I’ve endured some long, long flights. Six hours, ten hours, a dozen and more. Some of these were brutal, especially if you throw in a nasty layover in an airport with less-than-clean bathrooms. For me, the flight endurance challenge is just what come with the territory when you want to see far-off places. And luckily, due to competing airlines, tip-off to booking loopholes and point incentives, these types of long-haul trips are within reach more than ever before.
So you want to take a wild trip. How do you start? Do you fly direct or try some layovers? Can you afford it, and will the payoff be worth it?!
Where Do You Want to Go?
For this specific idea, I’m going to use my own example. The longest flight I ever took was from Los Angeles to Auckland, which was about 13 hours. I don’t live in L.A., so I also had to do a flight from Boston to the west coast first. You can see it’s already getting complicated! Not to mention, on that same trip we also flew to Sydney, then Cairns, then Melbourne, THEN back to L.A. and Boston. All within three weeks. It’s mental but we saw everything we wanted to see!
Before you fully commit to the logistics, be sure you love your destination. Do research into what places are within reach from your base, and which you might want to plan out for a couple years. Flight times vary and can impact your ideas. Your allotted time for the trip also plays a large role: a 17-hour flight might not seem so bad for a three-month adventure, but nearly unbearable for a week-long trip!
Another big thing to consider is expectations. A long-haul flight might be a rare thing for you as a traveler, or even a once in a lifetime. But you don’t want to arrive somewhere expecting perfection and be disappointed. Traveling is one of the biggest thrills – but also can have the most things go wrong with it. Be prepared to go with the flow.
Booking a Long-Haul Flight
Let’s go back to the trip to New Zealand and Australia. I knew we’d be coming from Boston. We wanted to do both countries as we had several weeks and a desire to visit. We thought briefly to squeeze in Fiji too, but it would add too many shorter flights within the trip.
Instead, we decided to first land in New Zealand’s North Island for some colder weather and a week-long road trip. Then my husband had business in Sydney for a week. The following week we wanted some beach and sun time, so we decided to head north on Australia’s east coast to Cairns. This made for Boston-LA-Auckland-Sydney-Cairns for flights one way. We booked separately on a few legs (like JetBlue for the domestic leg) and use some points/upgrades for the longer bit (biz class baby to Auckland!). Try to look at flights together on a site like Skyscanner, then check out individual prices too. Might be more of a headache but you can stretch even a generous budget that way.
On the way back, we didn’t need to stop in the NZ or OZ capital cities again. The best flights we found were from Cairns to Melbourne domestically, then on to L.A. and Boston. It worked out, but we didn’t factor in exhaustion after the Melbourne-L.A. leg then had to deal with a 5-hour layover in LAX. It was awful, especially because we knew we had another 4-hour flight to go!
You should check neighboring cities and destinations you might have not considered. You can extend a trip for a longer layover, as some do in Dubai to get to Asia from Europe. My folks are heading to Fiji next month and choose to rest with an overnight either way in L.A. (we opted to rent a day room at the Hilton). Or, just to pass through, like we did for Melbourne. Don’t forget – a direct flight may cost a few hundred more, but could be well worth the investment for your sanity, if it’s an option.
On the Flight: Survival Mode
You’re booked, you’re going! The idea of being in a tin can for more than the time I usually sleep was daunting.
The best way to endure this type of trip is to think about the flight in sections. Luckily, things like the beverage service (hello bubbles), meal service and even a breakfast later helps break up the time. Choose a movie or two for ‘movie time’ to cut in a few more hours. Consider something to occupy your brain in the next section, like a mini work-sesh or devouring a new book. Set a reminder/buzzer every 60-90 minutes too (if you’re not snoozing) to get up and stretch. Stake out the bulkhead areas first so you know where to go for a little walk when it’s time.
PS – Bless your heart if you do fly with kids. I know lots of parents who do, but you obviously have a few more steps then if you are solo. Check out Pure Wander’s tips for flying with kids.
What’s the longest flight you’ve ever taken? How did you do it, where did you go? What would you do differently?