How I Survive an 11-Hour Flight

I’ve traveled either to or from Chile thirteen times. Each of those times required, at least one 9+ hour flight. I’ve flown through Atlanta (once was enough), Miami (meh), Dallas (nice airport, but I got stuck there), Toronto (I had bronchitis: it was me, not Toronto) and JFK.

My preferred flight route is a direct flight on LAN from SCL to JFK. It is 10 hours and 50 minutes long, but it means that I can avoid layovers by either taking the train from JFK or having my parents pick me up.

Yes, an almost 11 hour flight is a long time, but I do the following things to help me survive. And hey, maybe they will be helpful for you too. 🙂

2008/12/06  LAN Chile CC-CQA

Via wicho on flickr.

  1. Fly LAN. It tends to be a bit more expensive, but I try to get around that by booking through American or booking in advance and getting a good deal. LAN’s seats are more comfy. They recline differently, so that the seat cushion kind of slides forward as the back part moves back. The planes are newer and the most important part: the individual television screen. You can watch movies or TV shows, listen to the radio or play games. Excellent.
  2. Entertain yourself until dinner comes. I bring my kindle on board and make sure I have a good book to read until dinner comes. Or I watch a TV show or start watching a movie. They key is not to fall asleep and miss dinner because then you’ll be really hungry. I try to bring a small snack with me too, but for me, eating dinner is key. It also helps pass the time. Another reason to fly LAN? The food is better, and there is free wine.
  3. Wear comfy but not frumpy clothes. This is always a struggle for me because I’m either coming from winter and going to summer or vice versa. I used to not care about what I looked like at the airport and wear sweatpants or pjs, but at some point I just didn’t like feeling frumpy anymore. My favorite thing to wear is a comfy cotton short-sleeved dress with leggings. It’s practically like pajamas but looks cuter. Usually I tend to dress for the colder weather, so this trip I’ll be wearing boots and bringing a sweater to put on over the dress.
  4. Make an airplane play list. Otherwise known as, music to fall asleep by. In case there are noisy kids (there are always noisy kids!) I have a playlist with gentle music that I can fall asleep to. It includes Norah Jones, Jack Johnson, some instrumental stuff, a little bit of Coldplay. Nothing too crazy that is going to wake me up.
  5. Take a NyQuil. Or some other sleep aid. I know, you’re probably not technically supposed to do this, but I need my sleep. And I know I won’t sleep without it.
  6. Be friendly with your seatmate, but establish boundaries. If you want to sleep, there is nothing more annoying than a young Argentinean who wants to practice English with you all night long. In this situation, I suggest showing him the great movie selection and recommending a movie. Oye, che, why don’t you watch Friends with Benefits so I can sleep? Ok great! However, I’ve also sat next to people who I have made no effort to small talk with, and it can be kind of awkward too, especially when you’re sitting in the window seat and have to get up to pee multiple times. It’s better to be friendly so they don’t send you a death stare every time nature calls.
  7. Get up and go to the bathroom. If you don’t have to go for 11 whole hours, something might be wrong with you. But even if not, it’s a good idea to get up and at least stretch your legs a bit. Flight attendants can get annoyed if it’s when the fasten seat belt sign is on, so try to do it when it’s off. I tend to get up three times: once before dinner, once after dinner before I fall asleep, and once either right before or right after breakfast.
  8. Relax and be in the moment. You’re not going anywhere, no one can reach you (I’ve never been on a flight with wi-fi, and I never want to be), so I just sit back and try to relax a little bit.

What are your tips for surviving long flights? 

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28 thoughts on “How I Survive an 11-Hour Flight

  1. LAN is one of best airlines. I once flew from Dallas to Bs As via Santiago with American. The last leg of the trip was a codeshare with LAN. There was a world of difference between the two airlines! The food on LAN was miles better too.

    If it’s an overnight flight, I usually eat something at the airport and take a sleeping pill. Y buenas noches. If it’s a day flight (usually coming back from Europe to Dallas) I listen to radio shows on my iPod (I find that having to pay attention to what’s going on helps time go by faster), read (book, Nook, magazine), eat. Repeat.

  2. LAN is one of best airlines. I once flew from Dallas to Bs As via Santiago with American. The last leg of the trip was a codeshare with LAN. There was a world of difference between the two airlines! The food on LAN was miles better too.

    If it’s an overnight flight, I usually eat something at the airport and take a sleeping pill. Y buenas noches. If it’s a day flight (usually coming back from Europe to Dallas) I listen to radio shows on my iPod (I find that having to pay attention to what’s going on helps time go by faster), read (book, Nook, magazine), eat. Repeat.

