A few weeks ago I had the amazing and very spontaneous opportunity to go to California for a long weekend. It was a whirlwind trip, seeing several cities in the state in just over three days. But to get there, I had to endure a long (5 hour) trans-continental flight from Philadelphia to San Diego, and for the returning flight, San Francisco back to Philadelphia. Because I took two trans-continental flights just within a few short days of each other, I definitely learned a little bit about how to endure them. Here are some tips, and they will even work whether your plane ride is two hours or eight.
1. Bring snacks. In this day and age, this is a lot more important simply for comfort as far as hunger and your wallet is concerned than it used to be, because most airlines don’t offer anything complimentary anymore except something to drink. If you do decide to buy some snacks on the plane, be aware that they are very overpriced.
2. Bring a sweatshirt or jacket. Airplanes are generally a bit chilly, at least for a lot of people, so just make sure you bring something to put on in case you get cold. It doesn’t have to be heavy or anything, just a little bit of warmth. The temperature also generally depends on how big your aircraft is as well, because my flight home from Philadelphia was on a tiny little plane and it was really chilly.
3. Bring something to do. This is probably pretty obvious, but bring a little something to keep entertained. Most airplanes don’t have in-flight movies or anything like that, so unless you want to spend the entire time looking at the Sky Mall catalogue in your seat pocket, bring a book or your iPod.
4. If you’re taking a red-eye flight, bring a travel pillow. My previous point is a little bit contrary to this one- if you’re taking a red-eye flight (which means an overnight flight) then you might not need entertainment. What you definitely will want is a way to sleep as comfortably as possible. I made the mistake of not taking any type of pillow or anything on the flight to Philadelphia from California, which was definitely a red eye flight, departing just after midnight. My sleep on the plane was restless to say the least, and I got creative with my limited positions in my seat, including resting my head on my pull out tray. (not highly recommended.) However, I saw lots of people on the plane with nifty little neck and travel pillows, so I would defninitely recommend them if you plan on sleeping on the plane.
5. Take several opportunities to look out your window, if you’re near one. One of the cool things about a trans-con flight is that you’re flying over many states, and the landscape is a bit different in each one. Even if it’s nighttime, glance out every once in a while. You might see some pretty city lights, or a thunderstorm from high above. We were flying somewhere over Oklahoma when we looked out the window in the dark and saw an awesome lightning storm. It was a really big one, too, and seeing it from above was definitely something cool and worth seeing.
6. Stretch your legs. The longer the flight, the more important this is. The air pressure from being at high altitudes combined with just being one place for a long time are the perfect conditions to develop blood clots in the legs, and it happens to air travelers all the time. If you’re going to be on a flight that’s several hours long, get up and walk around at least once or twice. Even going to the bathroom can count as walking around (if your seat is relatively far from the lavatory! ha!) But even if you don’t want to go to the bathroom, just walk up and down the aisle once or twice. Trust me, you’ll see other people doing it too. You can even just stand up in your seat and stretch your legs, too, as long as the seatbelt sign is off. You’ll want to if you’re on a long flight, and you won’t be alone.
I hope you’ll remember these tips next time you’re getting ready for a flight, particularly a long one, and that they help! And make sure you keep your eyes on this blog, because I’ll be doing several posts on my adventures in California very soon!