Tips for Long Flights: Your A-Z Survival Guide

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Long-haul flights are a necessary evil for the world traveler. 

Most of the world's most coveted wellness destinations, retreats, culture trips, and business hubs are spread among Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa, and if you’re flying from anywhere in North America, you won’t get there on a quick flight.

You’ll probably be stuck on a long-haul flight, which is classified as any flight longer than 6 hours in duration. Screaming children, cramped conditions, and the perpetual roar of the aircraft can make a long flight pretty uncomfortable, but there are things you can do to survive and even make the flight somewhat relaxing. 

Here are nine tips for long haul flights to have a comfortable trip.

Long-Haul Flight Survival Guide: Comfort 

#1. Book Your Tickets Early

This goes without saying – the earlier you book, the better seating options you get. You will agree with us that the location of your seat plays an important role in determining your comfort level in the sky. 

Here are a few rules you should stick to:

  • Choose exit rows if you want more legroom
  • Choose an aisle seat if you like to move around in the plane, way often
  • Stay away from the front seats if you don’t want to be surrounded with children as this is where special provisions for babies are made on international flights

#2. Request an Upgrade

Undoubtedly, no option is more comfortable than premium flying. Even if you have not booked first-class tickets, you can still try for a free upgrade.

Arrive early, dress nicely, and flaunt the most pleasant smile. If this doesn’t work, ask the check-in desk if they can provide you with a free upgrade. You might not have seen this coming but most airlines allow you to upgrade to the premium cabin for as less as $50. 

Worth a try, yes?

#3. Wear Comfortable Clothes

This is a no brainer. If you want to fly comfortably, you must wear comfortable clothes – the ones which will help you in enduring long hours. 

Don’t forget that it can get chilly up there. Layer yourself up, and adjust your clothing according to your body temperature as you fly. Avoid wearing chunks of jewelry. You can save them for your holiday. 

Essentially, you should choose to go for closed-toed shoes as they will prove to be a better option in case of an emergency when compared to flip flops. 

Long-Haul Flight Survival Guide: Sleep & Jet Lag

#4: Consider Sleeping on the Plane

Easier said than done, right? 

But depending on how many time zones you’re crossing, and the duration of the flight, if you don’t catch some Zzz’s you may find yourself battling some serious jet lag when you arrive at your destination. 

Jet lag is not only a terrible way to start your trip (nobody wants to be exhausted when they arrive at their destination, and for several days after!), but it’s not great for your health, either. 

 Also read: Jet Lag: What It Is, Why It Happens, & How to Beat It

If you can catch some sleep on the plane, and it wouldn’t throw off your circadian rhythm even further, try to do so. 

#5: Bring Travel Sleep Essentials

Even if you don’t think you’ll be able to sleep on the plane, pack a few sleep-promoting essentials in your carry-on luggage. At worst, they’ll keep you comfortable, focused and help you control your personal temperature. 

At best, they’ll enable you to catch a few hours of rest. 

These include: 

Neck pillows are pretty bulky and awkward to haul around the airport, but you can sometimes find some lighter options. 

Long-Haul Flight Survival Guide: Airport Navigation

#6. Pack Light 

This is one of our favorites. When it comes to traveling – keep it light. While packing a few extra stuff does help, keep it simple, and travel-sized. Make sure that the suitcase you are planning to carry with you in the aircraft can accommodate well in the overhead lockers. 

Ideally, you should take a shoulder bag or a cabin bag to keep your essentials like an mp3 player, a water bottle, and earplugs. 

#7. Know Your Arrival Gate

If you have a layover and have to transfer to another flight, especially if your layover is less than a couple of hours long, you will want to know your arrival gate while you’re on the first leg of your flight, so you can plan your route to your gate. 

There’s nothing like having to rush to your transfer and nearly missing it because you’re lost. 

Even if you think you have plenty of time, if the airport is one of the bigger ones, it can take 30 minutes or more to get across the airport on foot. 

And if you stop to get a bite to eat without knowing where your next gate is well ahead of time, you’re flirting with disaster.

