Long-Distance Flying 101: Music, Reading, Eating, Friend-Making, Drinking, Sleeping and Conquering Fears

You’ve probably heard by now that Autostraddle is throwing a little NYC Pride party called RODEO DISCO. I’m so keen to ride the mechanical bull that in a few short days [or hours] I’ll be boarding Oceanic flight 815 for the transpacific voyage from Sydney to New York, New York, via San Francisco.

It’s exciting and all but there’s a thing, and the thing is that this’ll the first time in forever I’ll be making this journey without the comforts of Business class. Cry me a river, right? Slipping into soft, airline-issue flannel pajamas, reclining into a 180 degree position and drifting off into a deep 12-hr slumber is no longer my reality. It begs the question, what the f*ck am I going to do for 14 hours?

I thought I’d turn to a few of Autostraddle’s frequent flyers and also you, for suggestions for constructive ways I can pass time once my iPod battery inevitably dies somewhere over Vanuatu. I mean this could help us all, right? It’s summertime in half of the world, maybe you’re on a Greyhound home for the holidays or maybe you’ve got an air ticket to someplace tropical warm and nice.

from Riese

In-flight Reading:

I love long flights because that’s when I can catch up on reading! Seriously!


Firstly, if you’re a magazine person, be careful what magazines you bring on board, and by that I mean do not support the evil empire of US Weekly or People or Glamour. Any of those magazines will take about 10-15 minutes to finish, and then you’ll be sitting there for 13 hours and 45 minutes wondering if stars really are just like us/where are the peanuts/is the fan blowing in your face or everyone’s face.

If you are smart and plan ahead here are some magazines you could find at a Barnes & Noble/Borders/local bookseller no matter where you live in the USA (I hope!) :

Bitch: Feminist response to pop culture
The Believer: “A monthly magazine where length is no object. We give books and people the benefit of the doubt”
New York Magazine: “I live in New York, New York, the city that never shuts up”
GOOD: For people who want to live well and do Good
Curve: (lesbians)
Poets & Writers: From Inspiration to Publication
BUST: For Women With Something to Get Off Their Chest
Paste: The Best New Music, Movies, TV, Games and Books
Adbusters: Journal of the Mental Environment
Mental Floss: Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix
Utne Reader: Alternative Coverage of Politics, Culture, and New Ideas.

The airport isn’t the best place to get good readable magazines with lots of words in them that’ll keep you captivated. BUT if you end up with generic airport-staple Hudson News as your only air-travel magazine supplier, you’re going to have very mainstream choics. Of those, I’d recommend  WIRED, Harper‘s, The Atlantic, Women’s Health, Outside, Esquire, Vanity Fair (depending on what stories are in it that month, it’s very hit or miss) or Rolling Stone.

Allure is another hit-or-miss: they sometimes feature some great personal essays, and once upon a time their editor was out lesbian Lindsy Van Gelder, who wrote this book The Girls Next Door: Into the Heart of Lesbian America, which every lesbian should buy and read and underline RIGHT NOW, maybe even for the plane. But sometimes it’s just a lot of stuff about lipstick I can’t afford.

Also, New York Magazine has the best crossword puzzles, IMHO. AND I don’t know how easy it is to find outside of NY, but n+1 is a great new literary magazine worth a look! Oh hay, what’s that BOUND magazine has Nicole Pacent on the cover? Better get that baby on your iPad.


The last time I flew to Australia, I read Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden, which my Mom told me was creepy b/c a dude wrote it in the voice of a geisha and what kind of man would be so obsessed with geishas to want to write a book as a Geisha.  But this was in 1999 before I took misogyny seriously because I was 17 and had been living on Slim-Fast bars and Boca Burgers and bananas for six months for no apparent reason so what did I know, I liked the book.

The time before that time I flew to Australia, I read Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters about gymnasts and figure skaters and how they have to be perfect and all have eating disorders and take loads of painkillers. I don’t know I fucking loved that shit. I’d read it again right now.

Although I’m actually more a fan of essay collections/short stories/etc than I am of novels, I think airplanes are better suited to novels because you really have the time to DIG IN and get wrapped up in the voice. And a long plane ride is a good time for a long novel, unless you don’t plan to spend the whole thing high on coke so that you can be awake to stop the hijackers, as I often am because of my repeating Al Queda nightmares.

Some of my favorite novels with voices you can really get lost in (I have excluded weirdo books in favor of books I feel anyone could enjoy):

Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittinfeld — I know I went to boarding school and therefore especially relate, but also this was a bestseller soooooo clearly it has universal appeal.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami — It’s magical and quiet and compelling but complicated and quick and has a serious emotional atmosphere best read in large chunks.

Tipping the Velvet: A Novel by Sarah Waters — Have you read this yet? If not, you’re a bad lesbian.

Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, by Dorothy Allison — It’s a short one, so there’s still time to nap afterwards! I just want you to read this so we can talk about it.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Best book of 2008, bitches.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore — Lorrie Moore is one of my favorite authors. She’s best at short story writing, but this bestseller is a brief & delightful novel that captures the intricacies of teenage friendship.

If you’re looking for something lighter…

I honestly would recommend Chely Wright’s Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer. I’m about halfway through and it’s actually quite fascinating! The voice is super-readable and you know, it’s gay! She’s been struggling with her sexuality since she was like 4. Read it!

I know I said I wasn’t going to tell you to read an essay collection but HAHAHA now I am. Read My Misspent Youth: Essays by Meghan Daum or OF COURSE And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould.

Or you could try the queer girl YA novels that Laneia and I read for you (also, Part Two)!

