Surviving a Long Haul Flight (for example to New Zealand)
Unless you’re coming from Australia or the Pacific Islands, you can’t avoid a taking a long-haul flight when you visit New Zealand. And we’re not talking “just” six or eight hours. You’ll be flying for at least twelve hours, and if you’re coming from Europe, you’ll be slogging through not one but two consecutive 12+ hour flights. Now, short of spending a gazillion dollars on a first-class ticket (not a bad idea if you can afford it!) there is no way you’re enduring this cramped journey across multiple time zones in a low-oxygen environment and coming out the other end refreshed and relaxed. The reality is you’ll be jetlagged and tired, but there are things you can to do mitigate the worst effects of long-haul travel so that you’ll be ready to enjoy your holiday.
1. Get the best seat you can
The best long-haul flight is in first or business-class. Usually, these are very expensive, but sometimes airlines will run specials that make them almost affordable. Alternatively, if you happen to have a lot of frequent flier miles, it’s worth looking into an upgrade. Otherwise, many airlines offer a “premium economy” option on long-haul flights. These seats are not as stratospherically priced as business class, and the seat and space improvement over economy is considerable.
If you are flying economy, it is worth consulting a site like SeatGuru to see which seats are rated the best on your flight. On some airlines you can pay extra for an exit row seat, something that may be worth it if you value more leg room. Consider, too, whether you prefer a window seat, with the wall you can lean against to sleep, or an aisle seat, with easier access when you want to get up and walk around.
2. Get comfortable
Do everything to maximise your comfort once you are seated. Make sure you are in comfortable clothes that will be OK to sleep in. Wear layers so that you don’t get too hot or cold. Have only the stuff you need in and around your seat - try to avoid putting carry-on luggage under the seat in front of you that impinges on your leg room. Consider investing in some noise-cancelling headphones - the constant white noise inside a plane is surprisingly fatiguing over a long period of time.
You’ll be lucky to get a “good” night’s sleep on a plane but you should try to get as much as you can. It’s also a good idea to get a headstart on beating jetlag by trying to sleep at the “right” time for your destination. This may mean going to sleep earlier or later than your body clock wants to, so consider helping the process along by taking melatonin, a hormone which tells your body it’s time to sleep. Other sleeping aids work for many people, too, though you should talk to your doctor before using sleeping pills and try them before you fly. The last thing you want is a paradoxical reaction to a sleeping pill which has you climbing the walls of the plane for twelve hours! Finally, you’ll want a good eye-mask to block out the light and a travel pillow to support your neck while sleeping.
4. Eat and drink
Airline food is a lot better than it used to be. OK, that’s not really saying much. But, really, usually it’s not bad. If you’re not so sure, consider taking some snacks of your own. Nuts are a good idea. Just be aware that you won’t be able to bring them off the plane with you in New Zealand due to strict biosecurity rules.
Try not to be seduced by the free alcohol. Much more than one wine or beer may make it more difficult for you to sleep soundly and can make you dehydrated. Stick mainly to water, and lots of it. Hydration is essential if you want to feel human by the time your flight lands.
5. Move around
When you’re not sleeping, be sure to get up and move around every couple of hours or so. Walk up and down the aisles for a couple of minutes to stretch your muscles and joints out a bit and to guard against deep vein thrombosis, blood clots which are a fairly uncommon but real danger on long plane rides. You can also do exercises in your seat to keep your blood flowing.
We’re not going to pretend - it’s a bit of mission getting to New Zealand. But it’s completely worth it - check out what is on offer once you get off that plane.