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How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight, According to Frequent Flyers

Passengers on a Long Haul Flight

Probably the worst part about traveling is just how long it takes to get somewhere — especially when that means long hours on a plane. So how do you survive a long-haul flight? How can you make air travel more bearable? I teamed up with fellow travel bloggers and frequent flyers to put together this list of tips for surviving that long journey.

Are you about to embark on a long-haul flight? It could be a dreaded, daunting experience if you don’t have a plan of action to help you manage the long hours, jet lag and fatigue.

The truth is, long-haul flights don’t have to be stressful or uncomfortable. With the right preparation, you can actually make the most of your time in the skies.

In this article, I’ve asked seasoned travelers their top tips for surviving a long-haul flight. You’ll learn everything you need to make your trip more comfortable — from the essential items to pack, to strategies for staying comfortable and making it through the flight with your sanity intact.

So, buckle up, and get ready to take off into the skies with confidence.

Top Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight

There’s no need to let your long-haul flight become a nightmare — these top tips will help you survive the trip. Follow these tips and you’ll soon be soaring the skies in comfort and style!

Getting Your Sleep System Together, Courtesy of Alison from Exploration Solo

For years I traveled for business flying between San Francisco and Boston. I’ve also been to New Zealand, in coach, for 12 hours, among other flights. I struggled with these long-hauls for quite some time before finally figuring out I needed to sleep to survive them.

Easier said than done, especially if you’re five foot three and your feet don’t solidly touch the floor of the plane when seated.

After a bit of testing, I found the perfect solution:

Clothing: Wool socks keep your feet nice and dry, preventing that heated itch from sweat. Also big, loose shoes with any laces loosened will allow feet to swell, preventing that feeling of circulation cutting off.

Long, comfortable pants and a long sleeve shirt will keep you warm and comfortable. Capri leggings can cut off circulation during the night, or you can wind up with your bare leg resting against something scratchy.

Position: Place your feet on your bag or backpack so you’re angled better in the seat and use the pillow the airline provides to prop behind your back.

Accessories: Invest in a good neck pillow. I have a corn husk neck pillow that keeps me comfortable all night. It’s heavy and bulky, but the comfort more than makes up for that. And noise-cancelling headphones are a must.

Here’s the important part: take one ibuprofen or naproxen PM tablet. It should take the edge off and if you need a second one, you can take it later. And, even if it’s free, DO NOT drink any alcohol.

With a little tweaking for your own preferences, you should find yourself waking up just in time to stretch your legs, have breakfast, and land.

How Kimberly from Survives Long Flights

As a frequent traveler, I have been to over 58 countries and have had to take many long haul flights. Here are some of my tips:

  • Carry a little pouch similar to a first class amenities bag filled with things to make the trip more comfortable. In my bag I carry a eucalyptus-scented eye mask, soft socks, mints, gum, lip balm, lotion, Emergen-C, jet lag pills, and disinfecting wipes to clean off my tray and surrounding area. A soft shawl/cape doubles as a pillow and blanket.
  • Since I never watch TV at home, long flights are also a great way to find new shows or catch up on old favorites. I also make sure my Kindle is charged and ready to go with several new books.
  • I pack my favorite snacks, so I stay on the healthy side and don’t have to worry about what I want to eat on the plane. My go-to flight snacks are individually packed raw almonds or nut mixes, string cheese, and hummus/pita packs. Also, having a water bottle on hand keeps you hydrated!
  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting layered clothes. For me, this means leggings, tunic, and a wrap sweater or joggers and an off-the-shoulder top or maybe a long maxi dress and jacket. Closed-toe, flat shoes are the best bet for a comfortable, easy trip.
Passenger on a Long Haul Flight

Emily from The Planking Traveler‘s Tips for Surviving Long-Haul Flights

On every flight, I have a few things I bring to keep me sane:

  • Full spectrum hemp oil. I suffer from flight anxiety and have trouble sleeping on planes, but hemp oil has been one of the only things (other than alcohol) that calms me and has actually enabled me to relax enough to doze off for a few hours.
  • A scarf with a hidden zipper compartment. Not only does it help to keep me warm on drafty planes, but I like being able to easily access things like lip balm, my boarding pass and even a small snack without digging into my bag.
  • Pre-downloaded movies or books on my personal device. There’s nothing worse than a super long flight without having any entertainment. Sometimes the seat back screens malfunction or they don’t have anything that interests me, so I try to download at least 3 or 4 movies, a good playlist and a book or two for my phone or table to keep me occupied on the journey.
  • Tea tree oil. You probably know that planes are filled with germs. I generally avoid the alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wipes because they dry out my skin, but I love using a tea tree oil roll-on (diluted with coconut oil) as a disinfectant for my tray table. I just dab a little on a tissue and wipe everything down before take off. It can also be used on minor cuts and scrapes, so it’s a trifecta of healing for travel (antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral).

Jessica from The Walking Mermaid‘s Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight With Kids

Long-haul flights can be the worse especially when you have kids with you. Here are a few tips that I use with my two daughters.