AND I had a day (you know A DAY) a few weeks ago when I saw an ad for Kelly Cutrone’s book If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You on Jezebel and I was like, omg, that is what I need in my life! I need to be inspired from the inside by Kelly Cutrone! And I was totally right. I did need that book and I loved it.

from Laneia

In-flight Reading & Snacking:


My favorites are art and literary magazines / journals. Reading, especially on planes, makes me sleepy, so I like to bring things that have short little blurbs and stories that’ll keep me interested and awake because I dislike sleeping in public. Favorites:

Broken Pencil: It’s a magazine about zines and other fun indie artistic stuff! And it’s from Canada!
Bomb: “Conversations between artists, writers, actors, directors, musicians – since 1981.” Fancy, right?
The Normal School: Lit magazine that’s really really good and has a lot of white space, so it’s calming to flip through.
Keyhole: My favorite is the Handwritten Issue (#5). If you order from their website, they’ll include little gifts. I got a mini book called “A Field of Colors” by Charles Lennox and it was really good and a little sad, which I always like.
Blue Canvas: This is an art journal that features indie artists and their work, with a couple of interviews thrown in for good measure. You’ll dig it.
Doris: an Anthology of Zines & Other Stuff 1991 – 2001: I think you should take this book with you everywhere. It’ll probably change your life. One time, I copied some text from this book and put it on my blog for Riese. I also like this a lot: “But one thing I can say, one thing that confuses me, in a way, I really don’t understand boredom. I don’t get it. There is too much to do. Too many things to explore. Beautiful and ugly art to make, dictionaries to read, and history and theory to study and everything. […] Right now boredom is the thing I can tolerate the least. Boring is my worst insult.

I tend to overpack when it comes to snacks because once you get into the habit of packing diaper bags, which must include one of every item in your house, it’s hard to go back. I can’t stress enough the importance of fiber and water when traveling.

This is for real what I would take on a 14-hr flight:

pre-packaged peanut butter & crackers (3)
apple (1)
container of mandarin oranges (2)
mozzarella string cheese (3)
fruit leather (7)
carrot sticks (possibly with a side of peanut butter, depending on how much room I had)
bran muffin (1)
1/2 sandwich (cucumber, tomato, avocado, spinach, sprouts, pepper jack & cream cheese on whole wheat)

homemade trail mix:
banana chips
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds
sesame sticks
chopped dried mango

Also, several travel-sized bottles (suitable for shampoo, etc.) filled with vodka.

from taylor

In-flight Advice for Adventurers:


My advice is mainly for alcoholics. Well, let’s call them ‘adventurers’– that’s sounds a lot more hip and approachable. My advice is also for people who are f*cking terrified of flying, as I believe Natalie’s is. About 4 years ago fate decided to piss on me, and I suddenly developed a phobia of flying OUT OF NOWHERE. I’d been flying (alone) since I was six (because broken homes make your kids fly alone) but I began to obsess over flying constantly. I’d strategize about how I could avoid needing to fly (I couldn’t) but eventually I created a viable set of defense measures so I could grin and bear it. And now I kind of love them. I have a whole set of weird airport rituals to look forward to now every time I go anywhere.

So yeah, I can’t recommend what gadgets or what-have-you you should be tweaking out with on a plane like a good tech editor should. That’s because to me, a successful flight is an unconscious flight. And this is ESPECIALLY important during take-off, also known as panic attack o’ clock.

My advice is this: spend time in airport bars! Maybe I just love collecting unsavory characters, but airport bars are seriously my favorite places on earth. That probably says a lot about me. Things to know:

1. Be prepared to always be the youngest person there. (Especially if you have to get by with a fake ID, like I before I got my act together and went to a psychiatrist all those years ago. And they’ll never cross-reference the name on your boarding pass. Don’t worry, even though that seems like some kind of federal crime).

2. You meet the most amazing weirdos in airport bars. That’s because these people are 100% unironic. The bartender is usually some wayward Irish or otherwise European dude who somehow found his way to employment behind a shitty American airport bar, but he’s usually really genuine and wears arm-garters in an also unironic goofy way that’s kind of endearing. If your bartender’s a lady, her face will most likely be falling off and she’ll smell like Virginia Slims. But she’ll warm up to you.

So yeah. My advice is this: get fucking trashed. It goes like so:

1. Find the bar closest to your gate, so you won’t miss your flight like an asshole. The more awful-looking, the better. You can’t find anti-irony just anywhere.

2. Sit at the bar, you know, so you can socialize. That’s the point.

3. Order beer on tap, something light so you can drink a lot of it. Sam Adams is usually pretty standard and not bad. It’s a cheesy airport bar so they’ll have an option to “upsize”– do that.

4. Make friends. Bare your soul. You’re never gonna see these people again. They will tell you stories beyond your wildest dreams in exchange. Also, you can reinvent yourself. Tell them you’re a Senator, a shaman– whatever you want. These are honest people. They’ll love it.

5. If you’re not feeling the beer or you’ve had your fill, order red wine. DO NOT drink the Cabernet Sauvignon and DO NOT call it the “cab.” It will be awful. Drink anything but that and have the red as close to your boarding call as possible– it’s the best for the kind of blissful unconsciousness we’re trying to procure.

6. Make plans to stay in touch with these unlikely friends you’ve collected, but DO NOT exchange contact information. It’s a purer kind of staying in touch.

7. You should be drunk by now. If you’re not, order another glass of red and down it. If you can’t hold your booze don’t do that– the TSA probably frowns upon what could happen. Now you only have to be sober enough to execute two remaining tasks: a) listen for your boarding call so you can run like a bat outta hell to the bathroom (this is key) and b) board and successfully find your seat without inadvertently sexually assaulting anyone in the aisle.

8. You’re done! Your anxiety will seem remote and harmless now. Imagine your new unironic friends on a tropical island that you’ll never, ever return to. Crystallize this moment in your mind. Visualize a sea of these unsung heroes dotted along the coast, a vast hypnotic anemone of hands waving goodbye to you, farther and farther now, peppered with arm-garters.

Natalie’s airplane survival tips, Crystal’s in-flight music picks, & Alex gives you comfort.

from Natalie

Managing Your Fear of Flying:

Hii dolls! As I write this, I am somewhere between North America and Europe, on a flight to Munich, Germany. Where better to pen a piece about dealing with fearful flying than while…dealing with fearful flying!

