How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

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Going on an exotic vacation usually involves travelling long hours on a plane to get there. It doesn’t have to be exhausting or feel like a waste of time. Below you’ll find tips from people who have survived a long-haul flight and share their advice so that your flight would be more enjoyable.

Wear comfortable clothes

For me, the most important thing is to wear comfortable clothes. I don’t care as much about style and fashion on flights, because I will likely not see these people ever again. (Granted, that does NOT mean I am comfortable dressing like a slob, either!) I wear the most comfortable slip-on shoes I can find (also SUPER handy for going through airport security!), a clean, comfortable pair of stretchy pants or leggings, and a slightly loose, semi-casual top. I find that wearing jeans, while generally comfortable enough, just irritate me on flights. There’s not enough room to move around on a plane and my belly just needs a little more comfort than the rigidness of jeans can provide. I also do not like wearing shorts on planes, even when it’s hot because planes are not the cleanest surfaces out there. I also wear my most comfortable undergarments, even if they’re not as “stylish” or “fancy” as the other ones. (No one on the plane is going to see my underwear!) I also bring a lightweight jacket or hoodie in case the plane is cold (which it usually is). If I don’t have to wear the hoodie, then I can fold it up and use it as a “pillow” so I can catch a few zzzzs while in flight.

Mama Writes Reviews, Facebook

Pack an extra outfit for when you get off plane

Dress for Comfort – the chairs on a long haul flight are not always the most comfortable thing ever, some more than others. No one will care what you look like or are dressed like. I am all about a pair of super comfortable sweats. This will make it so much more comfortable and easy to sleep. Pack an extra outfit for when you get off the plane but don’t try to impress people during a long haul flight. Wear something that is going to keep you relaxed. No matter where you are traveling to and from in the world, planes tend to be cold in my experience. Regardless, I suggest dressing in layers. During the flight, you want to keep in a comfortable temperature. It’s a good idea to have a sweatshirt and warmer clothes ready, with other options underneath in case you do find yourself warm. For additional accessories that are great for travel check out this post.

– Courtney Brady, Instagram

Dress in several layers of clothing

My trick for being comfortable on a long-haul flight is to wear a “flight uniform.” A flight uniform is a set of clothing specifically designed to be comfortable for sitting long periods of time. It should be loose fitting – you definitely don’t want anything tight. It must be made of comfortable material – nothing itchy. As planes can be cold, the clothing should have one or two layers that are easy to take off or put on depending on the temperature. Excess layers can be used as pillow fillers if necessary.

My long-haul travel uniform is comfortable shoes easy to slip on and off, black stretch pants, a broken-in sports bra, an old polo shirt, and a hoodie. I feel more comfortable just thinking about it.

Talek Nantes, Facebook

Do chair yoga and stroll the aisle

I always dress comfortably, but not so that I can feel like I am in my pajamas during an extended flight. Rather, I dress in clothes I can move in comfortably and that will not hinder movement in any way.

As a dancer and runner (and mom to twin toddlers), exercise and movement are part of my daily routine. Flying and travel are no different; I alter chair yoga to fit an airplane seat. Rising to stroll the aisle whenever possible, doing ankle rolls and flexes, contracting my abdominal muscles and more of these easy tiny movements distract the mind and reduce bloating and discomfort on a long flight. You can do these moves while waiting to board, on layovers and while on the plane. Finding movement even while strapped into your seat will ensure a flight that passes by quickly, plus your body will feel better.

Maiah Miller, Instagram

Stretch out your muscles

One of the Travel Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight is to stretch and Walk around the plane.

People might be ignoring this tip, but this is one of the essential facts that travelers should know. Since in my case, I often travel to Asia and it always takes me 14-18 hours of flight non-stop I have experienced numbness sometimes on my limb or legs whenever I don’t move or stay long time sitting.

Standing up going for a quick pause, or wash in the airplane’s lavatory might be very annoying to do. Especially when you are situated on the porthole (window deck part) Asking for the rest of the passengers beside you to move just for you to go to the lavatory would be very either embarrassing or you’ll feel guilty of disturbing the passengers. However, Don’t be!

You have the right to have a break from sitting in a cabin for a long time. Take a quick walk on the plane, and try to stretch out your muscles especially on the lower part (legs, limb, feet, etc.,) and of course the rest of your body.

By doing this, your blood will get the regular circulation, and it will keep your body energize and avoid blood clots.

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Do this every hour or two and stay active even while you are more than a thousand feet high from the ground.