When traveling with kids, my main goal is to keep them entertained and content. The last thing I want to deal with on a stressful trip is a total meltdown. Some of the things that I recommend you do is to bring activities for them to do. These can include activity books, coloring books, card games, and even a tablet with educational games.

When booking your flight, I would recommend choosing seats that will allow you to walk with your children to the bathroom with ease. I usually book a window row. This way they can look out the window and look at the clouds and world below them.

Sunset from an airplane

How Hanny from The Global Wanderess Prepares for Long Flights

When preparing for a long-haul flight, I always make sure to take the things I will need on the plane — laptop, charger, headphones, neck pillow, collapsible water bottle, and some skincare items.

As someone who is informed of what happens to our bodies and skin on long flights, I keep myself entertained with my skincare. I have this whole skincare routine (this also involves wearing a facial mask) for my long flights, but this routine keeps me busy for a bit and keeps my skin fresh. I also fill my collapsible water bottle with water before the flight, so that way if I need water I don’t have to wait for it.

To make my nights more comfortable, I use my neck pillow. Usually I am by the window, so I use that to my advantage.

Since most flights now have entertainment on flights, I usually watch movies or play some of their games. However, when this gets boring, I will get on my laptop (the airplanes I’ve been on all have had WIFI) and I will start writing and working on things I would have probably never worked on. Sometimes I also get on social media (thank you, WIFI!).

Bring Noise-Cancelling Headphones, Suggests James from This Travel Guide

The easiest way to improve your long-haul flight experience is to upgrade yourself to Business or, even better, First Class. Failing that, there are lots of little things that you can do to make the experience more enjoyable. One of them is investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Noise is one the main things that’s going to affect your enjoyment of a long-haul flight and having a pair of noise-cancelling headphones means you’ll be able to block out some of the noises that you don’t want to hear (screaming children and bachelor parties being top of the list).

A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones won’t be cheap, but they’re worth every penny. And, unlike that upgrade to first class which is only valid for one flight, you’ll be able to use these on every single flight that you go on.

Reading a book on a long-haul flight

Wear Compression Socks, Recommends Tammy from Midlife Milestones

For a long-haul flight, I find that I have to have compression socks. I know it sounds like an old lady thing but they do help with the setting for long periods of time. I am very thankful that they no longer look ancient!

Compression socks help prevent blood clots and also tired and fatigued legs. When you are on a plane for over 9 hours you do not get much of a chance to really move around. Your legs are your main blood storage area and if you don’t move your legs the blood can become stagnant and that is when blood clots can form.

This is not just an old person issue, even the young that may fly frequently can and will suffer from blood clots. Compression socks are not real expensive and are well worth the investment.

Laura from Laura No Está Shares These Tips

During the last few years, I have taken some pretty long flights. I especially remember doing Buenos Aires – Sao Paulo – Cape Town last January. After three planes and a super long layover in Johannesburg, I finally ended up in the Mother City quite rested.

My first tip for those about to take a long flight is to be tired. The day of your trip, try to go to the gym or go for a run. If you’re tired, you’ll probably fall asleep even if your seat is extremely uncomfortable.

Second tip: if you know you can’t sleep on planes, choose the aisle seat. I’m a big fan of the window seat, but it’s really annoying to be caged there when you can’t sleep, especially if you’re travelling solo; you don’t want to bother your unknown neighbor!

Third and last tip: grab a book, always. In a flight I took recently, my in-flight video screen wasn’t working, I was quite pissed. But, luckily, I had a book that kept me way more entertained.

Passenger on a Long Haul Flight

Your Long-Haul Flight Survival Packing List

With the right tools and strategies, you can make the most out of your long-haul flight and turn it into a more bearable experience. Make sure you have everything you need for your next long-haul flight with this packing list.

More Flight Resources

Check out these other helpful travel tips to make your long-haul flight even better:

Ready to take a long flight? Plan your trip with these tips.



How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight, According to Frequent Flyers

How do you survive a long-haul flight? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Ooh I love the idea of eucalyptus-scented eye mask! That is going on my mental list for my next flight. Not just because of the calming nature of the scent, but I was once sat next to the smelliest man on a flight. It was so bad, they bumped me up to business class!!

  2. I basically do all of these things! I really struggle with sleeping on planes so for me the most important things are having noise canceling headphones, a seat by the window, and an eye mask to block out the light. It has helped me a lot, but I’d still love to figure out how to keep my limbs from falling asleep when sitting …

    1. Oh no! Compression socks should certainly help keep your feet from falling asleep, and they also make compression tights and shirts for working out that I imagine would be helpful for keeping your circulation going during a flight too! Maybe look into those options?

      1. I wear compression socks on flights religiously, so that’s not a problem. But maybe I should look into a shirt – I didn’t know they made those!

  3. Loved reading this and all the amazing tips everyone had on how they survive long flights! For me, compressions socks, a great neck pillow, & noise canceling headphones are essential! Loved all the ideas and super helpful 🙂

  4. Thank you for these wonderful tips. I’m headed to Thailand later this year and will definitely use these tips!

  5. Great advice! I have a 14-ish hour flight coming up (Detroit to Seoul)! I’ve managed a few 10hr flights in coach but this will be my longest!

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