15 Tips for Surviving a Long Haul Flight
No one likes long flights, except maybe that lady wearing heels and drinking champagne in business class. You are in a small chair for over 10 hours in between two people you have never met, with mediocre food, and temperatures as cold as a Boston winter. Follow these tips to help make your long flight a lot less painful, and get to your destination ready to explore. These are my 15 tips for surviving a long haul flight:
1. Get the best seat
- Stay away from bulkhead seats, especially if they are next to the restroom. You might have extra legroom, but people will constantly be standing next to you waiting in line or stretching their legs. You will also be required to put your bags in the overhead bin during takeoff and landing.
- When you check in for your flight always see if there are better seats available. If you are unable to change your seat and you got assigned a middle seat or a seat next to the restrooms, ask the gate agent before boarding if they have a different seat they can assign you. International flights aren’t always full, so it’s very possible they can change your seat.
- If you are traveling with a friend, increase your chances of an empty seat in your row by booking the window and aisle, as it’s less likely someone will book the middle seat. Choose seats towards the back of the plane where it tends to be more empty.
2. Avoid jet Lag
Try to align your sleep schedule to your destination while you are on the plane. Do this by adjusting your phone to the time at your destination, and go to sleep when it’s night there. For example: If you are flying to Amsterdam and you leave New York City at 4 pm, it’s 10 pm in Amsterdam so you should try to sleep as soon as you get on the plane so you are already aligning your sleep schedule. If you have trouble sleeping on planes consider bringing Melatonin.
3. Be comfortable
Wear comfortable clothes and closed toed shoes. Bring layers as it can get really cold on the plane. If you are cold always ask for another blanket, don’t just stay uncomfortable! Most airlines have extra blankets on board. Being as comfortable as possible is critical in order to survive a long haul flight. I typically bring a fleece jacket with me on long flights to stay warm.
4. Stay hydrated
Bring an empty water bottle with you and refill it at a water fountain after security. You will save money not having to buy a water bottle at the airport, and it allows you to have water on the flight so you are not dependent on the flight attendants. If you run out of water you can go to the back of the plane and ask the flight attendants to refill your bottle for you, or fill it the next time they serve water. Make sure to drink plenty of water to get through the long haul flight so you don’t get dehydrated.
5. Bring a change of clothes in your carry on bag
If the person next to you accidentally spills their orange juice on you (or you spill it on yourself), the last thing you want is to sit in sticky wet pants for 10 hours. You also want to make sure you have a change of clothes in case your luggage doesn’t make it to your destination. Make sure you bring clothes that fit for your plans that next day- that way if your luggage gets lost at least you’ll have a bathing suit for your Santorini vacation.
6. Be careful about what you eat and bring snacks
If you like airplane food and have had a good history with it, enjoy. However, if you want to be safe stick to the dry stuff like the packaged bread and desert so you don’t get sick from the airplane food. Also, always bring snacks with you on the plane in case you don’t like the food or get hungry in between meals. Bringing your own snacks is so important for surviving a long haul flight. Try to bring snacks like protein bars or nuts that will keep you full. If you have a dietary restriction and plan to eat the airplane food, make sure to select the option when you book the flight or call the airline to do so. Note that if you select a specific meal you will get the food before everyone else and it’s uncomfortable if you don’t end up wanting it, since it’s delivered especially to you.
7. Bring a neck pillow
This will allow you to sleep and also prevent you from having neck pain the next day. I don’t recommend buying one at the airport as they are extremely overpriced. Plan ahead and purchase a neck pillow before your trip. If you don’t want to deal with carrying a large pillow, there are inflatable ones so you can fit them in your bag. My favorite neck pillow (after trying too many) is this Purefly inflatable pillow. It inflates by pressing a button several times, so you don’t have to be out of breath trying to blow up your pillow after already sprinting through the airport in order to not miss your flight, which probably ended up being delayed anyways. This travel pillow will allow you to sleep better which will make surviving a long haul flight so much easier.
8. Charge your electronics
Make sure your devices are fully charged before your trip. Bring your phone charger with you because many airplanes now have outlets. In case it is an older plane, also bring a portable charger and charge it before. A portable charger is very helpful for a long flight day and also the days during your trip. I always carry a portable charger with me so I don’t have to stress about my phone battery dying and not being able to find my hotel because my phone is dead. This portable charger can charge your iphone 8 by 2.4 charges and is smaller than the iphone so it is very easy to carry around. If you need more charge, this portable charger is a little bigger but can charge an iphone 8 by 5.2 times.
9. Don't forget your earphones
Most airlines give free earphones on long international flights, but they are usually big and uncomfortable. Bring yours ! My go to earphones are these Boise noise canceling earphones. These are perfect for traveling and help cancel out noise so you can sleep better.
10. Bring your own entertainment
Not all planes have entertainment systems, and sometimes the systems malfunction. Bring a book and magazines, or pre-download movies and podcasts on your phone so you have other forms of entertainment just incase to survive the long haul flight.
11. Pack chapstick, lotion, and hand sanitizer
It can get very dry on the plane. Always bring chapstick and lotion. The bathrooms on the plane often run out of soap, so carry hand sanitizer just incase.
12. Take walks to stretch your legs
On your bathroom breaks, take a walk around the plane to prevent blood clots and stretch your legs. It also offers entertainment because people sleep in very interesting positions on planes and have very different movie tastes.
13. Stow your luggage in overhead bins ahead of your row
Never put your luggage in an overhead bin behind your seat. The last thing you want after a long haul flight is to wait for everyone on the flight to finish deplaning in order to get your bag.
14. Always check the seat before you sit
From experience, you want to check the seat so you don’t end up sitting on gum or a wet seat. If you end up sitting on someones gum and get it stuck to your pants it will be a lot worse than making the impatient people boarding behind you wait for another few seconds.
15. Bring a pen
Prevent getting stressed when they hand out the customs documents and you don’t have a pen. Always carry a pen so you can fill out the forms before you land and don’t need to frantically look for a pen while standing in line for customs. Do note that some countries don’t require a paper form anymore, so don’t get stressed if you didn’t get one.
Good luck! Just remember, it’s worth it because in only 10 hours you’ll be relaxing on the beach in Crete, admiring the Eiffel tower, hiking the Great Wall of China, or going back home… in which case you can finally sleep in your own bed! Let me know if you follow these 15 tips and if it the tips made surviving a long haul flight easier.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Travel guides created to inspire and enable people to use their time away from the office to explore the world.