I recently returned from an excursion to Turkey where I spent two weeks. My flights, with layovers, came out to be 30 hours there and 25 back. You learn a lot about yourself when you are locked in a shuttering steel tube next to a perpetually farting man with nothing but the tiniest of meals to sustain you.
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Most of all, you learn how incredibly mind-numbing it can be, and how cruel certain airlines are as well (not referring to Sun Express from the picture above, they were actually a delight). I am not a rich man, so I fly economy and I get the cheapest (meaning longest) flights possible. This means that to get to Turkey from Panama took me five flights total, one way, and almost all only had a one and a half hour layover, just long enough to get through customs in the different countries and get to boarding a sweaty mess. On all but one of these flights, only one had free in-flight entertainment. The others had the entertainment available, for about one million dollars from what I understand in the conversion of U.S. dollars to rubles or whatever other currency they were using on Obscure Airlines.
So, without further ado, here is a slew of things that helped me make it through these trips and pass the time while still maintaining a shred of dignity and the will to live.
Track Your Finances
Okay, okay, this may not sound that fun, but scanning in your receipts to your phone with a free scanner, and keeping track of what you spend particularly during the flight portion of your trip can be a good way to use up some time. Why? Because when you need to do a long journey again (as I will next month), you will have a much better idea of how much money to spend so you don’t need to survive on nothing but muffins and tap water like me. Seriously, two mid-sized muffins are what I bought: $12.
I hate bad breath, and when you are flying you will be in close proximity with other people, most of whom don’t care at all about their mouth musk. Gum is actually better than mints in this case because mints often leave a weird aftertaste that eventually goes sour on you. Having this on a long flight will at least help you avoid self-consciousness when conversations start.
Cushion Time for Delays
My goodness is this important. It is our nature to want to arrive as fast as humanly possible, so we tend to plan for the shortest layovers. On a long trip with multiple planes involved, this can be disastrous. The amount of things that can cause delays, as two of my flights were (one had no fuel in it), can bring on so much more stress to your trip than is necessary. I recommend planning for at least three hour layovers as flights are often delayed for an hour while they refuel and clean, and it gives you time to go through customs if you are flying international without being a seething, stressed, hot mess the entire time.
Bring External Chargers
On smaller airlines, they don’t have outlets in their seats, and if they do they charge you just to look at them. Therefore, I bring two Poweradd Apollo 3s in my carry-on, each with the capacity to recharge my phone or tablet two times. That way I can load my devices up with movies and games, and not have to worry about conserving the battery. On my layovers I recharge both my device and external chargers.
Have All Important Articles Under Your Seat
This is particularly important if you are in the window or the cursed middle seat. You don’t want to have to get up every little bit and make your seatmates get up as well so you can get your Virtual Boy out (and then put it away because it’s terrible and you shouldn’t have spent that $1,000 on it). It also makes it easier when the custom forms come around. (Bonus tip: Carry extra pens. Because chances are someone next to you will be uncomfortably looming over you while you fill out your forms waiting to ask you for your pen. When you notice the looming, just offer an extra and save yourself the discomfort.)
Bring a Change of Clothes/Brush Your Teeth
Layovers can be brutal. You feel disgusting and often have to fight through every minute to stay awake so as to not miss your next flight. Changing your clothes, washing your face, and brushing your teeth can be wonderful in waking you up and getting you emotionally prepped for your next leg. Some airports, like Frankfurt, even have showers!
So Many Snacks
Not much to be said here. Long flights with little food means you should bring snacks, especially since snacks on flights cost about as much as snacks in the airport ($12 for two muffins people!). See our favorite travel snacks here.
I think neck pillows are ridiculous. I laugh and scoff at people who wear them so proudly as they saunter onto planes where they intend to sleep comfortably as my head dangles limply and painfully on my rolling neck. But I did join the unashamed ranks on these last flights, and my goodness are those travel nerds right. It makes a huge difference in comfort after about hour 10 of the expedition.
Forget About The Others
Let that mouth gape and that drool stream down your chin in a glorious, shimmering, unabashed river! They don’t care that they are filling the plane with human mustard gas. Get some sleep, who cares what they think!
On my flight to Turkey I brought a full foot-long teriyaki chicken sub from Subway. Stuffed it right in my carry-on. A teaspoon of scrambled eggs, a weird coconut cookie, and chicken food soup just isn’t going to fill me up on a nine hour flight. I didn’t regret for one minute scarfing down that glorious sub while watching my seatmates shrink before my very eyes from starvation.
Delays? Don’t Stress!
My last tip for you. If your flight is delayed, maybe you even know for sure you are going to miss the next one. Don’t stress out about it. I have not once had an airline say, “Too bad,” and make me buy another ticket. If the delay is their fault (and not because I was late), they have always changed my ticket, and if there are no flights until the next morning, they put me up in super nice hotels with free food. So it’s all good in the end!
Do you have tips for making long day of travel more comfortable? Tell us in the comments!
See our tips for beating airline luggage fees here.