Can you survive a long haul flight? Yes you can 🙂 And I have all the long flight tips you need.
Long flights can be boring, uncomfortable and generally not very enjoyable.
You can, however, find ways to make long flights more comfy, distract yourself and use simple tips and tricks to improve the whole experience.
There are things you can’t control on any flight, like the tasteless food, kids kicking the back of your seat, turbulence, crying babies or other noisy passengers…
But let’s focus on the things you can control to make your flight more pleasant.
If it’s your first time on a plane, read this guide first.
These are the things you want to do before and during a long flight:
Select the right airline, flight and seat for a long flight
Before we go into what you can do while you’re on the plane, let’s talk about the first step: Booking the flight.
What you choose at this step will make a big difference for you.
Choosing an airline for a long flight
You may face a lot of options when searching for flights, and if you’re tempted to make a choice based only on price, you want to think again.
I used to do that before I knew better…
One of the most basic long flight tips is to do a bit of research to make sure your airline has good reviews and ratings. It doesn’t take long.
You can use the air travel review website Airline Quality to get a quick overview and reviews from other travellers.
Pay attention to what others have to say about legroom and seat comfort in particular.
Also check for things like in-seat power outlets and USB ports, because your phone will entertain you throughout the flight.
It’s worth doing this extra research. You don’t want to be sitting for 14 hours on an old plane with limited legroom and no amenities.
Choosing the right seat for a long flight
Window? Aisle? There are some benefits and drawbacks to each.
I personally prefer the aisle seat. I want to be able to stretch my legs without having to wake up the person next to me .
The same goes for going to the toilets – much easier if you pick the aisle seat.
However, if you fall asleep in the aisle seat and the person next to you needs to wake you up to go to the toilets, that can be very annoying.
Add to that the fact that the window seat provides you with a wall to lean against to help you fall asleep.
In any case, the middle seat is never a good idea…
No list of long flight tips is complete without mentioning the website that will tell you all you need to know about airline seats – SeatGuru.
It has seat maps of just about any airplane plus some details on why you should or shouldn’t pick each seat.
Some seats have comments or photos uploaded by travellers.
Airline Quality which I mentioned earlier also has seat reviews worth checking out.
Here are some helpful details you want to consider when picking a seat for a long flight:
- What’s the legroom like?
- Is it near the bathroom?
- How comfortable is the seat?
- Is there overhead space?
- Does the seat recline?
- Is there floor storage during take-off and landing?
There are all sorts of tips regarding seat selection. Each part of the plane comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
- Book a front row or an emergency exit seat for the best legroom (at a price).
- Sit in the middle of the plane so you’ll suffer less in case of turbulence (but the view isn’t great).
- Go for a seat at the back of the plane, because it’s safer (but it will take you longer to disembark).
As you can see, there are many things to consider, but all the info you need is available online to make things easier for you.
Get Comfortable – What To Wear on a Long Flight
Always wear comfortable cloths on a flight, especially if it’s a long flight. It will make a huge difference to how you feel.
If you’re inclined to wearing not-so-comfortable clothes on a plane because you’re concerned about how you look, just remember that nobody actually cares 😉
The temperature may change during the flight, so be prepared. Dress in layers that you can take off or put on for maximal comfort.
My usual flight outfit is pretty simple:
- I normally wear yoga pants and a comfortable t-shirt. They must be loose fitting, soft and easy to fall asleep in.
- I have a fleece jacket wrapped around my waist when I board the plane, in case it gets cold. Any light jacket will do.
- I also take a scarf on board with me. A scarf or shawl is always a good idea on a flight, because you can use it as a blanket. I normally take an infinity scarf with a hidden pocket, where you can put your passport.
Food & drink – what to eat and drink and what to avoid on a long flight
When it comes to drinking before and during a long flight, follow these simple rules:
drink water; avoid coffee and alcohol
Water is essential, because a long flight can dehydrate you (I sometimes feel dehydrated even after a short flight).
I always bring a collapsible water bottle with me.
When I go through security it’s empty of course, but I fill it up at the airport before boarding.
If I can’t find a water fountain I normally just ask at one of the airport cafes if they would fill it up for me.
This way I board the plane with a full water bottle.
What you want to avoid are drinks that will make you feel worse on a flight.
Sleep is probably the best way to pass the time on a long haul flight, so try to avoid caffeine before and during the flight. It will help you sleep better.
Alcohol is tricky, so it’s generally best avoided. It can interfere with you sleep and contribute to your feeling of dehydration. It can also make your jet lag worse.
In other words – avoid alcohol or go very easy on it.
Can you eat good food on a plane?
Food on planes varies in quality.
You can read reviews online about your airline if you want to know in advance how tasteless your meal is going to be… 😉
Though some airlines may surprise you on occasion, you cannot be sure that what you’ll be served on the plane will be edible.
What’s more, even if the food is edible, it’s not likely to be healthy.
What you want to do is bring your own snacks and avoid a bland, unhealthy meal.
I normally bring sandwiches, apples and pears, nuts, dried fruit and granola bars.
