Tips for Surviving a Long Flight

make a long flight bearable

I’m no stranger to plane travel because I travel quite a bit both for work and for fun, but it wasn’t until my most recent trip to Rome that I think I figured out how to travel comfortably. Rome is a 9 hour flight for me, and I know – I know – there are people spending 22 hours on a plane to Thailand or Australia, but 9.5 hours is just long enough to be incredibly uncomfortable if you’re not travelling right. Below is my personal travel routine and my tips for surviving a long haul flight. Hopefully some of these are new to you and help you with your next trip! Yes, you’re going to be uncomfortable, but you can minimize the pain and even find some time to enjoy yourself while onboard.

Before the Flight

Pack Wisely.

Some people hate to check luggage, for for a long-haul flight your best bet is to check absolutely everything that your can. Your carry-on should be light and reserved mainly for absolute essentials and comfort items.

Check in Online.

This is obvious to a lot of people, but I’m always surprised when friend or co-workers don’t do this and just show up for a flight. Most flights allow you to check-in 24 hours before your flight time. This gives you time to review all your flight details, make sure you have your passport handy, and it will minimize your chances of being bumped from an oversold flight.

Chose your Seat.

For a long flight I really like to chose my seat before hand, and often I’ll pay the $20 to $80 that most airlines will charge to let you pre-select a seat. If this isn’t in your budget then checking in immediately at the 24 hour mark is the next best thing as that’ll be the time that you’ll the largest selection of available seats. If your flight has a connection try to sit near the front so that you can deplane first, but if not then I prefer to sit near the back of the plane as  many planes will have two-seat rows at the back side of the plane. Not having to share a row with a third person is a huge relief. You’ll also want to avoid choosing a seat near the washrooms for reasons that should be fairly obvious.

At the Airport

Arrive Early.

Arrive at the airport three hours early if you’re traveling on a holiday,  through a particularly busy airport, or if you’re just unfamiliar with the airport. If you don’t need to go through customs  at your local airport you’re probably fine arrive 2 to 2.5 hours before your flight departure. Check your local airline for details, but these rules are fairly standard with a few exceptions.

Eat.

Have a light meal (you’ll be eating again later on the plain), and be sure to drink plenty of water. Avoid the temptation of alcohol and coffee as they’ll dehydrate you and won’t help you fall asleep on the plane.  Buy a bottle of water, or bring an empty bottle through security and fill it up before you get on the plane.

Be Comfortable

You don’t need to show up in your pj’s, but you should dress comfortably at the airport. If you need to arrive at your destination and head directly to a business meeting, bring your suit or work-clothes in your carry-on and change upon landing. You’ll want to be comfortable enough that you can sleep on the plane, and this means light lose clothing, slip on shoes, and a comfortable jacket or hoodie.

On-Board

Unless you’re on an extremely crowded flight where overhead room will be at a premium there’s absolutely no reason to be the first person on the flight. Don’t delay getting on the plane, but don’t push to the head of the line either. Once on the plane take the items you’ll need out of your carry-on and stow your bag in overhead storage. You’ll be able to get anything you may need later, but for now you’ll appreciate the extra leg room.

Carry-on:

Carry-on items should be your essentials and the items needed to get on the plane.

Essentials: Passport, Boarding Pass, Wallet. Chargers for your electronics.

Entertainment: iPad, Kindle, Kobo, etc. for reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching Netflix.

Snacks: Fruit and nuts make for a great healthy snack,  but make sure you consume them before getting off the plane in another country. Most countries have strict restrictions on unpackaged foods coming into the country.

Comfort Items:

  1. Antibacterial Wipes to wipe down your seat arms, tray table, etc. You’ll look like a crazy person, but planes are filthy germ buckets and this will greatly decrease your chances of catching a cold.
  2. Ear Plugs or noise cancelling headphones. Because there WILL be a baby or a snorer on the plane.
  3. Neck Pillow. I almost always stop using these halfway through the flight because they’re never comfortable, but on a long flight my butt never fails to get sore from just sitting in the uncomfortable seats for so long. This is about when I take the neck pillow from around by neck and sit on it. It works.
  4. Eye-mask.On long overnight flights planes will generally have the lightning dimmed, but of course there will still be some light for safety reasons.  An eye mask might make you feel like a diva, but it’s entirely worth it. I recommend a contoured eye mask like these.
  5. Water. Bring an empty water bottle so that once you’re through security you can fill it up in a fountain and bring it on the plane with you. Planes are incredibly dehydrating and drinking plenty of water will help you feel better throughout.
  6. Face Wipes and moisturizer. After the in flight meal and before going to bed I recommend using a face wipe to freshen up, followed up with a light moisturizer. Sample size is ideal, or you can bring a small amount of moisturizer in a TSA size approved travel container. Now only will this help you feel fresh throughout the flight, the ritual of doing this will take time to get you into the right headspace for sleep.
  7. Gravol (or other branded anti-nauseant). In case turbulence or rough landings cause nausea.

Bonus Tip

Don’t buy black luggage.

I know – it’s probably too late You already own black luggage. BUT – if you’re in the market for some new luggage I highly recommend almost any colour other than back. You want your bag to be identifiable so that you can quickly spot it on the luggage carousel, or in the worst case scenario so that you can describe it to airport officials if it gets lost and they need to look for it based on your description.

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