5 Ways to Not Hate Life on a Transcontinental Flight

1. Don’t Book With an American Carrier

American Airline CompaniesYou would think that US airline companies have great food, lots of legroom, or something good they’re offering customers that keeps them on the verge of bankruptcy. Alas, the opposite is true. Compared to their foreign counterparts, they just kinda suck. Most of the planes have that “grandma’s house” smell with torn up seats and carpets and an underpaid staff. The food isn’t bad for airplane food but you do have to pay for any alcohol after that first drink, and it’s not very cheap ($5-$8 per drink depending on airline and beverage). Another downside are the hidden fees. Tickets may be $100 or so cheaper than other airlines but expect to pay at least $50 for each checked bag – and it’s pretty annoying to find this out at the last minute at the check-in counter.

If you’re taking a long flight, book a foreign carrier like Air France, KLM Royal Dutch, Virgin, British Airways, Turkish Air, Lufthansa, etc. They’ve got it figured out. New planes with nice interiors, great cabin crews, all the alcohol you want, and most have nice little goody bags with earplugs, an eye mask, and even slippers, a toothbrush and toothpaste – in economy! Hidden fees are almost nonexistent and most allow two checked bags free of charge.  Turkish Airlines MealOn top of this, the food is as good as it gets at 30,000 feet. Turkish Air serves a nice salmon appetizer with dinner and Lufthansa tops off their lunches and dinners with a Toblerone. (Still talking economy class by the way).

So next time you’re booking an intercontinental flight, look twice at the foreign carriers. They might cost an extra $100 or so, but the perks and little to no hidden fees make those additional dollars worth it.

2. Buy a Neck PillowNeck Pillows

 Okay, so if you don’t already own one you probably view neck pillows on the same coolness level as fanny packs. And if you do own one, you know how great they are. There’s a reason why these things are hanging everywhere you look in airports. There’s no pain like waking up after your head’s been tilted to one shoulder for a few hours, not to mention the awkward embarrassment of walking around the next day with your head cocked like you’re baffled about something off in the distance. Solution? Neck pillow. No more sore neck, waking up drooling on your seat neighbor, or having the flight attendant keep waking you up to ask you to please keep your head out of the aisle. Still worried about looking lame with one of these funny neck buddies? Good news. You’ll likely never see anyone on your flight again, so go on and get a fanny pack while you’re at it.

3. Meet the People Sitting Next to You

The only other place you’ll find a more diverse group of people is on jury duty, except people are usually pissed to be on jury duty and happy to be on an airplane. And chances are, the person sitting next to you has a pretty interesting story. It’s rare to find boring international travelers, and talking with them is a great way to forget you’re sitting in a cramped seat for 5 or more hours. Who knows, they might have been your mom’s old neighbor, have a great reference for work, or can get you a deal at some hotel, tour, or restaurant where you’re going.

Airplane Conversation

I have a cousin who makes a point of finding a new friend on every flight and he’s got a list of e-mail addresses and connections around the world to show for it. And if they do happen to be in the boring minority you can just put in some headphones (with or without music) or whip out your neck pillow and tell them you’re going to sleep. You have to work hard to be taken as rude on a flight, I’ve found people are usually pretty forgiving to in-flight acquaintances.

Chatting isn’t for everyone, but whatever you do, don’t be so boring that the people on either side of you start a conversation with one another. There are few places in the world as awkward and uncomfortable as being the guy sitting in the middle of that.

4. Sleep

Sleeping on planeIf you followed tips one and two correctly, you should have a comfortable neck pillow, complimentary earplugs and eye mask, and unlimited alcoholic drinks. Next stop: sleepyville. If you’re a light sleeper some over the counter sleeping pills should do the trick, or, if you’re prescribed, bring along some valium or xanax. You might be a little groggy, but it’s an amazing feeling waking up as the captain makes his final descent announcement over the intercom. It’s like the adult version of waking up as you’re being carried from the car. This is my all-time favorite way to get through a long flight, especially if I’ve got more ahead of me. Sleep on one and wake up on the next.


5. If You’ve Got It, Play With You’re iPad

iPad TravelingThis is one of the reasons why Apple has sold so many and why 90% of Fortune 500 companies use these fancy tablets. With 10 hours of entertainment options, you’re only limited by how long you can stare at the little screen on your tray table. You can watch movies and TV shows that you’ve purchased through iTunes or downloaded and reformatted with a program like Any Video Converter (mac or PC). You can read your favorite books (that you can also download free in places other than iTunes) with iBooks. You can catch up on the news by saving online articles with apps like Istapaper, and you’ve got a full app store full of every touch-controlled game imaginable. And if you’re tired of feeling like your flaunting your iPad to your less fortunate neighbors, you can invite them to join you in one of the many thoughtless but fun two player games like Glow Hockey.



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  1. Wow Ive never seen anyone look so comfy sleeping on an airplane, that must be a special travel pillow!

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  2. What do you do about the kids kicking the seat behind you??? no amount of free drinks can fix that

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  3. Great article! For tip 3- Last plane trip I took the guy next to me smelled like he bathed in salami juice. I was hungry the entire flight! Could have been worse I guess.

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5 Ways to Not Hate Life on a Transcontinental Flight