Alexine, Instagram

Pre-book your preferred seat

Mostly, just don’t do any of the things I did. Don’t forget your own entertainment, don’t self-medicate with booze, don’t let your phone die after assuming there will be a charging point on board and don’t spend a really long stopover in a terrible airport. The rest is easy…

My tips for a long haul flight:

  • Pre-book your seat, if you are an aisle or window person, check your seats in advance
  • Don’t always go for the cheap flights, maybe it is better to pay a few hundred dollars extra to avoid long stopovers in bad airports
  • Pack your accessories, think about eye mask, earplugs, comfy socks
  • Drink water and/or wine and champagne, avoid jet-lag by drinking plenty of water, also it prevents you from dehydration, so you will feel fresh when you arrive
  • Arrange an upgrade, if possible and affordable

mybucketlist, Twitter

Use time to learn the language of the country you are travelling to

Do not treat a long-haul flight as a lost time which needs to be “survived”. Change your approach and try to see it rather as a couple of extra hours which can be used productively. You would like to study a new language, but you claim you never have time for it- well, now you do.

We frequently fly to Madeira Island, and the flight is 4 hours long. I always use this chance to improve my Portuguese. There a lot of paid or free audio books or free apps and podcasts, which you can download while waiting for your flight. Then, you can use these apps or listen to an interesting podcast made by a native speaker during the flight. Most of the materials are entertaining, easy to use and do not require much effort. Some of the apps look more like a game than an educational app. You never know when the few new words or expressions you learn might come in handy. Enjoy!

Edyta, Instagram

Download movies, music, or podcasts to your laptop before the flight

My top tip for surviving a long-haul flight would be to download some movies, music or even podcasts or talks to your laptop or mobile phone before you jet off. This will help you to keep entertained for several houses, even if the in-flight entertainment system isn’t up to scratch.

Personally, I’m a big fan of self-development or motivational talks – I love watching TEDx talks and the like. I also love watching my favorite TV series and sometimes I download documentaries on the destination I’m visiting that I can watch on the plane to get me excited about my trip.

I love Spotify because it makes it really easy for me to download any music I want to my phone so I can listen to it offline. Although it does come with a £9.99 monthly premium, for me, it’s worth every penny as I listen to music via the app constantly when I’m on the go.

The Rare Welsh Bit, Instagram

Download audiobooks before the flight

One of my best suggestions for long-haul flights is downloading audiobooks for your travels. Chances are if it’s a long flight, at least some of it will be overnight when it is dark and your other travelers are trying to sleep. You never want to be that person that turns the light on in an otherwise dark cabin to read a book or magazine. Audiobooks are a perfect option for getting some reading in and allow introverts to avoid all that small talk with your seatmates while you have your headphones in. Audiobooks can easily be downloaded using your local library card with the Overdrive app to your smartphone, or a subscription service such as Audible. Don’t forget to pack a small portable charger with it to make sure you can listen for hours without your phone dying! Check out my post for some suggestions on great audiobook options you can finish on a long flight ranging between 3 and 12 hours.

– Danielle, Twitter

Take care of your skin before the flight

Stay warm and comfortable and use the flight time for some self-care – If you’re in for a long-haul flight, there is no going around it, it’s uncomfortable, the time tends to go slow, and the sleep tends to be minimal. So to stay as comfortable as possible while traveling, I tend to always travel in comfortable clothes. That doesn’t mean that I travel in my PJs. It just means that I find an outfit that I feel well in, and that is comfortable to be seated in through a long flight. I also always get a bit cold on planes, so I’ve found it practical bring a bigs scarf that I can wrap myself up in almost like a blanket and some thicker socks. These things usually never take up a lot of space and you also don’t have to look for them in your hand-luggage. Just make sure to wrap yourself with the scarf before you board the plane and make sure to have your thicker socks in a practical place. That way you’ll be able to stay as cosy as possible throughout the flight.

The air in planes also tends to dry out my skin. In the day to day life, I find it hard to get time to take care of my skin. That’s why I try to take advantage and nurture my skin when flying. I never fly with makeup and always rinse my face and apply a good moisturizer or overnight (invisible) mask in the airport, before getting on the plane. This way I arrive at my destination with a well-nourished and moist skin. And if you’re really brave, you can even go all in with a sheet mask and a movie!

