Flights can be a drag but long-haul flights present a whole new set of challenges. Not everyone loves them but they are certainly better than long (read: an utter waste of time) transit stopovers. It’s also the most likely way for you to land yourself in far-flung, exotic destinations. This a survival guide for the everyday Muslim traveller to ensure that you reach your destination with your sanity still intact.
1. Dress comfortably
Forget airport fashion if you are going to be still for the next 10 to 15 hours. It’s better to be comfortable than numb, right? Wear clothes that allow you to move around comfortably and breathe easily. With the likelihood of your stomach being bloated in the air, skip any tight clothing or shoes that will restrict movement. A pullover or a jacket is essential too as temperatures do dip quite a bit on board.
Muslim sisters, maybe even opt for an instant scarf so you wouldn’t have to deal with all those annoying pins and brooches. This will also help you easily adjust any hair escaping your hijab (and prevent you from looking like as if a tornado just hit you).
2. Distract your mind and read
Catching up on all the movies seem great till you arrive at your destination feeling like a zombie. In-flight entertainment may seem like a great way to fill up your time during long flights, but it becomes a hindrance when you are supposed to be getting some shut-eye instead of watching all 10 seasons of Friends. Reading a book is a better way to keep yourself occupied without the bright lights of a screen keeping you up.
Choose wisely though, do not select books that are very content heavy or require a lot of concentration to process. Go for more light-hearted reads. If you need a recommendation, enlighten yourself with Ibn Battuta – The Journey of a Medieval Muslim. As one of the most prominent Muslim travellers of the past, Ibn Battuta’s travels have taken him further than any other person in the medieval times. Edoardo Albert will take you on Ibn Battuta’s journey as he explored the Muslim world and sailed across treacherous seas.
3. Self-care is the best care
Aeroplane cabins are known to have low humidity so be sure to pack the right amount of moisturizer to prevent your skin from drying out. Why not pack a face mask (or two) as a way to help you relax? Flights can certainly get stressful with the onslaught of turbulence (or an annoying seat neighbour).
Moreover, doing your usual night skin regimen might help trick your body to prepare for sleep. As you descend, this is a great way to freshen you up before landing at your destination.
4. Hydrate yourself, all the time
Just like your skin, you need to remain hydrated during your journey. It is best to avoid caffeine-loaded drinks and drink good ol’ water. Be sure to get yourself a bottle of water after you have cleared security or bring along an empty water bottle to be filled up before you board your flight. Hydrating yourself regularly will also indirectly make you move around more since you will be making more trips to the lavatory.
5. Pack your own favourite snacks
On a long flight, meals are typically available for hungry passengers but meal times can be unpredictable. Also, while travelling through different time zones, you might not necessarily want to eat curry for breakfast. Most Muslim meals don’t leave us with much choice, so it does help to bring a couple of snacks that can satisfy those hunger pangs on board.
The other concern is that some snacks that are served on board are not necessarily Halal-certified such as certain ice cream flavours, cakes, potato chips and even instant noodles. By bringing your own snacks, you save yourself from all the uncertainties and can enjoy your meals in peace. Pack some granola bars or a packet of nuts to munch on while waiting for your next hot meal. No more growling tummies during your flight!
6. Get some shut-eye
Sleep is necessary especially if you are catching a red-eye flight. We know it can be tough trying to fall asleep in a cramp, uncomfortable seat unless you are flying Business or First Class. Be sure to bring along eye masks, neck pillows or even ear plugs to help you sleep without interruptions. An alternative suggestion? Download an Al-Quran app and listen to soothing recitations of a few Surahs to calm your mind. This will also help you to relax and give you a better chance of getting some proper rest later.
Note: Remember to fasten seatbelts over your blanket so that you will not be awoken during unpredictable flight turbulence.
7. Take regular walks
Have you ever felt your body acting all stiff during a flight? It might be difficult for us to stretch our bodies with the limitations of narrow Economy class seats. There is no better way to get our blood circulating than to do a quick walk up and down the aisles or even some simple stretches at the back of the plane. Our bodies require us to move to function normally and avoid the risks of deep vein thrombosis, the formation of blood clots.
8. Choose the “best” seat
Let’s be honest, there is no true best seat in Economy class but do avoid sitting at the back of the plane as it tends to be bumpier and noisier. Window seats are great for sleeping as you have something to lean on. You will also enjoy a more peaceful snooze since you won’t have to constantly get up for your seatmate. If you constantly need the toilet, an aisle seat is definitely more ideal though.
Refrain from selecting seats near the lavatory to avoid risks of bad odours emanating from overused toilets (imagine if someone was having an upset tummy throughout the flight…). If you’re of above average height, choose seats along the exit rows for more leg room. Front seats are recommended for families travelling with infants as there will be easy access to a bassinet for your sleeping baby. It’s true, a sleeping baby is a happy baby and that means a smoother flight for everyone.
9. Keep yourself clean
Airplanes are notorious breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. The onground routine cleaning does not guarantee a clean plane so always be sure to load up on anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizers. If you are a germaphobe, morning flights are preferable because most airlines schedule a more thorough cleaning at the end of the day.
10. Power up!
Be sure to charge all your electronics in case you’re stuck on an old plane with no power sockets. Remember to bring along your power bank too so that you can charge your mobile phones. Nobody wants to be stuck for 14 hours without anything to do. In case your TV screen is not working, you will always have your mobile phone or other gadgets to keep you company. Prior to your flight, load up your devices with additional movies, e-books and music just to get you through in case the in-flight entertainment fails you.
Hopefully, these ten tips will make long flights a tad more bearable so that you can properly look forward to your well-deserved holiday. As long as you remember to stretch frequently, (try) get an optimal amount of sleep and stay hydrated, your next long flight might not be a dread after all.
Also read: Apps That Every Muslim Traveller Should Have