Walking along the beach in Bali and gazing out over the expansive water was enough to make us dread our upcoming flight the next day.
A flight that would begin our 27-hour journey back to Philadelphia.
Flying home for the holidays sounded like a great idea — until it really sunk in that we would be in transit for longer then it takes most people to plan their entire trip.
Because this was not the first time, nor the last, that Trav and I would be embarking on such a long journey, we decided to make a list of all the things we do to make long-haul flights more
Hopefully, these tips help ease your anxiety the next time you’re preparing for a long-haul flight!
1. Book a Business or First Class Ticket
If you have enough miles or enough money to book a business or first class ticket, then this is the time to use it! Having a more comfortable seat will ensure you have a better sleep.
Business and first class tickets include more leg room, better food, and sometimes even seats that lie flat. These might seem like unnecessary luxuries on a short flight, but they can be a lifesaver on flights that last a whole day.
To learn how to get these premium tickets for (nearly) free, check out our guide to frequent flyer miles.
2. Have a Relaxed Day Before Your Flight
The first leg of our itinerary was a three-hour flight to Taiwan with an hour and a half layover. We did not want to sleep on that first flight.
Therefore, the day we left Bali (our flight was at 5pm), we went to the beach, had lunch, and sat by the pool. We felt really relaxed by the time we had to leave for the airport. This way we, weren’t already stressed and tired before beginning our long trip.
3. Bring Your Own Entertainment
You never know what planes are equipped with, or even if the entertainment consoles are working. It’s a good idea to have movies, TV shows, and books downloaded on your devices before you leave for the airport!
If you have trouble reading on planes, download some audiobooks and podcast episodes before you go.
4. Pack an Eye Mask and Ear Plugs
Even if the airline provides an eye mask, bring your own. And make sure to put these items in your carry-on so that you can get to them during the flight.
You’ll be glad you have them when there’s a screaming baby next to you or your neighbor decides to turn on the reading lamp while you want to sleep.
This is our favorite eye mask and these are our favorite ear plugs.
5. Bring a Good Pair of Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The complimentary headphones are uncomfortable and don’t block any noise. Instead, invest in a pair of high-quality, noise-cancelling headphones.
Not only will they help block out the noises around you, but they’ll also let you focus on the movie, podcast, or music that you’re using to pass the time.
6. Make Sure Your Important Items Are Accessible
We usually grab all of our necessary items and put them in the seat pocket or on the top of our small carry-on bag under the seat. There’s nothing worse than needing an essential item (such as your ear plugs) and being unable to access it because it’s in the overhead bin.
7. Keep Your Valuables Secure
Okay, so we just told you to keep your important in-flight items easily accessible, but you should also make sure to secure your valuables. A long-haul flights is the perfect chance for a thief to grab your phone or wallet from your bag while you’re sleeping.
To keep these valuable items safe, either place them deep inside your carry-on bag or in a pocket that a thief would have trouble reaching without waking you up.
8. Wear Comfortable Clothes
A long flight isn’t the time to worry about fashion. You want to wear the most comfortable clothes you can. Be sure to wear something you can sleep in, and bring a light jacket or additional layers in case you get cold.
If you don’t want to arrive at your destination wearing your pajamas, then bring some more presentable clothes to change into before you land. Just be sure it’s all stuff you can get on in the airplane bathroom.
Looking for some comfortable travel clothes? Check out our travel gift guide.
9. Pack a Toothbrush
You’ll be glad to have this. Your mouth is going to get funky after all those hours in the air (not to mention the questionable airplane food). Brushing your teeth seems like a small thing, but it can make you feel much better.
As a bonus, brushing your teeth can also help you sleep by signaling to your body that it’s time for bed.
10. Bring Snacks
27 hours with only airplane food to look forward to? No thank you!
Have some snacks or even a sandwich that can help tide you over until you land. Try to bring things that are somewhat healthy, as this will help you feel more energized and less jet-lagged once you arrive at your destination. And err on the side of bringing too many snacks — there’s nothing worse than getting hungry halfway through a 12-hour flight and having nothing to eat.
