Surviving Long Plane Rides
July 1, 2005 6:17 PM   Subscribe

Looking for suggestions on surviving long plane rides. I'm talking about transoceanic, 10+ hour flights. Limited Google searching has found this and this. I've also read the prior question, about sleeping. I have a laptop, mp3 player, and lots of ebooks.
posted by manilamd to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Get up any walk every so often. If you stay seated too long on the plain, you can loose circulation to your legs and bad things happen. Or so my mom says.
Personally, I see a plane ride as a long car ride without the pitstops yet more entertaining- and this comes from having gone on a transoceanic flight myself.
posted by jmd82 at 6:23 PM on July 1, 2005

Having a wide variety of things is generally useful. I don't know if it's common, but I find actively 'doing' anything drives me nuts on a flight after a while. I rarely make a whole movie without wanting to claw my eyes out. It might be because it's hard to concentrate when you're squeezed into an unnaturally small space.

I can't sleep in a non horizontal position, so I generally meditate for at least a few hours (this is rarely recommended for travellers, and I'm not sure why, I think it's great), watch a couple of the short programs (they often have Friends, Frasier, that sort of stuff on some channel or another), stretch the meals out, and talk to other passengers. On the rare occasions where it's been practical (some flights have games consoles), I've played Mario, trivia games, Sonic, etc.. which can waste half an hour each.
posted by wackybrit at 6:35 PM on July 1, 2005

I flew non-stop from NYC to Hawaii, which was 11 hours, and I honestly didn't think it was that much worse than a standard 6 hour trans-Atlantic flight. I did make a point to watch both movies, since that killed four hours right there. Having an aisle seat was a big advantage too, since I didn't feel trapped and I could get up at any time. And I agree with wackybrit about stretching the meals. There's no reason to hurry and it can easily take 30 minutes to work through all the little things.

Just never run out of stuff, because if you start reading the SkyMall magazine you're lost.
posted by smackfu at 6:38 PM on July 1, 2005

Being on one of those planes with 200 on-demand movies/tv shows helps. Barring that, a bunch of DVDs and your laptop would work too. Or books, I guess, if you're into that sort of thing.

I've never tried getting smashed on a plane; it'd require either asking for more alcohol than I feel comfortable doing, or bringing my own. Maybe I'll try it next time.

I really can't sleep worth a damn on planes no matter what. I really wish they would offer a Japanese-capsule-hotel class of service.
posted by trevyn at 6:45 PM on July 1, 2005

Besides getting up and stretching every hour or so to keep from getting deep vein thrombosis, you'll want to get up and stretch and do some light cardio about an hour before landing. You can windmill your arms, you can hop up and down a little bit...just basically get the blood pumping so it can get out of your feet and legs.
posted by taumeson at 6:58 PM on July 1, 2005

The single best thing you can do is get a good seat. Business class is awesome, or else a window seat ideally in a bulkhead / exit row.

Barring that, the best thing is to sleep through the flight. Bring earplugs and a mask for your eyes. Eat the meal, then block everything out and try to sleep. I find melatonin helps immensely. Flying from the US to Europe I can sleep for 6 hours on a plane and get myself in sync with the new timezone.
posted by Nelson at 7:05 PM on July 1, 2005

What airline/route are you flying? Some flights have internet accesss, which can help make the time pass quickly.
posted by blue mustard at 7:06 PM on July 1, 2005

re: getting smashed. That's how I got through the return trip from Israel. Duty free vodka and airplane orange juice and I slept like a baby. It was brilliant.

Other than that, I find magazines require less concentration than books, so are easier to spend time on. Shorter games such as Tetris help. Anything that you can do for about thirty minutes and then move on to something else is good.
posted by amandaudoff at 7:23 PM on July 1, 2005

I live this crap far too much. Bring books. Are you reading as many really good books as you want these days? I thought not. Bring some of them on the plane. Something like Steinbeck which is deep yet easy is a perfect read for a plane ride. Spend some time walking the aisle, sleep and read. The time will fly and you will feel a sense of accomplishment for getting another book done. I usually take along two or three books just in case I get bored with the first one or two, then you still have choices. Make sure at least one is really easy to digest in case you are just too tired while flying to take in a complex book. I think Faulkner is one of the greatest authors ever, but I would never limit myself to one Faulkner book for a flight - I would have an easy back-up for being tired, like a Dashiell Hammett novel. Failing a book, bring along a movie player, if you don't get one in your seat anyway. It won't be as satisfying in the end as polishing off another book, but it passes the time.

Make sure you get up and walk every three or four hours or more frequently. It wards off thrombosis, but more commonly wards off bach-aches, stiff necks etc.
posted by caddis at 7:26 PM on July 1, 2005

Liquid. The air you're breathing starts at, oh, -100F, then is warmed to cabin temp. This results in a relative humidity of about, oh, nothing. Dehydration sucks, on a plane, it's even worse.

