Scarily I think I’ve notched up at least 330 hours of flight time in transit from London – Australia in the last 14 years. I think that makes me near enough a long-haul flight pro! Along the way, I’ve had some pretty uncomfortable flights, and through trial and error have come up with a bit of a formula to feel fresh when you land on the other side following (in most cases) a flight where I haven’t slept for almost a day. So, if you are not lucky enough to be flying business with the luxury of a fully reclining bed, try some of my tips below to help feel fresh when you land.
Avoid fizzy drinks and drink loads of water. Yep, I’m afraid this one applies even if you are in business! I’m not saying don’t have a couple of glasses of bubbles, but don’t overdo it. And if you’re not riding shotgun, upfront in business/ first on the flight, I’d recommend avoiding soft drinks and beer entirely to minimise the risk of jet bloat (apparently that’s a real thing!).
I don’t want to delve into the science of farting, but the average person can expect to pass 1 litre of gas within a 24-hour period. You’ve seen what happens to a water bottle on a flight during take-off and landing right? The way it gets all crunchy? Well, that’s because of the pressure in the cabin. We typically fly between 33,000 to 45,000 feet above sea level. Our poor bodies are accustomed to an atmospheric pressure of 760 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) when we are on the ground, that decreases to about 565 mmHg when we fly, so when the atmospheric pressure in the cabin drops, the air inside our bodies needs more space and hey presto, it results in uncomfortable abdominal bloating and you guessed it, farts! So, stay away from the fizzy drinks for the sake of you and everyone around you, and sip lots of water to stay hydrated!
It’s not all bad news though, because red wine can help you sleep! Needless to say, this is in moderation and I am by no means telling you to go out and nail a bottle of wine mid-flight to guarantee a good night’s sleep, but 1 – 2 glasses will help you to relax and be on your way. The grape’s skin is bursting with melatonin, which is the hormone that dictates our body clock and suggests when to go to sleep. Studies show that Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, and Nebbiolo are all particularly high in melatonin. Remember to sip lots of water whilst you are enjoying your vino as you are already prone to dehydration on a flight, and drinking alcohol will only make you more susceptible!
Look after your skin. It’s dry as hell up at 30,000 feet. In low humidity, moisture is pulled from the deeper layers of your skin which makes your complexion prone to dryness. To avoid this, make sure you gently exfoliate before you fly. If possible, avoid wearing makeup on the flight, but if you can’t go makeup free, try to use natural mineral based products. Apply a good hydrating moisturiser before take-off, ideally a hydrating serum. And don’t pick or fuss with your skin mid-flight!
When I land in Australia, I am usually heading straight out to meet friends for brunch on the way to visiting my family. As such, I don’t get the opportunity to jump straight in a shower, so I need to reapply makeup on the run. I use organic and mineral based natural products, and keep it to a minimum when refreshing. I use a sheer mineral powder, apply mascara and pop on a little blusher/ bronzer, and then I’m off again.
At the first opportunity after you land, make sure you gently exfoliate and use a hydrating mask, or sheet masks work well too, helping to restore much needed moisturise.
Take moisturiser for your hands. Whilst there is moisturiser on-board, they tend to be alcohol based and heavily fragranced and leave my hands feeling drier than when I started. I like a deep moisturising cream like L’occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream or Jurlique Rose Hand Cream. I also can’t live without Vaseline for my lips.
Pack essentials. Baby wipes are great for freshening up on the go (look for the fragrance and alcohol-free ones). Also, take a travel sized deodorant and give yourself a wipe/ spritz as you land. Clean underwear goes a long way when you have been flying for almost 24-hours, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to go straight from the flight to shower. I also pack a travel toothbrush and toothpaste to freshen up on the descent.
Try to get some shut-eye. I know, I know, unless you have a flatbed, that’s easier said than done. I find it near impossible to get some shut-eye, but I still give it a go. I suggest following the sleep pattern dictated by the cabin crew. For example, when they serve an evening meal I will eat, watch a movie and have a couple of glasses of red, then its eye mask down and time to try to catch a few zzzz’s until they wake me for my breakfast. Likewise, if all the window shades are open and the cabin lights are not dimmed, don’t go to sleep! Watch movies, make mates with the person next to you, just keep your eyes open! This will help your body to acclimatise to the time zones you are bound for and help to avoid jet lag (alas, it is not a recipe for immunity). Also, I’ll point out I don’t think there is any science to this one; it’s just my personal belief.
Freshen up halfway. If you are lucky enough to have lounge access use the facilities to grab a shower halfway through your journey if you need to connect to more than one flight. I find this is a lifesaver when I fly to Australia. If you don’t have lounge access you can buy one off passes.
Be comfortable and warm. I understand the want to look good, but now that athleisure is all the craze, there are no excuses here. Dress to impress, but ensure you are comfortable. Leave the tight jeans and heels at home. You might also like to try one of my easy to do, stylish long-haul hairstyles that don’t move around mid-flight and look effortlessly chic when you land. You can find them here, and here.
It gets quite chilly at high altitude during long-haul flights. I suggest taking a nice comfy pair of loose fitting socks. M&S and The White Company do some gorgeous cashmere socks.
To give yourself a better chance of having a kip, take your own travel pillow. Whilst they provide you with a pillow in-flight, let’s be serious, they aren’t the best quality. Get a pillow that will support your neck (in awkward seated positions), to avoid a stiff neck when you land.
Get the blood flowing. Take time to get up and have a wander around the cabin and stretch your legs at the same time to get the circulation flowing and avoid DVT. I usually do this when I pop to the loo, but you should do this even more frequently if you can. Requesting an aisle seat will make this a little easier. And if you are flying for more than 4 hours, you could consider wearing compression socks (I find they help to minimise swelling in my legs) and taking Aspirin a few days ahead of your flight. Speak to your doctor for advice before using compression socks and taking Aspirin.
Get some extra leg room. If you aren’t flying business, try requesting an exit row or bulkhead seat for extra leg room. Note: it is normally colder if you sit by the over-wing emergency exit, so make sure you take your socks, a jumper/ pashmina, or ask for an extra blanket! Alternatively, take a look around when you are on-board – sometimes you get lucky and there are rows further towards the back of the plane that are empty. Ask your flight attendant if you can relocate once the flight takes off, that way you can stretch out, lie down and try to get some sleep throughout the flight.
I hope these handy tips help to make your next long-haul flight just that little bit more comfortable.
Until next time, safe travels.
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