Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by Chip »

Since I have had my feet swell up during a long flight I would actually recommend against slip-on shoes. Unless they are expandable. It's rather embarrassing having to exit the plane carrying your shoes. :D

OP, I have had the best luck adapting to time zone changes by arriving near the end of the day, then heading off to an early bedtime. Of course this often isn't possible. For those redeyes to Europe I try to make sure to plan out several activities that require walking or other movement that will fill the day so that I won't be tempted to sleep outside of a normal schedule.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by JackoC »

dbr wrote: Sat Jul 10, 2021 4:30 pm
2. I stay off the alcohol and my wife is a non-drinker anyway. The idea that you get plastered and then go to sleep might work for some.

11. Think about how to get to a hotel as soon as you arrive and/or also before you depart. We have gotten to be more and more enamored of airport hotels anymore. People have their own ideas about jet lag, but I find the issue is not circadian but just loss of sleep and best managed by getting sleep and good food as soon as possible. An overnight stopover can be better than connecting on. Often stops less than 24hr. are a connection and not a stopover, but you do need to check your luggage correctly.
Yeah alcohol depends. I've sometimes felt I was better off with a drink to relax, nervous flier, but overdoing can obviously be a problem (and I mean headaches from the compound effect of alcohol and very dry air, I don't mean making a fool of yourself or getting taken off in handcuffs :happy if one has any history like that then obviously don't start).

Others mentioned sleeping pills. Again you have to know your own reaction and if it's strange behavior then it's an obviously stupid idea. Assuming that's not your reaction, a still dangerous potential problem relates to your 11. Many package vacations (to Europe from eastern US for example) seem to have you on the go the first day there after a night on the plane. Friends of ours had the sleeping pills only really kick in after they got there, or that was the presumed cause at least of a rental car crash they barely survived. Last trip we made to Europe the package had us walking around the first day with just the sleep on the plane (which is never more than marginal for me) but rental car wasn't picked up till after a night in hotel.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by THY4373 »

btq96r wrote: Sat Jul 10, 2021 4:00 pm 2. Anxiety/sleep aids
Ambien if you can get it prescribed, or an OTC sleeping pill.
Careful on this one. This is considered a controlled substance in the UAE and can get you into trouble if you try to bring it into the country. I am not sure if this is unique to the UAE or something that happens elsewhere. OTC should be relative safe since, at least in the US I think they are mostly antihistamines.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by devopscoder »

Nate79 wrote: Sat Jul 10, 2021 9:59 pm One thing I try to do for long flights is always carry on my own food. Airplane meals are nasty so I try to grab a to go meal in the airport before boarding.
Having some healthy snacks packed in your bag is a good idea but I disagree on the nasty airplane meals. Maybe that’s true if you use a US or low cost carrier but I flew Emirates recently from Boston to India in Economy and the food was excellent.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by VanGogh »

Be well rested before your trip, take a few packs of travel size antibacterial hand wipes and lots of disposable face masks. Everything is temporary. Remind yourself of that as necessary during your flight.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by Sandtrap »

Lay flat and recline seats in first class.
Independent Cocoon type layout is great
Nearby bathroom that is not crowded
Window seat with lots of space
Noise Cancellation Headphones
Movies on iPad or Laptop
Cozy neck pillow
Comfy clothes
Good seat neighbors or no seat neighbors.

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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by rvflyer »

Prokofiev wrote: Sat Jul 10, 2021 4:08 pm Try Melatonin. It can help reset your interal clock as well as putting you to sleep
on the plane. Even if you cannot completely fall asleep, keep trying during the
noctural hours of your destination. Don't stay up and watch a movie because you
cannot immediately sleep
There is a new time release formula melatonin at Costco— great item!
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by dboeger1 »

I haven't flown to Asia since I got married there years ago so these tips probably work better for a single male traveller than a family, but here's my 2 cents.

