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How to Survive a Long Haul Flight

With my family living in Australia and my chosen home being London, I’m a bit of an expert in long-haul travel. It takes about twenty four hours to get from London to Melbourne, which doesn’t sound a lot, but that’s twenty four hours sitting on a plane.

Of course the easy way to do it would be to fly business or first class, unfortunately my budget doesn’t stretch to that so I’m always squeezing into my economy seat surrounded by screaming babies and arm-rest hogs.

Everyone has their own techniques and strategies for how to cope with long periods of travel, whether that’s on a bus, train, or plane, but here are a few of my coping mechanisms for getting through that long-haul flight to Australia.

Choose your Travel Companions Wisely

Twenty four hours is a long time to be stuck next to someone. Over the years I’ve learnt (the hard way) that there are certain friends, and several members of my family, who I can’t do long-haul travel with. You need someone that you can have long, comfortable silences with, someone who’s not going to want to talk while you’re trying to watch a movie, someone who’s not going to panic or have some sort of melt-down when there is unexplained turbulence or your flight is delayed, canceled, or diverted. A lot of the time these days I choose to make the journey by myself – it’s just easier, you can get in the zone, you bunker down, you push through the pain of being cramped in an uncomfortable seat for torturously long periods.

Make Friends With the Air-Hostess

Regardless of which airline that you’re flying with, the stewards or air-hostesses that have been assigned to work the economy cabin are going to be doing it tough. It’s a long period to be on your feet, serving people food and drinks, continuously answering someone’s call button. I’ve got several friends who are air-hostesses and they tell me that they will always have favourite passengers – that if you are nice to them, engage a little, then they happily give you extra drinks, bring you snacks and look after you a bit better. It’s unlikely to result in any kind of upgrade, but you need to do anything you can to take the edge off a long journey.

Pretend You’re in Deep Space

If you’ve watched as many sci-fi movies as I have, then you’ll know that the only way to travel long distances is to put your body into a catatonic state of deep-sleep. There are a few ways that you can do this. My friend Luke swears by sleeping pills – we were flying back from Toronto together recently and he was road-testing a new super-strong sleeping pill that he’d convinced his doctor to prescribe him. We were still taxiing down the runway for take-off when he said:

“Ooh… I can’t feel my arms anymore…” He was asleep before we were airborne. I generally opt for the fool-proof strategy of red wine and a Sandra Bullock movie. Some sort of meal is generally served as soon as you’ve taken off, so you can load up with as many small bottles of red wine as you can manage before Sandra Bullock lulls you into a long, but uncomfortable snooze that kills at least a couple of hours.

Sometimes when you travel, the journey can be just as exciting as the destination. But sometimes the process of getting to where you need to be is purely functional, a means to an end, and you just have to find a way to get through it as painlessly as possible. Welcome to long-haul travel.

Gareth Johnson


An Australian writer living in London, Gareth loves travel and fashion and is obsessed with water polo.  You can follow Gareth on Twitter @gtvlondon


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