6 tips to surviving those long-haul flights

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Okinawa

Let’s face it — long-haul flights (really, anything more than three hours for this girl) can be brutal. You’re stuck in a metal, composite tube with a few hundred of your newest friends, for what’s likely to be anywhere between a six- or 12-hour flight … depending on your point of origin and destination. Throw in a couple of wily, impatient kids and you’ve got a recipe reminiscent of doomsday on your hands.

We’ve been fortunate to be on the receiving end of four overseas assignments — two in the Pacific, and now two in Europe. My family hails from California, and my husband’s from Hawaii, which makes flying home from Germany or the United Kingdom really, really long and slightly daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to make surviving long-haul flights a little easier.

1. Prep yourself, especially if you’re not a fan of flying.

I’ll admit that I was a little late to the traveling. While my two kids have been pros since the ripe ages of three-weeks old and four-months old, I was 13 when I took my first flight. I’m not quite a white-knuckle flier, but I’ve found that I usually I need a day or so to prep myself mentally. I’ve learned to expect the worst, and hope for the best. That way, it’s a happy medium.

2. Arrive to the airport early.

Last summer, on our annual trek to California, we got to the Frankfurt airport two hours early. Unbeknownst to us, the airline had bumped up our flight departure time by 20 minutes. In addition, because it was the height of the summer season, the line at check-in was ridiculously long and unorganized. Long story short, we ended up running through the terminal, pleading with security to help us get through the checkpoint faster, and ended up being the last ones to board the plane. For international long-haul flights, I would recommend adding 30 minutes to an hour of extra time to the suggested arrival time. Because nobody wants to be that mom dragging her kids and running through the airport.

3. Plan your own entertainment.

In the age of seatback entertainment, USB outlets and Wi-Fi, it’s easy to rely on the airlines to keep you entertained. This is definitely NOT always the case. Recently, I flew from Frankfurt to San Francisco with my kids. When we boarded our flight, we discovered that not only was there no seatback screens, but the Wi-Fi connection for the on-demand airline app didn’t work — for the entire 11-hour flight. Thankfully, we had loaded a few movies on to my laptop, so the crisis was slightly averted. My daughter would play her DS, while my son watched a movie. Then they would switch.

4. Bring a snack bag.

Ah, the joys of free airline food. Yes, it’s free, but it’s also usually not the best quality (think salt-laden mystery meat). If you’re more of a healthy eater, or you’ve got a slightly refined (or picky) palate, consider bringing a snack bag. The day before we fly, I hit up the grocery store and grab some goodies for each of us. I whip out the kids’ reusable lunch bags and voilà! Instant snack bags. The kids pack them in their backpacks and can rummage through them at their leisure throughout the flight. Also, be sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.

5. Move around.

If you’re lucky enough to have an aisle seat, it’s easy to move around. If you’re the monkey in the middle, or cozying up next to the window, this can prove a little more cumbersome. But it’s really important that you move around. Get up, stretch your legs and get the blood flowing. Sitting still for too long can cause the blood to pool in your legs, which increases the chance of developing deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). If you can’t climb across your seatmates, try pointing your foot and tracing the alphabet at your seat, or try doing seated calf raises.

6. Be nice.

This seems like such a simple tip, but often, it’s the one that is overlooked the most. When you’ve been awake for almost 24 hours, eaten super salty food and maybe had 20 minutes of sleep, you’re apt to not be the best version of yourself. Newsflash: neither is anyone else, including the flight crew. It’s easy to get snarky when you’re tired. However, imagine if the situation were flipped. Think about how you would want to be treated in the same scenario. Would you want someone snapping at you because you didn’t respond to a call button five seconds after pushing it? Probably not. People are more likely to help you if you’re nice. Just a simple “please” and “thank you” when you get your orange juice can do the trick.

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