Long airplane flights don't have to be a nightmare. Nor do the resulting changes in time zones need to leave you wiped out for days on end after you arrive at your destination.
I have been forced to figure out how to make long flights tolerable -- and if possible, fun.
After all, for the last four years I have been flying from Boston to Hong Kong and back from Singapore every January as part of my Babson College Start-Up Strategy Offshore Electives. And this does not even count the shorter flights from Boston to Lisbon, Paris, or Tel Aviv.
Since I am leading a group of about 25 people on these trips, I need to be "on" from the time we get off the flight to the moment we return to campus.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, you might benefit from five things I do to help make the flight fun and to arrive alert.
1. Get an aisle seat
I almost always fly in economy class. And I like to have an aisle seat because I know I am going to need to get up to walk around about once every 60 to 90 minutes.
I have therefore been very frustrated when the window was the only alternative. That's because I would wait a long time before waking up the people sleeping in the middle and aisle seats so I could get up.
If you can sleep the entire flight, the window is clearly superior since you will not have to worry about others waking you up to get out.
But for me the aisle is the least bad option.
2. Pack light
I have an old-fashioned hand-carried suitcase -- not one of the bigger ones with the wheels.
I pack enough clothing to last me about five days. After that, I ask the hotel to clean the clothes and so far that has not caused problems.
But the reason I mention this as part of the flight is that it is much easier for me to find a place to store my suitcase and I have never been forced to pay a fee or to check my bag at the last-minute.
Students who pack too much often pay a fee, must check a bag at the last minute, and sometimes suffer when the airline loses it and takes a few days at worst to retrieve it.
Not worrying about this happening to me relieves some stress.
Students always make fun of me for traveling light.
And one time I had to satisfy security in Tel Aviv that my light luggage load did not make me a terrorist.
3. Drink water, not alcohol
Alcohol is fine for me once I arrive at my destination. But while I am in the aircraft, it just makes it harder for me to sleep.
For the same reason I also avoid caffeine -- especially if the flight is leaving during the evening.
It helps to drink water during the flight -- but I prefer to drink the minimum needed.
4. Watch entertaining TV shows and movies
The flights I take to Hong Kong always have TVs. And the thing I like about them is that there are movies and TV programs that I have not seen and want to watch.
The ideal situation is to use the time to get caught up on these movies and shows until I can't keep my eyes open any longer.
Once I feel myself falling asleep, I pause the video and get ready to drift off.
5. Sleep with the seatbelt buckled over your blanket
This is pretty obvious -- but sometimes while you're sleeping the airplane heads through turbulence and the flight attendants wake people who do not have their seatbelts fastened.
To avoid that problem, you can wrap yourself in your blanket and make sure that your fastened seatbelt is visible above that blanket.
That will keep you from being woken up by the flight attendant -- but it won't help if you're on the aisle and someone next to you is insisting on getting out.
Try these five ways to make your long flights fun. They're not perfect but they work for me.
Do these ideas work for you or am I wrong? What ideas have I missed?