Aspen Times Weekly: Your red-eye cheat sheet
I am a certifiable disaster without a solid night’s sleep, I admit it. This is why I am a stickler for my nighttime routine, especially when it comes to flying. I plan ahead for everything, including where to sit (not near the bathrooms!) and timing for dinner, drinks and lights out.
The following is the best advice I can give travelers for that next overnight flight in economy. (Disclaimer: If you fly first class or business, there is little planning needed as most seats in these classes lie flat, and what more do you need? Also if you have kids with you, throw the following advice out the window; traveling with kids on a long-haul flight is a whole different animal with a different attack plan, which I’d be happy to share another time.)
Before I leave, I am sure to book a window seat (I like to lean my head against the window), and choose a row as far as I can from a bathroom or the galley (noise and smells!). I ask for vegetarian meals on flights. I eat meat sparingly, and the quality of food, which are packed with preservatives, on most flights is still really poor, but it seems like most airlines can get a vegetarian curry or veggie pasta down without trouble.
Fashion be damned when flying overnight. I prefer to wear loose clothing, like pants from Athleta and always a sweatshirt with a hood. The hood is great for a little extra privacy and great sleeping (over the sleeping mask and noise canceling headphones-see below). And no matter what climate I’m flying toward, leaving from the mountains requires me to be warm when stepping on and off the plane, so I also wear a packable down jacket. When I’m on the plane and it’s time to sleep, I pack the jacket into its own bag and use as an extra pillow or lay it over me like a down blanket.
I usually travel with two carry-ons. One with my clothes for the trip and one for everything I need on the plane. I prefer a backpack (I use the Patagonia Black Hole laptop backpack), but whatever the vessel, be sure your carry-on can fit beneath seat so everything can be accessed easily without having to scoot past people in your row, and, later, when it’s time to sleep, it can be used as a footrest.
In that backpack I pack the following: My laptop and charger, as well as an international adapter so that I can recharge while in the airport during layovers. A phone charger, a water bottle that I fill up before getting on the plane, a neck pillow, copies of my itinerary, passport and flight information in case my phone dies, and of course all of my essentials inside of a travel wallet — passport, Global Entry card (the $100 and interview process at DIA is so worth the time savings upon returning to the U.S.), driver’s license, two credit cards (be sure to call ahead and authorize use overseas), an ATM card, business cards and at least $100 in cash to be exchanged as soon as I land.
I also pack a toiletry bag that contains a black-out sleeping mask, any medicine or supplements I might need, toothpaste and a toothbrush, or a disposable version like Colgate Wisp, and some Advil for sinus pressure upon takeoff and landing, which I suffer through all the time.
Extras include Bose noise canceling headphones or earplugs, a small mirror, tissues, a novel to read, a Moleskine journal and a handful of pens (I lose all but one every trip.) I also back two Lara bars for each way of the flight. I have some weird survival instinct that kicks in once the plane closes its doors. I hate to be at the mercy of strangers for nourishment, so I pack easy items like Lara bars that are still healthy but can satisfy any real or perceived hunger.
As for timing at night, we travelers are indeed at the mercy of the cabin crew for dinner and dimming of the lights. But as soon as they finish up dinner service, take any sleep aids you may prefer like melatonin or prescription Ambien, drink more water, then visit the bathroom, brush your teeth, wash your face (see face wipes below), get back to your seat and get ready to sleep whether the lights are out or not (sleep mask, earplugs and pull up that hoody!). The pace, of course, all depends on where you are going and how long the flight is, but consider the flight from Denver to Frankfurt, for example. You’ve only got a little over seven hours of a nine-hour flight to do all of the above before the lights are on and they are serving breakfast. Of course you can forgo the meals altogether to maximize sleeping time, but alert your airline to this preference beforehand.
For morning, I go back to that toiletry bag where I’ve stashed face wipes or a hydrating face mist (I like Clarks Botanicals Cellular Moisture Mist), hair ties, Wet Ones for my hands and lip balm, so that I can look as refreshed as I feel. When I wake I drink a ton of water, fill out my custom cards and repack everything I used overnight into my backpack — and yes, it all fits.
Amiee White Beazley writes about travel for the Aspen Times Weekly. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @awbeazley1.
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