I have a series on my blog called Ask Me Anything and I keep track of reader questions that I get over and over and slowly answer them with a full blog post. So, many of you email saying something like, “How to fly so much? How do you deal with taking so many exhausting long-haul flights? Do you want to quit traveling sometimes?” I’ll answer that and give some tips for long flights.
Tips for Long Flights:
“How do you deal with taking so many long flights every year? Don’t you ever get tired and want to stop traveling?”
I get exhausted from them just like anyone else and I haven’t become immune to that. It doesn’t get so bad that I want to stop traveling but I have taken breaks from travel for a month or two at a time because the idea of going back to an airport is too unappealing.
I hate flying… I hate getting ready, going to the airport, the whole experience. I’m not chilled out until I’m at a cafe near my gate and can see the name of the city I’m headed to – so I know I’m in the right place. On flights with 5 layovers, this is really tiring. Having anxiety while traveling and being a travel blogger seem like it doesn’t make sense, but it’s actually not that unusual as many people feel this way.
My mom and I recently went from Ohio to Florida and back and that required a layover. This is such a simple journey. So imagine, a restless night afraid my alarm won’t go off, waking up at 6 am, an hour drive to the airport, getting through security and chilling for two hours, the flight, layover chill out, another flight, then getting a rental car and driving to the hotel in Florida… it’s kind of tiring and we didn’t reach until nearly 4 pm. That is a long day to go just from Ohio to Florida – 10 hours – and that is probably the shortest flight route I did all year.
On the way back to India this year I flew: Myrtle Beach to Charlotte to Toronto to Amsterdam to Mumbai to Goa. That’s five flights over nearly two days.
I do these types of journeys a LOT maybe every 2-3 months I do a really big flight. Sometimes I stay in a hotel at the airport to break it up and sometimes there isn’t enough time to even try to nap.
Flying in India always involves flying to Mumbai or Delhi first and because of flight times it usually means taking the latest flight out of Goa at 10 or 11 pm, and waiting at the Mumbai airport for international flights that go out at 5 or 6 am. Not quite long enough for a hotel sleep! So, I start most of my journeys tired before I even leave India.
A lot of people who fly mostly domestically still find it stressful, boring, and tiresome and I do too – so these long ones require a few days to deal with jet lag on a new time zone.
So people do ask me how I manage to take so many a year when they suck so bad, how I still feel energized for more trips when they take a month to recover from their tiring beach vacation.
I get it! Travel is so hard sometimes. It can be draining bopping around all over and it means when you get home you’re likely behind on work and chores.
I do still feel up for more travel usually, although like to take at least 3 weeks between big trips. Last year, after I went to Israel, England, Latvia, and Morocco in one go, I realized that I would never have made it as a “digital nomad”. I mean, how would I ever get work done!? I was so tired that I took two months off and stayed in India before my very long trip to Finland.
But, although I don’t mind the flights too much, there is a limit and once I reach it there’s not much that can get me on a trip. I was invited to a beautiful overwater villa on an island in the Caribbean last year for a THREE-night stay (and would have been paid). That would take like 20 hours to reach each way – I was too tired to extend the trip and travel around that area, so I turned it down. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it at all and would be jetlagged the whole first day there.
Because I was based in India, I realized I was turning down a lot of offers for press trips due to distance and time traveling. That is part of why I hired writers to go in my place.
How to make the flights more bearable
I’ll share a few tips on what I do to make the most of these long journeys. Some people say that you should try to match your sleep up to the right time zone, but I go by the philosophy of “more sleep is always better” so I will never try to stay awake so I can sleep on a plane. I sleep as much as possible before a flight and on it (I am lucky to be able to sleep on a plane). Then if I arrive somewhere and it’s night time, I go to sleep! haha – the more the better. If I can’t sleep on a plane then at least I had a good sleep before boarding and I remind myself that I can sleep when I reach and just make the best of the plane ride by watching movies.
I pretend there is no food and drink service on all the flights I take – and come prepared. I bring water and try to get a sandwich in the airport. That way, I don’t have to have a tray sitting in front of me for an hour while I want to go back to sleep but am waiting for them to collect, and waste time that could be spent sleeping for a crappy airplane meal.
I only have coffee before a flight if it’s a morning flight for a short trip where I stay in the same time zone (or close to it).
I also make sure I have done all the work I need to do before boarding, pack everything I need in my personal bag (toiletries and fully charged electronics: a good book, movie, and TV shows on my tab), and make sure I’m nice and clean and freshly showered so I feel good! It doesn’t hurt to also wear an outfit that you feel comfy and fab in.
I try to book international flights at night time so I can pretend like I am just going to bed, but even for international day flights I try to “go to bed”. It’s the only way to make time pass faster. I do wear an eye mask, earplugs if they are on the plane, socks, and my TRTL pillow to get fully comfortable. I’m often already wearing all that, ready to go to sleep, before the plane takes off.
How I sleep on the plane…
In this case, above, I’ve let my legs a bit free because it’s just Ben sitting next to me, haha but normally I keep them under me and much more tucked up so I’m not in anyone else’s space.
I sleep a little weird, but it doesn’t invade anyone’s space. Promise! And I only do this on long-haul flights where the lights are out and everyone is sleeping.
Basically, I stand backward facing the back of the plane in front of my seat then sit on my knees, then scooch my butt to the side, and turn my head to the other side and wrap in a blanket so I’m kind of like a swaddled baby. No little bumps will wake me and I’m not even touching the armrests on either side or bothering anyone. I’m actually not that flexible and it still seems to work out. Being curled up on a ball just helps me sleep so much better and I don’t get swollen feet/ankles.
My neighbors even get extra leg space out of it since my legs are tucked up. I can stay like this for like 10 hours (I know, it’s mental). When I wake up my neck and knees hurt, but I’ll probably do this until my body rejects it or I gain weight. If you’re smallish like I am, give it a try! I also love my TRTL pillow for when I face forward (when my legs fall asleep, ha ha, and I have to put them down like a normal person). I wrote a review of it here.
Read more on flying:
- How to book the cheapest international flight
- Review of Kiwi.com (my favorite booking site)
- Travel outfit ideas for planes
- Best pillow for flying
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I’ve got to see a picture of the way you sleep on the plane!!! : – )
Phew, I’m about to fly from Kolkata back to the USA via four flights and this made me feel a bit better. I’m doing Kolkata to Delhi, Delhi to Munich, Munich to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to my hometown.