We have had a pleasant turbulence free stretch, but it’s getting a bit bumpy now. The seatbelt sign has come back on; my demise is near. ARRRRRRRRGH. Will be back in 20 minutes.

For me, turbulence is the most uncomfortable part – next to, of course, the perpetual, overwhelming certainty that, at any given moment, I may die – nay, that I will almost certainly die. Of course, rationally I know that this is ridiculous. It’s the safest form of travel, it’s basically safer than walking out of your home, blah blah, wa wa wa. The emotional truth always wins. What to do? What to do? I will tell you!

1. Medicine! Medicine! I prefer beta-blockers (really good at dealing with a racing heart or shaky limbs) or Klonopin….but that’s only because Ambien/sleeping meds in general have not worked for me. I anxiety-them out.

2. Befriend a flight attendant. Or two. You can tell them you’re scared. And then they are usually very kind. On my recent flight, I befriended Chuck – a gay, 45 year old queen (his words) veteran flight attendant – and told him I was a nervous flyer. He then proceeded to check on me each time there was turbulence and said things like ‘no need to worry! Do I look worried? No! So you don’t need to be worried,’ which, in it’s own way, is very comforting. You can also stand in the back and chat with the flight attendants (if you get the chatty kind). Ask them things like: where are you based? How long have you been with (airline you are flying)? Are you headed home now? This is, coincidentally, also a good way to get free alcohol.

3. Which brings me to my next point. Alcohol! It can be helpful – but in moderation (at least for me). Otherwise you end up with a terrible headache AND anxiety.

4. A/V entertainment: bring your fave movies and tv shows. I find audio visual stimulation much better than just visual – such as reading.…which is unbearable when I am anxious.

5. Drink bottles of water – and get up. A lot. I enjoy getting up about every 45 minutes to stretch. You can do this in the bathroom, if you are not too tall. Otherwise, you can stand awkwardly in the aisle – or better – in the back by the flight attendants.

6. Travel with someone you know. This is typically impossible – but, if it can be arranged, it’s the most comforting thing.

7. I am secretly obsessed with Ask the Pilot – a weekly column on salon.com. The writer is a commercial pilot for a major airline – and reading his work makes me feel like flying is the most normal, fun, awe-inspiring thing ever. Which tricks me into thinking it’s fine.

Moooo! I hope this was helpful. It likely was not. Take a no fear of flying course – I think I will.

from crystal

In-flight Music:


After years of use & abuse, the battery life of my ridiculous 2004 limited edition U2 iPod has whittled down to a mere 4 hours, meaning I’ll be facing roughly 10 looong hours of radio silence while in flight. So unless you still use a Discman (hi mum) or don’t buy Apple products, you’ll probably only have a few hours before your music dies. So what can you achieve in 4 hours? here are some ideas for how to make them count:

Listen to an entire catalogue. Or as much of it as your battery life will allow. It’s not often you’re afforded many consecutive hours where there is literally nothing to distract you from what’s playing into your ears. So I take advantage by playing an artists’ entire catalogue from start to finish and making sure I listen to every goddamn note because it’s a highly satifying experience. This trip I’m going to study Green Day, starting at the hot raw mess of 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and hopefully finishing at last year’s 21st Century Breakdown, which weirdly I’ve only listened to a few times.

From experience I can also tell you that Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Kaki King, NIN and The Beatles are great options for long haul flights, if you’re lucky enough to own their collections.

Make an in-flight mixtape about flying, literally or metaphorically. Earlier this year on their way to Dinah Shore, Sarah, Laneia, Taylor & Kelsey had us all in agreement that making travel playlists are fun. Unless you want to really beat yourself over the head with your own obviousness, I suggest keep the selection criteria relaxed: as long as the title or lyrics refer to aviation, flight, travel, arriving someplace, leaving someplace, or gives a shout out to your specific destination, it’s allowed on your in-flight playlist. Here are a few tracks that will likely land on mine:

“Fly” – Hilary Duff / “Aeroplane” – Red Hot Chilli Peppers / “Big Jet Plane” – Angus & Julia Stone / “Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd / “Airplane” – Indigo Girls / “Leaving On A Jet Plane” – Peter, Paul and Mary (cover) / “America” – Simon & Garfunkel / “New York” – Eskimo Joe / “Roam” – B-52s / “Around the World” – Red Hot Chilli Peppers / “Wherever I May Roam” – Metallica / “Next Year” – Foo Fighters.

from Alex:

In-Flight Comfort

Or: “Alex loves naps!”
I’m definitely a big fan of catching up on my zzz’s while on a flight. The longest flight I’ve been on was when I went to London in 2006, which I think was a whopping 7.5 hours. Yeah I mean, not that big of a deal. But still, there are ways of ensuring you’re dressed and prepared to make 36 inches of space your new home/bed for the next however-many hours.

A pillow: my recommendation is the “Concierge” inflatable travel pillow cause it’s fuzzy and when deflated it folds up, using virtually no space in your carry-on. This was my saving grace during a red-eye flight to London and it does a really good job of preventing that embarrassing head dip/roll you do when falling asleep sitting up.

A hoodie: Essential to life. To prepare for overly air-conditioned situations, so I always bring a layer of clothing that can be removed (bam!) Also, an item of clothing specifically with a hood allow me to hide my airplane-hair so I don’t have to deal with it.
You probably have plenty of these but if you’re in the market for a new hoodie, Amazon has classic American Apparel hoodies for only $22. Seriously.

The right footwear: Hands-down totes — Converse all-stars. Do I really have to get into specifics about classic chucks with you?

A sleep mask: I’ve never used one of these before. Usually, I’d just put my sunglasses on or something. But after JetBlue handed out some sleep masks on our last flight back from Los Angeles, I realized that sometimes you just need these things — like when you accidentally book a seat in the last row on an over-night flight, right next to the flight attendant area (= blinding fluorescent lights.) If you’re looking for a deep sleep on your flight, a sleep mask like 100% helpful.