Most airline apps have basic airport maps, but your flight crew will know what gate you’re arriving at so be sure to ask them.

Long-Haul Flight Survival Guide: Health

#8. Bring Healthy, Whole-Foods Snacks

Although you will be provided with food, snacks, and beverages during flight from time to time, you should still carry your own.

It's nearly impossible to find healthy food at most airports, and airline-provided food is not exactly fresh or nourishing. 

When you fly, your body is already being impacted in several key ways, and the last thing you want to do is exacerbate the health effects of flying with junk foods filled with chemicals, additives, and fillers.

Packing high-quality, healthy travel snacks will allow you to eat, and drink at your own schedule, nourish yourself with real foods, and will keep your internal clock in check. 

#9. Try Intermittent Fasting 

If you didn’t bring any healthy snacks on the flight and you don’t have the chance to hunt down a decent food option in the airport, consider fasting. 

You could either:

  • Intermittent fast, where you avoid eating during your flight and the hours surrounding your travel until you can find decent food options
  • Fast for 24-hours, to help minimize travel's impact on your circadian rhythm. 

Since travel is the time when you're the least active, this is the best time to try fasting as you aren't burning much energy.

Air travel also messes with your digestion (that's why you bloat when you fly), so fasting can do its part to minimize that side effect as well. 

#10. Stay Hydrated

One of the biggest side effects of flying is dehydration.

This, along with exhaustion and being trapped in a metal petri dish can suppress your immune system and make you prone to illness, digestive upsets, and more.

So when we say "stay hydrated", we mean with water. 

You can also make things interesting with alcohol which is often served for free on longer flights, but that will dehydrate you further and make your travel issues worse. Best to save the wine for your trip. 

#11. Stay Relaxed

Staying relaxed in a long-haul flight is essential. You will feel comfortable, and arrive at your destination in a better mood. 

Do whatever it takes – listen to your favorite music, meditate, perform some breathing exercises, have a nap, or read a book. Whatever works fine with you. 

However, if you often tend to feel nervous while in the air, you can carry some medications along with you – of course, after getting them prescribed from your doctor. 

#12. Wash Your Hands

One reason why most of us tend to avoid long-stretch flights is the hygiene aspect. Everyone using the same two bathrooms, touching everything in sight, and breathing the same air circulating inside the aircraft...

Yuck.

This is why it makes sense to bring your own toiletries. Carry some hand sanitizer or travel soap, wet wipes, and more. 

Long-Haul Flight Survival Guide: Entertainment

#13: Check Your Aircraft’s Amenities

 You might assume that any long-haul flight will have wifi, charging outlets and TVs, but that’s not an accurate assumption to make. 

Some long-haul flights don’t, and the last thing you want to do is expect to be able to be productive or entertained and come up empty-handed.

Check your aircraft via your flight number on SeatGuru (hint: this site will also enable you to select the best seat!). 

If the flight doesn’t offer wifi, ensure that your Google Drive apps allow for offline editing; bring up the emails you want to answer in a browser window. If there are no outlets, charge your devices ahead of time and bring a portable charger. 

Actually, just...

#14: Bring a Portable Charger

We can’t count how many times we left the portable charger at home because we saw that there were charging ports on the flight, only to be seated in an aisle without a charger or with one that didn’t work. 

A long-haul flight without electronic devices? No thanks. 

#15: Bring a Backup 

Even if you’re set for your entire flight with plans to sleep, work, or listen to audiobooks, music, or podcasts, it doesn’t hurt to bring backup entertainment -- especially entertainment that doesn’t rely on battery or power. 

Paper books, magazines, and even one of those sudoku puzzle books can keep your mind off of how many hours, minutes, and seconds you have left on your flight. 

You don’t always have access to power and if you’re a restless person who doesn’t do well with boredom, having an unplugged activity to keep you busy is key.

Prepare For Your Next Long-Haul Flight With These Tips

Have a long-haul flight coming up? Make it as comfortable and entertaining as possible with these strategies. and Follow the strategies we discussed above and have a comfortable flight. What do you think? How do you manage long-haul flights? Is there anything that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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