  3. Great tips, I’m preparing for my own flight to JFK next month. Unfortunately I have to switch over to La Guardia for my connecting flight- not looking forward to that. I am looking forward to my own personal television screen. I have to admit LAN has Delta way beat on that.

    • There is a bus you can take from JFK to LaGuarida. I’ve done it before, and it’s pretty easy. It’s called the NYCAirporter and I think it costs between $15-$20. You can pick it up near Ground Transportation. Hope that helps!

  4. Great tips, I’m preparing for my own flight to JFK next month. Unfortunately I have to switch over to La Guardia for my connecting flight- not looking forward to that. I am looking forward to my own personal television screen. I have to admit LAN has Delta way beat on that.

    • There is a bus you can take from JFK to LaGuarida. I’ve done it before, and it’s pretty easy. It’s called the NYCAirporter and I think it costs between $15-$20. You can pick it up near Ground Transportation. Hope that helps!

  5. “Oye, che, why don’t you watch Friends with Benefits so I can sleep? Ok great!” Perfect.

    I had a chatty Chilean seat mate once who wanted to share phone numbers. Riiight, buddy.

    • I once had a missionary from the US invite me to his church in Chile. He gave me his card. Now that I think about it, I’ve never chatted with Chileans on the plane. Only Argentines and gringos.

  6. “Oye, che, why don’t you watch Friends with Benefits so I can sleep? Ok great!” Perfect.

    I had a chatty Chilean seat mate once who wanted to share phone numbers. Riiight, buddy.

    • I once had a missionary from the US invite me to his church in Chile. He gave me his card. Now that I think about it, I’ve never chatted with Chileans on the plane. Only Argentines and gringos.

  7. I complain about flying Aerolineas because the planes are old and have no individual TV screens…. but they are usually much cheaper than LAN so I fly them anyway. All the other airlines I have flown in the last 10 years or so (international) have had them (Air NZ, Qantas, Singapore, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay). Ditto the free alcohol.

  8. I complain about flying Aerolineas because the planes are old and have no individual TV screens…. but they are usually much cheaper than LAN so I fly them anyway. All the other airlines I have flown in the last 10 years or so (international) have had them (Air NZ, Qantas, Singapore, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay). Ditto the free alcohol.

  9. Yes for #1 – I flew LAN for the first time internationally (outside of Chile) last month and it was pretty awesome. At least as awesome as the coach experience can get. They even had some cute Chilean flight attendants that got on board during a stopover in Peru.

    Yes for #3 – It’s difficult going from one hemisphere to another but I agree it’s worth it to put in some kind of effort. I hate seeing people in pajama pants at the airport. Leggings, people, leggings. Plus, last July when my boyfriend and I were at the Buenos Aires airport there were all kinds of photographers cause some Argentine celebrity was leaving for Miami. And last summer as my sister was leaving LAX, Paris Hilton showed up and brought mad paparazzi with her. Not that they’re trying to take a picture of me, but I’d hate to get caught in the background looking like I just rolled out of bed.

    #6 – I rarely talk to my seatmates. I’ll converse if they start up a chat, but never initiate. And the only thing worse than a chatty Argentine next to you are 5 chatty Argentines all seated around you who insist on continuing their conversation over your head. It’s happened to me twice.

    #8 – Long distance flights are probably one of my least favorite things about the back and forth between US and SouthAm, but there is something nice about just being left to yourself and having an excuse to do nothing for 10+ hours.

    • I never thought of the possibility of paparazzi! That is a good point, haha. What I don’t understand is how women travel in high heels. That just seems so impractical and dangerous. I mean, there are lots of cute shoes that are comfy too! And yeah, I would get rid of the long flight in an instant if I could, but until they invent teleportation, I think it’s a necessary evil.

  10. Yes for #1 – I flew LAN for the first time internationally (outside of Chile) last month and it was pretty awesome. At least as awesome as the coach experience can get. They even had some cute Chilean flight attendants that got on board during a stopover in Peru.

    Yes for #3 – It’s difficult going from one hemisphere to another but I agree it’s worth it to put in some kind of effort. I hate seeing people in pajama pants at the airport. Leggings, people, leggings. Plus, last July when my boyfriend and I were at the Buenos Aires airport there were all kinds of photographers cause some Argentine celebrity was leaving for Miami. And last summer as my sister was leaving LAX, Paris Hilton showed up and brought mad paparazzi with her. Not that they’re trying to take a picture of me, but I’d hate to get caught in the background looking like I just rolled out of bed.

