How To Survive a Long Haul Flight in 20 Tips + Tricks
The long haul flight... for a lot of people it's the most dreaded part of their entire trip. Unless you're flying first class on Emirates, I don't know anyone who particularly enjoys this part of traveling. The idea of flying for anything over 7 hours makes me shudder just thinking about it. I am so blessed and fortunate to have travelled to a lot of amazing places all around the world, so I've definitely taken my fair share of long haul flights. Today, I thought I could share with you guys some of my top tips and tricks to make the process a little less painful.
Pick your seat
When it comes to long haul flights, I don't think there is anything more important than being strategic with how you pick your seat. Even when airlines are looking to charge you extra to be able to pick your seat before going to the airport, for me it's always worth the extra cash. Before picking any seats for a flight, I always head over to seatguru and type in my flight information. Seatguru is this amazing resource where you can find seat maps for any airline, and it also gives you information on what sort of amenities the plane will have. Want to know if there's wifi? outlets? food? All that info is there for every airline and flight number so you can plan what you'll need accordingly. You need to ask yourself what kind of traveller you are to know what seat to pick. For instance, if you're someone who needs to get up to use the bathroom lots, then sitting in the aisle is probably a good idea. Don't like to be disturbed and want to sleep the whole flight? Then the window will be your saving grace. Now personally, I prefer booking an exit row whenever I can. Being 6'0 (with a boyfriend that is 6'7), I cherish legroom more than anything in the world. Even though on most long haul flights those exit row seats can cost anything from an extra $50 to $160, I think it's worth it for that added comfort of being able to stretch your legs out. When it comes to travelling, I think it's important to value yourself and your time. Splashing out a little bit of extra cash where you can within your budget will make the journey so much more enjoyable.
PRO TIP: If traveling with someone else and you want a little extra space, book the window and the aisle seats (leaving the middle empty) of the usual row of three. Unless the flight is completely full, the chances of someone booking to be in between you is pretty slim. Of the forty odd flights Jules and I flew last year, we had no one in between us for all except two!
Noise cancelling headphones
Trust me when I tell you, these will change your life. I know, you probably think I'm over exaggerating, but bringing these along on my long airplane journeys was a total game changer for me. What are noise cancelling headphones? Well they're exactly what they sound like they are, headphones that help reduce unwanted ambient sounds. Whilst they aren't going to make it so you can't hear anything around you at all, they are going to cut out the majority of the sounds making it easier to sleep and just have your own space. I never realized how noisy planes were until I got these and was able to cut out the humming the aircraft makes, the conversations around me, and even make the baby screaming a few rows back into a muted muffle instead of a bloodcurdling cry. It helps make the socially uncomfortable situation of being on a flight into a more private one, where you can enjoy your movie/podcast/music in peace. I personally use these ones from Bose, and they are the greatest investment I ever made.
I'm going to be the first one to admit, I used to make fun of people who'd bring eye masks on flights. Then a few years back my sister let me borrow hers and man let me tell you, I was converted. Getting sleep on the plane is one of the best ways to help combat jet lag, and eye masks are one of the best tools to help you get some serious shut eye. Sometimes airlines will provide you with one on long haul flights, but typically the ones they provide aren't great quality and don't do the best job at blocking out light, so I just opt to bring my own (the softer the better). Worried about not getting fed because you're asleep? Take your mask to the next level and get one like this that tells the flight attendants to wake you up.
Dress warmly + Comfortably
If you're someone who flies frequently then you know, it can get really cold on airplanes. Now if you're like me and like to sit in the exit row on planes, then it can get even colder when you're right next to the door. That's why I always dress in layers. Comfort is key here, because if you're going to be sitting for hours on end you are not going to want to be readjusting your clothes every few minutes. Just because you're dressing comfortable though doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your sense of style. These jeans from Uniqlo have been my go to, as they are the perfect balance between fashionable and comfortable. They're soft and stretchy to the point that I almost feel like I'm in sweatpants, but everyone else sees them as cute jeans. These paired with a comfy long sleeve shirt and an oversized knit sweater and I'm good to go. I'm also a big believer in the Birkenstocks-and-socks look à la Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Not only are they comfortable, but the socks make it so your toes don't freeze on the cold plane, and the sandals are easy to slip on and off when going through security or on the plane (win-win).
