After numerous international flights over the past five years, there are a few things you can do to hit the ground running when you get there…
1. First, if at all possible, you want to fly business class. If you fly often, you might have the points to do it – I’d recommend saving your points for this adventure rather than spending them on free domestic flights. Especially if your international flights take you to far away lands like US to Asia (over 10 hours). I no longer consider a flight to England to be a big deal when flying from the U.S. east coast. It’s kind of like taking the red-eye from LAX to CLT (West coast to east coast).
2. If you don’t have the points, and your company won’t pay the upgrade fee (consider moving to a new company), see about going economy plus. I’ve had some instances where this was all I could manage – the cost is often similar to economy. At one point I even arranged for a meeting in DC prior to heading to South Africa, just to catch a flight through Heathrow so that I could take British Air – who at the time had an excellent economy plus offering. It was well worth the extra time to avoid sitting at a 90 degree angle for over 10 hours.
3. Given you have a good seat – check the seat guru online. I use Flight Tracker on my phone to see which seats work the best. Not all seats are alike. You really don’t want to be adjacent to the rest rooms on an international flight – especially at night time. Upstairs on the 747 is most desirable. Both of my Pacific crossings to Australia this month are upstairs. On the other hand, when flying the Airbus 330, I like the window in Envoy class – its a single row so you don’t have to step over someone on the way out to the men’s room. 747 seats are coupled so the window seat means climbing over your flight partner at night. Still, I take the window so it’s me waking up someone else rather than being stepped on.
4. Time change – immediately assume you are on the new time zone. For example, when I flew back to the States from India last week, my flight left at 3 AM. That’s 5:30 PM at home, so instead of going to sleep at the normal time, I took a nap the day of my flight, ate a late dinner, and stayed up until it was time to drive to the airport – around midnight. With a Pepsi in hand, I pushed through until we boarded, ate dinner, watched about an hour of a movie, and figured I could go to sleep at 7:00 EDT.
5. Here’s the important part – the Advil PM. Advil PM has about 30% more of the sleeping drug in it than the Tylenol equivalent. Take two of these about 30 minutes before the movie is over, and you’re ready to sleep when it’s time. I slept right through the 9 hour flight, woke up for the late breakfast, in time to land, and then it’s day time for me. The next leg, I stayed upright – took a short afternoon nap, but otherwise used my time to read, watch a movie, listen to music, etc. I landed around 8 PM, in time for bed at home.
6. Once home, I took two more Advil PMs – and slept through the night. The next day I was refreshed and ready to go. If I land in the morning, like I did going to India, or like I will this Saturday in Melbourne, I’ll have just finished sleeping (using the Advil PM), and will take a short nap in the afternoon, take that one day to recoup, and get to bed on time in the evening. I’ll take the Advil that first night to make sure I sleep through till morning, and I’ll be good to go.
7. While flying, drink lots of water, avoid the heavy meals and alcohol, and resist the temptation to watch dozens of movies when you should be sleeping. While sleeping on the plane, I use an iPhone with light adagio music, with ear buds. The phone plugs into the handy USB ports available now in business class, and the ear buds provide the silence I need to sleep while others are getting up to use the rest rooms.
© 2013, David Stelzl