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Tips for Surviving Long-Haul Trips


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So you have planned your itinerary and are looking forward to your upcoming trip to the other side of the world!  To guarantee that you will enjoy your trip, here are some tips to be sure you arrive in perfect health!

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Pre-Plan for Health

Prior to departure, at least two weeks in advance is the time to focus on eating healthy, exercise (even if just a simple 15 minute walk daily), taking your meds and vitamins, plus avoid alcohol – reserve your toasting and celebration until you actually arrive to your international destination. 


Why all this pre-planning?  Well, to be honest as boomers we have to be sure our immune system is in top shape for you will be exposed the minute you board an aircraft to a plethora of germs and bacteria.  So boosting your immune system is paramount in insuring you will arrive to your destination healthy and happy!  I am sharing many of the crew protocols that will keep you fit!


Dress for Comfort

Dress for comfort not for show!  Be sure you are wearing comfortable clothing and shoes. Bring a neck pillow to avoid neck pain or strain.  Have your books/kindle/mp3 players /eye shades/ear plugs/ipad within easy reach as you begin the boarding process!


If you do select your seat in advance be sure you check with the gate agent that this seat is still assigned to you! Sometimes there will be an equipment change (different aircraft) and your seat will be different from what you thought you selected.


Remember the last few years the airlines now configure coach cabins with “economy plus” versus regular seats.  In short, if you pay a bit more you will have more leg room.  Just be aware the Exit Row seats DO NOT RECLINE.


Most long hauls provide a skinny little pillow and small blanket.  I always advise to bring a warm neck scarf, just in case you get a seat where you will feel a draft.  On larger aircraft, often the air circulation comes from vents in the ceiling out of your control.  So to avoid discomfort, having a neck scarf can prevent a draft and avoid the onset of a cold.  You may also want to pack in a soft hat to wear too.



Aircraft are dry and it is important that you hydrate often – drink water and avoid coffee, tea, sodas, and alcohol as they are dehydrating.


 A word about alcohol – due to the gravitational forces when flying, having just one drink is akin to having two to three drinks.  So be careful and I strongly suggest you avoid all alcohol.


First signs of dehydration are dizziness and weakness, so please ring your call button for crew assistance should you experience any of these symptoms.


The Boeing 787 is a new generation aircraft which is not made of metal but of a composite material.  The advantage of this is that the cabin environment will be less dry and you will arrive at your destination less tired and feeling more refreshed. 



What’s in a menu?


Airplane food is pretty basic – filled with preservatives to avoid bacteria and exposure to airborne germs.  The worse thing is to eat something in the terminal and experience illness when you are 38,000 feet high on a crowded plane for ten hours!  Oftentimes, you just cannot avoid eating what is served onboard, but prior to boarding be sure to have a very healthy meal.


Caution – terminal food! Often the food in terminals is fast food, loaded with salt.  I avoid all sandwiches (due to mayonnaise) as well as those fresh looking salads, for I do not trust who prepared them and question if the lettuce was washed properly.  I generally limit my terminal purchases to yogurt, café lattes, raw nuts, fresh fruit (oranges, bananas, apples), protein bars. 


Plane Exercise!


 It is important to get up, stretch and walk around.  If you are seated by a window and cannot get up as often as you wish, be sure to stretch, pedal your feet and rotate your ankles.

Exercise is critical in avoiding deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and swelling.  I always wear those thick knee highs that give circulatory ankle support.  You will experience swelling all over – especially your ankles.  Exercise and wearing proper support stockings will certainly help. Should you experience severe pain in your extremities, especially the legs, be sure to alert a crew member for this could be early signs of DVT.


 Moisture Everywhere!


Planes are very dry so in addition to drinking plenty of water, you will feel more comfortable if you also hydrate your skin!  This includes moisturizing your face as well as your hands and body.


Be sure you have those bacterial wipes and/or antibacterial bottles with you to sprit your hands often!  Everything you touch is loaded with germs and so you must avoid touching your face, hair or lips with your fingers to avoid illness. Contact wearers - be sure you hydrate your eyes with eye drops for this will help the redness due to dryness. If possible wear glasses.


Just spraying your face with water will feel good but will cause more drying – so limit those spirits!



Seating Arrangements!


Over the years the airline industry has reconfigured the coach seating into sections based on pitch of seat as well as leg room.  I would suggest you pay the extra to “upgrade” to seating with more leg room.  This is especially true for those of us who are bigger in size.  This is the single most important advice I can give you in that you try to select a seat you will be most comfortable.  Generally the exit row seats have the most leg room though they do not recline.


A word of advice re those “bulkhead seats”.  The seats themselves are smaller and separated by enclosed structure and not just an armrest.  People with infants will reserve these seats as the bulkhead supports a baby bassinet when fitted.  Though no one is sitting in front of you, these seats are not very comfortable.



You paid for the seat and your expectations are high but a word of caution!  Be prepared that things will not go as planned!  In other words, be sure you have your own computer/ipad to view your selected movie or video for your seat’s video may not be working that day!  Sure you paid for the seat and expect all to be working properly!  You’re entitled, right?  Of course you are – but what can you do 38,000 feet in the air at that moment?  Submit a complaint, but what good does that do.  You will be given a card wherein you can address your complaint, but what do you do for the next ten hours?  Best to have a pre-flight plan in place. 

If you wish to sleep be sure you bring your own eye shades.  Some carriers offer but most US carriers do not provide for coach service.  Ear plugs important too.  Earphones are provided but today most are not disposable and you are wearing earphones that have been used before, albeit sanitized.  However, I personally use and bring my own.



I hope these suggestive tips will help you in planning your trip.  Be prepared and have a plan!


Happy Travels!


November 7, 2022


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