Take a knee, folks, because this week’s topic is the marathon of travel, the mountain no one really wants to climb even though it’s there, the dreaded, interminable Long Haul Flight. Now, this is not to denigrate the horrific knee cramps and intriguingly slasher-movie-cliché woes associated with the ground-based road trip, but airplanes deal out a certain level of stress no highway pilgrim has to deal with. Trust your equipment manager, when you’re up in the air for 25 plus hours and it’s only the first leg of your trip, there’s a few things you don’t want to have left on the ground.
Is This How Jerky Feels?
Here’s the thing, travelling in an airplane is like being swaddled in an air conditioner’s airflow filter and given the options to set it on ‘Sahara’ or ‘Gobi.’ I don’t care if you went straight from the shower to the plane, give it half an hour and your skin will start to have that tight, itchy rasp to it like you’re about to burst out of your human shell and reveal the alien space lizard within. All plane trips leave you dehydrated, but extra hours means extra dry. Bring water, bring a moist hand towel in a bag; do anything but drink the water in the airplane bathrooms. We want you to be hydrated, not diseased (see how easy it is, NHL? See?!)
Another really good idea (that also gives you something to do) is to take off your make up (if you’re wearing any) and put on your nighttime skincare, which you have decanted into travel-ready sizes. Try to avoid anything too smelly, because again, recycled air. Lots of people. Anyone want to guess how much fun everyone’s scents mixed together is? Anything that makes you feel like you’ve got an ounce of protection on your skin. Personally, I like Cetaphil moisturizing cream because it’s good for face and hands and my lip balm for the bare minimum of essentials. Otherwise, it’s make up wipes, my Benton skincare set, and a face mask (something with aloe in it) or hey, get some aloe! Get your jet setting hippy on, I’m not standing in the way of innovation.
How Are We Still Over the Ocean?
We all go into the long haul flight believing that we’ll sleep through it. We all think we’re tired enough, lazy enough, have access to enough over the counter sleep medication to make it through what amounts to a full day/two days’ worth of travel. “All I have to do is relax!” we think to ourselves. “I have procrastinated my whole life for this moment.”
Oh, my dudes. No.
Sleep only takes you so far on a long flight; you’ll be woken up by the drinks cart, the trash cart, the food cart, the trash cart again, the other passengers, and your own disrupted sleep schedules as you drift in this arid Never-Never Land. You will need something to do, even if that something is watching Bridge to Terebithia with no audio or subtitles for the second time in a row and making up your own dialog. (hint: it’s really about communism.) Some routines for travel are just automatic for me by now, like rotating my feet and wrists every so often to keep the blood from pooling in my feet and hands (sitting in one spot for hours, who knew it could backfire medically?) but other habits took time and a certain amount of personal negotiation.
Lots of people say to walk up and down the plane, but let’s be frank, no one actually likes the people who do that. The aisles are narrow, it’s weird to have a stranger sashaying past your head when you’re the one sitting down, and flight attendants get incredibly nervous when they see people out of their seat. It leads to uncomfortable conversations about ‘do you need anything’ and ‘the captain did say passengers aren’t allowed to congregate’ and ‘why are you in…this position…exactly?’ Save yourself the trouble! Just go to the bathroom longer.
Yeah, I said it, treasure the time you have in the cramped, cold, kinda smelly but not and that’s weird, airplane bathroom. Because this is the only place on the plane where not only are you alone, but there’s no one within touching distance of you. Now’s the time to take off your make up (or put it on, if you’re close to the end of the trip), make dumb faces at yourself in the mirror, shake out your stiff limbs, do a funny twisting little dance and revel in the fact that you are alone and upright for a glorious slice of your plane journey. Do this as often as necessary.
Once you’re back and buckled safely into your seat, there’s always the old standbys of books, music, and airplane entertainment to help you make bearable the traveling hours, but you need to space them out. Back in the very old days (I am a very old person, after all) I used to time my flights by the number of cds I’d be able to get through. These days the most important thing to remember is how quickly you’ll run through the battery on your phone/Ipod/laptop/ereader. Can you recharge on the plane? Will you have time to recharge at the airport? Are you even allowed to take uncharged electrical devices into the country? Check local and international restrictions to find out what applies to you. Factor these things in to your time on the plane. Trust me, there is no more dangerous aggravation than not being able to recharge your equipment during travel.
Promise yourself a treat first thing off the airplane. Think about what it might be: getting some coffee, eating a brownie, walking really quickly with no one to stop you because the plane is experiencing turbulence, or greeting whoever is meeting you and going home. You might very well feel as if you have been born, lived, and calcified on that long haul flight, but every flight lands eventually and disembarking has just as much importance to it as getting on the flight itself. Sure, that flight’s landed you in Seattle, WA of all places, but I’ll tell you where to go next week on the Equipment Manager!