A bottle of water is also a good idea. Pack your own reusable water bottle and fill it up after you get through security to avoid paying for overpriced airport bottled water.
11. Find Empty Seats
On a long flight, every bit of extra space counts. Once you’ve boarded the flight, look around to see if there are any rows empty. If you spot any, ask the flight attendant if you can move.
This won’t always be possible, but it can sometimes get you an entire row to yourself (or an empty middle seat if you’re traveling with someone else). It’s a great way to get extra room without paying extra.
12. Stretch and Move Around
While sleeping can help you arrive in good condition, it’s also crucial to move around during a long flight. Sitting still for 10 hours at high altitude can restrict blood flow. For most people, this will just be uncomfortable, but it can also lead to blood clots in extreme cases.
Therefore, it’s important to get up, stretch, and move around every couple of hours (at least). Luckily, long-haul flights usually lack turbulence, so it’s easy to walk up and down the aisle and do some simple stretches.
If you’re especially concerned about blood clots or have a history of circulation issues, you can also consider compression socks. You can also talk to your doctor about additional measures to keep your blood flowing properly.
13. Follow the Sleep Schedule of Your Destination
On many long-haul flights, you’ll depart when it’s daytime in your destination. To minimize the effects of jet lag, we recommend keeping your sleep schedule in line with where you’re going.
For instance, if your flight leaves when it’s morning in your destination, stay awake for the first few hours. Then, when it’s night where you’re going, you can go to sleep. This isn’t always possible due to the strangeness of time zones, but it’s worth trying if you can.
14. Use Sleep Aids Carefully
Sleep aids can help you arrive well-rested if you use them correctly. But it’s key to make sure you understand how a sleep aid will effect you before you take it on a long flight.
Prescription sleep aids, in particular, can have strange side effects and can even keep you awake in some cases. Therefore, be sure to test any sleep aid you use before you get on a flight. Otherwise, you could end up making an already unpleasant flight worse.
If you’re concerned about side effects, stick with a natural, over the counter sleep aid like melatonin (though we still recommend testing it before just to be sure you know how you’ll respond).
15. Stay Hydrated
It’s important to stay hydrated before, during, and after a flight. Being at a high altitude for long periods of time will dehydrate you quickly. Not only can this make it more difficult to sleep, but it can also give you headaches and worsen jet lag. Take your hydration seriously!
We recommend bringing a reusable water bottle that you can fill up after you get through security. But if this runs out during the flight (which it should if you’re drinking enough), then don’t be afraid to ask a flight attendant for water.
For additional hydration, drink an electrolyte beverage before your flight. You can even buy electrolyte tablets that you can dissolve in water, allowing you to take in electrolytes while you’re flying.
16. Get Airport Lounge Access
For many long trips, you’ll likely have a layover. Airport lounges offer a quiet, comfortable place to relax during a layover. This will ensure that you’re calm before you get on your next flight.
Plus, having better food (and complimentary alcohol) can be a great boost to your morale. Some of the nicer airport lounges even have showers where you can freshen up.
Think you have to be rich to get access to airport lounges? Think again! Here’s how you can get into airport lounges without being a millionaire.
You Can Survive Long-Haul Flights
You now have the tips to make your next long-haul flight a lot more bearable. If nothing else, remember that your flight will end, and it will be worth it for the amazing things you’ll get to see and do at your destination.
Want more tips for improving your flight experience? Check out these articles:
It’s been 15 years I’ve been in a plane!! I will be flying for 5 hours But for me it seems an eternity.. I think I can handle 3 but then I might panick!! I do have anxiety medication , you think this might help?? Right now I’m calm but always worry about the what IFS.. Thank you very much!!
I can’t remember if this is the podcast where you guys mentioned it — but that awesome store Muji is all over New York now. I think you recommended them for awesome sleep masks. Anyway, there’s one in the JetBlue terminal at JFK and one near Port Authority, a long with many other locations that seem to keep popping up! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they migrate down to Philly :)
@Samantha – Woohoo, Muji is in NYC. They do have awesome sleep masks – and awesome everything else. Can’t wait to go see it, and fingers crossed it comes to Philly. Heather will be a happy, happy girl!