17 Tips For Surviving A Long-Haul Flight

Traveling to a faraway destination is one of the most exciting activities in life, but taking the painstakingly long flight to get there isn't necessarily as fun. While it's not too difficult to get through a quick flight between U.S. states, things get a little more complex when you embark on a long-haul flight to travel internationally. Any flight that lasts longer than seven hours is considered to be a long-haul flight, with the longest direct flight in the world lasting nearly 19 hours.

When you're stuck on an airplane for that long, you need to do the necessary groundwork to have a pleasant flight experience or you'll be in for a miserable journey that drones on forever. Nothing is worse than being trapped in the air with hundreds of other people for hours on end when you're not prepared for the undertaking. Luckily, taking a long-haul flight doesn't have to be a stressful experience. Just follow these 17 valuable tips to make a long-haul flight much more bearable or even completely comfortable.

Dress comfortably and pack comfy socks

Everyone always tells you to dress comfortably when you're spending time on a plane, but this is so much more important on a long-haul flight. Wearing uncomfortable items, like high heels, jeans, and tight-fitting clothes, will set you up for hours of misery. You may even want to bring some pajamas on an overnight flight or an extra set of clothes to change into before the plane lands on extra lengthy journeys.

When you're spending the better part of a day (or more) on a plane, changing clothes makes you feel more like a human again. Another good clothing hack for long-haul flights is to bring along a pair of compression socks to wear once you're in the air. Compression socks distribute the pressure in your legs to regulate blood flow and prevent swelling or pain while you're on a long flight.

Choose your seat very carefully

On a short flight, you may be able to endure sitting in the dreaded middle seat or right next to the bathroom. It's a manageable hassle that might be worth saving a couple of bucks on a cheaper plane ticket. However, you really don't want to deal with a bad seat on a long flight — it's a complete nightmare. There are different definitions of a "good seat" on a plane depending on what you value most.

In a seat in the middle of the plane near the wings, you'll feel less turbulence, making it better for families with kids. If you're on an overnight flight, you may want to pick a window seat because it'll give you a place to set up a makeshift plane bed and rest your head. If you know you'll be in a hurry to get off the plane, try to grab a spot as close to the front as possible. Choose wisely because you'll be stuck in that seat for hours.

Pack an on-flight toiletry essentials bag and freshen up

One classic beginner's mistake on a long-haul flight is not bringing a little toiletries bag in your carry-on. Most people think that since they'll be on a plane, they won't need to do a night or morning bathroom routine, but that's totally wrong. It's amazing how much more refreshed you'll feel after hours of flying when you just make a quick run to the bathroom to wash your face and brush your teeth (just make sure the water is potable).

There are a few basic items to pack in your carry-on toiletries bag to ensure a smooth trip. Bring along a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small hair brush, makeup remover or facial mist, and deodorant. If you're feeling a little extra fancy, you can even bring a nice facial lotion, a soothing lip balm, and an under-eye mask to reduce puffiness and dark circles from flying.

Bring a sweatshirt with you

This is a tip you should really pay attention to because it can make or break your entire journey: Bring a sweatshirt or cardigan on a long flight. Many travelers really underestimate how cold it gets on a plane, especially over the course of a lengthy trip. Even if you're traveling to or from a warm destination, it's always chilly up in the air on the flight there.

Most airplane cabins hover around 66 and 68 degrees, which is cooler than comfortable for a lot of people who are trying to get sleep and be cozy during their long-haul flight. Planes are kept a little on the chilly side because it reduces the risk that passengers will develop hypoxia, a medical condition that doesn't allow enough oxygen to be delivered to the body. If you really don't want to drag along a bulky sweatshirt the whole trip, at least opt for a scarf to keep your neck warm or even to use as a blanket throughout the flight.

Take along a neck pillow, eye mask, and ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones

One of the best activities to eat away at the time on a long flight is sleeping. However, catching some ZZZs can be a difficult task when you're trying to sleep on a long-haul journey with hundreds of other people in the seated position the whole time. However, there are three key products that can really help you on the quest to fall asleep on a long-haul flight: a neck pillow, an eye mask, and ear plugs.

These three things may seem inconsequential, but they can help anyone feel comfortable enough to drift off on a plane. If you only want to invest in one of these valuable travel products, go for the neck pillow. These travel pillows provide head support and keep your neck aligned, so you don't wake up with the dreaded crick in your neck from having your head flop all over the place like a newborn baby.

