I travel from N.Y. to L.A. a lot. When I book the flight home, I select the red-eye to extend my stay on the west coast. I never regret it... until the day of the flight. "Why do I do that to myself?" I mutter as I stumble through security with my eyes half open. "Do I hate myself that much?" Anyone who has ever done it knows that surviving a red-eye flight ain't easy, even though I love that the late night flight allows me to enjoy another day in L.A. and prevents me from missing a day of work while flying home. Traveling is stressful yet manageable, but the red-eye is a miserable experience, so it's essential to do several things to manage the discomfort.
You can't sleep or get comfortable while sitting straight up, and that "reclining" feature on coach seat backs is total BS. At one point in my life, when I was dating someone out in Anaheim and working a bi-coastal job, I often took red-eyes more than ten times a year. So I have become a somewhat unwilling expert in packing for them, surviving them, and remaining as fresh as possible for them. The relationship might be over, but I've gotten into the habit of booking those late-night flights, and would certainly consider myself a pro at surviving the dreaded red eye. Not to brag, or anything.
I just flew in on a red eye on Monday night after a whirlwind weekend in the City of Angels. It inspired me to share how to navigate and prep for a red-eye, for all you late-night newbies.
1. Pack Properly With Items You Bring Specifically For The Red Eye
Here's the essential red eye packing list:
- Lip balm: Your can lips chafe and swell from dry, recirculated, and stale plane air, so having some Chapstick or other balm on hand will give you instant relief.
- Baby wipes: When you get off the plane, head to the bathroom for a quick freshening up. Swipe a wipe over your armpits, underboob, and hands. It's not as good as a full-on shower, but does make you feel a little less repulsive.
- Sweats and a loose top: Sleeping in the day's dirty clothes is no fun, so pack a comfy outfit specifically for the flight home.
- Hoodie: The hood doubles as a head cover, blocking out the person next to you pounding away on their laptop at 2AM while the rest of the passengers are desperate for some uncomfortable shut-eye.
- Soft blanket: It feels like a touch of home, as opposed to that cheap, standard-issue plane blanket, so can help make sleeping on the plane go more smoothly.
2. Arrive Early
Airports are surprisingly busy at nights for red-eyes, so try to arrive earlier than the suggested hour. Personally, I like to get there at least an hour and a half early and catch up on work while I wait for my flight. That way I'm have time to remove my contacts, put on my glasses, hydrate, and generally wind-down before the long flight.
3. Use The Bathroom Without Looking Like A Vagabond
About 45 minutes before boarding, I wash up. I like to consider myself a "George Clooney in Up in the Air" type, so I'm meticulous about being at my gate 25 minutes prior to boarding. I always make time to use a bathroom to change into my sleepy clothes, splash some cold water on my face, to slather on the lip balm, wipe my armpits, and re-apply deodorant. Since I'm lying to myself and saying I am going to attempt to sleep, I may as well look the part.
4. Just Roll With It
After cleaning myself up in similar fashion to getting ready for bed at home, I succumb to the red-eye. There is nothing you can do to change it. You have to roll with it and survive. Accept that your neck will hurt the neck morning. Know that what little sleep you get will be poor quality. Accept that your skin will feel bone dry. And, most importantly, recognize that you'll be back in your bed the following night, and it'll feel more luxurious than ever before.
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