How to Survive Long Haul Flights

Flying long distance? Spending seven or more hours in the air can be some people’s worst nightmare. Having done a couple of long-haul flights to Mexico and Cuba in my younger years, and since flying to the US and Australia (try that 24 hour journey!), I’ve come across some tips that will make the time pass more comfortably. After flying to Australia, however, I can say that other long distance flights don’t seem to bother me any more – and even that journey wasn’t bad. Which brings me to my first point:

Fly with a Good Airline

When I say a good airline, I mean it’s worth paying a little extra for the comfort and a stress-free experience. Riley and I flew with Emirates on our trip to Australia and we couldn’t fault the service. We debated flying Emirates for a while when booking, as China Southern were offering a cheaper deal and I wanted to save as much money as I could on this trip – however, the China Southern flight was longer and I’d heard from other travellers that they wouldn’t fly with them again. There seems to be a lot of unnecessary faff with long stopovers, and the seating/food generally gets poor ratings too. As a result, it is well worth paying the extra dosh to feel satisfied and well looked after. Emirates had a wealth of movies and TV series to keep you entertained, the meals were fantastic and the drinks service and snacks delivered in between were the best I’ve had on any flight (they gave us pizza fingers!).

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Pack These Essentials

Most of these flights will supply you with a pillow, blanket and headphones, and if you’re lucky (or flying Emirates) you’ll get a little bag with bits and pieces in it (eye mask, socks, ear plugs, etc). If you want to cover your bases no matter what, however, I’d firstly bring headphones/earplugs to help you sleep or to listen to music (the headphones supplied aren’t always great or reliable). An eye mask is also a good idea – trying to sleep when someone has their reading light on or the toilet door keeps opening, flashing the light inside, is a challenge, believe me. Lip balm will be your saviour. Trust me, your lips will get very dry very quickly and the dry air in the cabin will wreak havoc with your skin too so it’s worth taking a little moisturiser on board with you too.

Also take plenty to entertain yourself with. In-flight entertainment is not guaranteed as my other half, Riley, recently discovered on a seven hour flight to Philly. That’s right, no movies. I’d have lost my mind as I love catching up on TV and film in the air – but Riley was sorted, as he had his e-reader, music, and laptop with him. It is worth taking a portable battery pack too to charge your electronics as the ever-so-helpful USB ports for charging things are not always available either – you definitely don’t want to be stuck without juice.

One last thing is hand sanitiser. A little bottle in your carry-on will not go amiss and a squirt before you eat or after going to the loo (even after you’ve washed your hands) could be the difference between catching a cold or something worse. Aeroplanes are basically big disease tubes. Protect yourself as much as you can.

Wear Comfy Clothing

I know it’s tempting to wear your nicest jeans and a top worthy of millions of likes on Instagram – but think about being blasted for ten hours by the plane’s air con system, or trying to relax and have a nap while your thighs are having the life squeezed out of them. Do your body a favour and stick to your trackies or jogging bottoms. Additionally, wearing several layers of loose-fitting clothing will help with finding a comfortable temperature in the cabin. And if you’re wearing you’re clunkiest footwear to save room on your case, don’t be afraid to take them off for the flight (some people bring fluffy socks or slippers on board for that extra comfort factor). Just don’t forget to move around the cabin to prevent your feet swelling and being unable to get your shoes back on when you land (that’s a Mum tip from a flight she took to Hawaii, where she had to leave the airport in her socks).

Get Moving!

Following on from that last tip, you really should be getting up to move around every couple of hours. I’m terrible for this, quite often preferring just to chill in my seat (praise be my ability to sit still for long periods though). But as we all know this can lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis, something you do not want to get, so do your veins a favour and go for a walk round the cabin, do some leg exercises in your seat, circle your ankles, lift your knees, etc. Doing this will also release some of that muscle tension you probably didn’t even realise you had from sitting down so long.

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The Seating Arrangement

Making a good seating choice can be the difference between a stress-free journey or the flight from hell. Picking exit rows will give you that sought after leg room, whilst a general aisle seat is good if you want to be active/have easy access to the loo, without feeling like you’re bothering anybody. If you don’t mind asking people to move for you whenever you need to pee however, then you can bag a window seat and have the best of both worlds. If you want to avoid being in close proximity to a screaming child, it would also be advisable to avoid seating on bulkhead rows (the dividing wall between cabins on long haul flights). While these seats offer more legroom – Riley and I had been lucky in being seated here on our latest flight back from the US due to asking for a change of tickets so we could be sat together – these are generally the only spots on the lane where a bassinet/skycot can by hung, so often occupied by families with young children.

In addition to picking a good seat when booking, don’t be afraid to ask to be moved to a better seat. Air hostesses/hosts want to make your journey as pleasant as possible so they will try to accommodate all your needs within reason and fixing seating arrangements can be an easy fix if there are spare seats going. Failing that, you could brass neck it and just move after take off to an empty seat anyway.

It’s also good to establish with your neighbour from the beginning whether or not you wish to engage in conversation during your flight. If you don’t make it clear early on that you have “things to do,” you could be stuck with a chatterbox, talking their way into your reading time. It’s understandable that some people may be nervous flyers, and talking helps but not everyone will want a day-to-day run down of your holiday.

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Don’t Forget Plenty of Snacks

You may get served in-flight meals, but remember, eating can be a good way to stave off boredom (you can indulge yourself this once, okay – it’ll make the flight easier to bear). Also, having a chicken curry when you’d usually be having breakfast back home can really throw your sense of time out – snacks will help with the transition. And it will also same the discomfort of hunger between meals if that’s something you’re prone to. I never fly without a bag of Doritos and some fizzy sweets. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra food either when it’s coming round. Staff are usually happy to give out spares once they’ve delivered meals to the rest of the cabin – again, they’re there to make your flight as pleasant as possible.

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Drink Water

As this is another thing I’m terrible at doing on flights, I’m here reminding us both. By all means, make the most of the free booze (this was an advantage of flying Emirates to Australia) and soft drinks that most long hauls supply but do remember to stay properly hydrated with the good stuff. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re not jetlagged WITH a sore head from dehydration. Plane cabins are very dry places to be. Also drinking plenty will help with the getting up and walking round if you need to go to the toilet more frequently, so your circulatory system will benefit from it too.

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So there are my top tips on how to survive long haul flights. I’d love to hear more, so if you have any, pop them in the comments below! And if you’re still struggling to make the distance – book a flight to Australia. Any flight after that will seem like a short, completely bearable, glide away.

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