15 Tips for Surviving a Long Flight

PicForNewsletterMacau20085Long flights: Do you love them or hate them? They’re a necessity to get to the most far-flung destinations on the planet and some people love them, while others loathe them. But long flights don’t have to be something to be dreaded – they can actually be enjoyed if you plan ahead and arm yourself with things that will help to pass the time and help you sleep.

Here are my top 15 tips for surviving a long flight:

1. Power up
Make sure you have all your chargers with you so that you can keep all your gadgets powered up throughout your flight. Alternatively, bring extra batteries or an external charging device in case your plane doesn’t have electrical outlets. Tip: Keep your chargers organized with a portable carrying case like this one.

2. Load up your devices
Before you board your flight, make sure that your devices (tablet, laptop, smartphone, e-reader) are loaded up with games, movies, television shows, music, books and the airline’s app just in case that’s how they stream their entertainment.

3. Pack a pillow (and a blanket)
There are tons of different pillows on the market. Find out which one works for you and go with it. I like these ones from Passage Pillows. Also, not all airlines provide blankets so you might want to bring your own … or at least a cozy sweater. For the ladies, my wife swears by the blanket scarf.

4. Wear comfortable clothes
The temperature on a plane is rarely comfortable for everyone. You might be freezing, while the person a few rows away finds it too warm. You just never know so it’s best to be prepared. Wear comfortable clothes on a long flight and pack some layers so that you can adjust as the temperature changes on the plane. Pack some cozy socks, too, but don’t go into the bathroom in just your sock feet – put your shoes on!

5. Sleeping pills
The key to surviving a long flight is being able to get some shut-eye. I personally don’t take any kind of pills (including melatonin) since I want to be fully aware in case of an emergency. But I know many people who swear by them. Usually, the drug of choice is Ambien but consult your doctor first before taking anything and test it out before getting on the plane.

6. Don’t forget your eye mask
Eye masks help you create an ideal sleeping environment by blocking out all the light. Instead of using the cheap, scratchy eye masks that the airlines sometimes pass out on long flights, I bring my own fluffy one. I might look silly in it but it feels so good and does the trick. Mine is made by Lewis & Clarke and is $10 on Amazon.com.

7. Bring earplugs
Bringing earplugs is self-explanatory and is essential for a good night’s sleep. If you forget them chances are the flight attendant will have an extra pair.

8. Noise-cancellation headphones and soft music
If there’s a screaming baby near you or people speaking loudly, earplugs aren’t necessarily going to do the trick. In that case, pop on your noise-cancellation headphones or ear buds and play soft music, an audio book or meditation music to drown out the noise and help put you to sleep.

9. Pack anti-bacterial wipes
We all know that planes are dirty and germy so minimize your risk of picking up and spreading germs by using anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down your arm rests, seat belt, seat back tray, etc. A somewhat sanitized area should help you relax and rest a little bit easier, especially on a long flight.

10. Bring games and something to read
If you are old school and traveling with someone, bring a deck of cards or a portable game. My favorite game is Travel Scrabble. But you better bring the Scrabble Dictionary for challenges or use the in-flight WiFi if available to check the dictionary online at Hasbro.com/Scrabble. If you’re not into tech gadgets, travel armed with magazines, newspapers and books. Everyone needs something good to read to pass the time.

11. Bring snacks/water
On a long flight, you want to be able to eat and drink according to your own schedule, not the flight crew’s so pack some snacks and bring water (purchased or filled-up in the terminal after you’ve gone through security.) At some major U.S. airports (ahem, JFK) taxi time can be up to an hour and once you are in the air, it’s usually 40 minutes before the crew brings out the food and drinks.

12. Choose your seat wisely
If you plan to sleep for most of the flight, the best seat is usually next to a window so you have something to lean against and you don’t have to worry about your seatmates waking you so they can use the loo. But if you think you’ll be awake, then get an aisle seat so you can get up and stretch your legs easily. Consult SeatGuru.com or SeatExpert.com for your best options.

13. Buckle up
If you’re planning to sleep, make sure your fastened seat belt is visible over your clothing or blanket. That way, the flight attendants won’t have to wake you when they do their safety checks if the seat belt sign goes on. If your seat belt is visibly fastened, they won’t disturb you.

14. Bring sleep assistants
Bring a device that works for you like the First Class Sleeper, which provides neck and lumbar support and can help to make a long flight more comfortable. Also try the Travel Rest Pillow, which attaches to the seat back of a plane and provides comfort and support for your head and neck. There are tons of other travel pillows to choose from – here’s the link to some of the  travel pillows I’ve written about.

15. Be nice
Last but definitely not least: Be nice. You’re all on this long flight together so be pleasant to everyone, from the gate agents to your fellow passengers. Put on a smile and bring three boxes of chocolates. One for the gate agents, one for the flight attendants and one for yourself! The flight attendants can really make or break your flight and they’ll be sure to appreciate this simple acknowledgment of their hard work.

Did I miss anything? Do you agree or disagree with these 15 tips? What do you do to survive a long flight?

