Long Haul Help

Long Haul Help

Being a short girl has its advantages, but dude–16 hours in coach? Is there a way to endure this without wanting to hurl myself out the nearest exit door? We shall see.

Yes, I’ve got a 16 hour flight approaching, and it will likely see me trapped in a seat back in steerage class. My normal coping mode (ie, sleeping) isn’t likely to be a possibility. After all, I’m great at sleeping but not in 31 inches of upright space. The longest flight I’ve ever been on was 12 hours, but I was lucky enough to snag first class heading to my destination, and business class on the way back. So how does one cope when you don’t have a comfy seat?

Maximize your living space. In other words, don’t try to be a hero by storing your carry-on bag under the seat in front of you–actually use the overhead bin space. Even a shorty like me needs the space to stretch out. Plus, you might want the space for a foot rest; apparently there are a variety of options available, from inflatables to hammock styles. Foot rests can be particularly useful for short folks, and help with circulation. Also, I tend to like window seats because it gives you slightly more living space during a flight.

Readjust your reality. If I’m leaving from Eastern Standard Time, the second the flight is off the ground, I leave all that behind–I adjust the time and date to where I’ll be when the plane lands. There’s something to be said for the power of positive thinking, and it makes a difference to how bad your jet lag is if you’ve already taken steps to adjust your body and mind to a new location.

Bring comfort to the plane. There are certain things that are a necessity for long flights–noise cancelling headphones, comfy socks (I may try compression socks for this super long flight), an eye mask, and a heavy sweater. The worst thing in the world (to me) is to be freezing cold and subjected to screaming babies, unable to escape. And since I’m cold even in the best of circumstances, I’m always cold on flights–I also kind of find weighted blankets comforting, which means those flimsy airline blankets don’t cut it. Oh, and hand sanitizer. Sanitize everything in your vicinity and then regularly sanitize your hands. This is part of my flight routine, no matter where I’m going, and I haven’t gotten sick from some flight germ in years. I’ve also been experimenting with neck pillows. I have one of those half donut shaped things, which is fine. Last year I bought a Turtl, but I find that the synthetic fabric of the wrap makes for a sweaty neck. And lastly, if you wear contacts, make sure your contacts are out for the flight. Of course, that kind of thing can be a pain–I once dropped my glasses to the side of a business class seat, and the flight attendant had to tear apart a wire hanger to fish the glasses out.

Wear comfortable clothes. Speaking of comfort, don’t wear anything that’s going to dig into your waist or squeeze your innards or otherwise make it hard to move around. I have two go-to outfits for longer flights: leggings and a long soft shirt, or a long, loose cotton dress. For my upcoming trip, it’ll likely be the former–with a heavy sweater. Sort of like modified pajamas.

Stay hydrated. I usually have a gigantic bottle of water with me on a flight, no matter how short. I prefer Smart Water because of the electrolytes, but any water will do. Don’t booze it up, no matter how tempting it may be–it’ll just get you dehydrated sooner. Staying hydrated contributes to decreasing jet lag and decreasing my chances of getting sick (I’m convinced of that). I also like to have skin moisturizer on me, which helps my skin stay hydrated. I usually have a Korean face mask on me (like the paper masks soaked in essence), but I have yet to actually bust one out during a flight for fear of looking like a psycho.

Binge-watch something fascinating. Not gonna lie: I can waste an entire day on my couch, getting lost in reruns of Dexter or Buffy. That’s on my couch, though, lying flat on my back. I’m good for binge-watching on a plane for maybe four hours. Then again, if the in-flight entertainment includes all the Harry Potter movies, that’s just about 20 hours worth of movies. Even if I can only manage four hours, though, at least that eats up some time.

Read something fascinating. Luckily, I always have about ten books queued up to read, but I have trouble concentrating unless I’m super comfortable. Still, I’m going to try–I have vivid memories of choking back tears in the middle of the night while reading on a flight to Lisbon.

Bring on the podcasts. Most podcasts make me fall asleep, but maybe that’s the beauty of them. Usually I load up on Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase, Welcome to Night Vale, and some political podcasts. This time around I’m also going to load up a yoga nidra guided meditation. I’ve been using it to sleep when I’m stressed out at home, and I tend to fall asleep within minutes. Might as well try it on the plane!

Let your mind wander. As a writer, some of my best ideas come when I’m trapped somewhere with nothing else to do but a single task–like when I’m in the shower or when I’m driving. So I always make sure that I’ve got paper and a pen so I can outline a new novel or journal or doodle or whatever. Most recently, I acquired a Remarkable, which means I can also hand-edit manuscripts, etc.

In-Seat Yoga. Good for circulation, good for relaxing. You can do a yoga practice without leaving your seat.


  1. posted by
    Mike Hawkins
    Dec 26, 2017 Reply

    9 1/2 hours has been my longest flight so far, from Helsinki to Chicago. Pretty much agree with you on every point. I agree with the ‘dress comfortably’ rule, but one can dress comfortably and still dress like an adult (think khakis, a button down collarless shirt and cotton blazer which doubles as a blanket. Leave the yoga pants, obnoxiously worded t-shirts and flip flops at home, please.

    I don’t really take books with me anymore but my devices with books from audible, concerts and movies. It’s so much better now that it’s possible to download shows and movies onto devices using the netflix app.

    I also try to take snacks like banana chips, sunflower seeds and such along with packing some water bags that i can refill in the terminal. Beyond that, I’m always unfailingly polite to the crew, because they can definitely make your flight either much more bearable or hellish

    • posted by
      Nicole Wolverton
      Dec 31, 2017 Reply

      Seriously–treating the flight crew like gold is super important.

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