Not a fan of long flights?
Does the idea of being trapped for 14 hours in a winged box give you the chills?
Don’t like having to deal with the jetlag that comes after a long-distance trip?
If that’s the case, it’s time to change attitude!
Yes, because, believe me, it’s all in your mind.
I won’t deny that when there’s the slightest turbulence, I also start asking the universe for a pain-free end!
And I’ve been doing very long-distance flights for 35 years!
But I try to breathe, keep watching my movies, and I remind myself how safe it is to fly by plane.
Because a long time ago I made a change in attitude.
I started to view long-distance flights differently.
And now I believe that a long-distance flight is not torture.
A long-distance flight is an experience.
An experience that is part of my trip.
And I have learned to enjoy it to the fullest.
Let me share my thoughts with you next.
How to fully enjoy a long flight at 50+
1. Plan Smart!
When you buy your ticket, try imagining all the possible things that could go wrong.
Are the connections too risky?
Will you have enough time for transit?
Why stress yourself, right?
But, if you can’t help it, what is your plan B in case things go wrong?
Are you going to have to spend overtime at the airport?
If so, don’t forget to put a change of clothes and some healthy snacks in your hand luggage.
If you book your flights on a travel platform such as Kayak, or directly on the website of your preferred airline, select your seats before leaving.
Turbulence is a problem for you?
Make your boarding online (between 24 and 48 hours before departure, depending on the airline) and choose your seats in the front part of the plane.
It has been shown (and I have experienced it too) that the plane shakes a lot less in the front.
Yes, that’s precisely the area where potentially screaming babies sit, but children sleep most of the flight!
In addition, if you have a pair of good headphones, you’ll barely hear anything.
Plus I personally choose babies over turbulence any time!
What I would have no doubt recommending is an aisle seat.
If there’s two of you: aisle and centre.
Or two aisles, side by side.
Yes, you will have to get up when the other passengers need to leave, but that is not bad either. You need to be moving while on a long-distance flight.
But, at least, being in the aisle, you are under control of your movements.
2. Smart Airport Access
You’ve done your boarding online so you won’t have to spend hours queuing to check-in.
Even in that case, I still prefer to get to the airport with plenty of time.
I also prefer getting to the airport by public transport to avoid unexpected traffic dramas.
Many cities these days offer very comfortable and affordable transport options to get to the airport, even if you carry luggage.
I prefer to pay € 6 on the Aerobus or on the Barcelona metro, for example, than €40 for a taxi that might get stuck in a traffic jam in the city.
It just doesn’t make sense to me unless there’s more than 3 or 4 of you travelling together!
In addition, that additional ride on public transport will tire you (positively) and make it easier for you to relax as soon as you get on the plane.
3. Security and customs: make it easy as possible for yourself
Do you really need that laptop with you on the plane?
Can’t you check it in?
What is the worst that can happen? That you lose your suitcase? That’s what travel insurance is for, right?
Do you need all those beauty products in the cabin?
All you need is a toothbrush, a toothpaste, a moisturiser and some lip balm.
Make it as easy as possible for yourself.
Minimise your hand luggage so you don’t have to worry about removing electronic devices, metallic objects, hygiene products, belts, boots, bottles etc. in the safety control trays and putting them back once you’ve been screened.
It’s a real pain!
Also, have you had an electronic passport issued?
Do you know how much time and queueing you can spare yourself in some countries?!
And when you’ve checked in and gone through all the checks, here’s another tip: try not to stuff yourself with food in one of the airport’s expensive restaurants.
Take a trolley, place your hand luggage on it, and walk around the airport until it is time to board.
3. Relax! Your flight experience begins now!
Long-distance travel has changed a lot over time.
I remember when you even had to pay for your entertainment systems!
Now, traveling on an airline like Qatar Airways (which, by the way, is one of my long-time favourites, and I have tried most of the Sydney-Barcelona routes!), is a wonderful experience that you should try to enjoy to the fullest.
You’ll be able to sleep with a certain degree of comfort…
And enjoy reasonably delicious meals (or at least I convince myself they are!), alcoholic beverages, new movies, TV series, music, games…
Anyway, there are worse things in life than this!
Plus, most of us sleep for much of the journey, normally, between 6 to 8 hours.
Do you find it impossible to relax and sleep on a plane?
Too concerned about a giant metal machine holding its weight up in the sky?
Just remind yourself -as I do! – that although there may be turbulences, today’s airplanes, especially the machines designed for transcontinental travel are capable of withstanding anything!
Seriously! Even the most aggressive of turbulences.