My go to outfit:
Podcasts have been my saving grace this year on all of my flights, both long and short. Personally, I find they make the flight go by so much quicker than it would if I was just listening to music. The best part? They're free! All you have to do is head on to the podcasts app on your phone and you can pick whatever tickles your fancy to download for offline listening. Yup, its seriously that easy. Similar to movies, since each podcasts usually has a story line or a theme behind each episode, so it engages you in a way that makes the time just fly by. The podcast I've been listening to the most this last year has definitely been My Favourite Murder, with super lengthy episodes that are perfect to cozy into on a flight.
Pack lightly + Efficiently
This should probably be a tip for your checked luggage as well, but I'm talking more specifically about your carry on luggage. Most airlines allow you to have one larger carry on and one "personal item" like a handbag. Organize these two bags so that the things you don't necessarily need on your flight but still like to have in your carry on (technology, cameras, etc) are in the larger bag that you store in the overhead compartment, and make your smaller personal item bag have all of your in flight essentials. This is always my tactic when I travel on flights and it saves you so much time and energy not having to go up and down to the overhead compartment constantly to get stuff. As you guys can see from the video above, I try and take a very minimal approach to my carry on and only try and pack the bare essentials. You do not need a million and one things to stay entertained on a flight, and I find the less things I bring the less stressed I am with trying to juggle so many things in my bags.
Request a special meal
Have you ever noticed some people on the flight get their food brought to them before everyone else and wondered why? It's because they've requested a special meal. If you go into your flight's booking on the airline's website, there is always a small tab for "special requests" where you can go in a request a special meal. Typically they have options to request your meal to be vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, kosher, halal, gluten free... you name it. If you're someone who has a dicey tummy like me than this is a game changer, but in general I find when I request a special meal it's always one of the healthiest options out of all the meals they let you pick from. Nothing is worse than feeling gross and bloated when you get off a flight because of the airplane food, and I find requesting a special meal really helps combat that. So not only do you feel better, but you also get to eat first which is always a bonus.
Bring a toothbrush
One of the easiest ways to freshen up and feel revived is by brushing your teeth. Once a long haul flight is over and it's time to start landing, typically most people feel gross and stinky from being trapped in the same bubble for hours on end without sleeping well and not being able to change or do anything. This is why I always bring a toothbrush with me. There's also the psychology behind brushing your teeth, as it's a habit we associate with bed time. I typically will brush my teeth right after the first meal service, to trick myself into thinking it's time to go to bed. Doing a mini version of your "night time routine" helps make the process of trying to sleep on a flight a little bit easier. I also brush my teeth about 45 minutes before landing. This way when I walk of the plane I feel fresh and awake without having to worry about having bad breath for my uber driver picking me up.
Hydrate (bring your own water bottle)
Planes will suck every ounce of moisture out of you that is humanly possible. That's because the humidity levels of the cabin sit typically between 10-20 percent, which is much lower than what most people are used to in a comfortable room setting (30-65 percent). One of the easiest ways to fight the dehydration is to drink as much water as you can. As tempting as the free-flowing alcohol is on the mini-cart... do your self a favour and opt for water instead because the alcohol will just further your dehydration. Personally, I always like to bring my own water bottle with me on the plane. Obviously you can't bring it through security filled with water, but most airports have water fountains or even just a Starbucks (they'll always fill your water for you if you buy something, and can even put ice in it if you ask!) after security that you can use before the flight. I love my S'well water bottle because it keeps liquids cold for 24hrs, making every sip of water I take refreshing. If you run out of water in your bottle mid flight (which you should), you can also ask your flight attendant to refill it for you.
