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Surviving International Travel

How to Keep Your Sanity During a Long Flight

You’ve finally saved enough money to take that dream vacation across the globe. Your friends have agreed to watch the dog; your work life is squared away and in order. As you pack your final bag for the trip, a single but gut-wrenching thought pops into your brain: how will I occupy myself/kids/spouse during a 14-hour flight?

Sure, you could strike up a conversation with that guy across the aisle, but do you really want to spend 12 hours entrenched in the gory details of his bunion surgery? There are better options to keep yourself from going insane on such a long flight. Here are just five ways, some of which are more expensive than others, to make your flight something to look forward to:

You Haven’t Enjoyed Watching an Entire Film in Over Five Years.

The parent of a child or children of any age will tell you that sitting down and giving your full attention to a film is an almost impossible task. Between the constant need for bathroom breaks, teenagers gabbing on their cellphones and every child’s favorite mantra “I’m bored!” watching a movie (that isn’t animated) can be a struggle. Take this opportunity to choose five to ten movies you either love, or have been dying to see, but never found the opportunity to experience. You can either borrow the DVDs from a friend or purchase them and bring along a DVD sleeve (which will fit nicely in your carry-on) or discover the world of digital downloads and bring along a laptop. Either way, make sure the movies are engrossing, but save yourself some unnecessary anxiety and steer clear of airplane-related disaster movies, including “Airport” and “Snakes on a Plane.”

Time for a Quick Language Lesson!

If you’re traveling to an international location, chances are you’ll probably encounter several people that don’t speak a word of English and will look at you with astonished bewilderment when you ask for the location of the nearest bathroom. That being stated, it’s generally a good idea to learn a few key words and phrases in the destination’s most widely spoken language. It’s prudent to learn the basics, including “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Please,” “Thank You,” and the always important, “Is This Brains?,” when confronted with a menu written in a foreign language.

Nothing is Better than a Good Book and a Nap

Reading is the best way to zone out from the world around you and engross yourself in another person’s life or an epic love story. What isn’t fun is attempting to read your favorite author while listening to the parents behind you reprimand their children for the twentieth time in the past hour. It’s cheaper to pack a few paperbacks in your carry-on, but instead, consider bringing along an MP3 player loaded with audiobooks and a great pair of noise-canceling headphone. You can just sit back, crank up the volume, close your eyes and enjoy a modern spy novel or your favorite Gothic romance. Also, feel free to take this rare opportunity to doze off between chapters:  just don’t forget to bring along a sleep mask and earplugs to truly escape from your current claustrophobic situation.

Reconnect with Your Family

Think back to the last time you were actually able to sit down, look your spouse or partner in the face, and have an adult conversation for more than 20 seconds? If the answer to that question was three weeks before your 15-year-old daughter was born, it’s high time for you to reconnect with your family. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the hours pass when you reminisce, laugh and share memories with your some of your favorite people.

Change Your Mindset

By far, the least expensive and most effective way to keep yourself from going crazy on a long flight is to simply change your attitude. Don’t look at the flight as clump of wasted, coma-inducing hours spent herded onto a metal bird with a bunch of strangers. Instead, take this flight as an opportunity to sit and relax away from the stresses of work and home. After all, your kids can’t ask you to drive them and a group of obnoxious teenagers to the mall if you’re some 50,000 feet in the air!

There is one last necessity that everyone should remember to slip into their carry-on if faced with 15 hours stuck in an airplane: decent snacks. Don’t rely on the airline to provide you with anything edible, and instead indulge your cravings for chocolate or peanut butter crackers, which will definitely make even the longest flights more enjoyable.

This article was written by Marc Burton, a writer and freelance travel consultant.  Marc’s expert advice on everything from booking insanely cheap flights to California to finding the perfect hotels has helped hundreds of travelers save money on their vacations.

1 Comment

  • Matt Dumas
    Posted August 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    This was a really well-written article…I for one love long flights, I find them oddly relaxing.

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