Once or twice a year, I tend to fly for 16 hours to visit my home town of Haifa, Israel. If we do some quick math, there’s a total of 64 nightmare-ish hours I spend on an airplane (round trip) cramped up like a box.
I’ve been finding ways to minimize the difficulty of the flight, after all there’s been plenty of time to think about it on the plane.
If you don’t particularly enjoy the loud background noise and screaming babies, keeping reading.
Ingredients of a Great Flight
The key to a great long distance flight, I’ve found, is to not experience it. The perfect outcome is to get into the plane, and get out of it as quickly as possible feeling as closely as possible to the way you first got into it.
Sleeping through it proved to be the most efficient way to not experience the long flight, though without accessories, it’s an impossible mission.
Understanding the Problems and finding the solution
Here are some few ways I found to be helpful:
The worst of the worst was waking up from deep sleep and feeling my neck wanting to snap into two. Any position that strains the body would be excruciatingly painful after 8–10 hours.
I started by trying out basic plane pillows, and while they improved the experience, they lacked the fine support system to properly hold my head for deep, long sleeps.
Medical situations that require rested heads have figured this out already. Neck braces have that exact function — and by scouting Amazon I found a product that leverages a similar concept:
This product snaps from the front, creating a 360 degree support system, fixing your heads to an upright position.
Neck pain, SOLVED.
Sleeping with the lights on is a chore, and that’s where sleeping masks come in. Traditional ones use elastic bands to keep the mask on, but for 16 hour flights, the band creates enough pressure on one’s head for wake-up pains.
Elastic bands were out of the question, and finding a perfectly fitted mask seemed less likely. But an even more elegant solution had already been created:
The SleepMaster is a lightweight sleeping mask with a velcro-based band. It allows you to adjust the amount of force needed to keep the mask snug just right.
After a bit of trial and error, a minimal set up of force and nose support removed all of the light while maximizing comfort.
Airplane background noise is intense. A constant humming in your ears for 16 hours will have residual effects, though most of us suffer through similar effects in urban areas, it’s intensified in airplanes.
I started the investigations with noise-cancellation headphones, and they truly reduce the noise to virtually non-existent levels. The problem with headphones however is heat.
On for 16 hours, my ears started cooking and eventually reaching boiling temperatures, either waking me up from deep sleep, or arriving to my destination with a headache. The problem wasn’t the concept, but the means of which it was applied.
Noise canceling earbuds provided the best noise reduction-to-heat tradeoff. While not as sound-proof as the headphones, the buds reduced noises by over 90% while keeping my ears cool and comfy.
Coupled with light music or ambient sound generator apps, you can cover most noises without causing your eardrums to implode.
(Advanced Users) Sleeping pills
With your head safely supported by the snug pillow (courtesy of your upper body), eardrums minimally stimulated from surrounding noise and eyes covered for minimal irritation, you can now turn your body off.
While you’ll want to avoid making this a habit, it’s helpful to have a backup plan in case you’re unable to regulate when you sleep.
If you’re arriving to your destination in the morning, you want to get as much sleep as possible before arriving.
Filling out the leftover few hours becomes a matter of selecting the best movie to watch or book to read.
Whenever sleep is needed, half a sleeping pill helps me doze off and get that sleep-mode going.
Can’t sleep, SOLVED.
(Bonus) Battery pack
Smartphones, tablets and eBook readers will give you a well rounded, high quality entertainment system. Whether it’s movies, shows, games, books or music, those devices cover it all.
Long flights require lots of battery though, and most of devices can’t sustain a charge for that long.
The solution is a versatile battery pack that can charge over all your devices and keep them running way over 16 hours.
After I charge the pack at home, I can plug in a USB cable from the battery pack to any of my devices and charge it up quick and easy.
Running out of entertainment, SOLVED.
These 5 tips will make any long flight more manageable. Balancing out fun and sleep while maintaining a rested body will predictably get you to your destination with less headache and more comfort.
Did you try any of above methods? Do you have a few of your own?
Leave some comments below.
Header Image by José Martín