As much as I like beer (mmm. beer.) don't drink -- too much dehydration.

Otherwise. If you can sleep on planes, sleep. If not, try the day flights, bring a book, work on the laptop. Cope.

The most optimistic of frequent flyers will tell you that flying is merely annoying. To the rest of us, flying sucks. It's what's at the other end that keeps us in the air.
posted by eriko at 7:30 PM on July 1, 2005

I generally like to get an aisle seat, not window, so I can walk often -- at least every hour that I'm awake. But I also try to sleep as much as possible if the flight is a night one (but I still aim for being next to the aisle if possible -- I'd rather be climbed over than climb myself)

Drinking plenty of water helps -- the air at 30,000 feet is very dry. Sit as far forward as possible (check in early) to get fresher air.
posted by anadem at 7:34 PM on July 1, 2005

you'll want to . . . do some light cardio about an hour before landing. You can windmill your arms, you can hop up and down a little bit. . . .

Just, please, do this next to someone else's seat, not mine. That's why walking up and down the aisle is preferred; it doesn't involve swinging your arms in some stranger's face or hopping up and down like a toddler in the middle of a business meeting.
posted by caddis at 7:35 PM on July 1, 2005

Airliners are extremely noisy. The basso rumble of the engine is not a natural sound of jet planes - it is designed into the engine to try to mask the awful sustained treble screech that all jets make. For me, then, the number one comfort increaser on a long plane flight is a pair of good 33 dB earplugs.

Number two are a couple good slugs of Xanax, and number 3 is water - 1 L for your average 5 hour trans-USA flight.

If you drink alcohol, you'll need more water, and you won't want any Xanax (they synergize at the neurotransmitter, it's a bad interaction that you want to avoid.)

Other people seem to like those little neck collar pillows and sleeping masks, but I do not care for them.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:43 PM on July 1, 2005

I am a veteran of longhaul flights and over the years have perfected the art - it goes thus:

Secure the window seat so that no-one bothers you, have the little meal, the little bottle of wine, 2 Ambien, 3 ibuprofen, 1 visit to the restroom, remove shoes, wrap self in blanket, close window blind, apply face mask, goodnight.

Prior to a trip I simply go to my doctor and say, "hey, I'm going longhaul and taking Nytol/ Benadryl whatever (they're all the same) aren't strong enough for me to sleep upright," and I get an Rx for Ambien. Continuing to take Ambien is also crucial in resetting your body clock and thus avoiding the equally tiresome effects of jetlag.

IMO, trying to entertain yourself for 10+ hrs in a tiny seat in a cabin full of people in tiny seats trying to entertain themselves for 10+ hrs is simply too steep a mountain to climb given the conditions....
posted by forallmankind at 7:43 PM on July 1, 2005

Do move around the plane. There have been cases of people walking off a plane and suffering a heart attack from suddenly restored circulation. I believe it's similar to what happens to climbers who sit in harnesses for too long without moving.

Get one of those inflatable neck pillows. They really help when you want to sleep. Try the melatonin, but be aware that the effective window of the stuff is about a half-hour (beginning maybe 20 minutes after you swallow it). If you don't fall asleep during that window, or if you're woken up after that, it won't help.

Try to get one of those exit seats, or one facing a bulkhead, or at least an aisle seat. The best seat I ever had on a long flight was facing the flight attendant's jump seat. She gave us a bunch of tips on stuff to do and see (in my wife's home city!) The attendants are almost as bored as you are, so they like to talk if you're nice to them.

Air travel was fun once, before the airlines decided everyone is the size of the average ten-year old. Since then, it sucks.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:57 PM on July 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Xanax. I spent god knows how many hours on long haul transoceanic flights before I finally discovered pharmaceuticals. Pop a few pills and hey presto, you're at your destination!
posted by aramaic at 8:02 PM on July 1, 2005

My routine for survivng transcontinental flights is a lot like others described. If the flight is longer than 10 hours, I spend the first 2-3 hours reading books, knitting, watching the in-flight movie, etc. At about the 4 hour mark my brain starts to go numb from lack of ability to move and contemplation of the full workday's worth of time I have left before landing.

If it's nighttime at my destination, I'll take an Ambien and go to sleep. If it's daytime, it's better to tough out the plane ride awake so that I'm ready to sleep when I land. In that case, the key to survival is utterly zoning out. Earplugs help, as does staring at the movie screen with unfocused eyes. Meditation is an awesome idea, but I find that when I have two strange men spilling over onto my seat on either side of me, I can't calm myself enough to effectively meditate.
posted by rhiannon at 8:07 PM on July 1, 2005

Rest-o-ril/termazepam, a different drug than Ambien, but likely much the same: gentle, not foggy on wakening, not especially addictive (afaik).
posted by five fresh fish at 10:08 PM on July 1, 2005

c/termazepam/temazepam/. Hate to find out there's some poison with a similar name!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 PM on July 1, 2005

As a lot of other people have said, drink plenty of (non-alcoholic) liquids. You'll get dehydrated. And as a "bonus" of drinking a lot of liquids, you'll go to the restroom a lot, which gives you a chance to get up and walk around.