I always try to book one of the aisle seats in the very last row in the back next to the restrooms. They're generally available as most people tend to avoid them, but in my experience, those seats are under-appreciated gems. It makes it really convenient to know how long a line for the restrooms there is, if any, and it's easy to pop in quickly when there's a vacancy without anyone cutting in ahead of you. There's nobody behind you to kick the back of your seat. You're close to flight attendants if you need anything. Some of the larger planes have some more standing room in the back, mostly reserved for flight attendants, but depending on how casual they are, passengers often use it as a stretching area. You also don't get "trapped" by flight attendants with service carts as often. When you're in the middle sections of a plane, you can often have carts in front and behind you preventing you from getting to a restroom or spending too much time in the aisle reaching into overhead storage or whatever, but being in the back helps mitigate that. Lastly, I find that the certainty of being in the back helps me relax. When in the middle, potentially having to swap seats or getting stuck in the aisle while boarding is stressful. In the back, there's no worry about getting in anybody's way, and there's no temptation to get up prematurely to disembark. If you have overhead luggage, there's no chance of having to go back behind your seat to grab it.

There are some downsides to my preferred seat selection, but they kind of tie into my other tips. When sitting in the back, there's a really good chance you won't get much if any overhead space. I've found that there's a strong linear correlation between how poor passengers are and how much they try to pack for international travel. Flying to more provincial/rural areas of third-world countries in particular, I swear if regulations allowed it, people would strap goats and chickens to the wings of the plane. Wealthier, more experienced travelers know to pack light, but first-time flyers, immigrants, etc. are often going on a life-changing trip and insist on taking as much as possible just in case of any unforeseen emergencies. Depending on how many of those people you get on your flight and how much they're willing to abuse luggage rule loopholes, the overhead storage may be completely full by the time the plane is half-boarded. I've seen people essentially wear extra luggage under coats just to get it all onboard and then shed like 100 pounds of stuff off their body into the overhead bins. Those same people also tend to spread their stuff out as much as possible and close the overhead bins themselves to discourage others from squeezing in beside them. As a result, one of the nightmares of flying internationally is that people seated up front have to go way back to store their bags, then make their way back up front, and then go back to get their bags when disembarking... and heaven forbid they insist on pulling something out mid-flight. Once was enough to deter me from ever taking overhead luggage onto a long international flight. I decided then and there that I would only ever take a small bag that I could fit under the seat in front of me, and then I could ignore the stress of overhead luggage completely.

Another downside if you sit in the very back is that there is often some kind of box or other obstruction under the seats in the back corners. I don't know what it is or how to explain it, but essentially, it takes away some of the under-seat space for your small carry-on item, so don't expect that thick backpack that you have to squeeze under the seat on most flights to fit in the back row. I limit myself to something really compact like a laptop bag, and I never have any issues regardless of where I'm seated on the plane.

One of my biggest tips is not to rely on movies alone to pass the time. I remember my first 12+ hour flight, I was blown away by just how bored of movies I could get in that time. The thing is, depending on movie length, I might get through 4 movies plus short naps and still have hours to go in the flight. I found it very hard to stay interested in any one form of entertainment for that long. The more movies, shows, books, video games, puzzles, activities, music, etc. you have to choose from, the better.

I never did splurge on noise-cancelling headphones when I used to travel more because I was either a poor college student or early in my career, but after my last long flight and as an adult with money now, I definitely think they're worth the money in case of a crying baby. It was a flight to China and there was a crying baby on board with an impressive set of lungs. That baby cried, I kid you not, for at least 8 hours. And by cried, I don't mean fussed, I mean that baby screamed bloody murder for 8 hours straight. The baby's mother tried everything in her power to calm the baby down, but to no avail. I felt really sad for her because you could tell how embarrassed she was and how hard she was trying not to inconvenience the other passengers, and thankfully everyone on the plane was understanding and sympathetic so there was no confrontation, but I guarantee the only people who slept well for the next 3 days had noise-cancelling headphones. I had never been to sensitive to jet lag or anything like that, but I had a massive migraine that kept me awake for days because of that baby, and I felt like absolute garbage.

