03 Jan How to survive a 17-hour flight

Only 16 hours to go!

Only 16 hours to go!

Yesterday a college friend called and asked me to attend his wedding. It takes place in less than two months. It wasn’t the short notice that surprised me. It was where the wedding is to be: a ceremony in Kyoto, Japan, with a party of sorts a week later in Tokyo.

And then selfish thinking entered, and that constant biting of the travel bug began. “Well, I have always wanted to order sushi from its original source,” I mused to myself. “And at the first location I could act as ‘dignitary attaché’ and sign the environmental Kyoto Protocol the U.S. refuses to.”

The trip was quickly turning into a productive one even before I decided whether or not to go.

And then I remembered the flight. The time on a plane from the east coast of the United States to Japan is nothing short of 17 hours. One-way. Next to a crying baby in the lap of a mother who seems to have neglected it since birth, the child’s face red and full of runny snot.

This thought led me to wonder what to do on a plane for so many hours. Initial reaction, like many seasoned flyers, is to drink as many miniature Absolute vodka bottles, and as quickly as possible. Then pass out, hoping to reawake when rubber hits tarmac upon landing. You then smile at the sleeping baby who only minutes before passed out herself from exhaustive crying.

So I offer these “While traveling plane-side” suggestions for your next cross-continental flight, no matter your reason for long distance flying:

  • Secure early an aisle seat. Or better yet an exit row. Guess what legally can’t be in one. A baby!
  • Movies on a plane don’t usually start for a couple hours. Pack the iPod and splurge on ear buds capable of tuning out the most annoying sound in the world (you can guess what that is).
  • Airports can charge $7 for magazines because smart travelers flying a long distance will buy them. Grab 3 of your favorite and 1 newbie to pique new interests.
  • A pre-board suggestion: exercise and especially run a lot before you go to the airport. Exhaust yourself. Sleep will come more easily.
  • Planes get dry inside. 3 ounces of hand cream and eye drops help, and are also a good excuse to walk about the plane. Get the blood flowing at 4 in the morning if you can’t sleep due to lack of liquor you’re smartly not in-taking.
  • Paper still rules in confined spaces. Bring a novel to finish 30-thousand feet above sea level.
  • Meditate. Breathe. Accept and appreciate that (finally!) you have 17 hours to yourself (so long as you don’t open your eyes and see 300 strangers crammed next to you). Zone out and let “free flowing thinking” consume you. Who knows…you could have the next best idea or invention since sliced bread pop in your head.

I used most of these suggestions a year ago on a flight to Saigon, Vietnam.

Whether it’s to a wedding or a study abroad experience, to see a friend on a Panrimo program or an internship adventure in London, don’t go for the quick throwbacks of Absolute. You’ll pay for it all upon landing.


Tony Amante Schepers

Director of University Relations


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