10 Tips to Survive Long Haul Travel

 Anna Kooiman, New York City, Washington Square Park PHOTOS: Lydia Hudgens

Anna Kooiman, New York City, Washington Square Park PHOTOS: Lydia Hudgens

Is there somewhere you've always wanted to travel that requires a lot of time in the air? A cool town in Europe, Asia, or Australia? A place you've been dreaming about? What's stopping you? Are you thinking something like this? "I can't bear to do that flight... it's a long haul. It's too overwhelming. I'll stay home. I can't do it!" Well.... I say.... "YES you can! And here's how!"

As I sit here at the airport awaiting to board a flight from my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina... heading all the way to Sydney, Australia.... I'm thinking, "Damn! This is a LONG way!" LOL And it is! Close to 30 hours door to door by the time you drive to and from the airport. And that is with out delays, etc.

This recent trip home has been a jam packed 12 days... I spent time in New York City, Charlotte, Hilton Head Island, SC and Savannah, GA. So in a lot of ways.... I'm ready to stop moving for a minute! But as has been the case every time I do a long haul flight... once you get there.... it's worth the time sacrifice!

I've learned some long haul travel tricks throughout my international journeys... so I will share some here:

1. Load up on the H2O... Take it easy on the alcohol. It's always fun when the food and beverage cart comes by on long flights... and you might be extra excited that you don't have to pay for beer and wine.... But I advise against drinking too many booze.  It's easy to get dehydrated on these epic journeys in the air. Alcohol adds to that likelihood. You may be thinking... a few glasses of wine will make me sleep like a baby. In truth... it may put you to sleep... but the quality of sleep may be degraded. You'll likely wake up more exhausted than usual. You may also want to consider bringing some flavor drops or lemon to add to your water. It will encourage you to drink more of it!

2. Keep your toiletry bag handy. It's nice to be able to brush your teeth, wipe your face down, etc... I like to put wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer in there too. The other must have for your magic sack? Moisturizer? Your skin will likely get very dry while you're up in the air. Lotion will keep you comfortable. I recommend bringing a moisturizer suitable for your face and body.

3. Invest in a pair of compression socksBut buy them before you get to the airport. I forgot mine this trip and ended up spending about three times what I would have if I'd planned better! Compression socks are often recommended by physicians because they keep the blood flowing on long flights. They prevent achey legs and feet that can be associated with cramped seating. I remember my first time traveling from New York City to Sydney... my feet swole up like a monster! LOL Not a good look! AND... it took a couple days for the swelling to go down. I could feel the tops of my feet jiggling when I was doing a soft sand run on the beach! Hahaha All to say... definitely buy a pair of compression socks!

4. Walk Around. Even if you don't need to use the restroom... Get up! Get moving every so often. I leave my seat every two hours or so. Just like using compression socks... walking around keeps the blood flowing and decreases chances of deep vein thrombosis.

5. Check the back of the plane for free fruit and snacks. I have found that on most long haul flights the airlines will keep apples or some sort of fruit in a couple areas accessible by passengers between meals. This is particularly helpful if you were snoozing when the meal cart came by! It seems airlines usually have a savory snack like cheese crackers, and a sweet treat like cookies, and some sort of whole fruit, like apples.  

6. Bring a shaker cup and protein powder. I like to bring the individual packs... and pick a blend that also includes some vitamins and minerals. This won't take up much space in your carry-on... and will be great to have if you don't get enough to eat or you don't like the meal you were served. Drinking a protein shake along the way will also ensure you are getting proper nutrition. Again, it also encourages you to drink more H2O!

7. Bring healthy crunchy snacks. I like to bring split pea snacks, dried chickpeas, or edamame. These are great between airline meals. The salt and crunch often gives me a little pick-me-up if I'm feeling motion sick or lethargic. I also love carrying these in my handbag while I'm out exploring once I arrive at my destination. I would rather grab a healthy snack from my bag than buy something that's unhealthy and not worth the calories... just because it's quick, easy, and cheap.

8. Pack a compressible, comfy, and cozy jacket or sweater. Sometimes these flights get cold. I mean COLD. The airlines will provide a light blanket, but sometimes that's not enough for me. I like to be snug as a bug in a rug when I watch back to back movies! The jacket is a biggie... don't forget!

9. Fight jet lag by getting on your destination's time zone ahead of time. Here's what I mean... Even if it is mid-morning in your departure city... if it happens to be evening in your destination city... imagine the meal you are about to eat is your DINNER... not your breakfast or lunch... sometimes you can really fool yourself. Some folks who are serious about fighting jet lag will do the same thing an entire day before flight time... waking up in the middle of the night for example because it is 'morning' in their destination city. This will help you feel fresh the moment you arrive so you can hit the ground running! When you reach your destination city... also make sure you go to sleep at the local bedtime... not your departure city bedtime.

10. Consider eye masks and melatonin to help you sleep. A lot of folks like to take sleeping pills, whether over the counter or prescription. But I prefer to do things in more natural ways when possible. Eye masks (similar to headphones) can help tune out the foreign environment around you. Melatonin can help get your circadian rhythms on track for your new 'bedtime.' It is said to reduce the time needed to fall asleep. I often use melatonin when I'm doing long haul travel. But just as some others report, it gives me weird dreams! Some sleep doctors say the proper way to take melatonin is to give yourself a time limit over a set number of days so you don't risk becoming dependent.

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