If you've never been on an international flight before, especially a longer one, know that they start boarding and even even close the doors quite a bit earlier than domestic flights. One of the big reasons is that they check everyone's passports and visas at the gate to make sure everyone's eligible to travel abroad, but also boarding just tends to take longer due to the size of the planes and passenger habits. I remember my first flight to China, I took my time at some shops in the terminal before going to my gate. I arrived at the gate about 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time, and they were almost done boarding. I thought I must have been at the wrong gate because that couldn't possibly have been my flight, so I asked the gate attendant if I was in the correct place, and they confirmed and explained to me that international boarding happens quite early. I had flown internationally before but only as a kid with my parents, so I must have just never noticed. Since then, I always make it a point to find my gate first before going to any shops. This has saved my butt on numerous occasions with short layovers. I had a layover at Narita in Japan once, and I forget the gate number, but let's just say it was 45. I followed the signs for gates 1-45, and it looked like the vast majority were quite close to each other, so I figured I had plenty of time to reach my gate. It turns out the first 40 gates or so were in the same area, but then there were signs for 41-45. I followed those only to find 41-43 were open, but there was construction going on and 44-45 were somewhere quite a bit farther away in what may as well have been a different terminal. It ended up being like a 25 minute power walk, all within a single terminal and using numerous conveyer belts, to reach my gate with about a 40 minute layover. The thing is, a friend of mine had asked me to buy something for him since it was my first time traveling to Japan and he was obsessed with some kind of Japanese magazine or something, so I could have easily spent quite a bit of time looking for that in shops and missed my connection. By getting to my gate first, I had a better grasp on how much time I really had to find the thing, and I was able to buy it at a shop next to my gate.

One last thing I'll mention is to either dress light if you tend to sweat or feel hot, or dress in light layers to keep warm. This may sound obvious, but there's a very specific reason related to long international flights in particular. Every once in a while, you'll hear a story about a long international flight being delayed by several hours and passengers being upset because they were kept on the plane the entire time. I was on one such flight where we were kept on the plane for 4 hours for some silly traffic reason unrelated to our plane. I don't know if it's regulations or what, but the flight attendants and pilots always say something along the same lines in such circumstances, which is that they are not allowed to get back to the gate, or they already checked everyone's passports and have everyone on the manifest, etc. Basically, they don't want to undo any of their flight preparations, but inevitably, the hot, uncomfortable passengers get tired of being stuck on the plane after a while with crying babies and whatnot, and they certainly don't want to extend such long flights any longer than is needed. I also had another flight with a similar but unusual situation in China. When we were about to land, it turned out a bunch of flights were being diverted due to an unexpected military exercise taking up significant airspace, and so we were required to sit on the plane for about 3 hours at a nearby airport until we were cleared to land at our destination. Basically, all that is to say, be prepared to sit on the plane for much longer than you think and try to dress comfortably. I saw a comment above discouraging pajamas, but honestly, I've been on enough long flights to Asia now to think pajamas aren't such a bad idea, and there are often people getting pretty comfortable and casual so I don't think it would raise too many eyebrows.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by firebirdparts »

I have observed that I can’t drive properly while jet lagged. So be concerned that you may be a very bad driver when you get there. My brain is not fully recovered for 3 weeks.

