How to: Survive long airplane flights

A002-6EDITOR’S NOTE: Today continues a summer series by Daily Journal reporters called “Teach Me Something” where we show how to do a variety of things and how things work.

By Adam Ganucheau
Daily Journal

One thing that is often correlated with summer is travel. Summer is one of the busiest travel times of the year in the U.S., and flying is very popular. Over the course of the summer, you might get the opportunity to take long flights across the country or world. Long flights are often tough to deal with, but follow these tips for an enjoyable experience.

Things to do before booking your flight

• Research airlines. Check specific airline’s user reviews for long or international flights. You want to make sure that you aren’t using an airline that previous fliers have disliked.

• Choose your plane seat wisely. Most airlines give you the option to select your seat. If you are claustrophobic, book a window seat. If you want a little extra leg room but don’t want to pay for first-class seats, select an aisle seat. Additionally, try to avoid selecting seats by wings or the back of the plane, as these seats usually produce the most noise during the course of a flight.

• Check guidelines for what you can bring on the airplane with you. The next section of this article provides many tips about what to bring with you, but some airlines may not allow them. Double check the airline’s regulations before heading to the airport.

• Make sure your passport is current. Often times, passports expire faster than you may think. Just make sure your passport is valid before plugging numbers into your airline’s website. It might save you a good bit of trouble.

Things to bring in your carry-on
• Your own headphones. On longer flights, many airlines show movies or let you listen to music, but you must have headphones. If you want to save a little money, bring your own. Most airlines have regular headphone ports in the arm rest that allow for easy access.

• Books. Go to the New York Times or Amazon best sellers list of books and choose a couple. The backlights to a Nook, Kindle or iPad often are useful because lighting on planes can be spotty. If you don’t have access to a portable reading device, visit your nearest bookstore before the trip. If you happen to forget something to read, there are usually bookstores in airport concourses.

• Magazines. Grab a couple magazines in the airport coffee shop before you board the flight. Purchase two very different magazines – that way, you will have a range of choices to entertain yourself with. A long-form magazine like The New Yorker is great for wasting away minutes on the flight.

• A portable DVD player or laptop. Pick up a couple of movies you have been wanting to see, and bring those with you. Airlines often offer movies on their plane television screens, but the movie selection might not interest you.

• An iPod or other mp3 device. Download some of the best new (or old) music, and load it onto your device. Search for the top charts for whatever genre you enjoy, and download away.

• A wrap-around neck pillow. No one likes the seat neighbors that nod off and end up on your shoulder. In their defense, it is pretty hard to go to sleep on an airplane sitting straight up. The neck pillow will allow you to catch some Z’s without worrying about falling onto your neighbor. The blanket needs to be able to fold into a carry-on without taking too much room in the bag.

• Snacks. On long flights, airlines will most likely serve you at least one meal and a snack. Often times, the food leaves much to be desired. Bring some of your favorite snacks in your carry-on, but keep in mind that some airlines have regulations about certain foods and liquids. And for the record, you don’t have to share with neighbors if you don’t want to.

• Puzzles and games. Your local bookstore or Walmart is a great place to find puzzle books containing word searches, crosswords or Sudoku games. Many people even bring small jigsaw puzzles for flights. Just don’t be upset if airplane turbulence throws your puzzle to the floor.

Things to do while flying
• Watch a movie or two. Most movies are an hour and a half to two hours long, so it’s a great way to pass the time.

• Read a book. What better way to pass the time then by diving into a great book? If you bring a good book, you could theoretically read the entire thing on a long flight.

• Read those magazines. Magazines offer a different-style writing than books, and can often be just as entertaining.

• Listen to that music you downloaded. Whether you are listening to new music you’ve never heard before or old music that brings back great memories, you are sure to be entertained for a while.

• Sleep. Use that neck pillow and get some rest. If your doctor recommends it, maybe some over-the-counter sleep aids might be good for the long trips, especially if you are worried about jetlag.

• Strike up a conversation with your neighbor (or at least try). I have met many people on flights that I would never have met otherwise. Often times, you discover that you have a mutual acquaintance or experience. But beware, the person next to you will not always want to talk. It’s worth a shot, though.

• Stretch. This is the most important thing you can do on a long flight. If you sit for too long without getting the proper blood circulation, things could get ugly. When you go to the restroom, do some leg and arm stretches in the area in front of the restroom. There is usually enough room in those places in long flights to stretch.

• Eat those snacks and stay hydrated. Even though you can’t bring much liquid on a flight with you, ask the flight attendant for a bottle of water if you get thirsty. This is another way to keep yourself safe on a long flight.

Hopefully these tips help you as you prepare and partake in your travels this summer. Stay safe!