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Johnny Jet

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15 Tips for Surviving a Long Flight
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About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

54 Comments on "15 Tips for Surviving a Long Flight"

  1. This pretty much sums up my thoughts on long-haul flying…ugh. Great read. Regarding temperature, I’m sick of so many airlines removing the individual air nozzle’s on long-haul aircraft (and then cranking up the heat to maximum at night to get everyone off…while I remain awake perspiring wildly)…

    My only addition is to dispense what I absolutely will want during the flight into a smaller little bag for under the seat or to hold on my lap, so as not to be needing to be at someone else’s mercy to get anything out of the overhead bin later on.

  2. Piotr Kaczmarek | March 30, 2015 at 3:41 am | Reply

    You forgot about water – in my opinion the key secret to arrive in good shape after a long haul flight is to stay hydrated.

  3. Right on the money, Johnny Jet…. great tips. Especially hydration – and bottled water is key! I also must maintain flexibility and resist cramps and worse by moving about the cabin every hour and a half or so. It’s fairly easy to do without annoying other passengers, and increases my comfort greatly. And I take a fair-sized inflatable pillow with a small cover as well – made that 3-seat empty row into a passable bed on a recent economy flight of many many hours.

    • On an 8 hr flight, while I was just dozing off, a guy started jogging in place and doing calisthenics, jumping jacks in the aisle right next to me. He was also talking to the passengers behind me very loudly. I looked at him and he was oblivious to his behavior, but all his friends could tell I wanted to put him through the little window to outside and let him jog there. At the carousel, when I bent over to get my girlfriends luggage, he was the one leaning over my back to look at the next bag, my elbow lifted him off the ground and sent him flying. He was dazed, but all the people who knew him were trying to hold back laughter. I would have rather had the sleep. My girlfriend had to change seats with me, but this did make her smile. Movement and hydration are very important. I’m one tech who looks for Pulmonary Embolus in hospitals.

  4. I would add an asterisk to #5, #6 and #14: *ONLY if you are NOT in economy class. If you can stretch your legs to sleep, these tips are great. You do not, however, want to end up with “Economy Class Syndrome” or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which almost killed my father a few years ago with two pulmonary embolisms. DVT is more prevalent than most people realize, but it is completely preventable. It’s not worth trying to sleep on a flight if it means it’s the last flight you’ll ever take. The CDC recommends moving around every 2 to 3 hours if you travel for more than 4 hours: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/facts.html

  5. Number five [5 ] could be dangerous. One of the problems with any kind of sleeping pill is sleeping to long and getting DVT , deep vein Thrombosis which is a blood clot in the leg veins. There is a real need to get up and stretch to prevent this. This could lead to death!

  6. Each and every point is always on our list whenever we travel.(Thanks to your tips that we have accumulated) Our recent Japan trip employed the tips and worked out very well. Our JAL direct flights from SAN to Tokyo (Narita) and return were 10 1/2 and 9 1/2 hrs respectively. The service and meals were excellent. The attendants are so kind and courteous that chocolates were not even necessary.(lol) All recent movies were provided free and a USB port was available which we used to charge some devices. All of this in the seat backs of our 787. My only gripe is that the leg room was too tight for a long flight. This became quite annoying when the seat in front was placed in recline position. (Grrrr) All of a sudden the video screen was in my face.. I feel there should be a regulation establishing comfortable leg room space for long haul flights-It’s simply inhumane- Thanks again for your great tips..

  7. Long haul flights? If you live in Australia, and want to travel overseas, long haul is the ONLY flight available! Thanks for the tips.

  8. Thanks for the link to travelrest pillow.. just bought one!

  9. My doctor suggested taking 81 mg ASA (baby aspirin) daily starting a couple days before the flight to help prevent DVT. It’s worked for me! With a sleeping pill that 14 hour flight turns into a nap (slight exageration). I notice an empty seat between you and Natalie! Now that is one secret I wish I could have. How do you do that?

  10. F John Herbert | April 1, 2015 at 8:47 pm | Reply

    It would never have occurred to me to give chocolate or other small gift to the flight attendants, but it makes sense — even if I didn’t like them and appreciate their service, which I generally do. I’m going to remember this one.

  11. Save tons of money by buying from $9.99 at Amazon any number of hanging toiletry bags to store your chargers.

  12. My #1 travel accessory is a down pillow. It rolls up compactly, can be used to keep my lap warm if the cabin is freezing, is a back support or a comfortable sleeping pillow. #2 is a collapsable foot rest. I am short, and my feet rarely touch the floor which compromises the circulation in the back of my legs. I can even stretch my legs out to sleep using it, and it is much more comfortable for my back. It has gone on every flight and to every concert with me for the past ten years. Once source is magellan.com ,

  13. this is good basic advice for just about any flight. I have also found that packaging my small electronics (e.g. kindle, ipod, headphones) together in a zipped tote or bag that I can pull out easily from my carry on (in case the overhead is full and I have to either gate check or put my bag way from my seat) is a convenience. And I package my dry snacks that I might want during the flight in a zip lock so I can put that in the seat pocket in front of me without having to fish around for them in a a bag during the flight when I’m buckled in.