If I’m in business class, I much prefer to leave at night and take Benadryl. Bit of a sledgehammer of a sleep aid for me. It doesn’t affect everyone the same way. I watch movies too.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by JupiterJones »

My own personal tricks. YMMV:
  • A tablet computer and some good earphones/in-ear monitors take the place of many things. Movies, games, books, music, language lessons... all right there. A flight that long will often have USB charging ports, so be sure to bring a cable on board with you. Otherwise (or as a backup), consider bringing an external charging pack. You can find quite small ones.
  • That said, I do like a good printed out crossword puzzle, sudoku, etc.
  • The best way to reduce your chances of lost luggage is to not check a bag in the first place. Yes, even for (especially for!) international travel. This requires packing lighter than you might be used to, but it's worth it. Google things like "one bag travel" and "packing light" for tips.
  • Related to that, I try to reduce extra gadgets and geegaws as much as possible. Would a neck pillow and eye mask and noise cancelling headphones be nice? Maybe. But it's also nice to not have to fool with a pillow/mask/headphones for the rest of the whole dang trip.
  • Yes, definitely have a photocopy of your passport/etc. stashed in your bag and a photo on your phone/tablet.
  • Above all, keep this phrase from Patton Oswalt in mind: "It's chaos. Be kind." There is so much that will go on that is outside your control. Roll with it. Heck, savor it. The nutty stuff is what you'll remember anyway.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by Atilla »

1. Sit alone with just your companion if possible. If the seating is 2-5-2, get a seat with just one other person, that way you are window or aisle. If it's just you and your companion, great. Flip up the arm rest between you and relax.
2. Leave around your normal bed time. We did a direct 9-hour flight from Chicago to Munich that left at 9PM - perfect.
3. Eat and drink heavily.
4. Fly a decent airline like Lufthansa. My back hurt more on the 45 minute United flight into O'Hare than it did the 9 hours on the economy Lufthansa flight to Munich.
5. Noice cancelling headphones are your friend.
6. Ibuprofen as an advance painkiller; of you have an oxy prescription, even better.
7. Be in good shape for stamina and seat fitment purposes.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by NewishBog »

Wear an N95 mask or compatible with an additional cloth mask over that. Yea, not sure I could do that for such a long flight myself. But that's my tip.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by kevinf »

NewishBog wrote: Thu Jul 22, 2021 3:58 pm Wear an N95 mask or compatible with an additional cloth mask over that. Yea, not sure I could do that for such a long flight myself. But that's my tip.
At that point, you should just wear a proper half-face respirator, it'd be FAR more comfortable and tolerable... as well as provide P100 protection.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by Dude2 »

gailcox wrote: Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:35 pm 6. Others: the crew really appreciates it when passengers bring us treats, such as mints, individually wrapped chocolates, health bars, Starbucks gift cards, etc. Those passengers get a nice thank you and anything else (not an upgrade) we can do to make their flight better, be it extra pillows, a better seat in the same cabin, free liquor we will provide it. This gesture means a LOT to the crew on these long flights.
Thanks for saying this. It had never occurred to me to do this. (Not so much the food items, as, if I were you, I might be wary of items given to me by strangers -- kind of like trick-or-treating, but the Starbucks gift card seems like a great idea).

My best advice is not to drink alcohol, but feel free to keep hitting the coffee. You can try to watch the entire Lord of the Rings, extended editions.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by Beachey »

On 12 hour flights to Asia, I used to like to mentally break it up in 4 hour segments which I thought of as US Coast to Coast equivalent.

First 4 Hours, flight and meal
Second 4 Hours, try to sleep
Last 4 Hours, flight and meal.

Other have given great advice but if you are Coach like me there is no way I am sleeping for the entire flight.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by smalliebigs »

The longest I had was for 27 hours, including layovers. Man, that was crazy. At my last layover, I just didn't dare sit down at the airport, because I knew for sure that I would fall asleep instantly. So I just kept walking in the terminal.
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by Arabesque »

I have had a number of long, long flights (Australia, Singapore (realized that I was only half way in Narita airport), 20th century flights to China that took 20 hours and more). The only comment I would add: Compression stockings for long flights: ... -socks-on/
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Re: Boglehead Tips for Long Flights

Post by LadyGeek »

I removed a contentious post regarding use of masks in-flight. Please stay on-topic.
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