July 31, 2014

Pam and Christine's Tips for an Overnight Flight

It's no secret that we love to travel.  Since Pam lived overseas five years, I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit across the pond on several occasions.  Pam became a pro at overnight flights and she is always willing to impart her wisdom.  So today, we're sharing our best tips for making overnight flights comfortable and productive so you can get some shut eye!

1. Prepare to sleep. On most transatlantic flights to Europe, the flight lasts somewhere between 5 and 7 hours; and red eye flights from the west coast to east coast are even shorter.  When you really start to think about it, that's not a long time to get sleep so that you can arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed at your destination.  We don't waste anytime with the dinner meal that's usually served about an hour into the flight.  Not to mention, who wants to eat mystery meat on an airplane?!  We board the plane with full bellies, ready to go to sleep the minute we sit down and are settled.

2. Pick your seat carefully.  On an overnight flight, the last place you want to be is stuck smack in the middle between two snoring people.  Of course it is easy picking a seat if you get to sit in front of curtain. If you are back in coach, it is critical to get the best seat for your needs.  Christine chooses the window, which gives her a place to rest her head while sleeping.  Pam always chooses an aisle, because she likes to be able to get up without disturbing others.

3. Medicate...if you wish.  We are big fans of a little medicated push to help get to sleep.  One tablet of a PM medication, such as Tylenol PM really does the trick.  We usually don't take this until we're safely on board to avoid any medicinally-induced awkward moments on the ground.

4.  Hydrate well that day.  To avoid numerous trips to the bathroom, do most of your hydration in advance of your flight.  Since the objective is to get some shut eye, needing to go numerous times will ruin that plan. Of course include a water bottle in your carry on bag.  Getting the flight attendant to refill it can be a struggle if they are busy.  Walk to the back of the plane once the meal service is complete and ask to refill it yourself.  I always make a joke so they agree to let me drain one of their large bottles of water.

5.  Compression attire. This is not a great look on most of us, but wearing compression leggings or compression socks will take the anxiety of a blood clot right off your radar. For years, Pam has been wearing these, but now that we are both runners, we wear fun colors too!

6.  Pack a stash of eye masks, ear plugs, toothbrush/paste and other necessities. It is very wise to have ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones tucked in your carry on ready for use as you embark the airplane. The possibility of someone snoring or possibly a crying baby near your seat can make a peaceful plane sleep difficult.  Pam always brushes her teeth before she steps on the plane too, so then it feels like bedtime! If you can't sleep without darkness, an eye mask is also a small item to add to your stash.  Christine likes to pack a pashmina for a makeshift blanket or pillow plus some things to refresh when she gets to her destination including her contact lenses, some face wipes, and facial moisturizer.

7.  Move around. While this goes against item #1 of wanting to sleep from departure until arrival, it probably is something we all should do.  Get up occasionally if you wake and walk a few steps to stretch your legs.  Your body will thank you very much the next day.

8. Get on schedule.  More than likely, you'll be trying to adjust to a radically different time zone upon arrival and we always try to adjust as best as possible to make the most of our trip.  No one wants to spend their first day in their hotel room napping!  Many flights offer a light breakfast about an hour or two before the plane lands.  While this may interrupt your sleeping, Christine is a fan of getting something in her tummy and getting on the meal schedule of her destination.  Plus a cup of coffee, never hurt anyone!

What are your best tips for making the most of an overnight flight?

21 comments:

  1. Great suggestions! I have not been on an overnight flight but I'll try to remember these. I love to travel but flying is always the most difficult part for me. I need to go to "Pam's Travel Academy" -- you can help me be an expert at packing and flying! ;)
    Karen @karenlovestorun

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    1. Thanks Karen. We love traveling and I actually knew the flight attendants by name during the time we lived in England. I clearly was flying far too often!

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  2. Great tips! I took a red eye home last year after the Disneyland half...I won't ever take another one the day I run a half marathon! :P I have the hardest time sleeping on a plane so I just slept when I got home. I can't wait to hear all about your trip!!!!