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. AHA! I have been flying ever since I was a baby, and am pretty used to long-haul flights. And I’ve done the Australia-US thing a few times. So here’s some tips from me:

    – Some of the magazines Riese’s suggesting to you are going to be a bitch to get from Australia (MagNation has some, but they don’t have GOOD Magazine, and that mag’s AWESOME). I would definitely suggest getting Dumbo Feather. It is an INCREDIBLE magazine which profiles 5 interesting, creative, world-changing people per issue, with mini-articles on related topics. Absolutely beautiful. And then there’s also Frankie and Yen and y’know the typical Aussie stuff.

    – Hey actually, bring over some of the queer free press like LOTL (maybe buy Bound?) and Cherrie. You can trade them at Rodeo Disco!

    – If you have stupidly long layovers anywhere, find a lounge. If you have to pay to get in (I know Virgin charges AU$30 per entry for their Aussie lounges), do it. Absolute value for money. You can have a shower, get food, get online, and rest. This was a LIFESAVER for me when I did an epic trip from Sweden to Australia and had crazy 12-hour layovers TWICE. argh.

    – Bring a change of clothes with you on your carryon. Underwear, overwear, etc. Esp change-of-season clothes (you’re travelling from cold to warm so at least you don’t need to pack warm gear on the way out). You never know when you need them – and if you do decide to go into a lounge, you can change into them!

    – Bring pyjamas and change into them on the plane. Makes your flight a zillion times more comfortable.

    – Which airline is this? Asian/Oceanic airlines tend to be tons better with customer service than American/Canadian airlines (seriously, y’all disappoint me). This will make a BIG difference in your trip. For example, Malaysia Airlines (and most other int airlines really) has stacks of albums, movies, TV, and GAMES even in Economy, and I really like the “alternative” channel in Qantas.

    – iPods/mp3 players are great to listen to while waiting to board. It also adds a cinematic quality to your trip.

    – Be careful of regulations around liquids, especially with toiletries, water bottles, and makeup! They can get REALLY strict on this. Also you’ll need to put in your laptop separately (out of its bag) in the X-Ray, and scissors will get confiscated.

    – If you meet a spunky hyper Aussie redhead named Casey tell her I said hi :)

    • Thanks for your suggestions for magazine titles – Riese asked me to buy some good Australian mags for her (and um also some bad ones, *cough* Dolly) howevs I only read music and tattoo mags so I have no idea. But I do subscribe to Bound and a fresh issue arrived just yesterday.

      I’m flying United, it’s not my first choice but these days price wins out over service and safety.

        • Heh, I’ve always found United’s on air service to be quite lovely (and I like their biscotti) but the reviews can be quite tetchy! Also, as an american airline, who knows what their entertainment’s like.

          OH ANOTHER THING: Eye masks will help you a LOT. LOT LOT LOT. Especially if you’re sensitive to light like me. Makes sleeping on the flight like a zillion times easier. I usually plug in the relaxation/meditation channel and go to bed. You could probably skip the nighttime meal if it’s the first one and you’ve eaten beforehand, just tell the airline not to wake you up.

          • United’s SYD-LAX and SYD-SFO legs are their crappiest ones, I think. (I’ve flown them to Europe before and found it perfectly fine, but their Australian sectors are on ancient 747s and completely blechy.)

    • “Asian/Oceanic airlines tend to be tons better with customer service” I second that!On their flights is just a lot more smiling going on:)

      but never ever order the malasian/korea/chinese/vietnamese/etc breakfast option.
      doesn’t matter how cosmopolitical you want to appear or how much you enjoy asian food back home!
      you don’t want rice,fish and seaweed for breakfast.

  2. LOVE this! If I were to write an advice article on flying, I probably would have suggested exactly the same things. (Snacks, music, apparel, etc). I have to say, though.. my best friend and I traveled to Maui together recently and we both wore hoodies and converses, or something similar. The flight attendant thought we were approximately 11-years-old, and treated us as such. Idk if it’s just because she and I both look about 14 with no makeup.. If you want a drink at some point on the flight.. you gotta do something to make sure you appear of age. Otherwise it’s just plain annoying. I think she offered us crayons.

    • Heh, one time my sister and a relative – both in their late 20s and having completed advanced degrees at this point – were on a flight somewhere together and the flight staff assumed they were kids because they’re both really tiny! So they gave them the kids packs and took photos. XD

  3. Okay, if sex toys are going to be the first thing I see (off to the side) when I open this up, then this needs to be labled as NSFW…

    • This same blog ad is on the homepage as well. So I guess our whole website is NSFW, for at least until this ad run is over which is tomorrow.

      We gots to pay the bills.

      Or you can support us here. Just saying.

    • What Alex said, but also: a vibrator isn’t NSFW? It could be a banana! And the company is a woman-owned small business based in Chicago which promotes ethical business practices, feminist advocacy and sexual expression for persons of all genders and sexualities. They donated to our raffle last year and are very good people. So.

  4. As you may orm ay not know, I fly a lot. Mostly inside Europe but that still easely can take up 5+ hours.
    I like to do/pack all of this or none of it. It depends on my mood. Like that one time I flew to Spain with jeans, flipflops and a hoodie (it was 90+° in Spain) with only my ticket and ID and about 3 euros in change in the pocket of my hoodie. That was great boring fun.

  5. this is relevant to my life.

    i thank you.

    i have a 22 hour flight quickly approaching (24 counting layover). which is 7 hours longer than the longest flight i’ve been on, and i am sort of freaking out about it.

    this is solid timing on your part. seriously.

    that said, i have mastered the 12 hour flight.

    I recommend:

    Select your seat – try to get the emergency exit row or the front row of the plane. This will mean you cannot put your carry on under the seat in front of you on take off and landing but it does mean more leg room. If you cannot select your seat ahead of time or they charge more for the exit/front row, DO ask for an aisle seat when you check in. While it is annoying to have people climb over you to get to the washroom, it is MORE annoying having to pee while the person next to you is dead to the world asleep. Also, you can kinda put your legs out in the aisle a bit so it feels like you have more leg room.

