As a New Zealander I am used to starting and ending my trips with a 12 – 14 hour flight, you get used to it, almost. However there are some tricks that I’ve learned along the way.
Choose your seat, if you can, in advance. Even if costs a little more its worth it for long-haul flight. I prefer an aisle seat so I can get up and walk without crawling over anyone, my partner prefers a window seat so he can lean against the bulkhead.
If you have long legs you might want an exit row with extra leg room, but be aware that sometimes these rows will have seats that don’t recline. Also, if they are opposite the galley/WC they may get quite noisy with people moving around, and standing in the area. The other disadvantage is that they may also be in the row which has baby bassinets …
Its not as common as it used to be, but sometimes planes fly with spare seats. If this is the case then I believe that its really my duty to optimize my space! The usual seats that are left empty are the central block seats and any center seat in a 3-seat configuration.
If you spot a seat that looks like a better option, you need to move fast. Keep an eye out: you if you are in the right place you will see the doors close, you will certainly hear the pilot tell the flight attendants to “check doors and cross-arm” – that’s your cue to move quickly: unbuckle, grab the new seat, buckle up, don’t faff around with your hand luggage, you can sort that out once you are airborne, the seat belt light is off, and you you have new (expanded)space claimed.
Planes tend to be a bit on the cool side – even if you are flying to the tropics I often end up using the blanket that is (sometimes) provided. If you are flying budget, its worth having your sarong to hand as a cover up, some swear by eye masks, but for me having cloth over me tells my brain to go to sleep, figure out your trigger and try to have it on the flight with you.
Jet lag is a killer, if you are flying east or west you will have to deal with it. If you are flying east you are putting your watch forward, so you will need to try to sleep when you aren’t tired. It works for me if I am already short on sleep (which I often am), otherwise its a nuisance. Flights that arrive in the evening are best because you can then just go to bed.
Flying west, you are putting your watch back and most people find this easier to recover from. In either direction I reset my watch to the timezone of the country I’m flying to, and try to eat and sleep as my watch tells me to.
Hey – its never that pleasant travelling long-haul in the back of the plane. But personally I’d rather save the money on an upgrade for my travels!