Tips From a Frequent Flyer

Flying over the Andes Mountain Range, approaching Santiago, Chile
Flying over the Andes Mountain Range, approaching Santiago, Chile
Flying over the Andes Mountain Range, approaching Santiago, Chile

(This text was originally written on 1st of October 2016)

I am writing this post from inside a plane, on a 9-hour night flight from Lisbon to São Paulo. Fortunately, my work requires a lot of travelling, which I love, and therefore, none of this is really news to me: sleeping and working on board. Usually I prefer night flights, because I will not lose a day of work, and because flights during the day seem to take longer, as it is harder to sleep. I have been travelling more intensively on the last 2 years, and during this time as a frequent traveler, I have learned to adapt and prepare myself to have the most comfortable trip as possible. There are 3 main things that I value and are crucial for my trips: food, entertainment – what to do during the flight – and good sleep.

Food is a major thing for me and, unfortunately, food on coach is not that great. For long flights, airlines offer 2 meals: one dinner/lunch after takeoff and one snack/breakfast before landing. Main course is usually chicken or pasta, with a starter, bread with butter and a desert, strong on sugar. It looks like a normal meal, but I really think that is not suited for someone who will be seating for the next 8 hours on a plane, with little or no room to move. Obviously, chicken is a much better option compared to pasta, however, chicken meals often run out before the last rows of the plane get a chance to choose. So, very important, never sit on the last rows of the plane: you are served last, you may end up having to eat pasta and you will have to wait everyone else to leave the plane before you can go out! Trust me, I have learned this the hard way. What I did not know then, but I know now, is that airlines have special meal options available, provided that you request it prior to the flight. It might have a cost and be charged separately. Special meals options are: low calories menu, vegan or vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, fruit only, among other options. Ah, and usually special meals are the first to be served –  just positive aspects! There is a second option to avoid the pasta: you can always buy your meal at the airport’s restaurants – usually they have takeaway boxes – and enjoy it on board. No surprises and no need to wait for the meal service to eat. Imagine: you eating sushi, while everyone else eating pasta – now we are talking! I always take some snacks to eat between meals, such as some nuts and fruits. As a last option, you can decide to upgrade to business and get a much better set of meal options. Finally, to close the food chapter, let me write you about water. Water is a major need on board. You need to drink a lot of water, as the skies are very dehydrating. And a lot of water is not the 2 small cups of water that are served per meal and the extra two between meals – it is a lot more. And not to bother to be always asking for cups of water, I buy a bottle at the airport and keep it with me on my seat.

So now that food is provided for, the next thing is to decide how to spend the time. Believe me, 10 hours in a plane is a lot and you will have a very long and unpleasant flight if you cannot find ways to spend your time. Even if you decide to sleep, chances are that you are not able to sleep the entire flight, and therefore, need some entertainment. Depending on the airline, on the airplane and on your luck, you may have available a comprehensive entertainment center on the touch screen monitor in front of your seat, with dozens of films, classics and recent, tv series, music and games. In case, you are good. Or you may be unlucky and end up in an old airplane with 6 channels of recorded movies, that you are never able to see the beginning of the transmission – like myself on this flight today. So, to prevent ending up watching a non-interesting movie, I always bring with me: my favorite chill out playlist on the mobile phone to listen during the flight, a pocket book for flights during the day – however sometimes lights are reduced during the most part of the flight and reading conditions are not perfect -, my ipad and/or pc – to read, work, see movies or tv series -, and magazines. Some airlines have digital editions of a vast selection of newspapers and magazines available to download after check-in is done. You can download it to your tablet or pc and ready it on board. With these many options, you won’t get bored during your flight.

Finally, a very important part of the journey for a lot of passengers, especially the ones that take night flight: sleep. Best option is always to try to upgrade to business – even on the older aircrafts, sleeping in coach or business is not comparable. If this is not possible, and you will need to sleep back in coach, you can make the experience more comfortable by guaranteeing some things. Try to choose a seat next to an empty seat – for extra space. Always bring ear tampons to block the airplane noise, sleep eye mask to cover your eyes and a big comfortable scarf of your own to cover you up – you do not want to sleep wrapped in a blanked used by other people and planes can get really really cold. Some airlines distribute a kit with these items, but on coach it is not that common. If you think you will sleep long periods of time, and won’t need to get up very often chose a sit by the window, otherwise by the aisle.

Dinner was served already, lights were reduced and my battery is running out, so I think I will try to sleep for the next couple (hopefully 5) hours. Hope you find my tips useful and will put them in practice on your next flight! Any tricks of your own? Please share it on the comments below, I would really like to read them.

See you soon and safe travels!

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