• Don't drink coffee or alcohol. The atmosphere in any plane is exceedingly dry. It dries out your mucus membranes - mouth and eyes. Alcohol further dehydrates you. Drink lots of liquid - preferably clear, caffeine-free liquid - water, apple juice, ginger ale, 7-Up.
  • Use "natural tears" type eye drops to combat dehydration of your eyes.
  • Bring some fruit in small pieces - bite-sized apple chunks or grapes are good. Fruit is easier to digest than whatever food the airline may provide, and it helps in the hydration process also.
  • Walk around the plane.
  • On your walks, go to the back of the plane. There is usually a little bit of space back by the bathrooms. You can use it to do some standing stretches. If you can, lean against the bulkhead and stretch the back of your legs. Bend over. Squat down. Anything that can help your circulation.
Appearantly bozon hasn't been on too many twelve-hour flights - otherwise she would know how soon these things get boring. Here are my suggestions:

  • Take your shoes off, get comfortable - it'll be a long ride
  • Do drink alcohol. For one it's free and they never card you, plus the buzz will help you sleep. In case you didn't know, the altitude severly limits your tolerance. Also drink water to make up for the liquid-loss.
  • Talk to the people beside you. Chances are, they're as bored as you are... there are some really interesting people on transcontinental flights.
  • Go to the bathroom during the movie, or between mealtimes. 40% of the flight you'll be blocked by massive lines or mealcarts.
  • Put on some facial lotion before the flight. Yes, only little girls use face lotion, but once that air has been cycled for twelve hours straight and the stubble kicks in you'll be able to use your face for sandpaper.
  • Accumulate a sleep-debt before taking off. This will help you sleep at whatever odd times the destination timezone requires.
  • If you want extra water or a soda, just go to the back where the flight attendants hang out and ask them. They'll give you one, they're also good for chit-chat and finding out about things to do at your destination.

There has been recent news concerning people not surviving the flight. When you sit for long periods of time, clots can form in your legs and in your groin area. When you stand up, you can have a stroke.

If you're flying internationally, do your best to go either Business Class or First Class. Flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japan can be a boring flight. With the upgraded facilities, you'll be more comfortable and the food is better (I had four complete filet mignon dinners on my last San Francisco-to-Hong Kong flight). Get up once an hour and walk for a bit. If it is a 747 or higher jet, go upstairs to the lounge. Bring music (I recommend a minidisc player) and a laptop with a power adapter.

One of the hazards of long-haul flights is that due to the extended periods of time spent in cramped conditions, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can kick in (as mentioned by Rancid Pickle). Recent research has proved that this is far less likely to happen if you take an asprin before takeoff. This has the effect of thinning the blood and so reducing the chances of a blood clot forming (stroke victims take it for the same reason). This research has been taken so seriously that many airlines (including British Airways and Qantas) are soon to start handing out these pills prior to flights.

Regarding some of the other writeups in this node pertaining to alcohol consumption on planes. Personally I don't drink during flights as it gives me a huge headache and worsens my already screwed up sleep patterns, but if you decide to have a couple be very careful, as your alcohol tolerance plummets (due in part to the reduced oxygen levels in the cabin atmosphere), and being drunk on a aeroplane is illegal and you can easily get arrested... not a good way to start a holiday.

About half an hour after adding this writeup, I was reading New Scientist website, which had an article about DVT. It mentions the fact that some geneticists are suggesting that people be tested for a mutation in a gene called 'Factor V Leiden' which is related to blood clotting. The mutation occurs in about 1 in 20 people, but shows up in almost 50% of people hospitalised due to deep vein thrombosis caused by long haul flights. The article suggests that if people with this mutation could be picked out they could recieve extra water, and blood thinning drugs from the airlines.

On the first of many trips to and from Microsoft (from Hartford to Seattle), I bought myself a Gameboy Color. That was one of the best purchases I've ever made. It usually lasts many hours on a charge, and with a game such as Pokémon (where you can sink many hours into it), you can find yourself at your destination quickly. While there are medical problems to flying (as Rancid_Pickle) mentioned above, there are other considerations that you would like to take in mind, to keep your flight (even short ones) as humane as possible. There are both boredom and physical considerations to cope with.

