. These are better than overhead screens because you get to select what you want to watch from the plethora of programming choices. Better yet, your own phone or tablet pre-loaded with games, movies, podcasts whatever your fancy – priceless. Same for the kids, please.
Pro Tip – Check whether your seat will have an outlet to power your phone or tablet. How? Use what I use: seatguru.com. The seating charts have info on seat locations, sizes, and whether the aircraft has seatback or overhead screens.
Choose Your Travel Clothing Carefully
Most people choose comfortable clothes when flying, and when it comes to a long-haul flight, these choices become critical when you remember that you will likely want to fall asleep, stretch or slump in your seat. Before the days of ubiquitous stretchiness in clothing this was a big deal. Choose no-hands-needed slip-on footwear, as reaching your feet may require contortionist skills. Compression socks, a scarf, an eye mask
Prep Your Tablet
If you are going to rely on a tablet to get you through two 15-hour flights coming and going, you are going to need new, fresh, and absolutely compelling stuff on your tablet to get you through: movies that absorb your attention, and a couple of books in different topics and genres for when your attention wanes.
Imagine your several-hour airborne confinement is a relaxing day off to read, listen to music, nap, nibble on favourite snacks – all the things you don’t have time to do on a workday. In my next article I’ll provide you a list of must-have items for surviving your long-haul flight.
'til next week.
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Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES - Juliet Weller, Founder