How to Survive a 17-hour Non-Stop Flight

I just survived what is currently the longest commercial flight in the world: the Dallas to Sydney non-stop direct flight operated by Qantas. I was prepared for the flight to be miserable and yes, your instinct in boarding a 17-hour flight is “OMG. This is going to suck kangaroo you-know-what.” but thankfully this was not so bad! Here are my survival suggestions:

  • Know Your Surroundings, Get Comfortable and Make Friends (optional). I was thankful to be in premium economy on QF 8 – an Airbus A380 – which was surprisingly comfy. Certainly, business class and first class are superior and coach class less so. In premium, the seat was quite wide with tons of leg room. I could lie back reasonably well although not flat (boo hoo, I was spoiled in my previous job). I also tend to use the pillow as low back support because I’m delicate. 😉 My traveling neighbors were jolly ol’ retired Texans who own 225 acres in Australia. Said differently, they’ve made good decisions in life and own a solid 0.00000000000001% of AU landmass. Given the size of the island continent, I say nice work peeps! Don’t forget to be kind to the cabin crew – they are working hard to help make your flight enjoyable and a little friendliness will go a long way with them.
  • Watch All the Movies. In prep for this flight, I stopped going to movie theaters. Now, all these box office hit films are new to me and will keep me sane. On the list for the flight were Room (super recommend although the book was vastly better), Everest (meh) and Vacation (also meh).
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  • Entertain Yourself. When you burn out on movie watching, it’s best to look around and find other ways to entertain yourself. For example, I could not stop looking at the bathroom sign on the flight and thinking to myself “Wow, those people really need to stop skipping leg day.”
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  • Drink Tons of Water. (Also, Have an Adult Beverage). I’m definitely not endorsing getting wasted on a flight as you’re already at risk of dehydration. But I am strongly suggesting that a glass or two of wine will help you immensely when it comes to relaxing and getting what else you need on the flight (5-7 hours real sleep if you can manage). You should also drink an enormous amount of water. I drink about 1 liter of water for every 100ml of wine or beer. There’s nothing medically scientific about that but it just feels right. I would also suggest skipping the after dinner tea or coffee if your intention is to try to get sleep. Caffeine is your biggest enemy right now.
  • Try to Sleep. Some people (like Daniel) just have the natural ability to sleep upright on planes. I am not one of those lucky souls. What does help me, however, is trying to remove as much tension as possible from my limbs. I always wear a hoodie or some other long sleeved top so you can push your opposite arms in to the sleeves and create kind of an Eskimo arm sling. This will take a ton of tension out of your arms and let you relax fully instead of constantly trying to figure out where to put them. Also, it’s a good idea to determine when is the best time to sleep to reduce your jet lag. Best to try to trick your brain so your arrival time syncs up well with your circadian rhythm. Most long-haul flights like this you want to be awake for the last 2 hours or so to take in the amazing sunrises.
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  • Get the F Out of Your Seat. You’ve probably heard of deep vein thrombosis (or DVT for short). It’s a real thing. Thankfully, no matter what class you are sitting in you can and should absolutely get your butt up and walk around a bit. With the exception of during sleep, I try to get up, move around and stretch every 2 hours. I also happily wear the exceptionally fashionable circulation improving socks. They make a big impact on reducing how swollen your calves and ankles (and may even prevent cankles entirely!) Trust me on this one. The alternative is not cute. Also, if you paid attention to my previous recommendation and are chugging water, you will need to pee so frequently that getting up will be mandatory.
  • Contemplate Things Your Hectic Life Normally Can’t Even. You’ve got an astounding amount of time for this flight. What if you actually gave yourself a moment to think through the things you normally don’t have time for and make some lists? Your career – where do you want it to go? Your family – how can you spend more quality time together? Your big dreams or your little tasks – what’s that invention you’ve had knocking around your brain for years? Sketch it out. This is some seriously available ‘you time’ so take advantage of it!

Surviving a flight this long clearly has its rewards. Maybe you’re starting out an amazing vacation or you’re like me and this was a one-way ticket to an entirely new lease on life. Whatever the case, I hope these tips help you make the most out of your long-haul flights!FullSizeRender 3IMG_1629-JW

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