On Wednesday morning, I’ll be flying from London to Washington, D.C. to attend Historicon and to see my parents. As an American who lives in Britain, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have flown over the Atlantic, but I’m sure it is in excess of twenty. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about making long airplane journeys a more pleasant experience. I thought I might share my top tips.
1. Fly with either British Airways or Virgin Atlantic. I’ve flow with a lot of airlines, but if you are going UK to USA (or vice versa) these are the best. True, they cost a bit more, but for your money you generally get better service, a more comfortable seat, better food, and a better entertainment package.
2. Go for the Best Entertainment Package. Every BA or VA plane making the London – D.C. run in recent years has been equipped with a personal movie viewer. This can make a huge difference. Getting to watch a couple of movies of your choice, likely ones you haven’t seen, can really make the time fly. Seriously, try and check if a plane has this before you buy the tickets.
3. Drink Lots of Water. The easiest way to have a bad flight is to get dehydrated, and it is very easy to do when you are dependent upon someone bringing water to you. Now, most planes actually have a fountain where you can get water at any time, but make it easy on yourself and bring a bottle of water. Then drink it all and refill it. Remember, you are going to be in the air for about 8 hours, you should drink a good deal during that time.
4. Get an Aisle Seat. Or, if flying in a couple, make sure one of you has an aisle seat. One of the worst things about flying is having to crawl over someone you don’t know in order to get to the bathroom. If you have an aisle seat, you can just pop up at any time you like without bothering anyone.
5. Move Around a Lot. Take every opportunity to go to the bathroom. If you are following number 3, this shouldn't be too big of a problem, but even if you don’t really need to go, go anyway. It’s amazing what a little leg-stretch every two hours or so can do for you. Also, don’t avoid going because there is a line. Actually, it can be better when there is a line, because it gives you an excuse to stand around the back of the plane and get in a longer stretch without blocking the aisle.
6. Bring a Good Book. Everyone knows to bring a book when flying, but many make the mistake of grabbing any old ‘page turner’. Here’s the thing, a bad book is still bad, even on an airplane. There is not much use in bring a book that isn’t actually going to hold your interest. Now you are stuck on a plane with a boring book. In the weeks leading up to your flight, determine your airplane book. This should be something from an author you have a lot of confidence in, maybe the newest book in a series you enjoy. If you can get stuck into a good book, time will pass all the quicker.
7. Bring your own Headphones. While good airlines will give you headphones to use (and bad ones will charge you) they will not be good headphones. With all of the noise on a plane, especially if you happen to be sitting near the engines, you might have trouble hearing your movie/music. Get yourself a decent pair of over-the-ear ‘phones. You won’t regret it.
8. Bring Snacks and Candy. These days, most airline food isn’t much worse than most microwave meals, and on occasion I’ve even enjoyed some of it. That said, it never hurts to bring some back up, something you know you will like. Also, you can never be sure exactly when the food is coming, so having some to hand is a good idea. Candy also helps pop your ears during the often painful descent.
9. Bring a Pen. Invariably you’ll need to fill out a form. It’s nice not to have to ask someone else.
10. Remember, Flying is an Adventure. By crossing the Atlantic you are going a quarter of the way around the planet. That's pretty cool. While for some people it is a common occurrence, most of the population of the world will never get the chance.