Invest in an e-reader

Diving into a book's story is an excellent activity to keep yourself occupied on a long flight, but carrying around a bunch of books is a major hassle. You'll want a few different options to swap between on a lengthy journey, too. That's why you should think about getting an e-reader before taking a long-haul flight. Even though it might sound like an expensive investment right before a trip, it'll definitely pay off in the long run.

E-readers like Kindles can hold over 3,000 books on them. For reference, it would take you around eight years to read that many books if you read one every single day. So, you'll have plenty of reading material throughout even the longest of flights. Two well-known e-readers on the market right now are the Kindle and the Nook; however, the Kobo Libra is also growing in popularity.

Choose a special meal in advance

One of the nice things about long flights is that they almost always come with an included meal. The food rules vary between airlines, but you'll probably be getting a full dinner when you're traveling on an international flight. Many airlines even provide two meals and a snack on flights that are over 12 hours. While most passengers just wait around until their flight to see what food they end up with in the air, there are actually ways to pick your meal most of the time.

You can often choose a special meal for your flight in advance on an airline's app or website. Many airlines offer gluten-free, non-lactose, peanut-free, vegan, fruit, seafood, and raw vegetarian meal options. Just make sure you make your meal request at least 24 hours before your flight to ensure you nab one in time. Pre-picking a meal you prefer on a long flight can give you something to look forward to and often the food is a little bit better than the standard meal.

Assemble a carry-on medicine box

You never know what can happen over the course of a long flight. When you're up 40,000 feet in the air as the hours tick by, you can easily get a headache, start feeling an upset stomach from the plane food, or fail to fall asleep after trying forever. In those moments, there is only one thing you'll want in the whole world: Your tiny carry-on medicine box.

A carry-on medicine box can be a real lifesaver when you're trapped on a long-haul flight. Generally, these boxes or bags should contain ibuprofen, medicine to help you avoid getting motion sickness on a plane, an anti-diarrheal, a light sleeping aid like melatonin, and even cough drops. Plus, any prescribed medication that you need from home should be taken in your carry-on, not in your checked bag.

According to the TSA, you can bring as many pills as you need as long as they're screened. You can even carry liquid medication in your carry-on that's a little over the standard 3.4 ounces as long as you let a TSA officer know during the security check. You really want to make sure your required medicine is with you when you're on a long flight because there will be no way to get it from your checked bag once you're in the air.

Wear sunscreen during the day and try to keep your window closed

When you're soaring through the sky on your way to a far-off destination, you're closer to the sun than you usually are with your feet on the ground. This exposure can cause way more UV damage to your skin when you're traveling than you would get during a usual outing. According to one study mentioned in Newsweek, a little under an hour in a cockpit flying at 30,000 feet results in the same amount of UV radiation as 20 minutes in a tanning bed.

According to an investigation published in JAMA Dermatology, flight crew members and pilots who go up in planes all the time are even twice as likely to develop melanoma as other people. That alone should tell you how serious sun damage can be on a plane. That's why it's so crucial to wear good quality sunscreen to help protect your skin on long flights. Speaking to Well + Good, pilot Joi Schweitzer recommends Neutrogena SPF 45 to keep your skin safe while flying. But you should also try to keep your window shut most of the time if possible just to be extra cautious.

Download entertainment for offline use

Even if your airline provides entertainment on a long flight, you'll be surprised at how quickly their limited selection can grow boring on a long flight. To combat the gnawing boredom, make sure you download your own hoard of entertainment for offline use. Spending an hour or so downloading entertainment like audiobooks, podcasts, movies, TV shows, and games can keep you occupied for a whole flight, even if it's over 12 hours long.

There are plenty of options out there, too. You can currently find around three million active podcasts available on various streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. Netflix allows you to have up to 100 active downloads of shows and movies. Meanwhile, there are also a bunch of games for iPhone that you can download to play offline on airplane mode, like "Smash Hit," "Angry Birds 2," and "Need for Speed No Limits."

Drink lots and lots of water

Okay, okay, you're probably sick of people telling you how crucial it is to drink water throughout the day, but it's true. It's pretty important to stay hydrated on the ground at all times and it's even more crucial when you're on a long flight. If you end up getting dehydrated on a plane, it can quickly deplete your energy and patience.

When you're up in an airplane, the controlled humidity stays around 10% to 20%, but the humidity level we're used to on the ground is around 35% to 65%, according to the Center for Family Medicine. The lower humidity on a plane makes you dehydrated way faster, so you'll want to grab a big water bottle from the airport shop and sip on it even more than usual. The Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking around 8 ounces (or one mini water bottle) every hour you're flying on an airplane and using a hydrating nasal spray.

