How to Survive Long Haul Flights

brooke flying
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google+
Share on LinkedIn

Learning how to survive long haul flights is an art form. After years of international travel I can honestly say I’m still on the fence about whether I actually enjoy long-haul flights. On the one hand I’m going somewhere which is always exciting, but at times I can be flying and in transit for more than 30-40 hours to reach my final destination… and unless you possess super-heroic powers, that can be incredibly draining on your body! Over the years I’ve experienced and endured the ups and downs of long-haul travel so to ease your worries and give you some survival tips, I’ve got some handy hints for you…



The most obvious way to improve your in-flight experience is to score an upgrade. But I know what you’re thinking — unless you’re a quadzillionaire, it simply isn’t an option. Wrong. There’s a secret or two to getting a free upgrade and many ways to hack frequent flier systems to be able to fly Business or First more often (without spending all your travel funds on the ticket alone!)

Pack an SOS Travel Pack

Create comforts go a long way to ensuring a smooth ride on your long-haul. Headphones, an eye mask, make-up wipes, roll-on deoderant and lip balm are a few of my faves. What are yours?

Choose your Meals carefully

Its no secret that eating bad food makes you feel bad… whether you’re in the plane or on solid ground! To avoid feeling sluggish simply opt for lighter meal options (meat and veg are a safe choice – veg and fruit for the vegetarians/vegans!) So long as you avoid heavy carb-based dishes like pasta then you’re bound to feel a whole lot better for it by the time you’re stepping off the plane.

BYO snacks

Sometimes beggars can’t be choosers and I’ve certainly learned this first hand being a vegetarian who is intolerant to wheat (the day they offer a vegetarian AND gluten free option I will rejoice!) The best way to avoid eating bad food or food you are intolerable to (other than to starve) is to pack your own snacks. Fruit, nuts, veggie chips and a bottle of water are my staple go-to’s.

Set yourself a task

All too often I find myself on a 15+ hour flight, just dreading the moment they call passengers as I’m reluctant to get on and commit myself to so much time in a compact space in the air. The best way to pass the time and forget about the length of your flight as it breezes right by you is to set yourself a task to complete. That could be a book, writing, working, studying or a selection of movies to cut your time in half. Before you know it, you’re already half way there!

Board well-rested 

One of my biggest issues has been the dilemma of whether to board the plane really tired (so I’ll hopefully pass out) or to board well-rested and spend my time on board working on my laptop or watching movies. Hands down the winner for me is to board feeling well-rested, so as to not give the jet-lag a boost it most certainly does not need!

Request a Special Meal

Being a vegetarian I have always requested a special meal, but more and more see people doing it to receive their meal first and promptly pass out afterwards to maximise sleep. If you’re able to sleep on planes and are boarding around evening time, what better way to arrive feeling as well rested as possible!

Stay Hydrated

Water is your friend. I nearly always have a water bottle in hand but on planes, and especially on long-haul flights, this is an absolute necessity. Staying hydrated will ensure you feel fresh when you land and easy the effects of jet-lag.

Avoid Caffeine & Alcohol

This should be a pretty obvious point – but drinking caffeine and alcohol will cause dehydration and in a tight space with constant air-conditioning, this is already a problem!

Wear your best… sweatpants! 

I’m often asked whether I dress up or dress down for flights and anyone who has seen me onboard a flight in the past few years will know I certainly make the most of the chance to dress down! Sometimes I take a pair of sweatpants to change in to on board, but I will never last longer than a few minutes on board before I make it my mission to get comfy in my seat.

Bring a Scarf

Planes have a pretty poor reputation in terms of heating — nearly always it is too hot or too cold, never a moderate temperature enjoyed by all. The best way to combat this and ensure you’re comfortable on board is to bring a large scarf you can use as an extra blanket or cover over your head to cocoon yourself.

Pack Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Note: this is perhaps the single best trick I have learned whilst travelling. Once upon a time I used to avoid packing my own headphones and instead grab a pair of the airline headphones as it was one less thing to pack. I have since learned that noise-cancelling headphones drown out the sound of the engine and allow your body to get into a deeper sleep, resulting in a better rest.