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Why Not Ju (Julie), Instagram

Take care of your skin and hair during the flight

Long haul flights can be exhausting for the body and mind. I always keep pocket-sized tubes of a face and body creams in my bag. Those not only keep your skin hydrated but also smell pleasant. My lips tend to get super dry too in the plane, so I keep on moisturizing them as well. My long hair tends to get static so I make sure to keep it up in a comfortable way so that it doesn’t bother me when I try to take a nap. I think, taking care of your skin and hair during a flight is super important. It can increase your comfort level during your travel and when you land you look fresh and great.

Helene, Facebook

Try a face-mask

It may sound super simple, but take care of your body while traveling on long-haul flights. You can become exhausted, dehydrated, and nauseous if you don’t take the proper steps to prepare your body to survive a long flight. First, exercise and get moving before, during, and after your flight. Spending hours with little to no movement in confined spaces can result in poor blood circulation and reduced oxygen levels. Next thing you know, your feet and ankles are swollen. Or worse, you’re unable to fully enjoy your trip.

Equally important, planes can zap you of moisture leaving you feeling fatigued and uncomfortable. Haven’t you ever noticed how planes feel drier than on land? Yep, because it is. So, try a Humidiflyer, a personal humidifier mask made to keep you hydrated throughout your flight. Spraying an essential oil, such as eucalyptus, could be great for added moisture and an effective antimicrobial.

Travelers: fly high, stay moving and hydrated.

Adriana Smith, Instagram

Use a sweater as a spine-support

Long haul flights are not the best part of traveling, but it’s a necessary evil to quench our wanderlust. But this doesn’t mean you can’t actively try to improve your experience. My biggest tip for surviving a long haul flight is to roll your sweater and place it at your lower back. You can use a pillow or the blanket they provide, but the extra support on your spine makes sitting down more comfortable because it takes the pressure off your muscles to keep your spine in the right position.

Another useful tip is to bring an empty bottle on board to store more water than the small cups or bottles they hand out on board. Staying hydrated is really important to shake off the jet lag fast once you land at your destination. Bring an empty bottle so you can go fill it up once the plane is up and cruising. Once you have water readily available next to you, you’ll drink more and won’t run the risk of nose-bleeds from the dry air in the cabin, cracked lips or acne breakouts.

Winnie MD, Instagram

Bring your own water

One thing we always do for the long-haul flight is – bring our own water. We normally travel with reusable water bottles, which you can empty before the security check and often you can fill up again at the water fountain before the gate. Of course, you get water and/or other drinks on the plane as well; but since dehydration is one of the worst things happening to you during the flight, it’s always handy to have some extra. When you have your own water bottle, you can drink it whenever you feel like it, especially if you wake up super-thirsty during sleep. You don’t have to call a flight attendant or find one of these water stations they have on some planes. Besides, sometimes water you get there just doesn’t taste good. If you’re in a country where tap water drinking is not recommended and the airport doesn’t have drinking water refilling opportunities, just buy a bottle and bring it with you.

Zenja, Instagram

Don’t drin coffee before flying

As a frequent flyer platinum member, I’ve been on my fair share of long-haul flights. Especially since I live in Melbourne Australia. For myself, surviving these long-haul flights has improved over many years, but a few tricks that I find basic but super effective are the following:

  • I never drink coffee before flying. I did it once on a red-eye flight from Perth to Singapore and I just couldn’t relax or find a comfy position to sleep. I arrived In Singapore ready for work, looking like half dead raccoon. Also, caffeine is a laxative, so It doesn’t always mix well with onboard toilets (just saying).
  • I have noise canceling headphones, but I find then bulky and uncomfortable when I’m trying to sleep. So, when I want to sleep I wear earplug, I can’t hear a thing and I can lean my head on whatever I find comfortable.
  • Playing games on my laptop also works really well, computer games naturally dissolve hours from your life. Usually a negative, though on a long-haul flight it’s awesome!

Simon Crozier, Instagram

Prepare yourself for sleeping during the fligh

When looking for the right flight, it is important to consider if it is a day flight or a night one. If it is a night flight, taking good sleep will make you arrive at your destination fresh and rested. The following essentials can become handy:

Travel pillow

Travel pillows are very popular among tourists and for a good reason. There are different kinds of such pillows: inflatable, classic, 360 pillows etc.. You can buy a perfect pillow in advance or, in case you forgot, just pick up one in duty-free.

Sleeping mask and earplugs

Many people try to use a mask from a flight care package they receive on the plane. A terrible mistake! Those masks are usually so tight and put pressure on the head or the area above the ears. It is better to choose a convenient option in advance, preferably, made of soft, quality materials. Earplugs are essential to people sensitive to noise so don’t forget about them. While some airlines provide flight care packages for long flights, some others don’t, so it’s better to be prepared.

