Any flight lasting 6 hours or more is considered long haul. Despite the huge increase in long haul travel recently, a lot of people really struggle to cope with longer flights!
I’ve always enjoyed flying (seriously, airports are my happy place) and long haul flights don’t phase me. I’ve done my fair share of long flights over the years- to the States, the Middle East, Asia and Australia so I’ve fine tuned my long haul flying routine to ensure maximum comfort and minimum fuss.
Like anything preperation is key! Here are my top 5 ways of making long haul flying a breeze!
1. Choose your Airline carefully
When flying long-haul, you want the most comfortable option with good entertainment and food choices, plus a layover in a decent airport .
There has never been more competition between long haul carriers but plumping for the lowest flight isn’t always the best deal. Conversely, expensive does not neccessaily mean best! British Airways fares are typically quite high and although their flights are comfortable, the entertainment choices are poor; trust me on a 13 hour flight, movies matter. I’ve always had comfortable flights with Turkish Airlines but I’ve heard many horror stories of lost luggage and poor service from them and Istanbul airport is terribly unfit for purpose. Addis Ababa isn’t the best layover airport in terms of shopping and dining options, but it does have amazing bed like seats you can lie down on and Ethiopian Airlines has some really great fares from Dublin and London. For heading to the US, I only ever fly Aer Lingus.
But for anywhere else in the world, my top picks for long-haul carriers are the three big Gulf airlines: Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates. For me, Qatar Airways has the edge. Doha’s Hamad International airport is a fantastic layover spot (compared to over crowded Abu Dhabi with its poor restaurant/cafe selection) and on long haul flights, Qatar always come around after dinner with a goodie box. Free mars bars= winner all round.
2. Dress Comfortably
You need clothes that are comfortable, cool and that wear well (wrinkled is not a great look) and shoes that you can easily slip on and off going through security. But not crocs. Obviously.
My long haul standard travel outfit is some variation on black leggings or ripped boyfriend jeans, long white shirt or a breton top and an oversized cardigan. Bring a pair of cosy socks and an oversized jumper in your carry on and put them on as soon as you board. A neck pillow is also a must, if you want to get any sleep. Once the main meal is done, get cosy with these, wrap up in your blanket (I usually bring my own) and either sleep for a few hours or get stuck into the movies!
Location, Location, Location: For longer flights, always request an aisle seat so you can easily get up and move around during your flight.
3. Skip the Booze
This may apply to other nationalities also but Irish people in particular suffer from a strange compulsion to drink at airports, whatever the time of day!
The reality is, alcohol and flying make a poor mix. A few drinks before a short flight may not affect you but trust me, alcohol and long flights is a terrible combination! Flying makes you dehydrated, which the alcohol only exacerbates and adds to your jet lag at the other end. Also, it won’t actually help you sleep. It’ll keep you awake and twitchy.
4. Bring your own Supplies
The main reason you’ll have a bad flight is boredom or restlessness. Limit this by making sure you have plenty to keep you occupied!
I always travel with a neck pillow, my Zara blanket, an armful of glossy magazines, a good book and a couple of family-size Dairy Milk bars. I once barely noticed a 6 hour Istanbul to Heathrow flight passing as I worked my way through five episodes of Greys Anatomy and two bars of said Dairy Milks! Boredom makes for an uncomfortable flight so make sure you have books to read, music to listen to, etc.
Choose your own must haves and make sure you bring them yourself; don’t count on being able to pick them up at the airport.
Top tip: For long-haul, try not to bring a carry-on suitcase. If you must, also bring a holdall you can store under your seat so your in-flight essentials are in easy reach. It’s incredibly annoying (for you and others) having to hop up and down during a flight, to get things from the overhead.
5. Freshen up in between flights and pre-landing
An hour before landing, wash your face, brush your teeth and redo your makeup (optional for boys). It’ll make all the difference. In between flights, go for a brisk walk around the airport terminal, grab a quick coffee and wake yourself up a bit. Make sure you do some yoga or gentle stretching somewhere along the way too!
A nice welcome at the end of your journey always helps! My niece and nephew were on hand to welcome me when I landed at Shannon from Australia after 4 flights, 5 airports and 40+ hours of travelling in December.