Wear Compression Socks

To improve blood circulation and avoid swelling, compression socks are your best friend on long-haul flights. Plus, they keep you warm!

Wear Closed-Toe Shoes

Plane toilets are about as undesirable as toilets come. Enough said.

Walk around & Stretch it out

One of my favourite things to do throughout the flight is to walk around and stretch my legs. In fact, you’ll usually find me at the black of the plane stretching out my limbs and enjoying the open space!

Aisle vs. Window seat?

It all comes down to personal preference, but for me I strictly avoid the window seat on long-haul flights as I have a tendency to get up and walk around so much! However if you’re someone who passes out in one location and wakes in the next, then a window seat means you won’t have to get up when fellow passengers want to use the bathroom and also provides a pretty solid head rest.

Sit on the wing

If you like your rest on a plane and don’t enjoy turbulence, the middle of the plane (on the wing) is believed to be the smoothest ride. Experts say this is because this point of the plane is the closest to its’ centre of gravity.

You Might Also Like

    February 2, 2016 at 3:47 am

    Great Tips! I also don’t understand people who dress up on flights, I couldn’t imagine anything worse. Tights, hoodie, scarf and woolly socks all the way!

    Keri @ Ladies what travel
    February 1, 2016 at 2:41 am

    I’m all about comfort when I travel – big baggie tracksuit bottoms, a nice big scarf and fluffy socks are my long-haul go tos! 🙂

    January 30, 2016 at 4:20 am

    Oh thanks for these tips! I’ve really struggled to keep myself occupied and happy on long haul flights so most definitely will try these tips for next time I fly xx

    January 29, 2016 at 5:53 am

    I went on my first long haul flight to Hong Kong last year and I hated it! I felt awful but the 7th hour in. After reading these tips I’m definitely going to try some of them out!

    January 29, 2016 at 2:06 am

    Cool! I’ve never thought too much about this before but we have some long flights coming up in the future and this is definitely a helpful list!!

    Sarah Racker
    January 28, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Super helpful tips! I’ve recently discovered eye masks (or wrapping a scarf around my face/eyes if necessary…) and ear plugs are my best friends on flights. I can’t believe I didn’t start using them sooner.

    January 28, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    As a regular traveller, I can relate to the pain and also have used some of the tips you have mentioned. I also find that the best $10 I ever spent was for a really supportive neck pillow. I struggle to sleep on long flights and this helped me so much, so I did not end up with a sore neck either at the end. It is hard now to take snacks and water bottles on flights as you would know and I recently had to go hungry in economy on a flight from Singapore to London. I will take snacks in the future when possible. Staying hydrated is absolutely essential. My tip is to book into airport lounges when you can and get a big meal, drinks, relax and have a wonderful shower and change clothes. You feel like a new person. It changes everything if you have a long enough stop over. I also recently had a massage at Singapore airport as well and that helped so much with my aching body from a long journey from Iceland then Scotland, London, Singapore to Australia. I arrived home in much better shape than previously. Hope this helps someone…as for upgrades, never happened and I do dream of it. Rather just pay for it myself and know I am worth it.

    January 28, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Great tips! I try and avoid overnight flights at all costs as I can’t sleep at all on planes, but I think noise cancelling headphones might be the way forward!

    Marie @ To Europe And Beyond
    January 28, 2016 at 6:02 am

    I’m an experienced flyer and I always stick to the same routine whenever I have to go on a long flight: I pack stretchy pants, warm socks, noise-cancelling headphones, and a few snacks like granola bars and candy because treat yourself.

    January 28, 2016 at 3:33 am

    Great tips but please don’t encourage nuts as snack food on planes. As a mother with a daughter with a peanut allergy its a massive bug bear of mine that aeroplanes aren’t all nut free zones what with the recycled air and the inability to get to a hospital that quickly. For some people this is life threatening. I’ve been on a plane and the airline were very happy to suspend serving nuts and make an announcement asking passengers not to eat their own (but couldn’t enforce that they didn’t)…I heard someone behind us groan at this!

