There’s probably no feeling quite like stepping off the plane to start your programme in Peru, the Philippines, Ghana, or wherever you’re spending your elective. Unfortunately though, getting there often involves a dreaded long haul flight. Not most people’s idea of a good time.
To help the 1000 students still to join us in 2013 get through the tedious travel that stands between you and the start of your adventure abroad, we’ve put together a few essential tips for long haul flights. The upshot is stay comfy, keep busy and be healthy.
Make yourself comfortable
It’s a good idea to wear comfortable, loose clothing which gives you the option to add or remove layers depending on the temperature on the flight. If possible, see if you can book your seat ahead of time. This way you can pick the part of the plane where you’ll best be able to relax. On short flights it makes sense to position yourself for a fast exit, but on a long haul flight you might as well go for maximum comfort even if it adds a few minutes right at the end.
If you’re tall you can get a little extra leg room by sitting right at the front or by the emergency exit. It’s best to avoid being right by a bathroom though, otherwise you risk spending a lot of time with people hovering in the aisle by your seat. Finally, sitting near the front will help to reduce the engine noise – well worth thinking about as hours of rumbling can get old fast.
Keep yourself busy
It’s probably pretty obvious, but bring plenty of things to keep you busy on the flight. Making the most of the inflight entertainment is a good plan because watching a movie passes a good couple of hours nice and quickly. Watching two or three over the course of the journey might be a real life saver.
Try to separate all your activities. Don’t eat while you watch a movie or read a book – spread it out so each task helps to pass some time. And of course, sleeping is the ultimate way to while away the hours. So if you feel a tired spell coming on, put your book down and make the most of it!
Getting up for a walk every now and again is also important – it lets you stretch your legs and breaks up the journey a little bit.
Look after your health and well-being
Apart from being kind of a drag, long haul flights can be a strain on your body. They are tiring and can be stressful, so it’s essential that you take care of yourself as you travel. A top tip is to make sure you stay really well hydrated, drinking plenty of water throughout.
One concern a lot of people have about long flights is the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The reason DVT is particularly associated with flights is because long periods of inactivity are one of the common causes of the condition. Older people and overweight people are more susceptible to DVT, but realistically you are unlikely to have a problem. Just make sure to go for a few walks during the journey, stay hydrated and keep yourself mobile by doing some stretches in your seat.
If you’re flying to a different time zone you may also suffer with a jet lag when you arrive. To get past the body clock confusion as quickly as possible, resist the urge to have a sleep as soon as you land. Instead, try to get right into the routine of your new time zone. You can give yourself an early night (you’ve earned it!) but make sure it’s a reasonable bed time. Within a few days your body will start to adjust and it’ll be worth pushing through.
You can also check out our new infographic '10 Ways to Fall Asleep on a Plane'
The good news is all the boredom, average movies, questionable food and noisy engines will be more than worth it when you land in your destination and begin your time on your elective placement.