Transcontinental flights can be trying for even the most seasoned traveler. From spending six hours in the same spot to adjusting to new time zones, preparing for a long-haul trip is important to make sure your travel is as pleasant and as comfortable as possible. Here, my many years in the sky will serve you well as I divulge the five best (and easiest!) ways to conquer transcon travel.
1. Select the right seat.
It's one of the greatest debates of our time: window or aisle? If you have the choice, think about what works best for you. Flying JFK-LAX over six hours may mean the former is better suited for mile-high snoozing, while the latter can make for a productive workday at 35,000 feet with plenty of coffee. If your arrangements permit, you may want to even consider business or first-class assignments to benefit from the additional space and amenities. JetBlue's Even More Space® may suffice, or the airline's "Mint experience" may be more up your alley, with lie-flat seats and suites in addition to gourmet-inspired and restaurant-quality food and beverage service. As they say, to each his own, but think carefully about the seat selection process and if you don't get your first choice initially, reference the online tools often in advance of your departure to make changes should they become available.
2. Prepare to adjust.
In the days leading up to my transcon travel, I try to be more aware of the time zone I will soon be in. For example, while eating my lunch at home, I envision just waking up on the West Coast. Though the reality won't set in for a few more days, the mental image helps make the eventual adjustment less blindsiding. I take this mentality one step further when I step on board my cross-country flight -- I find that adjusting my watch and the time setting on my phone literally helps me find the time to sleep while inflight. And, of course, upon landing at my destination -- say, LAX from JFK -- I try to stay up as late as possible so that the next day I wake more well-rested, like a true Westerner, on a solid eight hours of rest versus going to bed on Eastern Time and waking up groggy in the middle of the night.
3. Pack right, pack light.
On top of the usual headphones, gadgets and toiletries, a protein bar for energy and a pashmina are two of my carry-on must-haves for coast-to-coast flights. But when it comes to packing and lugging your carry-on bags, the whole process can weigh heavily on your shoulders -- both literally and figuratively! Take my advice and don't pack more than you need. Plan on stowing your carry-on bag in the overhead cabin and keeping your personal item, be it a purse, laptop bag or briefcase, underneath the seat in front of you. Your personal item should hold only those things that you will want to access frequently inflight, like books, electronics, snacks, etc. Make use of the seatback pocket to minimize any crowding by your feet, since you'll want to get comfy.
4. Settle in for the long haul.
If you don't own one already, you probably equate a travel pillow with the functional-yet-unfashionable equivalent of a fanny pack. I'm all about a good mix of style and comfort when traveling, but even the most unflattering U-shaped travel pillow has a soft spot in my heart. I personally like the extra-pliable ones that I can bend into any comfortable shape for window-seat snoozing or simple neck support. Paired with a pashmina for extra warmth or snuggling, it makes watching a seatback TV feel like I'm in the comfort of my own La-Z-Boy.
5. Set goals
Whether it's sleeping for three hours, making a dent in that novel, beating level 167 or binge-watching an entire series, set a goal for what you'd like to accomplish during your transcontinental flight before you set foot onboard. You're your own captive audience, so have some fun and check items off your "to-do" list that you otherwise may not have the time to complete.
What are some of your tried-and-true methods for mastering transcontinental travel? Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Twitter: @Wingwoman_Tracy.