Home Australia How to fly long distances in comfort: experts on whether to eat before boarding and the best ways to combat jet lag

How to fly long distances in comfort: experts on whether to eat before boarding and the best ways to combat jet lag

by Elijah
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QUICK FIX: Make long-haul flights easier by investing in noise-canceling headphones and don't be afraid to enjoy a glass of fizz on board.

Everyone has a different theory about how to survive long-haul flights, but not all of them stand up to scrutiny.

That’s why we’ve separated fact from fiction, asking cabin crews and frequent travelers what works and what can make hours in a crowded metal tube less difficult.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: A meal at the airport gives you more time to sleep on board.

REALITY: While it makes sense to maximize sleep time, the odds of falling asleep peacefully in the first few hours of any flight are low. This is when the captain and cabin crew are in the tannoy, food carts rattle down the aisles and the lights are on. So let yourself go: eat on board and then, once you’ve cleared away the empty trays, put down your eye mask.

QUICK FIX: Make long-haul flights easier by investing in noise-canceling headphones and don't be afraid to enjoy a glass of fizz on board.

QUICK FIX: Make long-haul flights easier by investing in noise-canceling headphones and don’t be afraid to enjoy a glass of fizz on board.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: Seats in emergency exit rows are worth paying for.

REALITY: These rows, with extra legroom, can feel less claustrophobic and are great if you’re tall.

But there can be downsides, including the £50-£70 it costs to book them, and on many long-haul planes the seats with extra legroom are located next to the bathrooms in the middle of the cabin, so you’ll hear the door slam and Loos reddening all flight. Plus you can’t have your bag at your feet to take off or land.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: It is best to avoid alcohol; don’t even take a drop.

REALITY: Alcohol dehydrates and can affect us more at altitude than on land. But it’s also part of the joy of traveling, especially when it’s free on long-haul flights, so in moderation there won’t be a problem.

Just keep in mind that a hangover sets in six to eight hours after drinking, so too much at the start of a 12-hour flight can affect you before you land. It’s also dangerous to drink late on a flight if you’re picking up a rental car. Police armed with breathalyzers have been known to attack roads near airports, especially on the east coast of the United States.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: Sleeping pills will help you arrive refreshed at your destination.

REALITY: Some frequent travelers swear by the hormone melatonin. While it’s easy to buy in the US, it’s only sold by prescription in the UK, and travel doctor and Holiday SOS author Ben MacFarlane warns against trying anything new on a plane: 35,000 feet isn’t the best place. for a bad reaction. Instead, he recommends plain paracetamol.

“What prevents us from sleeping is mainly the hard seats,” he says. “Relax yourself with a mild pain reliever and you will fall asleep safely.”

PERCEIVED WISDOM: It is essential to bring a neck pillow.

REALITY: They range in cost from a few pounds for an inflatable one to £60 or more for memory foam, silk-covered or fleece options. But it’s not a disaster if you fly without one, as the new generation economy seats have plenty of built-in support: BA’s latest headrests are designed to fold down to either side and cradle your head like a pillow.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: Having too many toys will distract young children.

THE REALITY: Toys are a great way to keep kids busy, but be careful: choosing the wrong toys can make things worse. One to avoid is Lego, as no one wants to crawl under seats looking for lost pieces. You should also stay away from anything that squeaks or makes electronic noises, unless you don’t mind being the most obnoxious family on the plane.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: Teenagers will be happy with the screens on the backs of the seats.

REALITY: These days it’s unlikely there’s anything on the in-flight entertainment system that young people haven’t watched streaming at home. Instead, let them load content on their own devices and focus on the number of video games on the inflight system—Emirates has the most, with more than 100. Also, give in to the lure of Wi-Fi. Virgin Atlantic offers one hour for £5.99 or wifi for the entire flight from £20.99; It will be money well spent.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: It is best to sit at the front of each booth.

REALITY: It’s true that reserving seats near the front allows you to get off the plane and get into the immigration line sooner, which is particularly important in crowded airports. But cabin crew say the back of the plane is always emptier, so sit there if you’re looking to get a free seat next to you or even a full row to stretch out.

PERCEIVED WISDOM: You can avoid jet lag by changing to the time zone you will be flying into as soon as you board.

REALITY: Heading west is tricky, as it would mean having breakfast after taking off on an afternoon flight to California. Instead, cabin crew rely on the two-by-two rule: spend two hours eating and watching a movie, two hours dozing, two hours eating snacks and reading, two hours dozing, etc. Then change your watch to the new time zone when you land.


  • Be careful with bassinets. Look at the seating charts to see where the baby baskets are and keep your distance.
  • Move quickly. If you see empty seats after the plane doors have closed, grab one early. If you cannot move before takeoff, do so as soon as the seat belt sign goes off.
  • Wrap a cotton pillowcase from home around an inflatable pillow. Fans say this tricks the brain into sleep mode.
  • Love the crew. One passenger is rude, the other is friendly…guess who gets extra drinks and snacks.
  • Wear shoes to the bathroom or you’ll spend the rest of the flight wondering if the wet spot on your socks is really water…
  • If you forgot your charger, listening to podcasts and audiobooks uses less battery than movies and games.
  • Fasten your seat belt over any blanket so the crew can see you and will not disturb you if you are sleeping when turbulence is expected.
  • Layer up. The crew says it’s impossible to choose a temperature that pleases everyone. Happy brochures have hoodies, cardigans, scarves or overshirts.
  • Noise-canceling headphones can transform flights. But remember to wear them when you talk or you will be “that person” who yells.
  • Don’t cross your legs. To reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis, keep your toes straight, flex your toes occasionally, and stay hydrated.

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