If you're the type, write! When I fly, I let my mind wander and I tend to write a lot of really long letters to friends, notes to myself, etc.
posted by edjusted at 10:56 PM on July 1, 2005

Ahead of time, completely write off the day as an ordeal you'll just have to get though. It won't be so bad of course, but I find myself more able to enjoy it if I've already mentally written off those days as a complete loss and have known for some time that that day is reserved for Hassle, and anything you get done on top of that is gravy :-)
Just bring stuff to keep you occupied, and don't plan on using any of it, just have it there so you can do whatever you feel like at the time, or nothing at all.

Bringing your own snacks and drink helps a lot too.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:10 AM on July 2, 2005

moisterize (i think even an UV moisterizer is a good idea if you're crossing over the poles), and be prepared to experience a variety of temperatures -- i'm either freezing or sweating. and if you're flying from tokyo to ewr on tuesday, i'll see you there!
posted by armacy at 4:47 AM on July 2, 2005

Melatonin helps me lots. But on REALLY long flights (i.e. over 12 hours) you have to time it right. I flew from London to Auckland via LAX (that's right, I didn't pick the route), and waited until re-boarding at LA to take some Melatonin. Worked well for me.

As other posters have said - having things to "do" is a great help too. And stay hydrated.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 6:43 AM on July 2, 2005

get a good seat - generally row 21 (you want the second of the exit rows). depending on the airline, and whether you are a frequent flyer, you may be able to pick the seat on their website. you may also be able to use miles/points to upgrade to first class. if you're not a frequent flyer member, join - a long flight will give you a useful chunk of miles.
i prefer a seat against the side of the plane ("window seat") because it gives you something to slump against while sleeping.
while on the flight, savour the meals. they're the best bit about flying, in my experience (seriously - i really like the food!).
take a book, or buy a meaty magazine (eg economist). maybe pick up a paper as you get on.
i check as much luggage as possible, but seem to be one of the few people that does. if the airline loses your stuff you get to buy new clothes (not escessively, but enough until they find it again), and i don't like the hassle with overhead lockers etc.
if you're going to sleep, fasten the belt over your blanket. and slip your shoes off. sleep as much as possible.
that's all i do, and i've flown long distances many times (chile to most other places is long distance). in particular, i don't try to stay hydrated (you get plenty to drink anyway - i've never understood that advice) and i don't walk around - i just take the chance to vegetate. my partner, however, once got really fat bloated ankles after travelling, and now always uses some "compression" socks.
oh, and take a deodorant and toothpaste/brush. and maybe a spare t-shirt if you have a very long trip and/or are nervous.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:09 AM on July 2, 2005

oh, and you might want to check out this.
posted by forallmankind at 8:52 AM on July 2, 2005

Looking for suggestions on surviving long plane rides

Whatever you do, don't fly Oceanic Airlines. You'll end up on a deserted island inhabited by a crazy French woman and some polar bears. And then Tom Cruise's cousin will try to steal your baby (who may or may not be destined to destroy the world). ;)
posted by MsMolly at 11:56 AM on July 2, 2005

In addition to some of the above mentioned things I load my ipod up with a couple of audiobooks and podcast/recorded NPR type stuff. I also own a battery pack expansion for my ipod.

I also tend to buy copies of the Economist and Harpers or equivalent good reading for the trip.

I also carry a variety of pills of the 'just in case' variety. They are sometimes very useful on the return flight.
posted by joelr at 12:19 PM on July 2, 2005

not sure i made it clear earlier, but above all, it's a frame of mind. zone out. make being stuck in one place with nothing to do a good thing. pretend you're in bed. take it easy.

all that talk of preparation and ebooks and the like sounds like you're making busy. busy doesn't work well for 13 hours in a tiny seat. the books are there so when you get bored with being bored you can read a few pages to remind yourself what thinkg is all about, and how you're lucky that you don't have to do it today.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggestions so far. Ms Molly thanks for the laughs!
posted by manilamd at 7:55 PM on July 2, 2005

treat yourself to a season of your favorite tv show in dvd. hour per hour, its cheaper than buying dvd movies. the only problem is that the dvd drive will run down your laptop's battery rather quickly. i'd recommend ripping the dvd's to your hard drive because it's less battery-intensive to play back (also maybe invest in a spare battery).
posted by radioamy at 3:52 PM on July 3, 2005

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