  • Chew gum: Gum can help your head relieve the pressure during takeoff and landing. It is slow and will help you adjust without a huge headache (or massive sinus infection, like I got the first time I flew).
  • Dress comfortably: Dressing in shorts or thin sweats can help make your flight that much more enjoyable. You are most likely not going to jump off the plane and into a meeting. Wear clothes that breathe, as you may not have a lot of air where you are.
  • Try to get seated where you like: If you have a choice of seating (oftentimes you will as not all the tickets have been confirmed). Get to the counter early, and get the aisle if you want to sprawl, or the window, if you want something to lean against (my choice).
  • Get the exit row: Unless you are feeble, exit row seating is great. In time of great need, you are expected to follow quite simple instructions, and you are the first off the plane. Now if the plane goes down, you are in trouble, but hey, you would be anyways. Look at it this way: leg room, and lots of it, for very little commitment. All of your relationships should be like this.
  • Get to know the person next to you: To re-iterate what pig said above, ask where the person next to you is going. You may just find a new correspondant (or a person to sneak into the airplane bathroom with *wink*) with just a little idle chatter. It also makes the boredom a little easier to cope with.
  • Bring a drink with you: Sure, airport prices are expensive, but worth every dollar. Some of the most beautiful, wonderful, most soul-quenching Mountain Dew I have ever had was has somewhere in the west (probably MSP, or Detroit, MichiganDetroit). Bring an extra drink. Water is best, but anything will do.

Trust me on the gum. You'll thank me later.

LOTS of drugs.

CAUTION! an EMT is not likely to be on board, so if you don't know what you're doing, you're likely to freak some people out, or die in the process of doing so.

Personally I've found ketamine to be the most pleasing, as it is a tranquilizer. However if you are daring and DO like hallucinogens, mescaline or LSD work pretty well. Think pretty flashing lights...

I would not suggest ecstasy, however; imagine the situation:

you press the flight attendant button...
*twiddle* *twiddle* *twiddle*
you: Excuse me Ma'am? Umm... (long pause) What's your name?
flight attendant: Linda... how may I help you, sir?
you: Umm... can I get a glass of water?
linda: sure! one moment
you: wait! Umm... do you want to give me a massage?
linda gives you a weird look.
you: wait, no... hold on... umm...
you pull some photon lights out of your pocket.
you: here, umm..
linda happens to be a raver chick so she understands your predicament.
linda: You want a light show, don't you?
you nod.
however linda isn't stupid.
linda: what do you think this is southwest?
I agree with most of the above information, but have a few tidbits to add:

1. The thing that got me from Montreal to Melbourne and back with little or no pain was a tiny pill available at most travel and health food stores called "No Jet-Lag." This is a homeopathic preparation and you have to take a pill every 2 hours, but I swear it works. It helps to prevent jet-lag and the bonus is that it makes you feel very sleepy and entirely relaxed. I'm a medical doctor and don't usually believe in or endorse this stuff, but I'm telling you, it's pure gold.

2. Sensory deprivation: bring a pair of earplugs, an eye mask, and an inflatable pillow for comfort (they always run out of the tiny, flat, white synthetic ones, anyway).

3. DVTs or deep vein thrombosis: this is basically what happens when blood clots form in the lower legs or more rarely, the pelvis. The clots themselves can cause swelling, pain and local redness, but the real danger is when they break off into the circulation ("embolize")and lodge in distant organs. The most common site is the lungs, producing a potentially fatal condition known as a pulmonary embolism. It would be virtually impossible to get a stroke from these blood clots, as they are in the venous system, not the arterial one, but I digress...

4. Air New Zealand is the best airline to fly to the Pacific Rim and beyond. The stewardesses are gorgeous, the seats recline all the way, the headrests are moveable and the dishes and cutlery are REAL.