    Drugs: While previously stated, if you only do over-the-counter, get yourself some melatonin. And take a lot of it. I usually take 40mg total before a flight. But if you never take melatonin you will get a terrible headache if you do that, so maybe get your body used to the wonder-pill a few weeks before or just start with 15mg and see what happens?

    If you live in Canada and need a fucking prescription for melatonin (and don’t get people like me to smuggle it home for you) get Valerian root. See above re: dosage recommendations.


    Hygiene: Don’t touch the in-flight magazines unless you have to in order to see what channel to put your chair-TV on if you have a chair-TV. This has nothing to do with the in-flight experience, but seriously those things are gross and more people don’t wash their hands after using the washroom than you think.

    Meal: Request a vegetarian (or otherwise special – gluten free, etc.) meal before the flight. There is never an extra charge for a special request as long as it’s one of their options, you just have to ask. Doing this means you get your in flight meal(s) before anyone else and the food is always healthier/less nasty and so there is more of it that you will actually want to eat. Less food gets wasted and you aren’t as grossed out, win win.

    Be friendly: Introduce yourself to the person next to you, and chat. Even if you don’t really like other humans and are crazy-introverted (like me), rarely will you get a total asshole (I’ve had only one bad apple in hundreds of flights) and it makes the trip go way faster if you have someone to chat with. You don’t have to worry about a chatty-kathy on super long flights because people simply do get tired.

    Extras: Bring a toothbrush! Most airlines will provide one in their little free in-flight kit, but if they don’t you will be regret not having a toothbrush. Wear socks! Flip-flops are wrong for many reasons, the first being you have to take them off through security and step on the ground so that’s gross and the second being that your feet will get cold on the plane. Bring multiple pens! People always forget pens and when it’s time to fill out the customs thingy you can make fast-friendly friends by having a few extra on you. It’s nice to befriend your fellow-flyers. And really, can you ever have too many pens?


    • Personally I have found the “get a special meal” thing to be LIES ALL LIES. But then again that might be because whenever I’m flying somewhere that’s long enough to get me a meal, I’m trying not to hork all over everything…

      • when i flew to australia in ’99 i ordered the low-fat/diet meal or whatever and it was TERRIBLE. my mom always ordered us vegetarian meals ’cause she said they’d be better, but since i can’t have citric acid, i can’t do that ’cause it’ll always involve tomatoes for sure.

        it’s really just best to fly Virgin where you can pick your own meal, or to bring your own foods too. or to starve and get cranky and yell at your traveling companion.

  6. When you check in for your flight, the best plan of attack is to be SUPER polite and charming. Disturbingly so. This shall win you points so when you ask that they leave the seat next to you free, if there happen to be empty seats on the flight, they can’t help but be won over by your super cute awesomeness. They usually say they won’t be able to do it – but every flight I’ve had between New Zealand and America I’ve ended up with the middle seat free.

    You’ll want to check in early, so all the seats haven’t already been taken – but that just gives you time to pop in for some magazines before plopping yourself down on the bar stool and getting super drunk.

    It might not happen, but doesn’t hurt to try. And every little bit helps.

    • As someone that used to be a gate agent, I cannot agree with this comment more! If anyone was nice to me, they got whatever they asked for (as long as it was possible). The agents are so used to being yelled at, they will trip over themselves helping you! And really, when is it a bad idea to be nice? This is especially true during bad weather and cancelled flights! If you are mean/rude, you will not get as much help.

  7. Sentences like “My advice is mainly for alcoholics. Well, let’s call them ‘adventurers’– that’s sounds a lot more hip and approachable.” are the reason why I love Autostraddle so much.

    I know I haven’t commented in a while, but I love you always.

    Adventurer Mindy.

  8. I’m pretty good at sleeping or zoning out on buses/trains/planes. I always have a book, a magazine and my iPod but usually end up putting them all away and just sleeping or staring out the window/meditating. I do have to say this about Riese’s recommendation of Chely Wright’s book- It’s really good but don’t read it in public if you are full of feelings and/or prone to crying while reading touching stories. Unless you plan on wearing your sunglasses on the plane.

  9. something weird is that since i take massive doses (not really massive) of klonopin now when i fly (sometimes mixed with a little booze– don’t try this at home) my body temperature drops ONE MILLION PERCENT. i fucking freeze to death on planes, when i’m normally pretty hot-blooded. i need a weird remedy for this that isn’t just wearing layers/requesting a blanket. usually i order hot tea and get whatever disgusting thing they’re serving and put it in my lap to stay warm. seriously, what’s wrong with me?

    • Not sure what’s wrong with you but I sympathise entirely with the sudden aerophobia. I live on two continents and have been flying long and short haul flights an average of 2 or 3 times a year from the age of six ; no problems, no scary plane incidents but in my early twenties suddenly couldn’t cope AT ALL with take off, landing and turbulence.
      I am consequently a fellow champion of the airport bar. Quality neat Scotch, slowly. I also smoke a couple of trees before leaving home.

  10. Interesting timing as my best friend is on a flight tonight as she moves to Sydney and I’m just a little sad about it, but also trying to come up with the $$$ needed to visit her asap!

    I know she wears compression socks on her flights from LAX to SYD and she’s told me to do so when I come. Our friend took her shoes off one time and could not get them back on when they landed.

    I do not have flight anxiety, I have airport anxiety! The whole process of knowing where to go, getting through security, waiting for flight, and making sure I don’t miss the boarding announcements! For this I take xanax.

  11. Whenever the tomboy and I fly, we bring one of those headphone splitter things so we can share iPod shuffle / playlist duty. It’s more fun that way. We also get as drunk as possible and fondle each other, but we do that everywhere.

    The Gentlewoman is also a great magazine with lovely photographs and lots of magical words, it’ll last awhile.

    I LOVE the tip about paying for the lounge in case of emergency layovers or whatnot. So service-y!

