There is no other way to put it. No one likes being forced into long lines and to go through only to then be crammed like sardines in a metal cylinder suspended thousands of set in the air. All the the horror stories of on-board brawls, structural failures, and people getting sucked out windows we are constantly bombarded with on the nightly news don’t to much to help calm shaky pre-flight nerves. (Also, the landing gear. Can someone please tell me who decided to make that thing sound like a chuck of the plane is falling off? Actually, everything about landing is the worst. The only bright side is you are back on the ground.)
International flights are their own circle of flying hell. Really is there anything worse than an international flight? They take all the sucky parts of flying, stretch them out for hours on end, and usually seem to be dead set on making you endure the worst sleeping experience of your life as most are overnight flights. (Seriously, why do most international flights from the U.S. have to leave at night?)
However, while flying may be the least appealing unavoidable part of your vacation, it doesn’t have to be absolutely miserable experience. With a few simple tricks, getting there doesn’t have to be a total nightmare.
Here are few things you can do to make this necessary travel evil suck a lot less.
Go for comfy clothes.
There are hundreds of articles out there about cute chic flying outfits. (Back in college, I even wrote one of them.) However, as I’ve gotten more travel experience under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that an international flight is one of the few times where comfort outweighs cute. After all, you are going to be sitting in a tiny seat for hours on end. Go for light layers, stretchy fabrics, and shoes that are easy to slide on and off. My go-to outfit for flying consists of basic black leggings, a long tee, a hoodie or oversized flannel button-down shirt, and my (knockoff) Ugg boots. (Okay, it’s still a pretty cute pretty cute outfit.)
Don’t go sockless.
While it may seem so simple to rock a pair of flip-flops for those security check points, I really urge you to pick slip-on footwear you can wear socks with. After all, those airport floors are pretty disgusting. I’m also a big fan of closed-toed shoes. Between rolling luggage bags, strollers, and wheelchairs, there are just too many ways to put your toes in peril.
Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are a must.
No matter what airlines say, planes are germ havens. Help prevent picking up illnesses by packing some disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer into your carry on. Make sure to wipe down the tray, touchscreen t.v., safety buckle and the belt itself. (These tend to be the places that the most flyers touch but are often overlooked when planes are cleaned.) Use the hand sanitizers after every trip to the bathroom and at the end of your TSA check.
Pick up a bottle of water at the airport.
It is important to stay hydrated on an international flight. While paying $4.00 for a bottle of water at the airport may seem like a total waste of money, I really urge you to so. You won’t have to rely on the flight attendant every time you get thirsty and the cap will help prevent nasty spills. Plus, swallowing water during takeoff and landing can help equalize ear pressure and ease discomfort.
Don’t forget your own snacks.
Let’s face it. Airplane food stinks. The portions are tiny, and the taste is bland at best. Prevent hangry feelings by tossing a few snacks in your carry on bag. Stick with things that are easy to eat and are nonperishable. I’m a big fan of Cliff bars, mini bags of pretzels, granola bars, and Goldfish crackers. Be sure to avoid peanuts and peanut products due to allergy concerns. (If you have time, pick up a light sandwich or salad at the airport preflight. This helps if you need something more substantial.)
Treat yourself to something new.
Remember when you were little, and your mom would surprise you with a new toy or game right before or during the flight? You can do the same thing for yourself now that your all grown up. Whether it’s new book, an blank journal and fun pens, or a freshly downloaded movie on your iPad or a new album on your iPod/iPhone, having something new to look forward to can make the thought of being stuck on a plane for hours just a bit more bearable. Hey, you’re never too old for treats even if you’re getting them for yourself.
Pack your own headphones.
Many airlines will provide you with a set of earbuds for the in-flight entertainment systems. However, there is nothing like watching a summer blockbuster or random television episodes with the comfort of your own. Pick up a hard-shell case to prevent them getting damaged in transit. (Still take the free headphones if your allowed though. It never hurts to have an emergency back up pair, and they are, you know, free.)
Try to sleep (or at least get some quiet time) during your night flight.
Night flights are inevitable when flying from the U.S. to Europe, and, in my opinion, the absolute worst part of international travel. As hard as it may seem, you should try to get some semblance of sleep, if only to be able to semi-fiction during day one of your trip. Pack an eye mask, a pair of earplugs, and something to snuggle under. The goal is try and get as comfortable as you can in your very uncomfortable seat. (Popping a Benadryl may help to some extent, but it really depends on your body chemistry if works.) Still not able to sleep? Put on a mellow playlist, slip on you eye mask, and just sit still with your eyes closed. Sometimes, just resting your eyes can work wonders for your next-day energy levels until you get a chance to crash.