5. Oh, yeah, and avoid EtOH and caffeine and drink lots of H2O.

Ever so often or maybe just once in a while you find yourself on a long flight. This can very often be an unpleasant experience, regardless of your destination. Usually going home is worse, probably since you're not traveling to something, just from. And then there's jet lag. This brief guide is an attempt to provide some hints and tips in order decrease the stress you might feel when traveling. Most of these are time saving steps before the actual flight. 

I've done a fair amount of business traveling. I've also done a fair amount of leisure traveling, but because of the former, the latter is usually not by air. I use my frequent flyer miles for upgrades instead of award travel, since the monopolistic and non-service oriented airlines have an intricate system of restrictions (blackout dates etc) in order to keep their frequent flyers from using their award miles. 

Now. "Long" is of course a loose term, but more than 6 hours in the air I think is a fairly acceptable definition of a long trip for most people. A 6 hour flight usually mean that the total travel time is much longer, since there are more things to factor in than just the flight time:

  • Check-in in advance: 1-2 hrs - international flights, less for domestic, depends on size of airport
  • Transport to and from airport: 1/2-3 hrs - can easily be a lot more if you don't travel much and therefore don't mind living in the beautiful countryside
  • Connections: 1-4hrs - luckily delays can make your layovers shorter, but on the other hand, the layover time is extended in order to compensate for delays...
  • Time zone difference: 0-4 hrs for a six hour flight. This spells jet lag
  • Delays: 0-X - most flights are not on time, although delays in arrival time is small when the flight leave on time.

Well now, what can you do about this ? There are basically three significantly different parts of the trip, and I will give you some tips for how to deal with them. The parts are Getting to the airport, At the airport and In the air

  1. Getting to the airport
    The best is being dropped off by car (traffic permitting), closely followed by public transportation that drop you off at the terminal. You might think that driving your own car would save time when compared to public transport. This is not always true, however. The parking situation at most airports is such that it penalizes people taking their car there, not only financially, but also time-wise. Transport to and from parking lots can take lots of time, especially during rush hours and considering that most airports are permanently in a state of a major construction. You can usually save considerable time if there's a dedicated train or subway to the airport, which is fairly uncommon in the US, but common elsewhere. Have someone drop you off at the station, instead. Usually you can find a lot of information about how to get to and from the airport most conveniently at the airport's website. Or just call your airline at the airport. They know about and suffer from the traffic situation every day.
  2. At the airport
    A great deal of the unnecessary time spent on travel is at the airport. This is because all airlines want you to check in as early as possible, in order to know how full the flight is. Many flights are overbooked, since there are a high percentage of passenger no-shows. This is not your problem, however. If the airline wants you to come 1-2 hrs in advance, come 50 minutes in advance. Note: It's a good idea having a margin in getting to the airport, while you don't need much time at the airport. In general, you don't need to spend much time at the airport. There will always be a line at the check in time, and if you're in it you'll get on the flight. If you want to do duty-free shopping, allow time for this. Flights will start boarding some 45 minutes before scheduled take-off time. 

    If you can and have few layovers, only carry hand luggage. You can save a lot of time by not having to wait for you luggage and by not having to fight with all your co-travelers for a cab

    An important thing to do at the airport is to make sure that you have a good seat. Ask for a better seat at check in, even if you have done so at the time of booking.  Spontaneous upgrades are usually only available when flights are full, but there's always a chance that you can get an empty seat next to you. If not, monitor the occupancy when aboard the plane, and then switch when the stewardess announces "Boarding completed"

    Alternative: If you have access to an airline lounge, by having a business class ticket or just for being very faithful to the airline - VIP member of a frequent flyer program - you can give yourself more time at the airport. Very often the airline lounge provide better food than will be served in the air, so you can eat in the lounge and skip the meal on the flight. You can also get some work done in the lounge. Or just hang around reading papers, drinking Bloody Marys.
  3. In the air
    If you have to deal with jet lag, you better have a plan. If you're not blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere, anyhow, you need to plan your trip. Plan for 3 hrs sleep. In order to get this, it's a good idea to ruin previous night's sleep. I usually do my packing late the night before ("Where the hell is my gray shirt?" "Honey, you're wearing it...") and then get up as early as I can. This ensures that I will be dead tired on the flight. A flight in coach/economy class usually means that your first wait, get a drink, then wait, then get dinner, then wait, then they show a movie, then wait, then wait, then a lighter meal before landing. A good plan is to sleep thorough the middle waits and the movie. A key to do this is alcohol. Note: If you're flying in a morning and have to be at your best when you land, you might want to be a little easy on the booze. Otherwise, get a beer or some champagne. Then have a (tiny) bottle of wine to go with the food and a whisky or cognac after the meal. This should get you a bit tipsy and sleepy. With the previous night's preparation, this should be enough for 3 hours sleep, which is a good start in fighting off the jet lag. Don't drink and drive

