I am sure not too many of us relish the thought of long haul flights. Even with the super slick airlines of today it is still hard going sitting in one place for hours on end. However, with good planning you can make this part of the journey enjoyable.
Over the years our family have done quite a few such trips. If we are heading for Europe we always have a stop-over for at least a couple of nights. I know some people prefer to go straight through but the idea of that really does not appeal to me as you arrive exhausted rather than refreshed.
We generally stop off either in Singapore or Bangkok. Both cities are excellent for some quick sightseeing and shopping. Coming home, we generally break the journey in Hong Kong.
My husband and I generally take jet lag tablets. I think they do take the edge off a bit and help you cope with the waiting in the customs lines when you arrive at your destination.
Drinking plenty of water and cutting down on food and alcohol on board is a good idea. The aircraft air conditioning tends to make you very dry and thirsty, so having your own water bottle with you is a plus. You can get that once you clear the customs area. It's also good to moisturise if you can, it just makes you feel nicer.
Travel in comfortable clothes, nothing too tight. I keep my shoes on as my feet seem to swell, but my husband is happy to take his off and relax. Comfort is the most important thing to get you through to your destination in one piece.
Don't forget to get up and walk about the cabin as you need to keep your legs well circulated. Some people choose to wear special stockings to help avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVP). There are also exercises you can do while you are seated. Rotating your feet and generally keeping everything moving is certainly a good idea. As we get older we do tend to stiffen up after being seated for any length of time so the more exercises we can do to elevate that the better.
Arriving at your destination, you want to feel as refreshed as you possibly can, especially if you are meeting up with relatives. A good idea is to have a change of clothes in your carry- on luggage. After sleeping in your clothes fresh clothes will make you feel better. It's also sensible to do this in case for any reason your baggage goes missing. Nothing worse than arriving at your holiday destination with no fresh clothing. (Remember not to pack anything too crushable, as you don't want to be ironing on holiday!)
When you arrive it's a good idea to try and fit into the local time and hold off going to bed until night time if at all possible. This will set your body clock and you will recover from your jet lag a lot quicker.
We are off to Europe in May, and this time we will be travelling long haul with a three year old. This in itself will pose a new set of challenges to deal with but we know the most important thing is to not stress and enjoy this part of the journey.
Whatever you choose to do, enjoy your flight, relax, sit back, and don't clock watch. Watch a film or two or take a good book with you. Plan what you are going to do once you reach your destination.
In the end, the key to a good long haul experience is good planning. This needs to start a few weeks out from departure. Checking in online if possible will also save you time at the airport. Choose your seats well and make sure you have a good check list and tick things off as you pack.
Then it's time enjoy the experience!
By Kay Rayner