How to survive long-haul flights

My very first long-haul flight was to Germany, and I was completely unprepared.  I looked at this flight as being no different from a domestic flight from Nashville to California–of which I have done so many times.  However this time, I didn’t sleep well, watched everything on the provided entertainment more than once, and was completely uncomfortable.  I couldn’t wait to get off that plane! After my flight to Germany, I vowed that I would never make the same mistakes again.  After all, I am a Virgo, and we are usually prepared–if not, we will at least never make the same mistake twice.  So, on my next long-haul flight to Paris, I was more than prepared and felt that I hit preparation meter out of the park. Even more recently, I had a flight to Dubai, and it was a breeze!  What I have learned from my mistakes and my successes will surely help anyone survive a long haul flight. Here are my suggestions, from most to least importance:

  • Schedule your flight times wisely.  For both my flights to Paris and Dubai, I made sure to schedule them in the evening to line up with my sleep schedule.  On both flights, I ate a good dinner and prepared myself for sleep.  Nothing accompanies a good sleep like a good full belly– right?  Once I boarded the plane, I took a sleep aid.  I did not take the sleep aid before boarding because anything could happen.  Have you seen that episode of Modern Family where Cam and Mitchell take a sleeping aid before their plane change?  Disaster!  (As a disclaimer, always consult your physician before taking any type of sleep aid to ensure this is the right thing for you.)
  • Be smart about your seat selection. First, I do not like the front row of any section because I cannot put my essential items under the seat in front of me.  Also, I never book a seat where I must put my items in the overhead bend.  I don’t enjoy the continuous getting up to get items that I need; I like to reach my items from the seat in front of me.  Also, extra legroom seats will provide you with more comfort than regular seats.  And don’t pick the seat by the bathroom, like I did going to Germany–the seat didn’t recline which added to my discomfort on a long haul flight.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.  Everyone wants to look fabulous when getting off a plane; however, when flying internationally, you want to go for comfort. For example:
    • Try to wear something that you would lounge in at home.  You can always change clothes before landing if you like.
    • Wearing compression socks is extremely helpful.  My feet swell on a normal basis and definitely swell when I am on a plane.  Compression socks are a great investment if you also have this issue. 
    • Dress in layers.  Planes can be extremely cold and then suddenly hot.  Dress in a way that you are easily able to take items off and put them back on.
  • Travel with a blanket, pillow, socks and travel slippers.  When you sleep, you obviously always want a blanket and pillow for comfort.  However, I also never travel without socks because one time I flew wearing flip-flops and my flight was so cold my feet were freezing and aching.  It was a miserable flight, and I will never forget that feeling.  Since that day, I never travel without a pair of socks in my carry-on bag.  And if it is a long haul flight, I will have some slippers for the bathroom.  I don’t want my feet or socks touching the bathroom floor.
  • Pack your carry-on with essentials. There are some items that I carry on long-haul flights to ensure that I am comfortable and entertained at all times.  Check out my other blog for details.
  • Bring an ink pen.  When you are flying internationally, you generally complete your customs form onboard the aircraft.  You would not believe how many people need to borrow an ink pen, so don’t be one of those people and instead always pack a pen in your carry-on bag.
  • Charge all electronics before flights.  There is nothing worse than being on a flight and your electronics die with no outlet in sight.  Make sure to fully charge your electronics before take-off. And just to be safe, don’t take a long haul flight without battery packs to charge your electronics.
  • Bring your own snacks.  I love to travel with my own snacks.  A lot of times, the airplane snacks are full of carbs, and because I can’t handle a lot of gluten like pretzels and crackers, I often carry my own snacks.  Also, by carrying personal snacks, you can have what you want, when you want. For example, my dad carries his own food when he flies because he doesn’t like to spend money on eating out. Some may call it cheap, but for long-haul flights, it might be beneficial for you.
  • Check the in-flight entertainment ahead of time, if possible.  If there isn’t enough to satisfy you, make preparations to download movies, TV shows and books that will keep you entertained while flying.
  • See what your Wi-Fi options are. If you are flying the same airline, check to see if they have 24 hour Wi-Fi plans.  It would save you money to get a 24-hour pass compared to getting a pass at every stop/ flight. Also, consider checking if any of the airports you will visit have free Wi-Fi or not. If they do, is there a time limit or not?
  • Check if your credit card provides any airport perks such as lounge passes.  Any airport perks that you can get from your credit card company is a bonus for those long layovers.
  • Do some research to see what your layover airport has to offer.  Airports are beginning to offer anything and everything you can think of for layover comfort.  You could get a massage, enjoy a shower, take a nap in a comfortable bed, or even take a swim.   
  • Pack peppermint and crackers for queasiness.  Even if you’ve flown before without any stomach issues, it’s better to be prepared. Remember my awful flight to Germany? Well, I ended up vomiting–so embarrassing. Trust me on this one.

Traveling to Germany, Paris and Dubai has definitely taught me what is essential to feel comfortable and entertained during a long-haul flight.  There are things that you can do prior to booking your flight and others you can do after the flight is booked.  Take some time to think about the length of your flight and layovers, what you need to make flying easier during that time, and then create your own survival list to help you become a smarter traveler.

Disclosure:  Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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