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Warm clothes

It is often cold on the plane which guarantees you a headache or a cold upon arrival. Also falling asleep in the cold doesn’t really work. Don’t put all your hopes on airline blankets and take something warm with you, ideally a hoody.

Sleeping aid

If nothing helps, try taking a sleeping pill. One of the most popular types is Melatonin, which is made of natural components and triggers our sleep patterns.

– Inna, Pinterest

Bring a magazine or a crossword book with you

There’s only so much you can sleep on a long-haul flight, so you need to find creative ways to pass the time. After spending some of it on your phone, tablet, or laptop, you will probably want to take a break from looking at a screen. So, my tip is quite simple, and it is to bring something for you to read.

If you are taking a book with you, try to bring one that’s not too heavy and can fit into your personal bag easily. Also, choose one that you are likely to read for more than five minutes. In case it’s hard for you to read books during flights, bring a magazine instead. It requires a lot less concentration, and it’s a solution that always works for me. Another great option could be a crossword book. It is a fantastic way to kill some time and stretch your mind a little bit.

Or, Instagram

Take noise-cancelling headphones with you

Whenever I fly, my most important possessions – other than my passport and wallet, of course – are my noise-canceling headphones and my phone.

The headphones were worth every penny I spent on them because they do what they claim: cancel noise. As a generally anxious flyer, it helps me immeasurably to not have to hear every little change in engine noise, flap adjustments and so on. The noises used to always get me nervous: “What’s that noise? Is something wrong?”

Before every flight, I download a whole season of some series – I like the sci-fi ones best, but choose whatever you like – onto my phone. As soon as I’m settled into my seat, I start watching, using the headphones. The flight attendants don’t like it if you don’t listen to their safety announcements, so I take off one ear of the headphones then, but otherwise, I stay plugged in for the whole flight.

On longer flights, I use the same headphones with the in-flight entertainment. I bring an adapter in case the plug is one of those two-prong types that they often use on airplanes. That way I can still enjoy the noise-cancellation and a movie at the same time. If I want to sleep, I’ll plug into some music, either on my phone or by choosing from the airline’s offering. To me, those headphones are priceless.

Rachel Heller, Instagram

Pack your carry-on in a compact and convenient way

Mention the words ‘long-haul flight’ and you’ll be met with shudders and moans. Fair enough too I’ve spent countless hours on planes over the last three decades and I know how tiring and stressful it can be. My favorite tip for surviving a long-haul flight is to pack a small zippered bag with everything you might need. I like to pack lip-balm, tissues, my kindle, paracetamol, pens, and a note pad, as well as my passport and other valuables. This means I can go to sleep knowing my belongings are safely tucked away in front of me. And I can grab whatever I need without bothering the people around me. There’s nothing worse than someone constantly rummaging around in the overhead locker while you’re trying to sleep. And this way I’m never one of those people.

Audrey Chalmers, Facebook

Prepare your kids for the flight

We usually travel long haul as a family so long haul with kids brings a whole new element of potential pain with it! Our biggest tip is to have them prepared, both in the lead up by talking them through the experience and what to expect, to minimize anxiety, and on board.

We ensure that we pack our carry on bag with them in mind. This means familiar snacks that they enjoy, as kids get hungry often but we all know how fussy they can be. It also means clothing that is comfortable and loose, and layers they can add and remove as planes can be cold with the air conditioning on. You also need to make sure you have a spare set of clothing for them and enough nappies and care items if you are traveling with babies. A spare shirt for yourself is also a must! Trust me… mid-flight with a vomit-covered shirt is not fun (thanks kids).

The other thing we always focus on is making sure our kids have great entertainment on board. There is only so much time they will want to spend watching movies and TV shows usually, so having some small activities that are suitable for travel are helpful. We pack our kids a travel activity pack of things they can do in their chair, like coloring, writing activities, and usually a couple of little surprises too. Our kids love them. They have become one of their favorite parts of traveling by plane. And it helps with our sanity too when the kids are happy.

Holly Connors, Instagram

Do you have any other tips for surviving a long-haul flight?

2 thoughts on “How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

  1. Yes, i do agree that coffee is not the best when travelling and thank you for the tip of noise cancelling earplugs, i will carry one next time and ensure some games are on my phone for passing time.
    Thank you for sharing this detailed on how to survive a long haul flight!
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