My mongering lately has taken me mainly to South East Asia.  I have done trips to Europe and Latin America in between but anything 8 hours or less I personally don’t consider a long haul flight.  In my earlier days the red eye to Amsterdam used to be a major source of concern but now I just shrug and go with the flow.

My first true test of a long haul flight was my first trip to Thailand.  Thai Airways used to do a direct flight from JFK into BKK which was an 18 hour marathon of pain.  I flew with my wingman Big Daddy and we had upgraded to what amounts to a first class seat on most American airlines so comfort wasn’t the issue.  It was just ass numbingly boring to be on a plane that long.  I suffer from insomnia on my best days and I was like a 4 year old loaded with Red Bull for this trip.  I was bouncing off the walls so sleep wasn’t something I was going to get much of.  I remember Big Daddy giving me two Vicodin and I passed out for what he said was 6 or 7 hours but I remember waking up to be told we still had another 6 hours to go.  Suck would not begin to describe how miserable that flight was.

After the direct flight to Thailand experience I learned some lessons.  First, no way in hell would I ever fly direct again that long.  Yes, I fly a 14 hour leg to Korea now but I like the fact I get the hell off the plane to at least breath something other than recycled airliner air.  Second, it just breaks the flight up.  Seems weird that you would be excited to hang around an airport for a few hours but for many of us who head to Asia agree that chance to get off the plane and stretch is great.

There are a few essentials I do before a flight and items I bring with me for the flight.  These are in no specific order:

– I like to hit the bar when I’m at the airport.  I’m on holiday and that pre-flight beer tastes damn good regardless of the hour of the flight.  Look around you and I bet you see others enjoying a nice refreshing adult beverage.

– Get my drugs in order.  No I’m not talking about illegal drug smuggling but I’m talking pharmaceuticals.  I like to keep these in my backpack when I fly so they are handy and always available.  While I am not one to complain about airline seats they do get uncomfortable after a bit.  I like to take Aleve or the generic version.  The 8 -12 hour duration means you can take one and forget it.  For sleep I am a huge fan of Xanax.  While it isn’t specifically for sleeping it knocks me senseless.  It basically shuts my brain down and I’m out like a light.  In addition I am a huge fan of Melatonin.  This helps your body with your sleep cycle.  You can pick it up in the mineral and vitamin section of any store.  I find I sleep like a baby when I take this combination.  Finally I also take a Mucinex to keep my sinuses clear.  I take a 12 hour tablet a few hours into the flight to keep me breathing right.

– It also helps to drink on the flight.  Water is better than anything else.  Stay hydrated as much as possible.  There are recommendations but drink what you feel comfortable with.  While I am a huge proponent of alcohol I do recommend minimizing it while in the air as it doesn’t really do much for you and while it will help you sleep, if you are hammered drunk you won’t slip into REM sleep which is what you really need.

– Ear plugs and eye mask.  These are essentials on a long haul flight.  On all the Asian based carriers I have ever been on they have always given me eye masks but I recommend buying your own to make sure you have one.  You can use noise canceling headphones but I am not a fan of trying to sleep in them.

– Besides the usual neck pillow I bring a seat cushion.  Mock me all you want but when you are on a plane for more than 8 hours these things are ass savers and can make a flight tolerable.

This little beauty is the Therm-A-Rest Camp Seat.  It is inflatable and folds up nice into a backpack.  I adjust it to my comfort as the flight goes on.  If you blow it up before the flight takes off you will end up needing to let a little out once the plane reaches cruising altitude as the air pressure change will cause the air to expand making it harder.  I sometimes get weird looks when I am inflating it but once people see what I am doing they wish they thought of it. Your ass alone will thank you

I have also tried a few other items with varying success.

The above image is the Travelon 1st Class Sleeper.  I have used it on a couple flights and at first it is comfortable and does help you get in a more comfortable position to sleep in.  What I discovered was that the plastic/vinyl material gets hot against your body after a bit and you wake up sweaty and uncomfortable.  I ended up using it as a lower back support but it was a bit too bulky to carry in my back pack after a bit so it now sits at home.

This isn’t a bad product at all; the Skyrest Travel Pillow  I had a few too many pre-flight beers on the way to the Philippines one time and blew this up shortly after take off and woke up several hours later with drool running down my face.  It was comfortable and I found it fit perfectly on the tray even with the person reclining in front of me.  My main issue with it is that its a bit bulky for my backpack as well.

There you go.  These are the Spanky secrets for surviving a long flight.  Each person is different so work with trial and error and find out what works best for you.