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    1. Short red eye flights are horrible. I am used to flights to Europe and just ready my mind for the adventure. Pills help too!

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  3. We zonked out after said Mystery meat dinner when we flew to Italy last year and we were good to go when we got there. On the retun flight though, yeah, not so much. It was an entire week before I felt human again. Who goes to bed at 7pm on a Saturday night? Ugh!

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    1. Ah the mystery meat. I really like having a good meal at one of the full service restaurants in the airport a few hours before my flight. Then I can plunk down in my seat and sleep! And yes, I also struggle with the time change going east to west.

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  4. These are really great tips! So, my issue is that I can NOT sleep on a plane. No matter what. I can be EXHAUSTED, but I just can't get myself to completely fall asleep...and then I'm a hot mess for the rest of the day when we land! I'm honestly thinking about doing a little self-medicating on the flight to DL next month, since we're leaving NJ at 6am!

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    1. Jennifer I think the self medicating works well. However, try it at home prior to your trip, kinda like race day where you don't try anything new.

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  5. Flying from California to Europe seem to last forever, but a ten or eleven hour non-stop is much better than the five hours to New York and having to change planes. I used to love the window seat, but as the airlines reconfigure interiors to squeeze in more seats, I'm finding more and more that I prefer the aisle. There's less chance of getting locked in by someone else who is sleeping when you get that feeling of having to use the restroom. It's also easier to stand up now and then just to stretch your legs.

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    1. You are right that the seats are smaller. When we traveled to Paris last year, we could not believe how little room you got in coach. It was no fun, but at least I am a little person.

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  6. I always prefer the aisle seat in case I need to get up, but it's impossible for me to sleep without something to lean against. Even then, I have a ton of trouble sleeping on a plane. I haven't taken a transatlantic flight or a red eye in years, so it doesn't come up too often for me.

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    1. Jamie I really like the neck pillows since I then have a place to rest my head. Aisle is the only way to go.

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  7. Great tips! I always wear compression on long flights as well. I can't believe I hadn't thought of medicine to help with sleep...I have the worst time sleeping on planes!

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    1. Alot of people take Ambien, but I would not dare because supposedly it really knocks you out. I am happy with OTC medication.

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  8. Oh my goodness, I can NEVER sleep on places! That's one of the reasons I never book a red-eye because I know I'll never fall asleep and then I'll just be a disaster!

    I'm totally an aisle seat person. I'm kind of claustrophobic so just feeling like I can get up and down as I please helps a little...I felt really bad the last flight I was on a guy offered to "let me have the window seat with the good view" because he wanted to be closer to his family in the row diagonal to us and I said no...I felt like such a jerk, but I explained that I just get really claustrophobic on the inside and he'd most likely end up with a seat mate having a panic attack!

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    1. Danielle, I must be a jerk because I never feel badly about keeping the seat I chose, perhaps months or a year prior to my flight. In fairness, I have traded a few times, but for long flights, Tom and I generally choose opposite aisles and we are not giving those up for anything! Just call us selfish travelers!

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  9. Great tips. I am a window girl to so I can lean and sleep.

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  10. Great tips. I drink a ton of water while I am flying all day. I can tell a difference when I don't drink enough. Fortunately I never have to work red eyes. -L

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  11. Great tips! Since I just moved to Alaska, all flights from here are going to be long and the cheapest ones are always a red eye :( I'll need to take this advice when I fly home in September!

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  12. I agree 100% with your tips. I had face & body wipes, moisturizer, eye drops, and a little makeup with me so we could drop our stuff at the hotel and grab breakfast and see some sights before we could really shower at the hotel my last transatlantic trip.

    I'd add a soothing playlist and a book to help your relax and not be tempted by whatever movies are showing. And, dress in layers so you're not too cold. It can be tough to relax and sleep if the plane AC is out of control. Like Pam, I always bring a big scarf or pashmina, and wear cute but comfy clothes.

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  13. Great tips! I completely agree with all of them - especially sleeping and getting on schedule. I also bring face wipes and change of clothes to freshen up if I do not have access to my hotel right away.

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