Change your phone to the new time zone
The second you step foot onto the plane, any and all of your clocks you see should be in the time zone you're flying to. This helps change your mindset from the get-go and makes adjusting to the new time so much easier. Throughout your flight, if your phone is in the new time then you know exactly when it's appropriate to eat your meal and try and sleep based off of the usual times you would, and is a great first step into getting over jet lag fast. Most plane tickets also have the arrival time in the proper timezone that you're flying into, so it makes it easier to figure out on the fly how much longer your flight is going to be.
Bring Lip Balm + Moisturizer
This goes back to the whole dehydration thing due to the lack of humidity on a plane. I have pretty dry skin naturally, but being in such a dry environment makes it so much worse. I dunno about you, but the second my lips become dry and chapped, it can take days for me to get them back to normal. Same goes with cracked skin if I let it get too dry. Stop this from happening in it's tracks by keeping your skin and lips moisturized through out the flight. I will religiously apply lip balm and moisturizer at least 2-4 times a flight. I am a big fan of the Glossier Balm Dotcom's skin salve because it's an amazing lip balm, but you can also use it on your elbows, hands, and where ever else you get dry. A good facial moisturizer is imperative as well if you're a dry skinned gal like me, so I always like to have a little tub of my favourite on hand. If you're not worried about looking a little crazy on your flight, you can also do a sheet mask. I have been bringing this one from Boscia on my most recents flights and it has been life changing for my skin.
Download netflix offline
I am not even going to lie, I didn't actually know this was a thing that you could do until the near end of my trip. Tragic, I know. Whilst some planes have entertainment centres available for your viewing pleasure they're a) not always available, b) not always free, and c) not always good. You never really know what you're going to get until you step onto that flight. To avoid being stuck with nothing to watch, do yourself a favour and pre-download some of your favourite movies and shows on Netflix offline. That way, you have a backup if the entertainment centre provided is garbage or non-existent. Not sure how to do it? Check out this quick and easy guide from Netflix explaining how.
Allow extra time
The time before the flight can sometimes be the most stressful part of your entire journey. Checking in, dropping bags, security, running to your gate... if you are short on time this task becomes even more daunting than it already is. So do yourself a favour and allow yourself plenty of time before your flight. Personally, I like to arrive at the airport 3 hours early to international flights, which usually gives me plenty of time to do everything I need to do security wise, have a stroll through the airport, grab myself a Starbucks, and relax. Speaking from experience, nothing is worse than being in the security line up with 20 people in front of you at the same time your flight is boarding... I've ran through my fair share of airports now to realize it's not worth it. You want your mindset stepping onto the plane before a 12hr flight to be calm, not stressed out and out of breath.
Be extra- friendly to your flight attendants
You would think this would be an obvious tip, but I cannot tell you how many flights I've been on where I've seen a passenger treat the flight attendants like they are dog poop on the bottom of their foot. A long haul flight isn't enjoyable, we know that, but imagine having to do that long haul flight on your feet the entire time answering to everyone's beckoning call... now you know how a flight attendant feels. When you're friendly with your flight attendant, it makes the experience more enjoyable for all parties involved. They're also way more likely to be nice to you back when you treat them with respect from the moment you step on your plane. Need to switch seats because a child keeps kicking the back of yours? Still hungry and want something else to eat? Want another drink? these problems are so much easier to solve when the flight attendant is on your side. Remember, they are people, so ask them how they are, strike up a conversation, and treat them with respect. Honestly, some of the best conversations I've ever had in my life are from hearing stories the flight attendants on a long haul flight have told me. So take this as your friendly reminder... don't be a dick.
I have said this so many times before in both videos and blog posts, but keep in mind that the cheapest option isn't always the best option. Sometimes there's value in taking the slightly more expensive option, if it means you get somewhere faster, or you get to fly with a better airline. For example, Julian, our friend Ayumu, and I are all headed to Japan together in May this year. When booking our flights we had our cheapest option of flying China Southern with 2 layovers and a 30 hour journey, or we had the the choice of spending an extra $300 to fly direct with ANA. If you haven't already guessed... we went with ANA. Why? Because that extra $300 dollars gave us an extra 40hrs to spend in Japan and a way more enjoyable flight experience. To me, that's worth the few extra hundred bucks every time. So when you're looking into booking your flight, don't always go with the cheapest flight available... ask yourself whether the price is reflective of the value of the experience you want to get. I mean, if you had the choice to fly Emirates over TigerAir for the difference of $200... I think it's safe to say your choice is pretty obvious, so book wisely.
