Not every business trip is the same when it comes to travel time. Some people take a quick one-hour plane flight to shorten a five-hour drive while others spend a day on the train both ways. The most common for international business trips, however, is the 20+ hour flight across one of the big oceans and a reasonable amount of land as well. When you’re in this situation, the amount of time spent in one fairly cramped seat can be irritating or a great chance to relax before work at the destination depending on your attitude and how well you are prepared. Because of how long you’ll be on the flight, you might as well think of it as its own special kind of hotel night and pack accordingly. Here more than any other kind of trip, you will want a carry-on that is also an overnight bag and many of the same considerations that you would use when packing for a weekend.
The first step to enjoying a very long airplane flight is to make sure you have everything you need to get comfortable. Start by booking an aisle seat. This way, you will have the freedom to stretch and visit the bathroom throughout the flight without jostling anyone else. You may also be able to stretch into the aisle while sitting as long as you’re careful about walkers and stewardess carts.
Things to Pack
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Mouthwash and Flosser Sticks
- Hairbrush and Ties (if long)
- Empty Water Bottle (fill after security)
- Sleeping Mask and Earplugs
- Hand Sanitizer
What to Wear
Next, you’ll want to consider what you’ll actually be wearing on the plane. Remember that this is an outfit you will probably wear for more than 24 hours straight and you will want to take any position possible to get comfortable on the plane. Choose something soft that feels and wears like pajamas but looks like business casual. Airplanes are also often quite thoroughly air conditioned so be sure to dress warmly and bring an extra sweater just in case. Wear warm, comfortable socks that you might walk the plane in and nice looking shoes that can slip off easily and can be stowed under your seat. You might even consider a nice warm bandana or beanie hat in case the overhead AC is too strong.
Your next concern is keeping your stomach in good condition over the long hours and several airplane meals. Fortunately, handling airplane good is a long-studied artform and many travelers before you have contributed to the shared knowledge. Some, for instance, swear by ordering a specialty meal type ahead of time with the surety that vegetarian, vegan, kosher, and halal means tend to be both of higher quality and served earlier than standard meal options.
Another option is to plan a few meals you know are good and strategically bring them along. A few packets of instant oatmeal, for instance, can serve as breakfast, snacks, and a stomach-settling solution combined with a cup of hot water from the stewardess. You can also pack a few sections of healthy sub-sandwich or a supply of healthy muffins.
Finally, you can snag a few extra calories for free on any length of flight simply by asking for tomato juice instead of the normal cola, coffee, or water. This is essentially tomato soup and can settle your stomach if the travel stress is getting to you.
Once you’ve got your diet established, it’s important to have an airplane personal maintenance and hygiene plan ready. Traveling across the ocean takes a very long time and the best way to get through it is to keep yourself fresh and sociable, just in case it turns into one of those TV episodes where everyone starts making life-long friends and sharing their life stories.
First, make sure your water bottle is full and that you drink from it regularly. Airplanes are notorious for dehydrating passengers and this is often the source of any travel sickness or discomfort. Staying hydrated is also one of the reasons you want to have an aisle seat.
Next, make sure you have everything you need for a mini morning routine. Keep your toothbrush, paste, floss, and mouthwash ready along in small TSA-approved containers along with something to wash your face with and brush your hair. This will allow you to freshen up after a long nap and feel confident getting off the plane. Don’t forget your lotion, airplane AC can seriously dry your skin out.
Finally, take along a small pillbox of remedies like painkillers, antihistamines, and so on to ensure that if you do need something, you have it ready.
Almost everyone spends at least some of their time on a long plane flight either asleep or trying to sleep. Unfortunately, the vast majority of airplane seats are not designed for comfortable slumber. To ensure that you can sleep peacefully, you’ll want to bring the right gear. Start with a comfortable and stable neck pillow so that you can sleep without leaning on the wall or your companions. If you need sensory privacy and quiet, pack a sleeping mask, earplugs, and possibly white noise earphones as well. To complete the set, bring a light-weight but warm blanket to wrap up in when you go to sleep or possibly create a blanket fort tablet cinema if you’re lucky enough to get a row to yourself.
Speaking of tablet cinema, you can’t spend 100% of your time sleeping so you’ll want some offline fun and, ideally, a charging port for your time on the flight. Pack plenty of eBooks, movies, music, puzzles, offline games, and anything else you like to do or do offline work if that’s your travel flavor. If the flight is long and you don’t have a charge port, or just in case your charge port doesn’t work properly, be sure to bring at least one or two analog entertainments like a paperback novel or a sudoku book. At the very least, have a blank notepad and a few pens and pencils for recreation, entertaining young flight companions, or emergency sign making.
With the right preparation and a creative approach to airplane time, long flights don’t have to be a hassle. Know what you’re going to eat ahead of time, stay comfortable and healthy, and always have a few backup plans.