I've really only ever had one enjoyable long-flight experience. On an 11-hour flight from Delhi to Helsinki, I was randomly bumped up from economy to first class! Finnair has these reclining seats that transition into a bed, complete with an entertainment system and someone at your beck and call all the time. It was night time, I fell asleep for a good 6 hours, woke up, watched two films, ate (the food was surprisingly pretty good) and before I knew it, I had landed.
In contrast, travelling 9 hours on connecting flights from Delhi to Port Blair was a completely different experience, and not the good kind.
Long flights are a real test of patience. You have to really really love travelling to be able to sit in a cramped space up in the air while dealing with noisy kids, smelly feet, and crowds for hours on end.
How do you survive the crazy ride, you ask? With adequate preparation. Here's my list of everything that one should ideally carry on a long plane journey.
1. Slip on shoes
Try and avoid wearing lace-up shoes or fancy boots when you're travelling. Instead use slip ons, especially useful during security checks. Feet tend to swell up during long flights and you will find it extremely uncomfortable to keep your shoes on the entire time. I prefer ones that have a thick sole and are open in the back, as they're easy to take off and put back on.
2. Thick socks
Let's face it, no one wants to step on the airplane floor, barefoot. Other than that, your feet will get cold due to the in-flight temperature setting. So if you're taking off your shoes, you'll want a pair of nice, warm socks to compensate. Thick cotton-blend sports socks from Adidas or Nike are my personal favourite.
3. Light jacket/hoodie
Another essential to beat the chill, a light jacket is perhaps the most important item on this list, if you don't want to freeze to death. I love hoodies because they're super comfortable and also like your personal space in the aircraft and will prevent people from disturbing you too much.
4. Noise-cancelling headphones
A lot of flights offer earphones, and some even headphones for your entertainment. But airplanes are noisy and no matter how carefully you book, there will always be a couple of people travelling with cranky babies and screaming kids. Noise-cancelling headphones seem like heaven because they help you create your very own personal space.
5. Snacks and water
If you've not heard the phrase, "stay hydrated on airplanes", you most-definitely have not taken a long flight. Plane cabins tend to get extremely dry, so it is important to keep hydrating yourself to prevent cracked lips and painfully dry nostrils. Purchase bottled water in-flight or at the airport (if you airline allows it) instead of asking for re-fills on the plane (the on-flight water containers are usually not cleaned regularly and you might end up getting a bug).
Also, the importance of keeping yourself well-fed on an aircraft cannot be undermined. Although, most long flights will give food periodically, they may not be serving when you're hungry. Carry light packaged snacks with you; something like a granola bar or biscuit packets.
6. Source(s) of entertainment
In-flight entertainment is still a rarity in India but even international flights can't guarantee quality movies/music. The only way to know is if you've travelled by the airline previously. So, do yourself a favour and carry your entertainment with you. Books, Kindle, films and music on your phone or iPad—whatever floats your boat.
7. Portable charger + usb cable
If you're using electronics on the flight, chances are you'll run out of battery sometime. Nowadays, most flights offer USB inputs for charging phones. These aren't dash-chargers but will prevent your electronic device from conking off. If you're looking for a more reliable solution, invest in a portable charger with multiple ports and keep it handy. I use the 20,000 mAh powerbank by Mi.
8. Something to prevent you from smelling
Make sure you carry breath mints and deodorant. By the time you get off the airplane, your body odour would get the better of you. I personally don't prefer going through the toothpaste-toothbrush routine on airplanes and therefore prefer carrying breath mints. If you want to step out of the plane, not looking and smelling like you haven't bathed in a week, keep your favourite deodorant handy as well.
9. Face wipes and moisturiser
Another important hack is using a face wipe to get the deadbeat look off your face, upon landing. These handy little tools will save you a trip to the lavatory, to wash your face. A moisturiser is also useful during the entire duration of the flight, as your skin will get dehydrated and in extreme cases, cracked. However, make sure that you do not exceed the 100 ml liquid limit for checked in baggage.
10. A little something to help you sleep
Long flights are extremely exhausting and light sleepers can have trouble taking a nap — something that is absolutely necessary. I'm not suggesting you carry sleeping pills, but herbal oils or sleep sprays work really well for calming your nerves when you're up in the air. Melatonin supplements also work great for this.
11. Hand sanitiser
Flights are a breeding ground for germs. It is essential to carry a small bottle of sanitiser that you can slap on before you eat. This is important because you don't want to catch a bug during your travels.
12. Tote bag
It is extremely inconvenient if you have to reach into your carry-on every time you want to get something out. A cloth tote bag is my solution to this problem. Everything mentioned in this list can easily fit into a tote, which can be folded and kept in the carry-on till you're inside the flight. Then you just need this little guy, and your main bag can easily be put in the overhead bin. Extra leg room and no troubling the co-passengers, a win win!
What are your travel essentials? Feel free to share your recommendations with the community.