Pack healthier snacks
Let's be real for a moment... do you ever feel like airlines only ever give you enough food so that you don't starve, but never enough that you actually feel satisfied and sustained? Yah, me too. I am a (relatively) active, tall, grown-ass woman, and I like to eat. I don't think I've ever had a flight where I wasn't absolutely starving by the time I got off. To prevent this from happening, bring your own snacks that you can munch on between meal services. Once I started doing this, it was an absolute game changer for me and completely changed how I felt at the end of my flight. As I said earlier in this post, nothing is worse than feeling gross and bloated when you get off a flight because of the airplane food, so packing your own healthier snacks where you know what ingredients went into it is going to be your best tool at making sure you stay well-nourished, satistfied, and combat the hangry side of you from coming out.
We all know, the worst part about being on a plane is how cramped and uncomfortable the seats are. Sitting for that long of a time in a tiny confined seat with no personal space is an easy way to guarantee feeling stiff, sore, and grumpy. But sitting still in a cramped seat for hours isn’t just unpleasant—it can lead to deep vein thrombosis, when blood clots form in the legs because of poor blood flow. Not fun. To help combat DVT and the being uncomfortable, don't forget to get up and walk around as often as you can. Personally, I try and do a couple of laps around the plane after every movie I watch. If you can go in around in a circle, do that a couple of times, but if not just make sure to walk up and down the aisle 3-4 times to get the blood moving. You can also do some light stretching, just make sure you're not getting in people's way and spaces... because no one wants to be that guy.
Bid for upgrades
This is honestly the best thing airlines have ever started doing, and I am so grateful for it. If you didn't already know, a ton of airlines will do this thing where they allow passengers to bid for upgrades. Kind of like an auction, you can bid anywhere from $100 to $1000+ and the airline will pick people to upgrade based off of their bids. Always place a bid, no matter how unlikely you think it is that you will get it. I personally will always put up somewhere between $150-250, even though the thing always tell you to bid more. I know it seems silly and that the chances to get it are so low when you bid so little, but really... where's the harm in trying? I've been lucky enough to get my bids chosen on two separate occasions. To me, spending an extra $200 to sit in a first class pod with free flowing champagne takes your flight experience from being a nuisance to a luxury. So even if you think you have no chance, take it from me and always try anyways - because you never know if you'll actually end up getting it.
Bring a change of underwear
You know that feeling when you get off the plane after a 15-hour flight and you just feel... gross? Seeing as most of us aren't in the lucky few percent that can afford to fly first class on Emirates and shower mid-flight, it's pretty common to leave the flight feeling gross, sticky, and desperate to get out of your clothes and have a shower. There are little things you can do though to combat this and freshen up mid-flight. The biggest one for me is bringing a change of underwear. This is especially important for all my ladies out there because sitting in the same pair of underwear for 15+ hours at a time is a really quick and easy way to get a UTI. But it is totally applicable to all my dudes out there as well. When you change underwear halfway through or even near the end your journey, you instantly feel fresh and a bit more human again.
Download your Airline's apps!
I can't even count the number of times I have gotten through security, boarded my flight, and sat in my seat out of the free wifi zone only for the flight attendants to inform the flight that the only way to access the entertainment centre on the flight is if you have their specific app downloaded onto your flight. Why they always choose to do this once you've boarded and not when your checking in or sitting around waiting to board is beyond me, but save yourself the disappointment and ask when checking in if the airline has any apps. Even if you don't need their app to use the entertainment system, I always like to download airlines apps because they typically are the quickest way to get up to date info on your flight, you can access your boarding pass, and have the info you would need on baggage or whatever else. You also can easily delete the apps once your flight with them is over, so why not have the extra added convinienvce?
And there you guys have it! Those are my top 20 tips for surviving the long haul flight. Do you have any tips that you think I missed? Let me know in the comments below!