For whatever reason, I have never in 30 years of travel been able to fall asleep on a plane. I guess I feel the I need to be on standby in case the pilot needs me for anything important. And I want to be sure he didn’t accidentally fall asleep, so I am continually listening to the jets. This is a tough situation to be in, and you may as well embrace the misery now. Some of you lucky ones will be able to sleep through most of the journey, and if this is you, more power to you! Others of us can’t catch a break on that end, so I have devised a plan that keeps me sane. Well, sort of. For those of you that are sleepless, here is what I attempt:
1. Know the length of your flight, and come to grips with it. I once had a flight that I thought was about 4 hours (I didn’t check!) and when I was boarded and settled in, nearly had a panic attack when the pilot announced our 8+ hour flight time. I was not mentally prepared and had to get myself in hand. This was a mistake never to make again.
2. Change your watch to the time of your destination before takeoff. That said, I wear a watch on a flight. It is easier to quickly see the time than finding my phone and by seeing the time after each of my below listed activities, keeps my mind settled.
3. Just before your flight, change into comfortable clothing, preferably layers. In order to rest, you need to be cozy, but the temperature can fluctuate on the plane. I don’t like to look like a vagabond, so often I will choose pants that look like slacks but are actually yoga pants. I layer a t-shirt with a sweater, have an extra pair of soft socks in my bag and shoes that can be slipped on/off easily. You will most certainly want to slip on your shoes each time you need to make run to the bathroom as well as for your hourly walk-a-bout.
4. Eat simple and light food on the flight. I often carry snacks that I enjoy for a meal replacement if needed, or if I just need a munchy snack. I also like to keep ginger candy with me in case my tummy chooses to rumble, and also my own coffee or tea packets. I’m a bit choosy and this creature comfort is soothing. These Ginger candies are nice.
5. Choosing the right seat ahead of time makes a huge difference. I prefer the aisle always, otherwise I have found I am stuck and not able to get past a snoring seat mate. Some planes have a nifty little secret space that has only 2 seats instead of three. This is often near the rear of the plane or at the end of a seating section. Honestly, the best part is that because of the missing seat, there is usually a little more space and a little more storage room for your treasures. I book this when possible and have always been thankful.
6. While I am one of those that always struggle to drink enough water, an international flight is not the time to skimp on your intake. Drink all you can get in. Yes, water in also means water out, but when you follow my schedule you will be up and around enough to handle it. The basic suggestion is 8 oz of water for each hour of your flight. I would stress this is really a minimum. You can either bring a bottle from home and fill it just before you board if you want, but the flight attendants will gladly provide what you need. Ask if needed, but drink it down
7. Pack a small bathroom/hygiene bag. I like to keep a small baggie or makeup type bag that I can grab easily (it can live in the seat pouch) for hygiene or bathroom items. This may have hand wipes, toothpaste/brush, contact solution, makeup remover or any other items that may help me feel clean or relaxed. Ladies- all those little special things are handy in here as well. I also often pack a second pair of panties.
8.Keep only the items that you need for the flight at your seat and put everything else up in overhead storage. A reusable or compact bag is nice for this purpose. You want to keep the space near your feet as clear as possible, and a big bag down there can get uncomfortable.
9. To promote rest, carry items such as chamomile tea, headphones, eye covers, socks, pillow, and blanket. (some travel blankets roll up to fit inside the pillow. This is mine, and I love it).
So, now that you have everything in place, I schedule out my flight. I think about it ahead of time, and try not to give myself too much wiggle room. My biggest goal is to keep my mind calm and relaxed, and if I get too far away, claustrophobia can set in and overrun. For the first hour of the flight, I allow myself to settle in, figure out who the people are around me, and get all my items in place. I scroll through the movies and make a mental list of possibilities for later in the flight. I look through the books I have previously downloaded on my kindle, and begin to get excited about those. In doing this, I am allowing my mind to have something to look forward to later on. Generally, just about one hour after takeoff, the flight staff will begin to serve drinks and a meal. I hold off on any activities until this is finished. I take the time to enjoy the meal and then take my first run to the bathroom. Once that first session is behind me, I break the rest of the flight into 2 hour segments. My options are generally a movie, reading, a game app, or a rest time. I choose the first activity and jump in. At the halfway mark of each one, I get up for a walk and stop at the bathroom. It is important to stretch, and on an international flight you will not be reprimanded for wandering around. Find some more water, and finish the second hour. I find that keeping this schedule has made the long 12 or 14 hour flights bearable. The toughest segments for me are rest, but if I have it included as a requirement for 2 hours several times in the process, I know that while I may not sleep I will still feel much better upon landing. Again, about 1-2 hours before landing another meal will be served. I use this just as the reverse of the beginning of the flight. I enjoy my meal, savor my coffee and begin to shake off the flight. I make a final trip to the bathroom with my little prepared baggie to freshen up before landing and begin to gather my items and clean up my space. I watch as others begin to wake from their long nap, and look forward to the trip ahead of me and dream of the adventure.
Bonus- while most of your fellow passengers are snoozing, be sure to check out the galley on one of your walks. Sometimes the attendants will have extra snacks and sandwiches out for those few people that are awake.
I hope you have a great flight, and an even better adventure!