I knew I had turned into an instant flying expert when a TSA agent in the international terminal at LAX airport singled me out at the security check point. “I like that you come prepared!” he bellowed as I plunked down an oversized empty water bottle in the plastic tray.
Indeed, I recently completed my tenth — TENTH! — flight in just 32 days that was a minimum of five hours in length. My longest leg, from LAX to Fiji, lasted a grueling 11 hours. (Hence the water bottle.)
I’m not complaining — I spent years hoarding my miles and credit card points so I could splurge on a summer of travel. I consider it a privilege that I could hop on a plane and go to far-flung destinations. And, as a nervous flier, I try not to think that I did this by sitting in a metal tube 30,000 feet above the ground — but I do think I got pretty good at it.
Now that I’m grounded and back to work, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned. Here are my 10 tried-and-true tips for surviving long-haul flights:
1. BYOB (blanket). All this time, Linus was right.
2. Just to underline the point: If you bring an empty bottle to the airport, you can fill it up at a designated water fountain and don’t have to pay $10 for seven ounces of Poland Spring. FYI, in some international airports, water is confiscated prior to boarding. Ask.
4. Don’t assume you need to splurge on fancy noise-cancelling headphones. One pair I tried ended up hurting — and even burning — because they were so compressed against my ears. I yanked them off after a few hours for the cheapie earbuds.
5. Eye masks look ridiculous, but they're highly effective — especially during meal times when the lights are up.
6. Don't even think about taking a sleeping pill until wheels-up. As long as the plane is sitting on the runway, extended ground delays and even cancellations are still highly possible (if not likely). You need be alert just in case.
7. Beware of choosing bulkhead seats located near the bathroom. Sure, you get the extra legroom. But it's a tradeoff because of the heavy traffic. You'll be colder, too, because you’ll be sitting closer to the door.
8. Walk to the bathroom in the back of the plane. Or, if you're in back, go to the front. At least that way you get a chance to stretch your legs and do your business.
9. Most airlines offer all their in-flight movies for free on their website. Wouldn’t you rather watch a film on an iPad or laptop instead of a tiny screen in the back of someone's seat? Bonus tip: Comedies make the time go faster. Trust me. I’m a professional.
10. Before you disembark, check your seat three times to make sure you have all your belongings. Grogginess and forgetfulness are real. I learned this the hard way when I left a small bag of electronics in my seat pocket. Rookie mistake! I hope whoever has my green classic iPod Nano is enjoying all that Madonna music.
Mara Reinstein is the former movie critic, senior writer and deputy editor at Us Weekly. She currently blogs all things film at MaraMovies. You can also find her rantings and ravings on Medium and on Twitter at @MaraReinstein. She has already traveled 74,647 miles in 2017.