Long-haul flights are easily my least favorite part of traveling. I love the thrill of boarding a plane for a new destination, but the love affair ends there. Between lack of space, bloating, and mediocre food, I usually find myself counting down the minutes to touch-down before we’ve even taken off.
Still, long-hauls are a part of life if you’ve come down with a case of wanderlust. Here are my 15 tips for surviving your next long-haul flight:
Fish For Upgrades
What’s better than a long-haul flight? A long-haul flight in business class.
Upgrades are always a crap shoot, but you’ll have a better chance if you fly the same airline regularly and are a member of their loyalty program. If you’re traveling solo, you can also try to chat up the gate agent and let them know that you’re alone and willing to upgrade if needed. You’ll usually just get a polite smile and nod, but every once in a while, they’ll throw you a bone.
Wear Comfortable (and Warm!) Clothing
What’s worse than a long-haul flight? A long-haul flight in tight jeans.
Give your fashionable duds a rest for the day and stroll onto that plane with nothing but comfort in mind. Stretchy pants of some kind are a must. You’ll be able to curl up in your seat more easily, and you won’t pop any buttons from airplane bloat. My go-to flight outfit is yoga pants, a t-shirt, a cardigan, and a scarf. You can use the scarf as a pillow or blanket too – bonus!
Most long-haul planes have small private screens on the seats for your movie-viewing, music-listening, and game-playing pleasure. The entertainment selections aren’t always amazing, so it’s always a good idea to bring items to entertain yourself. This might be a Kindle, a laptop, an iPad, magazines, or a journal. 10 hours feels like 20 when you’ve got nothing to do but listen to your chatty neighbor.
Set Yourself Up for a Good Rest
Sleeping on a plane is nearly impossible without a lovely place to rest your head. I love this neck pill from CABEAU. This memory foam contraption is a cushiony cloud of goodness when you’re trying to get some ZZZ’s in the air. It rolls up for easy packing. I also recommend some ear plus and a sleep mask to block out the light and sound around you.
I can feel all of your eyes rolling at this one, but no long-haul flight list would be complete without it. Planes dehydrate you, so stay ahead of the game by drinking some water every hour. Your body will thank you later.
Ditch the Coffee
This advice is contradictory to everything I’ve ever said in my life. Coffee is ALWAYS a good idea…except on a long-haul flight. This diuretic will have you hitting the toilet often, and the caffeine will keep you from getting the ZZZ’s you need. Skip it for now and have a steaming cup upon landing. You’ll need it!
Don’t Eat Beans
Be smart about your food choices in the airport terminal before take-off. YES, that burrito looks delicious. But you’ll be really unhappy when you’re in the air and your stomach bloats to the size of a balloon and the person next to you starts sniffing the air and giving you dirty looks. This has never happened to me though.
Compression, No Stressin’
Compression socks. They’re one of life’s little mysteries. Compression socks look and feel funny, but they prevent your limbs from swelling while you’re in the air, and can prevent blood clots. I purchased a pair after I returned from a 14-hour Melbourne > LAX flight last year with ankles the size of my neck. It was super cute.
I’m one of those weird humans that does not despise airplane food. I’ve always found the options to be decent enough. The way I see it, you’ve already paid for it. May as well eat it. That said, a lot of people can’t get on board the airplane food train. If that’s you, bring some healthy snacks in your carryon. Granola bars, sandwiches, and cheese and crackers are all good options that can go without refrigeration for a few hours.
Tip: Pack a Cup-O-Noodles, Easy Mac, or even a dehydrated camping meal and ask the flight attendant to fill it with hot water for you. You’ll have a delicious meal in minutes, and chances are, some jealous neighbors.
Take Care of Your Skin
We’ve all felt it…that tight, crackling feeling when you’ve been on a flight for 10 hours and your skin has lost all the moisture it ever had ever. Fight the airplane-air with a good hand cream, hydrating face lotion, eye cream and lip balm. It makes all the difference in your comfort on the flight, and the condition of your skin when you land.
Talk to Your Neighbors
Alright, I hear all of my fellow introverts out there groaning, cringing and closing this Chrome window, never to return to my blog — but hear me out! Everyone has a story – everyone. And you may have the most interesting person in the world next to you and you’ll never know it unless you strike up a little chat.
IMPORTANT: Read the room, guys. If they aren’t making eye contact or they seem distracted, take the cues and leave them alone. If the conversation starts and you’re over it and they won’t shut up, find a break in the conversation and politely say you’d like to rest now. If it’s going well, congrats! You have a new best friend. Buy them a cookie.
Customs lines are so much fun, amirite? If you frequently take long-haul flights and are a US citizen, consider signing up for Global Entry. You’ll pay $100 to sign up, but once approved, you can breeze through customs via designated kiosks upon arriving in participating cities.
Tip: Some countries allow Global Entry members to use their expedited lines but don’t officially call it “Global Entry.” For example, Australia allows Global Entry members to use their SmartGate system, which is essentially the same thing under a different name.
It’s no secret that airplanes are breeding grounds for some nasty colds and viruses. Protect yourself by bringing wet wipes to wipe down the tray tables, arm rests and seatbelts. And congrats – you just became your mother! Don’t forget immunity boosters like Emergen-C to consume on the plane. Better throw some hand sanitizer in too while you’re at it.
Escape Jet Lag
I have the best luck with jet lag when I begin to adjust my sleeping patterns by an hour or two at a time in the days before my flight, moving closer to my destination’s time zone. For example, if I’m going California > London, I’ll gradually go to bed an hour later and wake up an hour earlier each day before leaving. Then, from the time I step on the plane, my destination schedule is my new schedule. So if I board the plane at 7am London time, I don’t sleep for the whole flight.
After many long hours, your plane will land and you’ll be ready for an amazing adventure…almost. Help recover from your flight with these steps:
- Guzzle some water to rehydrate.
- Throw on a sheet mask for 15 minutes, or use an ultra-hydrating face cream to revive your skin.
- Take one last immunity booster (i.e. Emergen-C) and break out the hand sanitizer to clear away any lingering germs.
- Give your number to that hot stranger in Seat 5A.
- Grab that cup of coffee. You earned it.
What are your best tips for surviving long-haul flights? I’m always looking for new hacks. Share them in the comments below!