As much as I love living and working here in Asia, my family still resides in the Midwestern US, which means every visit back requires that dreaded long-haul flight. My final destination isn’t a well-connected metropolis like Chicago, so the travel usually translates into at least 17 hours and often as much as 24 hours (or more) in transit.
Still, as a veteran air traveler, I’ve developed my own coping strategies for facing long-haul flights. If you’re preparing to visit or leave Asia this summer by plane, here are my top 6 essential tips for surviving long-haul flights between Asia.
#1: Stay hydrated
I once asked a former flight attendant about her best advice for long flights between Asia – and she stressed drinking lots of water, something a lot of us take for granted while traveling. Staying hydrated also helps you beat jet lag, so if there’s only one tip you remember from this list, this is it.
While heading to the airport, I usually carry a bottle of my favorite sports drink, to enjoy on the way there and boost my hydration before taking off. Once I’ve finished the drink, I’ll save the empty bottle and refill it with water after getting through security.
(In fact, I often like to take an additional extra empty bottle so I’ll have at least two water bottles with me in flight, giving me easy access to that ever-important H2O.)
Sometimes, I also add to my arsenal a few packs of powdered electrolyte drinks, which can pass easily through security, in case I want to enjoy them on the flight or while in transit. You can buy powdered Gatorade in North America, for example, and here in China there are powdered sports drinks available online (such as the Aptonia brand from Decathlon).
#2: Stay moisturized
Flying doesn’t just dry out your insides – it can take a toll on your skin and lips, which is why I always include my favorite hand moisturizer and lip balm in my quart-sized toiletries bag.
I usually opt for moisturizers with soothing or refreshing scents, such as vanilla or cherry blossom. They can perk up the senses and help mask any unpleasant odors you happen to encounter while flying (unfortunately inevitable if you’re packed in with the crowds in the economy section!).
#3: Carry a small stash of meds in case you get sick
Getting sick always sucks, but flying will merely amplify the misery of it all – if you don’t come prepared with your preferred mix of over-the-counter remedies for common ailments. I always bring along some OTC cold medicine (like Tylenol), throat drops and something for diarrhea, just in case!
#4: Include an eye mask
Lots of flyers debate whether or not to take a nap on the flight. But I usually end up catching some rest on at least one, if not both legs of the trip, which makes an eye mask indispensable.
One great hack I discovered over here in Asia: warm aromatherapy eye masks. Last time, I brought along a brand of lavender-scented eye masks, which immediately heat up once you open the package. It was even more relaxing than a typical mask and the enchanting scent almost made me forget I was crammed in the economy section. (The brand I found is Japanese, and here’s the name in Chinese characters: 花王薰衣草蒸汽睡眠眼罩).
#5: Pack ginger candies to relieve nausea
Those sick bags stashed in the seat in front of you stand as a reminder of how flying can wreak havoc on the body. While I’ve never gotten *that* ill, sometimes the experience affects my appetite or leads to a feeling of indigestion. That’s why I always bring along ginger candies that help relieve nausea and improve the appetite. Even better, they fit easily in your bag, so you never have to worry about them taking up precious space.
#6: Don’t forget the wet wipes
If you’re a close friend of mine, you know I’m always packing a stash of wet wipes wherever I go — and that includes when I’m on airplanes. Use them to clean your hands before tucking into your in-flight dinner or breakfast, refresh your face before landing, rub out stains on your clothes, or even wipe down surfaces like your tray.
What are your favorite tips for surviving long-haul flights?
P.S.: Interested in more tips? If you’re coming to or based in China, check out my post My 3 Magical Chinese Must-Haves for Surviving Long Flights To/From Asia.