How I Learned To Love The Long-Haul

As some of you may know, I love long-haul flights. I look forward to the excuse to do nothing, watch mindless movies, and consume as many transcontinental calories as possible. Now I used to dread these sojourns, but after years of business travel (luckily in business class), I have developed a very basic system that doesn’t require Ambien or a bottle of wine… and can work even in the back of the plane.

I just shared this with the gorgeous Anne, as she will be arriving in Bangkok in fewer than 48 hours, and thought you all might enjoy it as well.

Think of it as an opportunity vs a torture device. You get to lie around, eat whatever you want (calories don’t count in the air), watch TV and movies with no guilt. We’re always distracted by something on the ground, so use the time in the way that will make you happiest. Planes can be a very creative space, and I often do some of my best thinking over a tray table. As Neena would ask, “what do you want to do with your 15 hours?” Whatever your pleasure, find a way to enjoy 15 hours off from responsibility and life!

Create a sky spa. I always buy ear plugs and a good eye-mask (make sure it’s temperpedic, with room for your eyelids to flutter, so that you get more natural sleep); lavender oil (quells anxiety and smells like a spa); meditation podcasts; face spray; eye drops and tiger balm. I constantly spray my face, hydrate my eyes, put lavender on my pulse points and even use tiger balm on my shoulders and back to reduce muscle stiffness. (These products come in handy once you arrive too!) My neighbor usually doesn’t mind the aroma (I’ve even shared the face spray at times!) and it’s a nice refresher on a long journey. (I even have a friend who deep conditions the ends of her hair before she boards a long flight, but I can’t say I’ve tried that.)

Do an outfit change. Once I get to my seat, I change into a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Much more comfy and that way you have something to change back into and not feel like you’re rolling out of bed when you get off the plane. A cozy scarf can be like a baby blankie in the sky… Think soft and snuggly!

Strategize your sleep. I used to think I had to pass out for as long as possible, but now I plan my sleep according to how I need to feel when I land. I usually try to land in the evening, and stay up most of the flight, with little naps in between, so that when I arrive, I’m exhausted and sleep through the night. When I went to China last summer, I arrived at 4 pm, booked a cheap 2 hour massage, ordered room service, and had one of the best night’s sleeps in a long time, waking up refreshed in the morning. Give yourself time for a lazy day the next day if you can.

Guzzle… Water. A flight attendant with the most luminous skin one told me once to drink a bottle for every hour on the plane if possible. I buy a huge bottle before I get on the flight and ask attendants to refill it, vs constantly getting new bottles (sometimes they balk at that.) You’ll go back and forth to the bathroom a lot (but hey, it’s good for circulation and breaks up the time!). It really helps with jet lag, and between that and the face spray, your skin will look amazing.

Be the weird yogi. Stretch; get your legs above your head (not recommended for economy!); open up your hips with a modified pigeon pose (it’s possible on a flat bed or against the wall in the bathroom) or forward bends; unkink your back and shoulders with some seated spinal twists. Do a little acupressure on your feet (insoles, under the ankle bone and between the toes), along your jawline and temples and in between your fingers… Or wherever feels good. Most people are sleeping or ensconced in the in-flight entertainment anyway, so no one will even raise an eyebrow.

Binge on Brad… Or Ryan or George. I download an entire season or two of a show to watch for the flight and for sleepless nights that can come with jet lag. (Nothing like a little Coach Taylor or Jack Bauer to kill the long hours!) I always think I’m going to watch a serious movie or read a biography, but really I just like to veg through the air, and am guilty of sniffling through RomComs and giggling through cartoons. I like to stretch my horizons and watch something I’d never choose at home, or a film from the country I’m going to in order to help get into the culture and mind-set.

Talk to the flight attendants!
Or other passengers, if they’re awake and you’re bored — you never know who you’ll meet! Flight attendants have great tips and stories… I love to ask them about their favorite places they’ve visited, the craziest thing that’s ever happened to them, and how they build a life on the road. And if you befriend them, sometimes they’ll sneak you extra water or treats!

Dream up a treat at the end of the flight. I like to have something to look forward to, whether a massage or a favorite dish once I land, so rifle through your guidebook and create a relaxing experience to welcome you on the other side.

My packing list:

Analog (most are available at the airport, whether a tech store, duty free, or L’Occitaine):
– Tempurpedic eye mask
– Ear plugs
– Face spray
– Lavender oil roll on
– Eye drops
– Tiger balm
– Emergen-C or other electrolytes
– Advil
– Chocolate (my favorite are those little Lindt balls!)
– Sweatshirt and sweatpants
– Scarf (cashmere if you can!)
– Notepad and pen (planes can be creative places!)

Digital:
– A charger (don’t pack it in your suitcase!)
– A full season of a TV show
– Meditation podcasts or music
– Guidebook or Evernote clippings to peruse

Would love to hear any other tips and tricks you all have… Happy flying!

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8 responses to “How I Learned To Love The Long-Haul

  1. This piece should be published in the magazine “Travel” when you come back you should submit it !!! I regret so much not having taken this trip with you !!! XXX CW

  2. Thanks Red! This will come in handy on our honeymoon to Africa… Can’t wait to catch up when you are back! (Although not sure if I will be applying lavender oil to pulse points…)

  3. Having travelled quite a lot with Lady Cara … Her secrets work as she is a great travel companion whether its Mexixo City, Hong Kong, Jarkarta, Shanghai or Beijing!

  4. Red! Love this– any meditation pod casts you recommend? Lavender oil is a ritual of mine in the evenings, would love to take the relaxation to a new level (although at the moment Vivaldi is doing the trick).

    Keep the posts coming, love reading about your sojourns. xx

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