Long Plane Flights and Jet Lag
Did you know that the world's longest commercial flight is over 17 hours? You may not be planning to travel for that long, but this may be the first time you'll be on a plane for an extended length of time. Don't let this get you down! To make sure you're prepared, we've gathered some tips and info about staying entertained, staying healthy, and managing jet lag.
Most flights, especially longer flights to Europe, Africa, and Asia, will have TVs in the back of seats, so you'll have some things to keep you entertained. You could also download a TV series to a tablet, computer, or phone to binge watch on the plane.
The flight is also a great time to ready up on the culture and history of your country, journal, and brainstorm goals for your time abroad.
Things to pack:
- Smart Phone/Tablet
- Book, Journal, Coloring Book, and Pen/Pencil
Long flights can be pretty tough on your body, so it's important that you proactively take steps to keep yourself healthy.
Before Your Flight
- Avoid Greasy Foods
- No one wants to deal with tummy trouble while sharing a bathroom with 100+ people.
- Pick Your Seat in Advance
- If you aren't able to book your seats when you buy your tickets, you can usually check seats about 24 hours before your flight. Window seats are great for leaning, but can make walking around and going to the bathroom a little difficult. Be strategic!
- Dress Comfortably
- Choose loose fitting, comfortable clothes, and bring an extra layer in case you get chilly. Most airlines keep their temperature a bit cold. When dressing for the plane, keep in mind the weather and culture of where you're landing.
- Bring some Snacks
- Most long flights will have a meal or two, but if you're a picky eater, or always hungry, bring some dried fruits, nuts, chips, etc.
- Change Your Watch
- Yeah, we're making the assumption that you own a watch and don't just use your phone for time, but really...changing your watch or phone to your new time zone will help your body deal with jet lag. But don't let it cause you to miss your flight!
During Your Flight
- Stick to Water
- Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine while onboard. These drinks will dehydrate you and disrupt your normal sleeping patterns. Also, the effects of alcohol are much stronger onboard because of the plane's high altitude.
- Stay Active
- Stroll the aisles every 90 minutes or so to keep the blood moving in your legs and cut down on swelling and cramping. Do some small stretches as well!
- Freshen Up
- Plan to brush your teeth, wash your face (go for face wipes, not liquid) and take your contacts out before taking a nap.
- Get some Sleep
- Economy seats aren't known for being spacious, but you can still catch some Z's. Bring an eye mask, headphones/ear plugs, and a neck pillow. Using a sound machine app on a phone can help drown out noisy neighbors as well.
After Your Flight
- Stick to Local Time
- Don't focus on what time it is at home...it'll just get confusing.
- Get Outside
- Try to get as much sunshine and fresh air as possible.
- Take some Vitamins
- You can start taking immunity boosting vitamins before you travel, but they're helpful to continue once you land. Because the air on planes is all recycled throughout the flight, this can lead to a cold or cough during your first couple of days on the ground.
Managing Jet Lag
Jet lag is caused by sudden changes to your body's 24-hour clock. When you switch time zones, your body gets confused, and you could get headaches, exhaustion, diarrhea, or constipation, and weird sleep patterns. Here are ways to beat jet lag:
Drink Lots of Water
Being dehydrated will make jet lag symptoms worse. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Time Your Activities
On the plane, start thinking in local time and align your sleeping and eating schedule with local time.
When you arrive, spend as much time in the daylight as you can. This will help your body adjust to your new time!
You may be really tired when you land, but if it's morning in your host country, try to stay active and fill your day with tours, sites, and errands.