19 Tips to Survive Long-Haul Flights
The first thing we do for any trip is figure out airfare, negotiating between cheap prices, number of layovers, and reasonable departure/arrival times. We are pretty friggin’ budget-minded, so have done the most extreme flights (ie: sleeping overnight in airports for early early early morning flights, endured multiple 8-hour layovers just trying to get from A to B). HOWEVER, if you’re going somewhere far away and exotic, you can’t really get away from really really long-haul flights.
Whether you’re a fan of flying or despise it with the fury of a thousand suns, it takes a little gearing up for. With a little preparation and a few extra things to pack in your carry-on, we are here to help take some of the terror away of being stuck in a tiny metal tube for hours on end.
First off, I consider a “long-haul” flight to be anything eight hours or more. (Here’s looking at you 16-hours-nonstop-LAX-to-Dubai.) Clearly, you can use these for shorter flights as well, but let’s be serious, you can deal with your measly 5 hour flight with just a guilty pleasure Mary Higgins Clark.
Before I get started on my list, make this easier on yourself and pack your “plane kit” in it’s own separate little pouch. That way, when you’re jamming your carryon into the overhead bin, you can grab your little kit, and put it in your seat back pocket so that everything is within reach and you don’t have to awkwardly rifle through your bag desperately trying to find your damn chapstick. AND, while everyone is banging around trying to find their row and arguing with the flight attendants about their bag that is clearly too big to fit under the seat, you’re settling in and cozy-ing up to your built-in, relaxing next 8+ hours.
In no particular order:
Bring an empty water bottle. It is so easy to dump that sucker out before you head through security and fill it up on the other side. Some planes that take long flights have water dispensers on-board. Score! One of the main reasons you feel so crummy after a flight is because you are so, so dehydrated.
Download an entirely new podcast (or audiobook) Preferably one that you haven’t listened to before. Be sure to do research on these, cause there’s nothing worse than starting in on a podcast and hating it 15 minutes in. Also, be sure to actually download the podcast episodes so you can listen to them without data or wifi.
Plan out your movies. On most international flights, you get your own screen and dozens of movies to choose from. One of my favorite things is to scroll through the movies before take-off and “favorite” the ones I want to watch. Bonus points for picking one that you won’t feel bad falling asleep to. Dennis and I like to pick one to watch together (cue frantically hitting play/pause to try and get our screens to sync) and then the rest on our own.
Bring your own earbuds. You can wait for your flight attendants to bring them around, (or sell them if that’s the kind of airline you’re on), but let’s be serious, we all have at least 6 tangled pairs collecting dust at home.
Clean your area with wipes. Such an easy thing to do, the wipes take up no room, and the process only takes 60 seconds. You’re about to live in this tiny 17”x31” space for the next several hours, and who knows how many boogers have been wiped on the tray table you’re about to sleep on and eat off of? (Hint, one booger is more boogers than there should be.)
Take a Benadryl. I mean, I’m not a doctor, so don’t just take my advice blindly. But personally, it helps with congestion from all that circulated air you’re breathing, and bonus: helps sleep come a little easier.
Have a pack of Kleenex readily available. Even if you don’t blow your nose with them, they are wildly useful for small spills, spitting out gum, handing to your sneezy neighbor, etc etc.
Wear an eye mask. Seriously. I used to scoff at the super ‘extra’ travelers with their neck pillow and eye masks, but we got them for free on an Emirates flight, and I’ve literally used them on every single plane since then. They make a world of difference when you just want to get a little shut-eye.
Ear plugs. In the same vein, when you have too many screaming babies surrounding you like some kind of horror movie set at a preschool, it is so so satisfying to pop those suckers in and breathe a sigh of childless bliss.
Bring a pair of extra cozy socks. Don’t be that person that puts their gross feet in their neighbors personal space, but I always immediately take off my shoes and put on my fluffy socks to pretend that I’m just cozying up on my own couch at home.
Wear a scarf. This doubles as a secret blanket, AND a fashion accessory when you reach your destination. Those blankets they (sometimes) give you on the plane are not all that cozy, and also the perfect size for a tiny Keebler Elf. Get. Out. Of. Here.
Toothbrush/paste. After dinner has been served and I’m ready to turn on my I-can-fall-asleep-to-this-movie, I always always head over to the coffin-sized bathroom to brush my teeth and prep for bed like I would if I was at home in a normal human bathroom. You should always have your toothbrush in your carry on anyway, just in case your luggage is lost. Also, to maintain some normalcy, when I wake up, or the flight is finally nearing it’s end, I rinse and repeat and brush those suckers again.
Wash face and MOISTURIZE. Along the same lines as the teeth brushing , I take out my contacts, wash my face, take off my makeup (everyone looks like a pale ghoul after flights, don’t sweat it) and moisturize EVEN MORE than I would if I was at home. Let me repeat my previous sentiment, flights are so so so dry. And what a great opportunity to use a face mask and that deep moisturizer you’ve been holding onto, cause you are geisha-sleeping tonight, whether you like it or not.
Chapstick. This should be a given, you’re gonna want it on your trip anyway, always useful to have handy on that long, long dry flight.
Plan ahead with a phone charger. These days, a lot of planes have USB ports for you to plug your phone in so it’s fully charged when you get to your destination. And even if they don’t, then you have it handy in case you need it at your destination airport to look up any addresses or call an Uber. Just keep your head on when you are landing and make sure you actually grab your phone after you’ve unplugged your charger…not speaking from experience or anything. (Just kidding, one time we had to make a 6 hour round trip drive back to LAX after forgetting Dennis’ brand new phone on a flight home from India.)
Essential oils. Now, I would never dare to try and pawn these off as medically-superior-all-healing-oils, but they are really nicely scented without being overpowering to your co-travelers. I love having them to feel a little fresh as I’m stepping off a plane, so I can at least have the illusion of not smelling like I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 36 hours. (Hint, I have.)
An extra pair of underwear. Now this isn’t something that I generally keep in my seat back pocket, cause that’s a little unnecessary, (and how weird would that be to find as a left behind item). Depending on our travel itinerary, sometimes we’re in transit for 24 hours straight, between Ubers and flights and layovers and ferries and trains, etc etc, it’s not always realistic to have a complete change of clothes, but just a pair of fresh skivvies can change your outlook on life.
Wear layers. I think this is a given, but I’ve been on flights where the air conditioning was stuck on high. I’ve also been on flights where they can’t turn the heater off. Neither one is pleasant, but you’ll be a lot happier if you can strip down to a tank top, or bundle up with a sweater. Chances are you’ll want these versatile items wherever you’re going as well.
Most importantly, (and cheesily) having a positive attitude about the flight is so, so key. If you’re going through that security line thinking about how awful and terrible your flight is going to be, you’re just making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. If instead, you’re thinking about how pampering your flight is going to be with your face masks, cozy socks, movies on demand, food and drinks just brought to you without needing to lift a finger, or do the dishes, or wait around for the bill, it won’t seem nearly so daunting.
Keep in mind that you are on this flight and going somewhere so exciting and cooler than where you just came from (if this is a flight back home and back to work, ignore this part and instead think about all the clean clothes you’ll have at home). Flying is just part of travel, and so worth it!