  12. The last time I was on a plane was 5+ years ago where it took over 30hrs to get to Europe after factoring in layovers, getting lost, general confusion & cancelled flights (& lost luggage before I even left Canada). Due to the stress of all that, & being convinced everyone was out to steal the stuff I still had, I didn’t sleep the entire time. It was awful. I got by on mainly bad food & in-flight movies and a tiny glimmer of hope.
    I’ve gotten better, but I’ve mostly traveled by bus since then. I tend to combine Crystal’s and Alex’s suggestions and fall asleep to the music. It’s also great for blocking out the background noise/screaming children/your seat-mate/etc. And sleeping makes the trip go by faster.

  13. i looove this article. i have to take an 11-12 hour train ride to new york every time and it sucks. usually i just don’t sleep the night before, or only sleep a couple of hours so as soon as i sit down i pass out for a good quarter of the trip. then i make sure i have a book, 3 movies and snacks, and i’m good to go!

    also i would be like crystal and listen to everything a certain artist has ever written ever. and someone i know would probably suggest listening to this american life 5 times in a row (that’s 5 hours gone).

    • dude: rideshares. seriously. it’s 6 hours by car and it’ll cost you like 50 bucks. people drive from montreal to new york and back all the time. i used to be one of them. check on craigslist or there’s also a facebook group specifically for people who make that trip a lot.

  14. Taylor’s bit on airport drinking is one of my favorite things I have ever read on Autostraddle. This is a great website, I’m going to start reading more often, like every 6 minutes instead of every 10 minutes

  15. This is great i´m always looking for an excuse to be pissed. I tried being sober once and i won´t be doing that again.

  16. My mind just exploded picturing Zooey Deschanel and Rashida Jones as a couple. Do want!

  17. So, the writer who called the number of comments on the 10 cookies thread is running down her flight snacks? Riveting.

    BRB, gotta rewatch alejandro.

    • flight snacks is useful advice. it’s a service piece. my top ten cookies was just about me and my feelings about cookies

      BRB, gotta rewatch puppy vs mirror

    • Dude, that shit is helpful. Every time I fly, I have nothing in my backpack but fruit roll-ups, and I wonder why I’m starving when I get to the airport. And her trail mix/sandwich ideas sound pretty delicious.

    • hi opinion! i want to make a joke about how ‘opinions are like assholes,’ b/c that’s the name you chose to use here and it would be SO FUNNY, but instead i’ll just say that you’re special and i love you.

  18. Even if I’ve slept 12 hours the night before, the white noise of a plane puts me into a coma for at least 4 hours of any flight. I’m not sure if that’s a disorder or if I’m lucky?

    And ever since TV’s made it onto the back seats of planes, I can’t get anything done!

    • i hate the TVs on the backseats of planes, i feel like they are the end of the world, but also, on virgin airlines you can order food from them, which is everything i could ever want in the world

  19. i have a question for the group: if i take a bunch of tiny liquor bottles in my carry-on, like small enough that they meet the TSA liquid requirements and are in a ziploc bag etc, will they take them away from me at security because they are alcohol? do i REALLY need to put them in little shampoo bottles, or can i just load em up and say fuck yer expensive plane liquor. please advise.

    • It’s not specifically mentioned on the list of prohibited items. (http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm).

      That said, I once saw someone standing just in front of the scanners gulping down two little bottles of what appeared to be straight whiskey. He was holding up the line, so I’m guessing/hoping this was not exactly how he’d planned he’d planned the alcohol would go down.

      I think the TSA is a bit inconsistent about enforcement, and unfortunately in such situations, you don’t have much power to argue.

    • I have found that most airlines do not want people carrying their own booze on board so you have to smuggle it.

      I have only tried twice (without using the shampoo bottle method) and both times was denied at security.

      But I’ve never had an issue using the shampoo-bottle method, within US/Canada/UK/Europe/Asia so world-wide it seems to work.

    • I don’t know about TSA, but I know most airlines will get really tetchy if you drink your own booze on the plane.

  20. Question for the group –

    Anyone ever flown pets on board (in the cabin) on a long international flight? I am taking two adult male cats on my 24 hour journey in the cabin (and they have to be in the same carrier!), and I have no idea how to go about making sure they/others on the flight don’t go crazy.

    I have all of the international certificates etc. down, I am just looking for advice before and during the actual flight.

    • We fly our little dog to Spain often. She is in a carry on dog-bag. She is a very barky dog, especially when it comes to other animals and strange places. We give her a dog-xanax. Well it’s more like a dog-valium that basically makes her super woozy or even knocks her out. This helps us and also her a lot. Makes it less sressy for the both of us. I recommend checking you vet for meds like this for your cats.
      Also befriend a flight attendant. Chances are they don’t mind you taking out one of your cats every now and then to properly check on them or to let them drink, confort them etc. Normally you’re not allowed to take your cat out of the bag (!).

      But yeah, drug your cats, that’s my advice.

    • I would highly recommend going to the vet and telling her/him what you’re plans are. Im studying to be a vet myself and id highly recommend knocking them out for as long as you can, otherwise the whole thing would only stress them out. Imagine being cooped up in a tiny carry case for that long, you’d freak out…so yeah, dope them up!! But ask the vet about hydration and all that seeing as it’s such a long period of time.

  21. Not to brag, but that’s why I love my Creative Zen mp3 player. I’ve clocked it lasting close to the advertised 30 hours of battery life, perhaps around 25 hours under normal use.

    • yes Creative Zen rules! too bad mine died after a year of use. i did drop it one too many times from various heights… as soon as i get some cash i’m buying another one.

    • Word to this! I’ve got a Vision:M that’s still running strong. I charge it like once a week (normal use)!

  22. whether i’m traveling by car, train, bike, boat, or airplane, i pass the time with podcasts. “this american life” is my number one pick because i’m in love with ira glass. number two is definitely “the moth” [which is sometimes featured in tal!] but it’s short so i have to listen to a lot of them. i’ve also recently gotten into “radiolab” and a boy i work with recommended “the memory palace.”

