Although there are few downsides to life as an expat overseas, the distance to my home country of Australia is one of them.
There’s no “popping” back home from London for the weekend, as many of my European friends do.
If I want to fly back for a visit, it takes at least a full 24 hours (if I’m lucky), a commitment of three or more weeks and considerable expense. I rue the day the Concorde plane was retired.
So, I have found myself in the strange position of being well skilled in an area that I normally wouldn’t care to take any part in. I had to strive to find ways to somehow keep my sanity while being seated in economy for two rounds of long haul flights, anytime I wished to go home. After much trial and error, I believe I’ve succeeded.
If you’ve got a flight of ten hours or more coming up and you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to last, don't panic. I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the top accessories for long haul flights.
1. Invest in a Proper Pillow
Airlines do their bit to offer pillows and blankets, but they’re usually terribly flimsy things that won’t keep you adequately warm or comfortable.
I had long ago bought a neck pillow for traveling, but I just couldn’t make it work for me. I’d usually end up having a disjointed sleep, clutching the pillow on my lap for comfort.
Then one day, I purchased an Ostrich Pillow (the “Light” version) on a whim. I thought it would be handy for napping, but it has revolutionized my life where travel is concerned.
I have taken it on buses, trains and use it when I need to kip down for twenty minutes or so during the day. It’s also perfect for flights.
Not only does it make for comfortable sleep when sitting upright, but the way it wraps around your head also helps block out light, omitting the need for an eye-mask. I don’t know how I survived flights without it!
2. Bring Bed Socks and a Shawl
Airplanes get crazy cold, and I generally find the provided amenities do little to combat against this. I always pack a pair of bed socks to cover my feet, and if I can, I bring a shawl to use as a blanket. I justify this by wearing it as an accessory when I reach my destination.
3. Pack a Few Key Toiletries
You’re probably going to step off the plane after a 24-hour flight, feeling more disgusting than you ever have before in your life. Having a few key toiletries on hand can go a long way to making you feel more like a human being and less like a hot mess.
I used to buy those travel-sized cosmetics that you can find at pharmacies. I’d use them once or twice, before throwing them out, or letting them rot in the back of my cupboard. For the next flight, I’d repeat the process. What a waste of money.
It makes more sense, financially, to downsize existing products into your own travel-sized bottles that you can refill again and again.
This pack comes with a reusable travel baggie that you can use in lieu of those horrible and wasteful plastic bags at security. Throw some cleanser, moisturizer and deodorant in with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Use at your leisure!
4. Bring Your Own Earplugs
If you’re an incredibly light sleeper like me, you probably find that the provided earplugs on airplanes largely fail at restricting noise, particularly if they're made of foam.
I bring a pair of earplugs wherever I go (you never know if there is going to be a snorer in a hostel room). Mine were purchased from a local pharmacy. Look for a pair that are intended for frequent use and aren’t made out of foam.
5. Drink Out of a Reuseable Cup With a Lid
I shudder when I think about how many plastic cups airlines must go through for each route they fly. Yet, I also don’t object to the odd cup of tea on a flight. It’s the little things that make the experience bearable after all.
Along with a reusable water bottle, I bring my own cup. The best thing about it is that it has a lid. This is incredibly handy for unexpected turbulence. They're also perfect for cups of coffee at airports between flights.
You may feel shy about asking the airline staff to pour the beverage into your own cup. I did at first, but so far I have only had positive reactions.
Long haul journeys don’t have to be a terrible drawn out experience. Snuggle up, keep yourself hydrated, find an adequately trashy movie, and enjoy your flight.
LC is an ex-expat who is currently re-exploring her home country of Australia. Follow her adventures at home and abroad via her blog Birdgehls, where she writes about travel, expat life, gushes on about various animals and bemoans her often futile attempts to go completely green. Or, you can look her up on Facebook.