    #6 – I rarely talk to my seatmates. I’ll converse if they start up a chat, but never initiate. And the only thing worse than a chatty Argentine next to you are 5 chatty Argentines all seated around you who insist on continuing their conversation over your head. It’s happened to me twice.

    #8 – Long distance flights are probably one of my least favorite things about the back and forth between US and SouthAm, but there is something nice about just being left to yourself and having an excuse to do nothing for 10+ hours.

    • I never thought of the possibility of paparazzi! That is a good point, haha. What I don’t understand is how women travel in high heels. That just seems so impractical and dangerous. I mean, there are lots of cute shoes that are comfy too! And yeah, I would get rid of the long flight in an instant if I could, but until they invent teleportation, I think it’s a necessary evil.

  11. I always book a window seat. It’s my only hope of sleeping and, even then, often doesn’t work. I always wear a dress. Much easier to maneuver in those phone-booth-sized bathrooms. I always take a bottle of water (if I’m flying to Chile) or beg the flight attendants for some (if I’m flying to the US). Which begs the question: Why can’t we bring water bought after “security” onto a plane bound for the US?

    I get up multiple times. Even if I don’t have “to go,” I get up and go any way, just to get the blood circulating.

    And I absolutely fly LAN whenever I can! Better food, better service, comfier seats. They beat domestic US airlines all to heck.

    • Yeah, the lack of water thing is annoying. I always save the bottle they give us with dinner for during the night and ask for extra cups of water. I always book an aisle seat because even though window is more comfy for sleeping, I get kind of claustrophobic and I like to be able to get up whenever I want without bothering my seatmate.

  12. I always book a window seat. It’s my only hope of sleeping and, even then, often doesn’t work. I always wear a dress. Much easier to maneuver in those phone-booth-sized bathrooms. I always take a bottle of water (if I’m flying to Chile) or beg the flight attendants for some (if I’m flying to the US). Which begs the question: Why can’t we bring water bought after “security” onto a plane bound for the US?

    I get up multiple times. Even if I don’t have “to go,” I get up and go any way, just to get the blood circulating.

    And I absolutely fly LAN whenever I can! Better food, better service, comfier seats. They beat domestic US airlines all to heck.

    • Yeah, the lack of water thing is annoying. I always save the bottle they give us with dinner for during the night and ask for extra cups of water. I always book an aisle seat because even though window is more comfy for sleeping, I get kind of claustrophobic and I like to be able to get up whenever I want without bothering my seatmate.

  13. Whenever I travel from/to Chile it is a long flight so I try to do it not that often. By long I mean 14 hours non-stop from Santiago to Paris and then 2.5 more hours from Paris to Oslo. To put things in perspective, if you sleep a normal night of sleep (8 hours), you still have 6 hours to kill…. What I usually do is to stay awake until dinner is served. Ask for wine with my dinner and then something else to drink. Air France has no problems giving you more wine, so usually two smalls bottles of wine are enough for me to get sleepy. I usually sleeps around 7 to 8 hours and by the time I wake up we are 3-4 hours from Santiago or from Paris (depending on the direction). A trick that always works for me is to start living on the other time zone as soon as I get into the plane. That way, you know you need to stay awake or sleep. There is nothing worst than crossing the atlantic and not sleeping, because you will get really sleepy at the other side and that usually involves the wrong time to sleep.
    I wrote my own post about transatlantic flights with some recommendations after I don’t know how many atlantic crossings, here’s the link: http://carlosduclos.blogspot.com/2011/05/jetlag.html

  14. Whenever I travel from/to Chile it is a long flight so I try to do it not that often. By long I mean 14 hours non-stop from Santiago to Paris and then 2.5 more hours from Paris to Oslo. To put things in perspective, if you sleep a normal night of sleep (8 hours), you still have 6 hours to kill…. What I usually do is to stay awake until dinner is served. Ask for wine with my dinner and then something else to drink. Air France has no problems giving you more wine, so usually two smalls bottles of wine are enough for me to get sleepy. I usually sleeps around 7 to 8 hours and by the time I wake up we are 3-4 hours from Santiago or from Paris (depending on the direction). A trick that always works for me is to start living on the other time zone as soon as I get into the plane. That way, you know you need to stay awake or sleep. There is nothing worst than crossing the atlantic and not sleeping, because you will get really sleepy at the other side and that usually involves the wrong time to sleep.
    I wrote my own post about transatlantic flights with some recommendations after I don’t know how many atlantic crossings, here’s the link: http://carlosduclos.blogspot.com/2011/05/jetlag.html

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