    Take off your shoes. Remove your contacts.

    Flirt with the air hostesses. Be very kind to them. Compliment their service. This always pays off, sooner or later. You know that you've been good when they ask you to fill in one of the airline customer satisfaction surveys right before landing. 

    Important to air travel is your equipment. You should always have loosely fitted, comfortable clothes. Skip the tie. Bring earplugs and one of those stupid eye covers. Also bring a book, a magazine, a bottle of water, lip balm and a laptop. The last is of course luxury, and if you have no use for it at your destination, you really have to think about its usefulness, since you'll end up with back problems from dragging it around. There are two things that you can do while in air that are invaluable: surf and node.

    Surf how? Easy. Just spend 30 mins downloading your favorite sites from the net. There are several tools for this, and if you don't run a do-it-all-your-bloody-self OS - which you probably aren't if you have a laptop - and use Windows instead, Internet Explorer has a fairly easy to use tool for downloading of sites for offline browsing. Just go to ENN and tell IE to download it all at one links depth. It's fantastic to be on e2 offline, trust me. No disturbing chatterbox. And when you eventually find something really interesting, do what I do right now. Node.

Yes, as the following noders say, be careful with the alcohol. Drink lots of water, hence the bottle of water that I mentioned.
A few additions to this node to help you deal with a long boring flight and not feel like hell on earth when you arrive, from someone who has flown too often and too far.

Bring two books. Bring three. Otherwise you'll finish one, and hate one, and be stuck with nothing to do. Running out of reading material on a sixteen hour flight is no fun. Airline magazines will not entertain you.

Bring a game or three. Load up your laptop or palm pilot with games. (You can even get the original Adventure game in palm format now.) Put headphones on, so you don't piss people off with the bleeps and plinking noises of the game. Air rage is not a pretty thing.

Bring a notepad or writing paper, and draw caricatures of your fellow passengers and send them to your best friend. Write a letter, a real one, in ink. Make up crazy stories about the very annoying tall person in the row in front of you, and get your revenge for the way he puts his seat back so far that it's scraping your nose.

Try to remember all the poetry that you were made to learn in junior school. Amuse youself with memories of that teacher with really bad curly nasal hair who mocked your pronunciation when you were reciting what you had learned. Regret, for a moment, that you didn't have an old-fashioned education and thus several volumes of memorised text to amuse you. Attempt to write a rude limerick that features someone from your destination. Go back to your book.

See how many languages you can count in. See how many languages you can swear in.

Move. Walk around as much as you can. Wiggle in your seat. Twirl your feet. Don't sit still. The risks of thrombosis are mugh higher if you are completly static. Also, walking up and down the aisles means you get to see what everyone else is up to, and how foolish they look with their fuzzy masks on. This helps with the caricature drawing.

Try very hard not to think about how much you want a cigarette. Wish that you had remembered to buy nicotine patches.

Don't drink any alcohol. Yes, it's tempting, and it's fun to get that instant buzz from lowered tolerance, and it's free, and it helps you fall asleep, but you will pay for it later. The effects are heightened, and you are more likely to get a socking hangover than you would on the ground. You will get more dehydrated than usual, and it can have a bad impact on jetlag.

Avoid fizzy drinks. You'll get all bloaty. It's something to do with the pressure in the cabin. Stick to still water or juices.

Make sure you are not wearing tight shoes. If you are, don't even think of taking them off because you'll never get them back on. Drinking tomato juice, or eating bananas, can help with preventing swelling up. It's something to do with the potassium.

