Tips for surviving long flights … from first-hand experience

May 8, 2016

I'm pretty adaptable, however, like many in my age group, my body has suffered some damage over the years

I am in Greece as we speak and as the Greek philosopher, Aristotle once said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and “happiness depends upon ourselves.” This definitely is true for long distance plane travel.

What I have learned about travelling overseas during the last 30 years is don’t try to fit everything in at once. NOT every site, nor every tourist attraction, but perhaps every type of food!

You only end up feeling worn out, overwhelmed and over-stressed, not to mention unlikely to remember it all.  Quality is my key objective and a reasonable amount of quantity.

Once you have booked your flights and accommodation, the best thing is to consider the ‘bits’ that don’t seem important, but are.

Getting there

The key thing for me is getting to my destination in a reasonable physical state and the ability to quickly adapt to the different time zone.

Of course I am referring to economy class –  business and first class is way better,  at a price.

The flights from Australia are always long and most Europeans and Americans cannot believe how we do it.  “That’s just how it is,” I always respond.

“We live a long way from your countries and if we want the multi-cultural experiences we make sacrifices”.

The good thing is that once we get there and allow for some physical and mental adjustments, everything is well worth it.

I’m pretty adaptable however, like many in my age group, our bodies have suffered some  damage over the years. For me, mainly due to high impact sports, my back, neck, and legs are the key areas I focus on when flying as they cause me the most discomfort.

My key points for coping when travelling economy:

  • Be prepared mentally i.e. accept the situation;
  • Realise in advance that it is tough going squashed in an economy class seat;
  • Accept it is only short-term discomfort;
  • Think of the things that will help to ease the burden;
  • Speak with your doctor about possible low dosage sleeping tablets for the longer 14 hour leg of the trip (I never take them for anything less than an eight hour leg);
  • Go with the larger carriers if possible – a380’s;
  • Travel socks are essential to reduce swelling of the legs and ankles, put them on as soon as you find your seat;
  • Then put the airline provided socks over yours to prevent getting dirty for the next leg;
  • A neck pillow is essential. Fabulous varieties around and I often used another one to sit on;
  • Eye mask – helps your brain to adjust to the new time zones manipulating light and darkness;
  • Ear plugs can help; I don’t always use them.

My guide to plane seating arrangements:

  • Window seat – not for the view (although a bonus for aerial photos), but for my feet and leg’s:
    • Stretch out one leg at a time near the window and you don’t disturb anyone;
    • The a380 planes provide more space between the seat in front of you and the window;
    • I can also position myself to  avoid snuggling up to a stranger on one side and have room to place the pillow near the window;
    • If people next to you are asleep it only takes two strategic positions to step over them.
  • Aisle seat
    • One of my travel buddies prefers the aisle seat as he can easily get to the toilets;
    • Risks are losing an arm or a leg as the flight attendants heave their trolley by your seat;
    • Higher probability of forgetting about the aisle when falling asleep and getting injured or cuddling into your seat buddy;
    • Great for easy access to toilets and going for a stretch.
  • Middle seat
    • Avoid them as much as possible.

My flight to Greece

My recent trip to Greece was on an Emirates A380 airbus in an  economy window seat (45K) and not far from the toilets. The complete trip from home to Athens hotel took a total of 26 hours with a 4.5 hour stopover in Dubai.

At Dubai, I pre-booked a seat in a specifically dedicated lounge for AUD$69. Once I found it (as Dubai airport is huge), it was well worth every dollar to get away from the crowd.

There is great shopping at Dubai airport to pass the time.

I’m here … in Athens!

On arrival to Athens by early afternoon, I didn’t need to sleep. Albeit if from a little jetlag, I dumped my bags in my room, gained my bearings in the local area and made my way to the Acropolis. It was a perfect walking distance from my hotel. I was a happy traveller and slept like a log that night ready for the next day.

I arrived in time to join in the Greek Easter festivities and I am still in Greece!

It was a minor sacrifice for a major reward.

Stay tuned for more of Nanny Babe’s adventures overseas. Got any tips to share? Please do!

Ruth Greening on Blogger
Ruth Greening
On the birth of her two grandsons, Ruth Greening experienced an awakening in her life. Entering Gen GP (grandparent generation) and given the moniker Nanny Babe as her 'grandmother' title, she found things had changed since her child rearing days, and an adjustment to new parenting concepts was required. Hence the birth of the Nanny Babe blog.

Ruth holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & Philosophy, completing this degree while working as a hairdresser and supporting her two children as a single mother. Ruth is presently working full-time in contract management and has experience in marketing, modelling, commercials, film and community radio.

Nanny Babe is presently busy with her hobbies—jewellery/crafts, singing, dancing, fitness, memoir writing, blogging and mentoring and facing the challenges of the next ‘retirement’ stage of her life. Connect with Nanny Babe on her blog - hit the link above!