International Flight Tips
Overnight flights are a great way to start an international trip. Try to schedule flights that depart in the afternoon or evening and arrive at your destination in the morning.
It’s not always possible to get direct flights. Sigh. The good things about that are you could earn more airline segment qualifications, and it allows you to really stretch your legs and use a real bathroom. Rule of thumb for layovers is they should ideally be 1.5-3 hours in length. Less than 1.5 hours, you run the risk of your originating flight being delayed, having to run through the airport and airport trams, and missing your connection. Not fun.
If you’re laying over in a fun destination, consider taking a long layover. Iceland and South Korea are fantastic locations for extended layovers. Take a look at my postings for each of those countries for more information.
Avoiding Jet Lag on the Way to Your Destination
There is a lot of advice out there on how to beat jet lag. This is a list of what I have found helpful.
- First, book an overnight, direct flight if at possible.
- Eat a meal or snacks before you take off that will sustain you for the duration of the flight. Skip the meal and drink service – even if you’re in first class. The goal here is to sleep.
- After boarding, put on a sleep mask, put on your noise cancelling headphones or earplugs, and sleep as much as possible. The purpose of taking an overnight flight is to sleep on the plane and arrive as fresh as possible at your destination.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, try taking the natural supplement melatonin.
- When you arrive at your location, check-in to your lodgings, grab something to eat, and go explore. Do not take a nap! Push through even if you are tired.
- Stay up as late as possible and then go to bed.
- In the morning, you should get up at a decent hour and go about your day.
What to Bring in Your Carry On
My favorite things to bring in my carry on for international flights are:
- Contoured sleep mask. I love these because they are great at blocking out light and because they are contoured, they don’t press right against your eyelids.
- Bose noise cancelling headphones. I cannot travel well without these. If you are a frequent traveler, these are worth the investment. On my flight home from Paris, I was chatting with the gentleman sitting next to me. He had these, told me they are amazing, and had me try them. I immediately purchased a pair.
- Ear plugs (if you don’t have noise cancelling headphones). I don’t use these myself because I have the Bose headphones, but from what friends tell me, this style works better than the foam ones.
- Lightweight, packable blanket or pashmina. Rumor has it that airlines don’t always launder the blankets so you might want to bring one along. This one is multi-purpose and water resistant.
- Neck pillow. I’ve had this Lewis & Clark inflatable neck pillow for years. I love it because it folds down to about 3″ x 7″ pack. It takes about 2-3 breaths to blow up and is really fast. Since it’s inflatable, you can adjust how full you want it which to me is really a nice benefit.
- Back pillow. It’s a long flight and airplane seats are not known for their comfort. Lumbar support is non-existent so bring one in your carry on. This one is a spa pillow, but I like it because it has a carrying case and you can wash the cover.
- Slippers. Many airlines will provide them, but they’re never the right size so just bring your own. Also, it helps you avoid freaking out your fellow passengers who hate when people go barefoot.
- Disposable face and hand wipes. These come in handy for several reasons such as planes do not have the cleanest surfaces in the world, accidental spills, and once you wake up and are ready to land it’s nice to “wash” your face and do a quick touch up.
- Face/hand lotion. It’s easy to get dehydrated on a long flight so pack travel sized lotion for your face / hands.
- Travel Toothbrush. Because when you wake up you’re going to want to brush.
- Or Disposable toothbrush. I love these things. No, they are not eco-friendly – sorry! I always have some in my car, my purse, etc.
- Hair brush. Again – long flight. Sleep mask + neck pillow will leave you with some interesting hair so bring a brush or comb.
- Change of clothes. Depending on how long your flight is, how many connections you have, how you feel about changing in airplane bathrooms, how long your layovers are, etc., a full change of clothes could be a good idea. If you are able to use an airline club lounge, you may be able to take a full shower.
- Phone charger and extra power pack. Most, but not all, international flights have power so you can charge your phone during flight. I highly recommend having an external power charger with you – not just for the flight but for while you travel as well. You never know when you’re going to be able to charge your phone. And if you use your phone to take pictures and post a lot on social media, you’ll drain your battery pretty quickly.
- Extra clear, quart-sized, zip-top bag (aka 3-1-1 TSA rule). Airport security requirements vary from country to country. And remember that TSA Pre-Check is not available outside the U.S., so you won’t be able to sail through like you usually do (if you have TSA Pre-Check). This means you’ll probably need to unpack your liquids, laptops, etc. I have found that having a clear, quart-sized bag has been helpful in my international travels.
Dealing with Jet Lag When You Arrive Home
I typically find avoiding jet lag more challenging when I arrive home, regardless of if I gain time or lose time. However, these are the steps I take that I find most helpful.
- First, book a daylight, direct flight if at possible.
- Do what you need to do to stay awake the whole way home. Watch movies, play games, stretch your legs, drink lots of water so you have to go to the bathroom – just stay awake.
- Take advantage of the meal and drink service – especially if you’re in first class.
- When you arrive home, shower, unpack, do laundry, do whatever you need to stay awake as late as possible. Push through even if you are tired.
- Once you can’t take being awake anymore, go to bed. If for some reason you are having trouble falling asleep, take your melatonin (see earlier section).
- In the morning, you should get up at a decent hour and go about your day. Exercise and being outside in the sunlight is a good idea.
- Go to bed at a decent hour the next night, and don’t sleep in the next day. Keep up this routine for about the next 3-4 days and you should be good to go. For some reason, if you are dealing with large time zone changes, the third day is when it catches up to you.