For Marathon runners, especially those who enjoy travelling to multiple Marathon events in a year would enjoy the benefits of doing so as it involves travelling to different countries and it means that they will not be spared from the toll that comes with long haul flights. For anyone feeling intimidated by a 10+ hour flight, there are a few tricks-of-the-trade that will get you through your flight and feeling like a champion. Here are some of our survival tips for long flights to emerge refreshed, relaxed and ready to start your Marathon travels.
- Pack smart for long haul flights
Packing smart is key when you’re traveling. Plan exactly what you will need during your flight, ahead of time. Carrying a good personal bag for travel should have plenty of space, zipper closures, and pockets & compartments for organization.
While a few little extras definitely help, keep things travel-sized and to a minimum. Ideally, take one cabin bag and a smaller handbag or shoulder bag (where hand baggage restrictions allow) so that you can keep your smaller essentials like water bottle, ear plugs and mp3 player within easy reach under the seat in front of you.
After travelling with a huge backpack with lots of camera stuff I have learned that a heavy backpack is not a good idea as a hand luggage, because if you have many stopovers you need to carry it on your back, many airports don’t have a trolley for hand luggage and also not many places to sit. On another hand, all airports are suitcase friendly. Instead of using a backpack it is better to use a small suitcase as hand luggage.
- Wear comfortable clothes to travel on the plane
Choose clothes that you’ll be happy to wear after ten hours sat on a plane. Remember, sitting still and being blasted by a powerful air-condition system can get chilly, so wearing several loose layers are ideal to adjust your temperature as you fly. In case of emergencies, closed toed shoes are better than flip flops and make sure you don’t wear any footwear that’s too snug, as your feet do swell at high altitudes. Wearing stretchy or loose-fitting bottoms, such as leggings or sweat-pants, a comfy top and a cozy over-sized sweater or cardigan that can also act as a blanket.
Slip-on shoes are good for the security line and getting comfortable on your flight. You’ll also want to pack a pair of compression socks to avoid any health risks such as blot clots and DVT (deep vein thrombosis).
Another popular idea is to put on my airplane pyjamas as soon as you are settled on the airplane. Make sure you pack extra shift like underwear etc. Bring your normal daily essentials like face wipes, antibacterials, and your favourite snacks. It is no point of being uncomfortable just because you are on a plane. Use comfortable clothes that you can also sleep in. If you can, adjust to the new hours in terms of when to eat and sleep.
- Reserve a good seat when making a flight booking
Here are a few simple choices you can opt for:
- If you want more leg room, opt for exit rows
- If you want to avoid crying children, stay away from the front of the plane as this is often where you’ll find special provision for babies on international flights
- If you like to move about the plane (or have quick access to the loos) make sure you get an aisle seat
With regards to seat selection, choosing a middle seat with people that sleep all the way would force you to wake them up because you need to go to the toilet. You could choose to sit in the aisle because you would be able to walk around as much as you want at any time you desire. You may be able to assign the seat while checking in at the airport, however, if you want to be sure you get an aisle seat, window or near the exit, you should assign it beforehand when making the reservation.
- Prepare yourself for sleep
Getting rest during your flight is important and, while it can be challenging, it’s totally doable. Come prepared by bringing your own travel neck pillow (I suggest the inflatable kind), an eye mask to block out the light, earplugs for any crying babies or noise cancelling headphones may help too.
You may also bring a lightweight blanket and a comfy travel pillow. And if you have a lot of trouble sleeping, make sure you pack an eye mask to block out any light. Setting your clocks to the local time in your destination as soon as you board the plane would be a good idea.
An hour or two before landing, you could go to the toilet to freshen up your mouth and face to send you off feeling fresh and confident. I would not advise waiting until the last minute to go to the toilet – otherwise you may end up dealing with a long-line or a “fasten your seatbelt” sign.
- In-flight eating and snacking
You’ll get fed on a long-haul flight but it may not be when or even what you’re expecting – travelling through time zones often means you end up with breakfast at dinner time and noodles or curry first thing in the ‘morning’. Don’t forget to bring some snacks and to stave off any bouts of hunger while you’re waiting for the rattle of the food trolley, stow a few slow-energy release snacks like cereal bars, nuts or dried fruit in your carry-on luggage.
Packing a snack cures hunger for when the flight attendants are not serving meals but also gives you something to do. I suggest a bag of almonds or a protein bar of some kind that is easy to pack, easy to eat and easy to dispose of.
If you do have any type of food allergies, be sure to make note of it online when booking your ticket. The airlines plan their meals in advance so you don’t want to end up with a “chicken” or “beef” option as a vegetarian.
- Move around in the plane
Stretching your legs is not only necessary to avoid the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Keep the circulation flowing in your legs by doing gentle exercises at your seat, and get up every two hours. Moving about the plane once in a while is much more conducive to getting some healthy rest than popping a sleeping pill. You can also do simple stretches while seated.
- Stay hydrated
Aircraft cabins are often very dry places and the chances of becoming dehydrated are high. Drink plenty of water slowly and regularly and avoid too much tea, coffee and alcohol. Bringing a bottle of water on the plane will not be allowed due to liquid restrictions.
Airplanes dehydrate your whole body quickly and will not only make you feel bad but can also do a number on your skin and eyes. I suggest a good hand moisturizer, a tinted face moisturizer that can also act as a concealer, under eye cream, lip balm, and a re-useable water bottle. Staying hydrated is key in fighting jet lag as I talk about in my article on how to fight jet lag.
Also be sure to limit your alcohol intake and double up on water while flying as it has a dehydrating effect on the body.
- Stay entertained in-flight
Some airlines have personal entertainment systems with free movies and music available on long-haul flights. But, don’t assume and come unprepared. The last thing you want is to be stuck staring at the back of a seat and tray table for hours on end.
Most of us bring a laptop in the hand luggage. It is a good idea is to save some movies on it or something else to do like editing photos, writing blog posts etc. You could also watch movies on Netflix where it is possible to download to watch it on your phone/pad with the app.
Alternatively, you could read books on a Kindle and physical books. It’s a nice break from starting at a screen, and gives my battery a break.