I love travelling and writing, meeting people and experiencing foodie places.
Published November 1st 2019
Experiencing an enjoyable flight
There is much discussion around having a comfortable experience when flying domestic or international. Some of the biggies include choosing your airline carefully, weighing up the cost and for many of us, having a pleasant time in the air with fellow travellers.
1. Seat options are one of the most discussed considerations of flying. The width of the seat and the pitch (the distance between the passenger's seat and the seat in front, which allows leg room) allows a more restful journey. Another consideration is whether to choose an aisle or window seat. For some people, aisle seats are preferable for long distance travel to have the freedom to get out of your seat frequently and not crawl over fellow passengers. For others, the window seat is preferred to look over a region or just observe the clouds go by. Consider also the power outlets and USB ports situated on the arm rests. Also, consider the distance of the seat from the galley and toilets. These areas, particularly the toilets, are utilised throughout a flight and may make for an unsettling experience, particularly when trying to sleep. Seat Guru is an excellent resource to compare airlines, with aircraft diagrams and customer feedback on its website. For more specific details on a long-haul flight, click here for an article I wrote about United Airlines.
2. Cost of flying can make or break an enjoyable holiday. If you are a member of a frequent flyer program, there may be enough points to use for your trip or buy some points to use as a top-up. Consider what time of year to travel. Christmas and school holiday periods are peak travel times and more costly. If you were to travel in low season, there would be less travellers, less cost, possibly a spare seat on the aircraft to laze about – how good is that? Weigh up the options of flying on a full-service flight with a maximum baggage allowance, food and entertainment included in the cost compared to budget airlines. Do a search of an airline's website which details inclusions and extras to pay. Compare flight costs on websites such as Skyscanner or Momondo.
3. Plan to arrive at your destination, if possible, in the morning to allow your body clock to adjust. Time your departure later in the day or at night so you have more time at your destination before your trip back home. Most accommodation places are happy to hold luggage for a few hours while you conclude sightseeing. Just remember to return to collect your luggage. If departing from a cruise ship and your flight is later in the day, many container depots at ports will hold luggage, for a fee, and may meet you at the airport to collect your luggage.
4. Food varies from airline to airline. On a full-service flight, food is included in the cost, yet still differ in quality. One major airline may serve chicken with vegetables and a gravy, while another may serve chicken with sundried pesto, mashed potatoes, side of vegetables with a butter sauce. For budget airlines, food is an added cost. Search an airline's website for a sample of their menu. Of course, notify the airline of any dietary requirements prior to your flight.
Image: jetalone, Wikimedia Commons
5. Entertainment is one of the joys of flying. I don't often get to the cinema so I look forward to catching up on the latest films or binge on TV shows. Music is another option, whether it is soft gentle water music to assist sleep, or loud rock music thumping through the earpiece. Just please consider other passengers and not yell the chorus to Bat Out Of Hell, which one passenger could be heard two rows down, one across. Some planes have the seatback entertainment option, others are required to download the app for viewing. If you travel in a smaller aircraft or budget airline, then download a movie, a book or games to save your sanity on a flight longer than four hours. When deciding which airline, check what options there are and whether it is worth the extra cost for inflight entertainment.
6. Exercise during the flight, particularly for long-distance flights, is necessary. This doesn't mean doing cart wheels along the aisle or bouncing a beach ball over passengers' heads, as much as it may be fun and possibly a great bonding time with fellow travellers. It does mean getting out of your seat and walking along the aisle to stretch your legs, do some calf raises and some squats. Do these while waiting for the bathroom. Exercises can also be performed while sitting in your seat. Sit straight and squeeze your glutes. Use a water bottle or roll up the inflight magazine and do bicep curls (your fellow travellers will be impressed, they may also join in). When watching a movie, do ankle circles, wiggle the toes. Some airlines have videos that you could download to help keep you on track for a healthier flying experience. Qantas, for instance, has an exercise video. Click here to view.
7. For children, get them to swallow or yawn during take off and landing to lessen the effects of ear pain. For babies, bottle or breast-feed or give them a pacifier as the sucking will help relieve ear pain. Speak with your doctor about options to help your child. To keep children occupied, take a book or colouring-in pad, and a favourite toy to help with sleep. Before flying, look up the airline's entertainment options to keep your child amused. Many airlines are accommodating when it comes to a child's needs and will supply activity sheets and games for your child.
8. Wear comfortable clothes. This can't be stressed enough. Some passengers insist on glamming up even if it is for economy. Pack the heels for a party at your destination and take slides or slippers instead for the aircraft. I just kick off my shoes and wear thick fluffy socks for the journey. I can wiggle my toes, perform foot circles, stretch out under the seat in front. Wear loose fitting clothes, take a jacket as it can get chilly on board. Some people change into their pyjamas, don the eyemask, prop the noise-cancelling headphones on the ears and proceed to have a restful snooze.
9. Speaking of rest and comfort, did I mention bring a small pillow on board? Not for your head, but for your feet. Prop your feet on the pillow and massage away. The pillow also elevates your legs giving you another comfortable position. And when you're done, it can serve double-duty as a head pillow. Bring a travel blanket on board. The blankets on most aircraft, in my opinion, are too small for the average stature. A roll-up travel blanket costs as little as $25 and covers from feet to the crown of my head. Not that I wear a crown, I wouldn't be in cattle class otherwise. Definitely purchase noise-cancelling headphones. I have been on flights where there have been noisy youngsters and even louder adults and I wished for headphones to diminish the chatter, the crying, the disruptions to a small semblance of peace. Eventually ,I bought headphones from Aldi for a mere $40 which saved my sanity on my last flight. Download free meditation apps to assist sleep or reduce anxiety, such as Insight Timer which has many guided meditations.
10. To lessen the effects of jet lag, limit the amount of alcohol, tea and coffee. Drink water to combat dehydration. Some people swear by melatonin to offset jet lag. One savvy travel friend sips on water with dissolved hydralyte which helps reduce weariness. Prior to travel, discuss with your doctor the best options to counter drowsiness.
So, all said and done, have a comfy flight. And enjoy your time away.