I’m excited in a way that only a true travel geek can be excited. On September 16, Cathay Pacific started a brand new route from my hometown – Washington, DC (IAD) to Hong Kong (HKG). It’s a direct, non-stop flight and even better, it will also be their first time using a brand new aircraft, the A350-1000. I’ve been a fan of Cathay Pacific for many years and we have even worked together on several occasions. In advance of this DC launch, they asked me to travel with them on one of their A350-900 planes to try out the service and to share my experiences. I’ve already written about the aircraft, so today I want to share how to better prepare for any long haul flight and why you should even be excited for the time in the air. This post was written in partnership with Cathay Pacific but, as always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.
What To Love About Long Haul Flights
Although Cathay Pacific does have WiFi accessibility on their A350s, I personally love being totally and completely disconnected when I fly. People can’t reach me and it’s forced time to concentrate on something other than work. Of course, as more and more airlines add WiFi connectivity to even their longest flights, this is becoming a relic but I refuse to give in. While I may purchase Internet time on short flights in order to get some things done, unless there’s an emergency I refuse to do so on long-haul flights. I need this time to create a little cocoon of comfort for myself; to read a book, watch a movie or take a nap. When I travel I tend to be busy and active once I arrive, so having this precious time both before and after a trip isn’t just nice, it’s something I actually need.
Whenever I fly I do everything in my power to upgrade to either a First or Business Class seat. It’s just how I prefer to travel and for me, the fun really is in the getting there. I love flying and still firmly believe that commercial aviation possesses a special kind of magic. I get excited entering an airport not only for my own trip, but for all the amazing places the other airport patrons will soon be visiting. To best enjoy the total flying experience, doing so in a premium seat is important to me and now that we live in a time when airlines are steadily improving their First and Business Class products, it couldn’t be a better time to fly. Luxury aviation helps set me up for success when I travel in any number of ways. Lounges provide me with areas to rest and recharge, while also grabbing a quick snack in the process. Onboard everything from the lay-flight seats to the amazing food and service nearly guarantees that I’ll arrive feeling better than I would had I flown Economy, which makes the entire trip that much more enjoyable. Plus, how I travel to a new place is as important a part of the total experience as is the destination itself. I know not everyone feels the same way, but it’s near the top of my list of what I look forward to the most whenever I travel.
Even though I love movies, I almost never see them in the theater. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just not something I think about all that often. That’s why I love having the opportunity to catch up on all of those movies I’ve missed when I fly. Some people may not pay a lot of attention to the various entertainment options and how they vary airline by airline, but for me it’s part of my own decision making process. They are most certainly not all made the same and on many occasions I’ve been sorely disappointed by a complete lack of options whether it’s the new releases from the big screen or television series offered. One of the best I experienced was with Cathay Pacific, an airline that has spent a lot of time fine-tuning the ultra long-haul experience for their passengers. They understand that many of their guests spend a lot of time onboard and have gone out of their way to create an in-cabin experience that is both fun and relaxing. In addition to whatever the airline offers though, I always have emergency backups on my iPad just in case.
One of the many reasons why I love very long flights is that I know I’m heading somewhere far away and totally foreign. That’s an extremely exciting event and even days before the flight itself, I’m a tangle of nervous anticipation. Flying with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong provides Washingtonians and everyone on the East Coast with a fantastic and easy way to reach some of the world’s most exciting places. Hong Kong itself is worth spending a few days of course and if you’ve never been, be sure to book a few nights to explore the city properly. The best option is to do a 2-3 day stopover with Cathay Pacific, before continuing on to your final destination. Hong Kong is a well-located city with easy flights throughout Asia and beyond. It’s also a nice way to break up a lot of travel. I always love my long flights to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, but it is also nice NOT to immediately hop on another plane as soon as you land. By spending a few days exploring Hong Kong, I am able to acclimate to the time change while enjoying the destination at the same time.
How To Survive And Thrive On A Long Haul Flight
Compartmentalize your time
This is my own personal way of coping with a long haul or ultra long-haul flight and it might work for you too. Thinking of a flight as one chunk of time is almost too much for our brains to handle. The idea of spending 15 hours next to The Snoring Guy or Miss Likes To Talk is a huge mental weight to bear. Instead, think of the flight in segments. First of all, eating will take a considerable amount of time. On a ten hour flight at least 2 hours will be spent waiting for or consuming meals. That leaves 8 hours. Watching one movie will take another two hours, leaving you with six. Figure on trying to sleep for at least 5 of those hours and you’re left with one hour to read, watch a TV show or stare aimlessly at the seat back in front of you. Or, you could divide your time between: eating, doing work, sleeping, watching a movie and reading equally. No matter how you decide to divide your time, it’s a useful mental exercise and will help make your long flight seem like less of a challenge.
This is an essential travel item for me and I keep it packed in my carry-on bag no matter where I go. While it’s convenient for any style of trip, the components of my prized kit are key when I’m on a long-haul flight. In the bag I keep: an eye mask, plenty of earplugs, disposable prepasted toothbrushes (like Wisp), hand lotion, compression socks, travel sized deodorant and a few other goodies. You get the concept though; the idea is to pack things that will give you a better chance to rest on that long flight and to deboard the plane looking and feeling refreshed. After spending a night on a plane, there is nothing better than being able to feel slightly human. The toothbrush, deodorant and lotions all help with that. No matter what you pack in your survival kit, it’s a good idea to have one.
Hydration is essential for all travelers and it starts before we even board the plane. A day or so before a long flight, drink slightly more water than normal and maintain that until after you’ve arrived to your destination. Flying is a dehydrating experience and it’s that dehydration which is responsible for feeling bad when we arrive and prolonging the effects of jet lag. If you drink alcohol, either skip it while flying or do so in moderation as this only exacerbates the dehydration. During the flight try to have some water every hours or so – most airlines provide plenty of water throughout the course of long-haul flights.
Get up often
Although rare, there are significant health concerns when sitting in the same position for a long period of time, namely Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein that can develop after sitting on long flights. There are many ways to help mitigate your risk for developing these dangerous blood clots, but one of the most important is getting up often. Every couple of hours, make sure to walk around the cabin and in the forward areas near the bulkhead, be sure to do some simple exercises to help keep your blood flowing. The airlines have done a great job in educating the public about this risk and you can find some sample exercises in most in-flight magazines or on the inflight entertainment units.
What are some of your tips on dealing with long haul flights?