Bring whatever you want to eat that will make your flight more enjoyable.
Get some sleep – how to sleep on a long flight
You want to sleep well both before your flight and during the flight.
It’s not just a good way to pass the time; it will also mean you’ll reach your destination (and its new time zone) refreshed.
It’s not always easy to fall asleep on a plane.
I personally find it quite hard. There are a lot of distractions, noises, weird smells and bright lights, plus the general stress you might feel on a flight.
I’ve met quite a few people who said that a sleeping pill is all they need for long flight. However, you do not want to sedate yourself.
There may be an emergency on the plane and you want to be able to follow instructions.
Also, if you’re in the aisle seat, you may need to let fellow passengers go to the lavatory every once in a while.
Sleeping pills are also said to increase the risk of blood clots in your legs.
tips for better sleep on long flights:
1. Try to avoid caffeine before and during the flight, so you can fall asleep more easily.
2. Bring a neck pillow. Your airline will probably provide a standard pillow, but a pillow that supports your neck is more comfortable.
3. Bring noise-cancelling headphones.
You never know if there will be crying babies or screaming kids on the plane and how noisy the flight is going to be.
4. An eye mask can be really useful when you’re trying to sleep on a long flight.
Some airlines provide eye masks on log flights, but some don’t, so bring your own. It takes up minimal space in your bag.
5. Wear comfortable clothes that you can fall asleep in easily.
6. Some people take sleeping pills, but I personally want to stay in control when flying.
As an alternative, drink chamomile tea or take any natural sleeping aid that works for you.
7. Meditation and relaxing music can also help you fall asleep.
Your airline might have a relaxing music channel on its entertainment system, or you can save some tracks on your phone before the flight.
Stretch, nove your legs and do some airplane yoga
On a long flight, when you’re sitting down for hours in a tight space, your blood flow is affected and it can cause some issues.
Swelling in your feet or ankles may occur.
The risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) increases, as blood flow in your legs slows down.
These basic long flight tips will help you avoid all that:
You want to get up and walk every once in a while (if the aisle is free) and also stretch in your seat.
Rotate and flex your ankles while you’re sitting.
It doesn’t require getting up, so you can do it quite frequently during the flight.
Apart from your legs, take care of your shoulders arms and back by doing some airplane yoga.
Have a look at this video for some simple ideas (I’ve actually done most of what she demonstrates in this video on my 15 hour flight to California and it felt great!)
Entertainment on long flights
Other than sleep, the best way to pass the time on a long flight is with your favourite TV shows, movies, books, music and podcasts.
My tip is to mix and match all of these and keep yourself entertained throughout the flight.
Though the airline will provide in-flight entertainment, it may not always be to your taste. I suggest you bring your own entertainment.
Download movies and tv shows in advance
Watch movies and TV shows on your phone, tablet or laptop during the flight. You want to pick and download them in advance.
Consider what would be the best genres for you. I personally only download light-hearted comedies for flights .
A drama or a crime show are just a bit too much for me on any flight, long or short, when I want to be amused and entertained.
You can also find a documentary about your destination and watch it before you get there.
You want to download enough movies and shows for the duration of the flight.
Even though you might spend some of the time sleeping, it’s good to know you have enough things to watch.
Download podcasts & audiobooks to listen to during a long flight
There are excellent podcasts on just about any subject these days.
Choose whatever podcasts you find entertaining, or use the time on the plane to learn something new through a podcast.
One thing I like to do is find episodes about my destination on travel podcasts and listen to them on the plane.
You want to download episodes in advance for offline listening in whatever podcast app you’re using.
The same goes for audiobooks of course – one of the best ways to make a long flight feel shorter.
Listen to music
Music is another great way to pass the time on a plane, whether it’s a long or a short flight.
Make sure you have your favourite tunes downloaded for offline listening.
You can also take the opportunity to listen to some new music you haven’t had the time to listen to yet. On a long flight you have plenty of time…
Read books and magazines
In-flight magazines usually provide a good read, and you can bring some of your own favourite travel magazines (or any other magazines) to read during the flight.
Long flights are also ideal for book reading. Pick a book you can immerse yourself in and it will help you pass the time.
As with podcasts, you can also find a book related to your destination and learn about it while you’re flying there.
These can be guidebooks or fiction books set in the city or country you’re travelling to.
Check out my Pinterest board Travel Books, Films, Music & Podcasts to get some ideas and inspiration for travel-related entertainment.
Practice the language
Why not use the time you have on a flight to learn some words and phrases in the language of your destination?
It will be super useful as soon as you get off the plane.
Use a language learning app that has an offline mode and practice the basic words and phrases you’ll be using on a daily basis.
It will pass the time on the plane and also make things much easier for you when you arrive.
The leading language learning apps that work offline include:
To sum it all up…
Long flight essentials
Comfortable clothing, a light jacket and a big scarf.
Noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs, an eye mask, a neck pillow, a collapsible water bottle, your own entertainment.
Healthy snacks, drink a lot of water.
Music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, books, magazine, language learning apps.