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15 Tips for Surviving a Long Haul Flight

Almost everyone knows flying isn’t exactly an enjoyable experience, especially if you’re flying economy. While it’s usually okay for short domestic flights, being confined to a small seat without much legroom or reclining capability for more than a few hours can really start to take a toll on you. Here are 15 tips for surviving a long haul flight.

Buy your ticket as early as possible

Waiting for tickets to drop in price often isn’t worth the trouble. Buying your ticket earlier can give you a much needed peace of mind in the weeks or months leading up your next trip. It also increases the chance of enough seats still being open for you to be able to pick where you want to sit, which is especially important if you want the aisle, window seat, or possibly the exit row. If you wait until the last minute, that price drop may only be $20 and you may have no choice but to sit in the dreaded middle seat.

Choose your seats wisely

As mentioned before, choosing the right seat can be key to surviving a long haul flight, so don’t pick one blindly. SeatGuru is a great resource for checking the seat configuration of a flight before you book your flight. 

airplane seats

Check in early

Didn’t get the seat you wanted when booking your flight? Don’t wait until you arrive at the airport to check in for your flight. During the check-in period, which usually is 24 hours before the flight, refresh the seat map regularly. A better seat could open up and you just might be able to snag that window or aisle seat.

Find Empty Seats

Anyone who has ever been on a long haul flight knows that every bit of space counts. After boarding your flight, take a look around and see if there are any empty rows. If so, ask a flight attendant if you can move. 

Book a Business or First Class Ticket

If you happen to be fortunate enough to have enough money or miles to book a business class or first class ticket, then a long haul flight is the time to use it. You will have a much more comfortable seat and are far more likely to get some decent sleep. Business and first class have more leg room and sometimes lie flat seats.

Dress Comfortably

Comfort is key when it comes to traveling, particularly so on a long haul flight. This isn’t the time to be concerned about fashion. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes, something you’re able to sleep in. Additional layers or a light jacket is a good idea too, in case you get cold. (Those blankets airlines give you aren’t really going to keep you warm.) If you’re worried about how you’ll look once you reach your destination, you always bring other clothes to change into once you get off the plane.

Drink Water

The air on planes is known for being dry, which can cause dehydration, headaches, and worse jet lag. This makes it all the more important to stay hydrated during your long haul flight. An easy way to make sure you drink water is to bring a reusable water bottle to fill up after going through security. If your water runs out while on the plane, just ask a flight attendant for some water.


Bring Snacks

Airplane food isn’t really known for being good (unless you know, you’re in first class). Do yourself a favor on your next long haul flight and pack some snacks for when those hunger pains kick in. Just remember to be mindful of the other passengers and stick to less aromatic foods. 

Bring Your Own Entertainment

The inflight entertainment systems provided by airlines aren’t exactly the most reliable or the most entertaining. To make sure your long haul flight isn’t an excruciatingly boring one, make sure to bring your own entertainment. Before your flight, download TV shows, movies, podcasts, and audiobooks to your device, or bring a good old-fashioned book.

Bring Your Own Amenities

Some airlines may give you a few amenities to use during your flight, particularly if you’re lucky enough to be flying business or first class. However, your own amenities will almost always be better than the free stuff you get. A great amenity kit to have on hand includes hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste (or mouthwash), tissues, and lip balm. A comfortable neck pillow, a good sleep mask, and moldable ear plugs are also great to have on a long flight. Also, be sure to bring your own headphones, preferably noise canceling ones.

Keep Items Accessible and Secure

Make sure to keep any items you’ll need during the flight easily accessible, either in your small carry-on under the seat or in the seat pocket in front of you (not the overhead bin). You should also be sure to keep your valuables secure while you’re sleeping. Things like your wallet, phone, or passport should be kept deep inside your bag or somewhere that someone would have trouble getting to without waking you up.

Get Up Every Few Hours

It’s important to move around during a long haul flight. Sitting in one place for 10 hours or more at high altitudes can restrict your blood flow. While this is uncomfortable for most people, there’s a chance it can lead to blood clots. Remember to stretch, get up, and move around at least every few hours. It’s fairly easy to take a walk up and down the aisle (maybe to the lavatory) during long flights. Compression socks can also help with blood circulation.

Get Airport Lounge Access

For long haul flights, you’re probably going to have a layover. If you can, get access to an airport lounge, which offers a comfortable and usually quiet place to relax while you wait for the next leg of your flight.  Lounges typically have complimentary alcohol, better food, and sometimes other amenities like showers or sleeping rooms.

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule for Your Destination

If you’re taking a long haul flight, it’s likely that you’ll be leaving when it’s daytime at your destination. To minimize any possible jet lag, try to keep your sleep schedule in line with wherever you’re traveling to. Stay awake on the plane until it’s night at your destination. 

Use Sleep Aids Carefully

Be careful with any sleep aids you’re thinking about using during your flight. You need to know how they will affect you before you get on the plane. Some sleep aids, particularly prescription ones, can have some odd side effects or may even keep you awake. Test any sleep aids you plan on using a few days before your flight.

Will your long haul flight in economy class be the best flight ever? Most likely not. However, with these tips in mind, it will definitely be more bearable. 

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