Last time I flew from Israel to New York, I took my lowly coach seat in front of a pair of adorable but extremely vocal and apparently tireless two-year-old twins and I was sad to realize that the in flight entertainment screen in front of me was not only tiny and featured only 3 movie options, it was also completely broken. “First world problems,” you may say, but since I was flying back to take the bar exam, I had brought along nothing to entertain myself for twelve hours other than study materials, and twelve hours is longer than you may think. Miraculously I survived the flight and the exam, but the experience prompted me to write this post on how to prepare for a very long flight. Contrary to the aforementioned incident, I’m actually pretty good at flying if I do say so myself, so I’m including a list of my favorite things to bring with me along with some tips to make things go smoothly.
- Invest in your own headphones
Having your own headphones is important even though most airlines hand them out. For the gym and everyday use, I just use the Apple earbuds that came with my phone, but for long flights, I find that earbuds of any kind become uncomfortable over time. Instead, I recommend cushioned headphones that go over your entire ear. I bought an inexpensive Sony pair that I love and have held up great, but if you’re willing to make an investment, Bose’s noise canceling pair is amazing. Also, Bauble Bar recently teamed up with FRENDS to make some stylish sets that I may just have to get for myself.
- Wear fuzzy socks and a pashmina
Planes are cold. It’s a fact that when it’s -60 degrees outside, it’s hard to keep it warm inside. For long flights, I pack a really comfortable pair of fuzzy socks that I change into when I sit down. I also wear a pashmina as a scarf when I travel and use it as a blanket instead of the questionable one provided by the airline. Big Buddha scarves are some of my favorites, and you can find them at Steinmart for great prices!
- Don’t take that sleeping pill until after the in flight meal
If you plan to take a sleeping pill on your flight, definitely wait until after dinner (or lunch or breakfast) is served. Usually the meals come within the first hour or so of the flight, and once they’ve been served, you’ve usually missed your chance, so it’s worth the wait. I’ve made the mistake of falling asleep before dinner in the past, and, trust me, they will not wake you up to serve you. Which brings me to my next point…
- Pack some snacks
Aside from saving yourself from the highway robbery that is airport snack prices, having some granola bars or other snack food on hand is really useful if you miss dinner or just hate what was served. I generally don’t like the breakfasts served on planes, so I’ll turn to a snack bar to save me. I recommend Quest and Luna bars, since they tend to keep you full for a long time without a huge surplus of calories or sugar.
- Make at least one playlist
I like to use Spotify for my music needs, and for traveling I have two separate playlists downloaded to my phone for offline use: one for sleeping, and one just for fun listening. Spotify is also great because you have an endless selection of music if you have wifi on your plane.
- Keep a phone charger handy and a SIM card if you’ll be changing it
Most international flights now have an outlet for chargers, and it can be necessary if you’re using your phone or tablet for music or movies. I always keep mine in the bag that will be under the seat in front of me, since I try to avoid every having to get anything from overhead luggage mid-flight. I also recommend having your SIM card on hand if you’ll be changing it when you land in the next country. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen struggling to find theirs an hour before landing. (Fun tip: you can use your earring to open the SIM card slot in an iPhone if you don’t have a paper clip.)
- Neck pillows are goofy but totally worth it
I’ve gotten through many flights without a neck pillow, but I always feel better afterwards when I use one. Unless you’re in the window seat, you always wind up doing that awkward nod yourself awake thing or falling asleep on your neighbor. When buying a neck pillow I recommend one with a snap to make it a full circle, since it keeps you from nodding your way out of it. Mine is a memory foam model from Sharper Image, which I prefer to the bean bag poly fill type.
- A good book is priceless
Electronics fail, movie selections occasionally suck, and layovers can get extended, so I recommend always having a good book to turn to. If you’re going to use the old fashioned paper kind, don’t wait to buy it at airport prices. My two recent favorites: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Both are a little more thrilling than what I usually read, but I couldn’t put them down.
- Bring a water bottle
It’s important to always drink a lot of water, but especially so when you’re traveling. Since you can’t bring a full bottle through TSA, I bring my empty CamelBak Eddy bottle and fill it at airport water fountains as I go. That way, I can be sure I’m getting my daily H2O without paying the $4/bottle gift shop price. In a pinch, Starbucks will usually fill up a venti cup of water for free.
- Patience is not a virtue (after the flight is over)
Unless you have a specific reason to wait or walk slowly to customs and immigration, don’t, especially if it’s not the customs and immigration of your home country. I’ve watched a line for passport control go from manageable to hours long over the course of a few minutes because more than one flight was landing. While I don’t recommend stressing about it, a brisk pace to customs won’t hurt you, and at best it could save you hours of grief. Be sure that you have any necessary paperwork filled out and ready before the plane lands, and be assertive in your disembarking.
Nobody really loves long flights, but using these tips can make it a little more bearable. Just remember, the destination usually makes the journey worth the trouble.