No, I won’t deny it! It’s super unpleasant!
You can resort to things like meditation if that’s your cup of tea.
There are a lot of useful applications that will guide you through your meditation like Headspace although many airlines have their own meditation programs in their audio systems.
Some of us even have a freakishly structured relaxation ritual.
– I remove my shoes as I sleep much better without them and I neatly tuck them under seat so they don’t bother me or any other passenger/flight attendant (sometimes I use compression socks since they favour circulation, although I don’t always do it).
– I make sure I’m comfortable at the right temperature level – not too hot, not too cold.
– Once I finish eating, I immediately brush my teeth, apply moisturizer and lip balm.
Other travelers say that a few drops of lavender oil on the pillow or in the blanket lower blood pressure and stimulate deep sleep.
Wearing comfortable loose clothes will also make you feel better.
Don’t worry about appearances!
Everyone is on the same “boat” as you!
Drink water frequently: ask the hostess if necessary, although I recommend that you reuse a bottle or glass so you don’t have to use so much plastic.
Avoid sitting cross-legged, as it hinders blood flow.
And while you’re awake, get up and walk in the cabin every 1 to 2 hours.
If that’s not possible, do stretching exercises in a discreet corner of the plane.
Try to walk on your tippy-toes, and the opposite, walk with your heels to stretch your calves and facilitate circulation.
And when you want to sleep, and the lights on the plane have gone out, put on your headphones and a mask (better if you bring your own from home).
The goal is to achieve the darkness and absolute silence you need to shoot your melatonin levels up and incite sleep.
Turn your entertainment screen off as that kind of light is telling your retinas that it’s daytime and they confuse the brain.
Ah! But you feel like enjoying a little free wine or whiskey on the plane?
So, drink water to always stay hydrated.
And above all, be very careful if you’ve chosen to take sleeping pills!
I personally don’t like them because they make me dizzy, plus it has been shown that combining them on long-distance flights with alcohol can have very dangerous health effects.
Not to mention than when I travel alone I like to be in control of what I do.
What if we have to land unexpectedly (it won’t be the first time!) and I’m totally knocked out?
We’ve had to be diverted to other countries and land several times due to medical emergencies, if I would have been asleep, it would have been impossible for me to react!
4. Fight jetlag intelligently
When you’re younger, you breeze through jetlag like nothing.
For the 50+ traveller, managing time changes is a bit more complicated, especially depending on the direction in which you travel.
What is the conclusion I’ve reached after almost 4 decades of traveling from Europe to Asia and Australia?
My body rules.
What happens if I wake up at 3 am when I arrive in Europe after flying from Australia?
I answer messages, work a little, read, and it depends on where I am, I go out to exercise when the sun is up.
After two or three days, I get used to European time.
Returning to Australia is a little more complicated.
Normally my circadian rhythm is out of control for a minimum of 7-8 days.
And that’s because we need an adaptation day for each hour of time lag when flying east.
A day and a half, if we fly west.
Again, I try not to make a big deal out of it
What if I feel like napping at 2 pm?
Over time, jetlag can become a problem though (they say that the secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH), cortisol and melatonin, is reduced and that makes the process of adapting to our new schedule more difficult).
But I’ve tried to learn not to let it bother me.
In addition to this mindset change, what can a person over 50 do to reduce the effects of jetlag?
- Try to expose yourself as much as possible to sunlight once you reach your destination as soon as you arrive so that the eyes tell the brain that it’s time to be awake.
- Putting a mask during the trip will facilitate the process.
- Do you land in the morning? Try delaying your sleep until it’s night time at your destination.
- Do you wake up far too early? Remain in a dark room until the sun rises.
- Practice exercise first thing in the morning as it activates the cardiovascular system and the wakefulness hormones.
- Do you land at night?
- Stay away from caffeine during the trip and hydrate yourself by drinking water.
- Melatonin also helps regulate our circadian rhythms. Our brain produces it naturally. It is also known that melatonin is a potent antioxidant that rejuvenates tissues and stimulates the immune system.
- You can find it in pills in herbalists and pharmacies. But, always ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking it.
- Hop is a plant that can help you fall asleep because of its sedative effect. Take it in an infusion of valerian, one or two cups a day.
- The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) will calm you down and relieve any headaches associated with jetlag.
Have you regained your strength and energy?
Are you enjoying the experience of traveling at 50?
Isn’t it wonderful?
Regardless of the undeniable fact that we are all squashed as sardines in economy class!
We are traveling! And that’s all that matters!