    • This! Podcasts forever!

      I love Radiolab! Also Escape Pod is great if you like science fiction (or their sister ‘casts PodCastle for fantasy and PseudoPod for horror). And the Savage Lovecast, although I know Dan Savage is not well liked here but I LIKE HIM SO SHUT IT. ;)

    • Me too! I download a bunch of air america episodes from audible.com and then listen to them on road trips for hours and hours. It’s easier when I’m alone ’cause sometimes i get nervous not everyone is enjoying it quite as much as I do. My brother loves TAL though so it works out perfect for us when driving together.

  23. First, a question: Does anyone have any recommendations for someone who has terrible horrible no good very bad motion/altitude sickness on airplanes? And I don’t mean that bullshit like “look out the window!” (it’s nighttime, fool!) or “don’t read books or play videogames!” (sigh) because I find those don’t do jack shit. Pharmaceutically I’ve tried ginger, meclizine (Bonine) and hycosine (Travacalm) with no success. And alcohol just makes me worse. :/ Seriously, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Now on to my tips:

    – Bring some puzzles and/or handheld videogames (if you’re into that). I like to do sudoku on the plane, and since jerks always fill in the ones on the in-flight magazine, I’ll just buy a book of them at the newsagent before I leave. And I bring my PSP because it’s easy to get distracted by games!

    – I bring a pashmina shawl with me whenever I fly long haul. It’s so useful – an extra blanket in case it’s super cold or the one they give you is particularly nasty, something to cover your face if you get seated next to the lav… and it folds up nice and small in your bag.

    – Don’t drink alcohol if you’re motion sick. Seriously. Just don’t. Drink lots of water, though. If you find water’s not palatable when you’re feeling ill, pick up some Gatorade or (on the outgoing from Australia leg) some of that flavored Pumped water (which is the shit). Ginger ale is an okay choice if you’re already on the plane, although personally I find the bubbles don’t do me any favors.

    – Lotion and lip balm are your friends. So are eye drops and saline nasal spray. Airplane air is super duper dry (mostly because they don’t pressurize to sea level – think about how dry your skin gets if you go skiing and you’ve got the idea here). Fess nasal spray (in Australia) is what you’re looking for here, not a decongestant nasal spray.

    – Get some gum if your ears are sensitive for pressure. It helps a little.

    • Oh and I meant to say that I personally tend to like short stories an essays on planes even though I’m usually a novel girl! My favorite is the appropriately named Changing Planes by Ursula Le Guin.

    • I second the lip balm. It’s one of the things I’d die without on a plane. I should try to bring some eyedrops this time too. Airco in your eyes is the worse but normally that’s when the sleepmask comes in. If I want to sleep/zone out anyways.

    • My friend takes Dramamine for her motion sickness when flying. I don’t know if this is similar to what you’ve taken but it seems to help her.

      • Dramamine scares me because it’s very similar to Benadryl, which I already know I’m not friends with. But it’s probably my next step if I can’t get anything stronger from the doc :/

  24. Taylor wins the advice-off here hands down. It also reminds me of a great book I read recently, The Stars in the Bright Sky (by Alan Warner, who I adore), which features a bunch of girls doing a lot of Adventuring in airport bars.

    I’ve only done one long-haul flight. I don’t know what made me queasier, the combo of turbulence and food that looked like it had been pre-regurgitated on the way there, or the ceaseless and noisome flirting between two people sat by me on the way back.

    I love short-hauls though. On a clear day, flying up to Edinburgh you get the most amazing views of so many towns because you’re so low. Yeah, I know it’s killing the environment, but it’s a beautiful way to do it.

    My advice for anyone stuck idly in any place at any time: close your eyes and make up stories.

  25. Am I the only one who takes a little bottle of alcogel and sometimes even a mouthmask with them? I can’t be the only germophobe here.

  26. Hmm
    A few important things!
    1) With all the security in place now, most countries will NOT let you bring food in carry on luggage. This is crappy, as the airline food is dreadful and long flights are unpleasant without your own chosen food. BUT that is the reality, so make sure to buy some fruit etc in the departure lounge if you can, as that’s the last place you’ll get anything vaguely edible!!

    2) Do chat to people, but leave yourself a way out of a conversation (like mention you’re very tired, so ignoring them by pretending to sleep won’t be so rude). I got stuck on an American Airlines 9 hour journey with a woman who was the most idiotic person I ever met. I’m too polite and just put up with her nonsense rants. Sigh.

    3) Don’t depend on in-flight entertainment, in particular if you’re in economy those darn tv’s are so undependable – several flights I’ve been on they didn’t work. Bring multiple books, you’d be amazed how quick you read when there are zero distractions.

    4) Use the loo *before* you get on the flight, this takes out at least one time you’ll have to shuffle your full row of passengers to get out to use the toilet.

    5) Take off your shoes as soon as you are comfy in your seat – it saves hours of leg pain! Or else wear super comfy loose shoes.

    6. Wear layers – it’s amazing how much the temperature varies during a flight. That lil blanky they give you is never enough when you’re cold.

    Basically the idea is to get yourself into the comfiest position (though I do understand you’re in economy!) and begin giving yourself distractions as soon as possible. This is important if you’re afraid of flying (I am) – make sure you’ve something to fill your mind up through the flight – so lots of books, mp3 player/laptop, if you have an extra battery pack charge it and bring it along, Sudoku or similar is usually good to keep your attention.

  27. Oh and also another thing to remember (I’m afraid of flying so I like this one), is that, yeah, you might be in the cramped economy part of the plane – but that’s the statistically SAFEST part of the plane to be in!

  28. Taylor, this is the some of the greatest advice i have ever read / heard in my life. Hilarious, and i agree with all of it. airport bars are truly fascinating places. they are one of my favourite things about taking trips. i think there needs to be a warning though: make sure your potential new friends are not on the same flight as you, before you starting bonding! fate can be cruel and twelve hours is a long time to keep up the pretence about your life as a forensic investigator if you havent watched CSI in a while.