    January 28, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Great tips Brooke! I feel like I am still trying to best strategy to deal with long haul flights. I like to walk around as well, so the window seat is a no-go for me. Wearing comfy clothing is definitely a must too. I’ll have to remember these next time I fly!

    January 28, 2016 at 12:03 am

    I really follow most of these rules, but still hate being in a plane for so long. I try to have a stop-over now as often as I can (looking forward to my next stop over in Dubai for few days when I travel to Honk Kong in April) 🙂

    January 27, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Great tips! The trickiest one for me is definitely to avoid alcohol and caffeine! I’m a huge coffee addict, and can never say no to a (free) glass of wine 😛

    Posh, Broke, & Bored
    January 27, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I have only ONE long haul flight survival tip, and its all I need because it works a charm:


    Hahahaha, but seriously, if business or first isn’t an option I’m also all about the compression socks, blanket scarf, and a relaxant to pop at the start of the flight! x


    Kristina Wilde
    January 27, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Such great tips! Wish I had read this two weeks ago when I came back from holidays in France!

    January 27, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    SO thankful for this post! I hate long haul flights, but I have to endure them every single year.

    January 27, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    These are really good tips. I’m not the best at flying and the longest flight I’ve ever been on is about 5 hours or so. Taking my first international flight this year so I’ll for sure refer back to your tips.

    January 27, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I just read another article suggesting a long list of healthy snacks purchased from Trader Joes. No matter how healthy the snack be sure to try them before packing them on a flight. There is nothing worse than finding out you hate the flavor of a granola bar when it’s the only one you bring with you.

    Charlotte Buckle
    January 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    These are awesome tips! I am not a big fan of flying. Other than knowing that I am going somewhere cool or going home, I prefer to stay on the ground, haha! But when I do fly, I never move, unless I absolutely have to. My seatbelt stays tight and I remain in my sit the entire flight. Window seat all the way!

    Thanks for sharing these tips! Maybe with knowing these, I will be better at flying 🙂
    Take care,
    C |

    Samantha | There She Goes Again
    January 27, 2016 at 11:33 am

    See, before I fly I always tend to be up most of the night beforehand. I don’t know why, but it does help me pass out almost instantly on the plane rides (which in turn, makes even the most squished economy situations bearable). But I definitely know friends who can’t fall asleep in transport, so they always try to be well rested before to not be grumpy or feel even more disgusting.

    Might I also recommend face masks? I live in Korea, so they’re plentiful, but I think they’re becoming trendier in the US. They’re the perfectttt way to kill 20 minutes. Just put them on, listen to a podcast or start watching your movie, and your skin will love you. If you want to get fancy there are a ton of other mask types out there, including hands, feet (though maybe not for a plane…), just under eyes, chins, etc…

    • Brooke Saward
      January 27, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Face masks are such a great idea THANK YOU Samantha!!! xx

    January 27, 2016 at 8:34 am

    These are great tips! I actually enjoy flying, but I don’t do well at night. I tend to get clausterphobic. 🙁

    • Brooke Saward
      January 27, 2016 at 11:57 am

      Aww i know those claustrophobic feels! I don’t feel right when I’m stuck in the window seat – so totally understand you! x

    January 27, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Thanks so much for sharing! This is a great post 🙂

    Best Michaela

    Kaitlin Wong
    January 27, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Great tips! I frequently fly from Hong Kong to London (home to uni) and found that you missed the most important tip: travel with a friend! It really helps to be able to invade a little of their space, or rest your head on their shoulder, or just to entertain each other by gossiping or watching movies together! Travelling with my twin sister makes long haul flights so much more bearable 🙂

    • Brooke Saward
      January 27, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Oh I TOTALLY agree!!! 🙂 I just wish i had more friends to travel with haha! xx

    January 27, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Very useful tips! Thank you for sharing!