A long flight can be tough on your body and your mind.
I’ve been taking long haul flights for almost half my life, since my dad moved to Hong Kong when I was 17.
On top of that, I’ve travelled to other areas of Asia, Australia, and New Zealand from the UK, so I’m pretty used to moving around this way.
But that doesn’t mean it’s got any easier!
I have, however, come up with a few ways to make the journey as comfortable as possible.
I use all of these tips every time I take a long haul flight, so I hope they will help you too.
1: Book the best seat
This doesn’t mean that you should splash out on an expensive First Class seat.
Unless you have the funds for it, in which case, go for it!
But if you’re like me, you’ll be trying to save money for your trip and you’ll be booking a seat in economy.
Work out whether you would prefer a window or an aisle seat for a long period of time.
Personally, I always go for a window seat if I can. It usually gives me just a little bit more space to curl up when I’m trying to sleep. Plus, I have something to lean my pillow against.
However, I know a lot of people would prefer an aisle seat to stretch their legs out a bit more.
An aisle seat also lets you get up from your seat without disturbing your fellow passengers. On the other hand, you may be woken up to let someone else out.
Most airlines will let you check in online before you head to the airport, and at this point you can select your seat for free. I usually try to check in as early as I can online so that I have more options, before all the seats get taken.
If you want to select your seat at the time of booking your flight, you often can, but there is usually an additional cost.
SeatGuru is a great website that will let you view the layout of your plane and tell you which seats are better/worse than others.
2: Wear comfortable clothes
This is very important for me.
I often see passengers boarding long flights dressed as if they’re about to go out on the town and I can’t understand it.
I’ve been known to change my clothes and put make up on in the arrival airport if I’m meeting someone, but I have to be comfortable on the plane.
To each their own.
My go-to outfit for a long plane journey is a pair of leggings, a T-shirt, a jumper and some comfortable shoes. And the shoes always come off as soon as I’m in my seat.
Even if you’re going to or from a hot country, make sure you have enough clothing to keep you warm. Most airlines keep the temperature at a good level in the plane but there have been a number of times when I’ve been cold.
3: Stay hydrated
You can’t bring water with you from outside the airport as it will be taken away at security.
However, once you’ve passed security, make sure you buy a bottle of water or fill up an empty bottle you brought with you.
Most airports do have water fountains so you can avoid buying plastic.
Planes are very dehydrating so make sure you drink plenty of water on the flight.
The flight attendants will be able to refill your bottle if you ask them nicely. This is better than asking for a glass of water, which is usually tiny (and plastic).
It’s also worth noting that alcohol will affect you more than usual when you drink at high altitude.
So, while I know it can be tempting to take full advantage of a flight where alcoholic beverages are included, just bear this in mind and keep drinking water as well.
Dehydration and a hangover will make jet lag so much worse! Trust me on this one.
4: Prepare for a new time zone
Speaking of jet lag…
If you’re on a long flight going around the world, chances are you’ll be landing in a completely different time zone to the one you just left.
My main tactic for avoiding jet lag, other than hydration, is to plan my sleep around the time I’ll be landing.
For example: if my flight is due to land in the morning, I’ll try to sleep as much as possible on the flight so that I can stay up all day when I get there.
If my flight is due to land in the evening, I’ll allow myself more time to read or watch movies on the flight. This means that when I arrive, I’ll be so tired that I’ll hopefully sleep all night, even if my body actually thinks it’s still daytime.
My main goal is to get straight into the routine of the new time zone and avoid taking naps in the day.
This way, I find that my body adjusts quicker and the jet lag is not so bad.
5: Bring a blindfold & pillow
No matter what timezone you’re landing in, if you’re on a long flight you will probably want to sleep at some point.
In my experience, most airlines don’t provide a blindfold (Virgin is the only airline I’ve used that does).
Even if they do provide one, it’s usually not very comfortable and slides off your face easily.
I’ve become very used to sleeping with a blindfold now and I actually struggle to sleep without one, even at home in my own bed.
So I always make sure I bring a comfortable one with an adjustable strap in my carry on.
Sleeping on a plane in economy class is hard enough as it is. But with the cabin lights (even when they’re dimmed), people moving around, using their reading lights or watching movies, it’s almost impossible for me.
Even if you’re not used to sleeping with a blindfold, you’ll be happy you brought one.
Airlines do usually provide a pillow, but they’re often pretty uncomfortable and don’t stay where you want them to.
Bring your own travel pillow that will support your head in the right way and you’ll be much more comfortable.
We have to do everything we can to make ourselves comfortable enough to sleep!
6: Move around
Sitting in one position for a long period of time is not good for anybody.
It’s also important to keep your circulation moving in your legs to prevent DVT (deep vein thromboses), which are blood clots which form deep inside the legs.
The advice is to regularly get up and walk around, which I usually combine with a trip to the toilet. As I’m usually in the window seat, I like to minimise the awkwardness of asking fellow passengers to keep letting me out.
There are also some exercises that you can do in your seat, such as pointing and flexing your toes regularly, and clenching your butt cheeks repeatedly to get the blood moving (this one’s my favourite).
7: Use the in-flight entertainment
Even with sleeping and exercising in your flight schedule, you’re still going to have a lot of time to kill.
The benefit of long haul flights is that there is usually some form of in-flight entertainment.
Movies and TV shows of multiple genres, games, audiobooks, music and podcasts are the usual offering on most airlines.
When I’m travelling a lot, I usually miss out on the new movies.
Long flights give me the opportunity to catch up on movies and shows I’m interested in but probably wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
8: Bring other distractions
I’ll be honest: the in-flight entertainment is not always that great. It varies a lot between airlines.
But being stuck in one place for hours on end can actually be a good thing.
Maybe you have some work to catch up on on your laptop?
Maybe there’s a book you’ve been wanting to read but just haven’t had the time? Or a podcast you’ve heard great things about?
Have a think in advance about how you’d best like to use your time and then prepare your carry on bag accordingly.
Be aware that, although some airlines do offer WiFi on their planes, it’s usually very slow to the point of being unusable.
So download that document, movie, book or podcast in advance.
And make sure you’ve got a variety of things to keep you entertained.
9: Freshen up
I like to wash and moisturise my face and brush my teeth before landing so that I can get rid of that musty, dirty feeling.
I wear contact lenses so I take those out before sleeping. If I’m arriving in the day, I’ll put them back in as I prefer them to my glasses.
This helps to wake me up a little bit before I rejoin the world.
If I’m planning to change clothes or apply makeup, I’ll usually do this in the airport toilets after landing.
Those plane toilets are cramped and can be pretty bumpy!
These tips are all really easy to put into practice to help you make the best of your long flight.
The only hard part now will be actually falling asleep! But if you’ve made yourself as comfortable as you can, this will hopefully become a bit easier.
And, if you think about it, the flight is the gateway to your next adventure! So with any luck the excitement will also help to get you through.
Are there any tips you would add to this list? Where will your next long flight take you? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- 17 important things to do before your trip
- How to stay healthy while travelling
- 13 essential planning tips for long-term travel