  29. Taylor, I want to have your babies.

    When I was a youngin’ in the days before Google Earth and such, I used to take pictures out of the window every so often. I thought it was super cool to piece them together when I got back home.

    I find it very difficult to sleep the night before a trip because I’m so excited. I tell myself, “It’s cool. You’ll just sleep on the plane.” Then when the flight comes I can’t sleep because sleeping in public is awkward. Then I land and jet lag happens. Basically, I’m a zombie my whole trip.

    • Same here on the not sleeping, except I’ll be up 1 or 2 days in to the trip before I hit zombie mode. I’ll keep telling myself, I must be tired, but no sleep for me on trips.

  30. Also no shorts! Doesn’t matter how hot it is. Airport and plane seats are so nasty. Chanches are your legs get cold on the plane if you wear shorts anyways.

  31. This may not even apply because, as stated above, some airlines are anti-bringing your own snacks. But, just in case: nuts and peanut butter can cause seriously bad anaphylactic reactions in some people just from sitting near you, which can delay your flight because they will need medical treatment depending on how severe the allergy is. Obviously, there is the option to be self-centered and not care about them, but that won’t change anything if the flight needs to be delayed because they stop breathing.

  32. I’m horrified of flying so i loved all tips especially Taylor’s!i think i’m gonna try that out, the only problem is that the next flight i’m taking is at 6:25am…mhhhmm is it wise to be drunk that early?!it’s definitely going to be cheap if i don’t even have breakfast.

  33. Woah. Good article, good comments. But I don’t think I read one about contact lenses! My most horrible flight experiences are ones where I forget to bring glasses to change into or forget eye drops all together. By the time we land I feel like my eyelids are made out of sandpaper made out of jalepenos. And its usually all because I wanted to look fine in my sunglasses at my destination.

    As a fellow “adventurer” I would like to mention that you should always use the clever travel shampoo container flasks that you buy at the supermart that have never ever had shampoo in them. Because even if you wash it in the dishwasher and you’re positive there’s no more shampoo left in the little bottle when you fill it up with your “adventure aid” it will always still taste soapy. sick.

    • I don’t wear contacts so I always forget this, but – yes! My girlfriend is a contact lens wearer, but she always takes them out before we get on the plane.

  34. I could have used some flight advice for my 24 hour flights to and from Australia this year(if you count the layover and flight delays on the way home it was more like 36+). Who knew that you had to get there early to avoid a middle seat in the middle aisle with no TV? Or that charging your ipod the night before would mean less hours of attempting to read with both your sleeping neighbours’ heads on you shoulders? or that 24 hours is a fucking long time and will not pass quickly no matter what your deluded brain tells you? I was so naive…

    • I flew from Detroit to Chicago to L.A. to Hawaii to New Zealand to Melbourne several times, usually by the time I got to Chicago I wanted to die like for real. One of those times, me and my bff decorated our row and our window and our other friend gave us 27 presents to open one every hour. Then when it got dark we stole everyone’s pillows and sat on top of them so we could see the movies (this was like 96). However, every single time I have made the flight it has been endless misery. I like had to shave my legs again by the time we got off.

    • after this comment, I feel as though the realities of how long that flight is just hit me. I feel as though I will need anti-anxiety meds not for a fear of flying, but for my fear of being stuck in an aluminum tube with a random selection of the general population for 24 hrs.

      • This may just be me, because I have an irrational fear of asking flight attendants for anything, but I think the worst part (you know, putting aside the sleep deprivation/incredibly cramped seats/boredom/shit food) is the layover in a country which you don’t have currency for and so you can’t stock up on snacks/drinks for the next leg…

  35. My parents have 100-200 days of travel per year, and they don’t really like to leave us behind… so I’ve lived on three continents and left a horrendously big carbon foot print.

    How I think you all should fly (w/your sister):

    1. Music: Invest in one of those plugs that give you two audio-outlets on your iPod/Discman/whatever. Pros: The power last longer + discover new music. Cons: Your sister’s taste in music might suck.

    2. In-flight entertainment: Those personal entertainment screens? BEST INVENTION EVER. Use them. Synchronize with your sister, so you laugh/cry/jump/scream at the same time.

    3. Reading: Buy at least one magazine for the articles and one for the pictures (we’ll get back to that). Bring (physically) light books and coordinate both books and magazines with your sister so you don’t permanently injure your back/have to check in you carry-on luggage.

    4. Sleep: Put your seatbelt on so you don’t wake up beneath your chair. It’s terrifying.

    5. Draw: Bring a sufficient amount of pens and paper. Draw. The previously mentioned pictures are good for references that you can build upon. Good conversation starter + you can leave them in the pocket in front of you for someone else to find. When I was younger, I used to collect the drawings discovered. I still have some of them.

    Oh, and bring gum. Always bring gum. They save your ears.

  36. i feel like taylor’s bit might need to be syndicated all over the internet. or made into a brochure? with cartoons…!

  37. I’m gonna fly to Montreal this saturday and I’m going to be trapped in the Atlanta airport for 8 hours, so if any of you pass through ATL and want to drink with me, let me know!!!

    And I love Taylor. I might try the bar thing, since I’ll be living in the airport for 8 FUCKING HOURS! Ok I’m calm now.

  38. If you have a fear of flying can’t befriend a flight attendant, try asking around for a flight student on the off chance there is one on your plane. We’re more than happy to explain precisely what those noises are and why, exactly, we won’t be falling out of the sky any time soon. I miss the days when you could just go and up through first class and talk to the first officer.

    My mother has problems with claustrophobia on top of a fear of flying, and she’s found that sitting towards the front of the plane in an aisle seat does a lot to help relieve the feeling of being trapped, even more so than the extra space the exit row gives you. Or maybe that’s just the Xanax.

    Always bring gum. If nothing else, offering someone else a piece is a good excuse to talk.

  39. So glad I read this before my return flight from Dublin to the States. Sad that I didn’t get to read it before my flight from the States to Oslo however.

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