Journal or draw in a notebook

With just a notebook and pen, you can stay endlessly entertained on a long flight by letting your creativity flow through doodling and writing. At the very least the activity can keep you occupied for a few hours and knock out a good portion of the flight duration. You never know what piece of art you'll end up with by the time your plane lands. It's also a fantastic activity to keep kids entertained on a long flight.

There are actually quite a lot of benefits to journaling or drawing in general. Journaling has been shown to do lots of impressive things for people, like reducing stress, helping with processing emotions, and leading to some valuable self-introspection. On the other hand, if you're more of a visual artist, doodling can improve your mood and help you understand your thinking patterns on a deeper level. Who says that long flights can't be productive?

Bring extra snacks

Long-haul flights indeed provide a meal, but that doesn't mean it's always the tastiest spread. If you're not feeling the food on the plane, you can be left starving throughout your whole flight. That's why you should bring some snacks along with you in your carry-on.

You can bring food through TSA, with some exceptions. As long as the food items are not liquid or paste over 3.4 ounces, you're in the clear. Some of the best snacks for a flight include chicken or pasta salad; sandwiches; nuts, fruit and veggie slices; and other healthy, low-salt options.

If you prefer a hot dinner, you could also bring pre-packaged soup, noodles, or oatmeal to make with hot water from the flight attendants. Just try to avoid extra smelly foods because there will still be lots of other noses nearby. Additionally, try not to bring high-allergen foods on a plane, like peanut butter. You never know who might have a deadly allergy on a flight.

Avoid alcohol

It is super tempting to order a drink or two when you know you're going to be confined on a plane, but try not to succumb to this urge on a long-haul flight. Even if you handle your liquor well or you only drink a little bit, it can still have detrimental effects on your flight experience.

The combination of having low oxygen levels in your blood due to the low pressure and a low-humidity environment on an airplane can dramatically increase the effects of alcohol. In simpler terms, you can feel drunker much faster on a plane and even go through negative side effects you wouldn't normally experience, like lightheadedness. That means the other effects of alcohol, like a hangover or dehydration, will also hit you full force on a flight. You really don't want to deal with the additional hurdle of a hangover on a long-haul flight, so try to avoid alcohol altogether on these types of excursions.

Bring an extra charging cable and a portable power bank

Most long-haul flights these days will provide outlets for you to charge your phone and other electronics. However, you never know what might happen. You could end up sitting in a seat where the outlet doesn't work or in an aisle without a charging port.

It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your comfort on a really long flight. It can be problematic for your devices to die on a long flight because you might end up in a new place without any way to communicate. That's why you should come prepared with a reliable power bank. You can even go the extra mile by packing an extra charging cable in your backpack just in case the one you have stops working without warning.

When you have this type of stuff on hand, you won't be hit with any electronic surprises in the air. According to The New York Times, the best portable power bank for traveling on long flights right now is the Zendure SuperMini 20W because it's so light and portable. It can also charge your device fully up to three times.

Put together an appreciation gift for your flight attendants

Did you know that flight attendants usually don't start earning their wage until the plane officially pulls away from the gate? Yep, even during that whole frustratingly chaotic time of boarding hundreds of passengers on the plane they're often not making a single dollar. That's why it's a really nice gesture to give your flight attendants on a long trip a little gift to thank them for all their hard work.

They definitely earned something extra after taking care of everyone through a whole flight. It's kind of like giving your flight attendant a tip. It might sound strange to prepare a tiny gift of appreciation for your flight attendants, but a little kindness goes a long way.

The gift doesn't have to be big or expensive. A flight attendant appreciation gift can be something as simple as a bag of candy, a small hand lotion, a scratch-off lotto ticket, or a $5 to $10 gift card. You may even find a complimentary drink or treat coming your way during the flight for the thoughtfulness.

Try to avoid getting sick

‌The dreaded post-flight flu tends to set in soon after landing and it can put a damper on a trip. Nobody wants to get off a plane, excited for the adventure ahead, only to feel completely bogged down by feeling ill. There are a few different reasons why it's so easy to get sick while traveling on a flight.

The difference in atmospheric pressure and low moisture in the air can make you really vulnerable to feeling sick. Plus, there are just lots of people coming from different places on every flight. So, you really need to be careful when you're taking a long-haul journey.

Luckily, there are a few ways to protect yourself from getting sick on a long flight. First of all, load up on healthy vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc to keep your immune system strong. Also, remember to wash your hands throughout the flight and try to touch your face as little as possible to stop the spread of germs.