Don't wear foundation. Or, strip if off when you get on the plane, and then slather your face with moisturiser unless you want your face to fall off.

Don't wear tights, or any nylony things close to your skin. You'll feel all prickly and revolting after about six hours in the air.

If you are on a long flight, and need to be smart at the other end when you arrive, pack some comfy saggy cotton clothes in your handbaggage, and change as soon as you get on the plane. Ask the cabin crew if they will hang up your suit (or smart stuff). Even if you are not in business class, they will often oblige. Otherwise, fold it up and put it in the over head locker. You'll be less crumpled, less smelly, and far more presentable this way.

Drink more water. Brush your teeth before you arrive to avoid that bottom of the budgie cage feeling.

Sleep. If you can.

I always had trouble sleeping on flights - or anywhere but a nice, quiet bed. So, after a hellish 24-hour journey home from Australia, I finally called my doctor and asked for help.

There are a number of sleeping pills that can solve the problem. While they don't completely knock me out, they do get me relaxed enough that I can fall asleep. On another trip, I was extremely glad that my MD had given me a small prescription for valium. I offered to pay for the divorce lawyers for the couple sitting next to me, rather than killing them. Without the valium, it would have been quite a mess.

So, if you're going on a long flight, and have the overnight-time to sleep, I strongly recommend seeing your doctor and asking for some sleeping pills. The rest makes the destination so much better!

Also, I agree wholeheartedly with heyoka - avoid alcohol when flying. Always.

1. The airlines do not provide any humidification whatsoever, and alcohol increases dehydration.

2. Alcohol, while sometimes helping people fall asleep initially, produces a much lighter, less restful sleep.

3. Air rage is increased by alcohol. And any normal person will become enraged without any alcohol at all after spending enough time on airlines. No one likes being a cattle. While I encourage air rage wherever I can (it's the only way to get airlines to improve conditions), it will get you arrested and charged with federal crimes.

Finally, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. In addition to drinking 8 oz. of water for every hour in flight (I usually drink more, but that is the minimum - and yes, you'll have to bring your own water), I use face and hand moisturizer.

The best "secret weapon" I've found so far for hydrating is nasal saline. Simple salt water that you put in your nose. It works like this: When the sinuses dry out, they become much more susceptible to infection. At least one person on the airplane has a cold or flu. More likely, everyone on the plane but you is contagious. Hydrating the nasal cavities helps significantly reduce the risk of infection. (Also, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching the nose or eyes.) (And definitely no unprotected sex with strangers in the bathroom.)

Eat an aspirin, (or half of one) half an hour before you get on the plane (the timing isn't critical). If it's a long flight, have another perhaps four or five hours in. This will have an anticoagulant effect on the blood, greatly reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis, also known as economy class syndrome. As already mentioned, moving your limbs throughout the flight also reduces the risk.

Don't listen to the in-flight movie/other provided entertainment, they charge a fortune for one of those little adaptor thingies that plugs into the armrest! Instead, try to bring some form of portable music player, and some good headphones (the big can ones).

Have a nice flight!

Airport showers.

On a really long trip, if the layover is long enough to do something other than run between planes, a nice, hot, refreshing shower is well worth whatever it costs. A nice shower is so refreshing after sitting for hours in an airplane, crammed in like sardines. It makes the next flight so much more bearable.

While flying to Bhutan recently, I had to go from Chicago to Tokyo to Bangkok, with a two and a half hour layover in Tokyo. I am a very tall person, and after 13 hours on the airplane, with little sleep, I was ready to scream. Or collapse in a puddle of misery. My hope was just to sleep in Tokyo. But after seeing how well the others responded to the showers, I chose to shower also.

The $3 spent on that shower was probably the best $3 I have ever spent. The shower was clean and the soap and shampoo were large enough to be useful. The large shower head massaged my entire body - I felt almost like a new man. I was able to sleep, soundly, for most of the six hour flight to Bangkok.

Airport showers are worthwhile, even if they cost much more... I could see paying $20 or more in the same situation. Or you can sit for hours in an airplane, tired, sweaty and aching.

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