Here are some tips for trans-oceanic flights anywhere from 6 to 20 hours long.

The 3 most important things are staying hydrated, good food, and sleep especially if you are traveling East to West. The 4th item is preventing boredom.

For West to East, you must sleep at least 3 (or 4.5) hours on the flight as you will arrive in the morning and your body will feel like 2 am.

For East to West, upon arrival, try to stay up as long as possible until 7 or 8pm.  Don’t be alarmed if you wake up in the middle of the night, as your body thinks it’s morning.

Before your flight:

  • Always arrive early.  Surprises like cancelled flight do happen.  If your luggage is over weight or oversize, you will have ample time to repack.
  • Make a note of where you parked your car at the airport by writing it down on your ticket stub or airline ticket.
  • Consider an aisle or exit row seat for leg room.
  • Order a special meal, such as a lacto-ovo meal which is usually served before the regular meals.  So if you like to eat early in the flight, order a special meal.  Passengers sitting in the rear of the plane are served last and often you don;t get a choice.  You will need to book this request at least 24 hours in advance.  Any last minute flight changes will ruin this strategy.
  • Look for flights with planes supporting Audio Video on Demand in Economy Class, which is great for watching 3 or more movies without draining your own laptop battery.  Mind you, those movies may be old and not the latest Hollywood releases, but hey, a 9 hour flight is a 9 hour flight!
  • Look for seats and airlines with 110/220V power plugs on every seat – then bring your own movies on your laptop or portable DVD player.  These power outlets were once a luxury to Business and First class, but now available on Economy on larger and newer planes.
  • Minimize your carry-on luggage especially if you have connecting flights.
  • If traveling with a group or family, cross pack with a buddy so if they lose your luggage, at least you’ll have half your clothes.  Of course, have your personal medication in your carry-on (I can’t stress this enough)

During the Flight:

  • Wear shoes to the restroom!  Some men have bad aim, and turbulence doesn’t hep!
  • Turn on the air vent above you, but this will dry your hair and skin.
  • Move around often, and sit close to the back of the plane to use the standing area by the air stewards.  But do not sit in the back row because of the smells of the restrooms.  It’s tough to walk around during meal or drink service.
  • If you are the “cold” type of person, wear layers.
  • Most important, pack a sense of humour. Travel is never perfect. 

Essentials and Luxury items Checklist:

  • If you are allergic to cats or dogs, bring your anti-histamines.  You’d be surprised how many people bring pets on board.
  • Bring a small toy for the screaming child sitting behind or in front of you.  Dollar stores are great for this.
  • Bring chewing gum or chips (preferably the baked type like Baked Lays or Pringles) for your ears.  Drink plenty of water as for every 1 gram of carbs stored as muscular glycogen, 2 grams of water is required.
  • Bring a hot sauce like Tabasco.  Usually the meals are decent on transatlantic flights, but on my last flight my meal was a rubber chicken breast with a slop of tomato paste.   By adding a few drops of hot sauce, it actually made my meal edible.  Some food is better than no food, at least for athletes.
  • Bring ear plugs and eye mask for sleeping, mandatory for flying West to East.
  • Bring your own pillow, or air pillow for your neck.  Use the smaller ones provided on airplanes for lumbar back support.
  • Bring Noise-cancelling headphones.  You can buy these for less than $50 and they come in two varieties:  around ear, and in ear “bud style”.  I personally like the Bose brand.  You’ll strain less from competing with the sounds of the engine, plus you’ll arrive at your destination more refreshed.  It also creates an anti-social atmosphere in case the person sitting next to you is too chatty.
  • Take Melatonin to induce sleep going East to West..  Use Sleepzyme for a natural product.  Do not use regular sleeping pills because in case of emergency, you’ll need to be awake FAST.
  • Wear slightly oversized shoes or bring slippers.  I wear loafers (i.e. no laces) that I can easily slip on and off.  Your feet will expand during long flights from prolonged sitting.
  • Bring an Amazon Kindle.  This is a luxury if you like to read several books concurrently.
  • If reading gives you air sickness, then prevent boredom by listening to books on tapes or Audio books over regular books.   If you use your iPod or Blackberry, be sure the radio mode turned off.  Audio books takes longer to “read” than watching a movie.  Executive book summaries are great.
  • Pack a toothbrush and a small facecloth in a zip lock bag in your carry on luggage.  You’ll feel refreshed after a nap or sleep.  Plus, bring nasal gel, lip balm or chap-stick, and eye drops.  Even bring hand lotion if you suffer from dry skin.   You’ll be amazed on how these little things help you feel better, even if the relief  temporary.