We all hate the long flights to reach longed-for destinations. The jet lag, the dehydration, the stress, the back pain, the muscles cramps, the bloated stomach, the motion nausea, the bad breath, the messy clothes, the swelling feet - did I miss anything?
I just traveled from New York to New Delhi and used a few of my own tricks to diffuse the hardship of extremely long airplane flights, the kind that can ruin the first day of your vacation, and your final destination.
I am not talking here to those lucky yous who can travel in first or biz class, where a flat bed and a pampered trip is just a walk in the park. These tidbits are for those of us, the majority, traveling in economy/coach class.
My first decision is always to break down the hours spent in a plane by avoiding long haul 16-hour flights by cutting them down into two 7 or 8 hours ones, with a long layover along the way. I have been to Australia too many times.
For me, it works. I much prefer to do NYC to Amsterdam in 7.5 hours, spend 5 hours in Amsterdam, then fly again 8.5 hours from Amsterdam to New Delhi - and have some restful regimen between the flights - rather than make one 16-hour painful journey in a small box in the sky.
Whenever possible, I avoid airports layovers in sensitive territories. I would never fly to a country just bombed by terrorist groups. I avoid countries at war, with whomever.
The day before departure, I fast and drink only water, juice, and tea. By the time you get up for your flight, just water will do, as I know I am going to be eating and drinking non-stop for the next 24 hours - by the way, this is how airlines keep you alive and semi-well, they feed you and keep you busy, to take your mind off the reality of being just another sardine in a metal can.
The day before flying, I buy fresh fruits at the market, and will only eat those on-board. Don't get messy fruits, bananas, grapes, mango slices, raspberries, and nuts are my favorites.
Before the plane takes off, avoid coffee and eggs. If you are starving, eat some cereals with soy milk to bulk up your stomach with plain and filling food.
I never eat plane food. You would never order such items at any restaurant. Why eat them up in the air? While I munch on my fruits, others are stuck in their seats and I can walk around the aisles freely and leisurely, without anyone else in my way.
I only drink water, sometimes sparkling ones, to add some diversity. Bananas and nuts are enough for me to get me through eight hours. I cannot sleep on planes, I read a book full of suspense, so the next page is the only thing I am anxious about.
I get up once every hour and do some standing yoga and drink. I use the washroom even if I don't need to, solely to sit in a different position and wash my hands. I run my baby wipes over my face and use them NOT to touch any public surface anywhere.
You don't need to look impeccable, but I prefer to look put together, so I wear leggings and a long white shirt, I take a sweater and a scarf in my carry-on, and I use canvas shoes that I can slip on and out without even bending down. No bulky sneakers, no shoelaces.
I try to watch one movie per flight, but I bring my own headphones. I take my shoes off and wear special pressure high knee socks to keep my feet and calves comfortable in an environment that is not human to them. A few yoga stretch again every hour or so does me good.
From New York to Amsterdam, it's an overnight flight, and since I do not sleep, the darkened cabin allows me to walk some more in the dark and enjoy the quiet around me. Stretch arms up in the air and bend down at the waist - nobody's watching.
On this flight, a nice flight attendant told me how he backpacked around Asia, what he thought about Brexit, and explain the rules of football to me. So another hour had gone by. The captain on a break explained to me that Holland would also quite like to leave to EU if asked. This was a KLM flight and crew.
Once in Amsterdam, my first meal was Muesli and decaf coffee, with whole grain toasts. No added sugar, no caffeine. No risk of food poisoning. I got a nice massage for one hour, then a manicure-pedicure for one hour. I felt rejuvenated in just two hours.
By the time I was done eating, it was time to go shopping, and even though I did not buy anything, the shops were a good way to walk again and please my eyes with foreign things.
Amsterdam's airport is equipped with hundreds of iPads free to use and free of charge for all travelers, so I spent another hour checking my emails and watching the news.
After all that, it was time to board again. I bought a wild salmon sandwich on coarse bread and a vegetable green juice to take with me onboard, as again, I will not eat the airplane food.
At the end of my second day of travel, we landed in New Delhi in the middle of the night. The busy and hectic airport was the most tiring part of the journey, but I ended up arriving at my hotel to collapse and finally sleep a deep slumber - jetlag is another story altogether.
My stomach was fine, my feet were okay, my body was still functioning - even though I had just put it through a ringer of abuse. My little tricks worked again, and I hope they can help you as well.