  14. This is very good list. Unfotunately I mostly improvise.

    Hovewer lately I pay attention to 2 things during long fligts.

    1) Window seat ( middle seat can really be a nightmare on 9 hour flight).
    2) Blanket and pillow.

    I always fail on charge your phone :) and bring something to read.

    Neno

  15. It doesn’t hurt that the middle seat is open between you in that photo at the top. That makes a huge difference! If I remember I’ll go check what’s open the day before and see if I can switch.

  16. I am going to Australia from DC in next couple of days. I am flying on Ethiad via Abu Dhabi. I have two back to back long flights (over 14 Hours each) with only two hour layover.

    I am nervous, Have you ever taken two long flights back to back? If Yes, what tips do you have for me.

    Thank you and great article.
    Saam

    • I have! You are lucky to be flying Etihad since they have excellent amenities and service. However, if I were you I would try and spend a night in AUH to break up the trip and see a new destination.

  17. Thank you Johnny:

    I took your suggestion and break the trip into two segments. Hopefully I will get to see some sites in Abu Dhabi.

    Regards,

    Saam

  18. great list.i have found this list so effective.thanks for sharing.

  19. Great advice, thanks for sharing

  20. Many people pick up magazines at the airport. Sadly for people with allergies to perfume, pages of those magazines often have perfume samples right on the pages. That perfume gives some of us a headache. Would be great for us sufferers if people could remove their perfumed pages at the airport. PLEASE ???

  21. Saturday, I heard you on the radio with Leo. You were speaking about a Wifi product you liked. I only got the tail end of the conversation with Leo. What is th the product you suggested? It was better than 2 others you mentioned.

  22. Great tips to help survive a long flight! My body temperature when flying always goes up and down so bringing a blanket is one of my very top tips. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Great collection of tips Johnny! Staying up the night before is a great way to increase your chances of sleeping through a long flight.

  24. Noise reduction headphones are good at reducing low and mid frequency sounds, but not high frequencies. If a child or baby is screaming, squealing or crying, these phones will therefore accentuate these high frequency sounds.

  25. Some great tips here, I always make sure I bring a jumper on the plane, the last flight I was on, the temperature on the plane was close to freezing! I was getting cold feet and hands. The blanket alone was not enough and I was so thankful to bring a jumper for my comfort levels.

  26. Hi,

    I have read your tips about long flight, nice information you have shared.

  27. thanks for the tips, it helps me a lot when i go on my trip last month

  28. As someone who travels to the orient every year my long 22 hours of travel have given me the following tips.
    Sleeping pills are never a good idea. Some airline frown on it because it impedes your ability to react in the case of an emergency which can happen anytime during your flight. My Dr. did recommend either tylenol pm or melatonin in mild doses to assist with sleep while not completely knocking you out.
    While I never start my flights being anything but squeaky clean I do know that by the second or third connecting flight I am not at my peak, for this reason I pack shower wipes and a change of underclothes in my carry on. Usually at one of my layovers, if showers are not available I will try to wipe clean and change. This is more for me than anyone else.

  29. Love all your tips! About the travel pillows…I get grossed out (and I’m not a germaphobic) when I see people with them in the airport, often dropping them on the floor, around their roll along or using them in airport chairs (not that airline seats are any cleaner. haha) . I have a little bag (got at the container store) that I keep mine in and it clips on to my roll along. Another suggestion is a ziplock bag. Or just use the blow up kind…not as comfortable but you can put it in your bag easily.
    I also keep my comfy socks in a ziplock and then wash them when I get home and store them back into my roll along.

  30. really great ideas for my first overseas flight to the Philippines !

    • I’m curious how your flight and trip were? I’m flying to cebu city in a week and an curious how the trip went? It is my first flight overseas. I’m kind of nervous.

      Chris

      • Everything was great! You have nothing to worry about. Just think how the flight attendants and pilots make this trip once or twice a week. If they can do it while working, you can while relaxing.

  31. Great tips, love the chocolate idea, but will they really eat them? I would think in this day and age, people would be somewhat nervous about it. lol But great idea anyway. I love the bottled wáter idea, but my flight, airlines which I always take, wont allow any wáter or liquid, even if it is bought after security. At the gate, they have another check and take it away. I hate that but what can you do? Love the bacterial wipe thing, I do it all the time and I also bring a small bottle of face hidrating spray, for when you feel like your face is going to crack from lack of fresh air. Oh and I also bring a small tube of hand cream for the same reason. Thanks for the tips, they were great.

  32. We people have different thinking and natures about different things and subjects. So, obviously we all have different thinking about traveling also. Some people likes long flight journey and they even know how to enjoy the long journey.
    But some people are really get stuck while long flight journey so i think they must try this 15 tips to survive during long flight journey.

  33. Johnny Jet , I reward good services but do not give chocolates just to get attention and good service later, like it seems what is recommended here . I know what you are doing ! Thx

  34. On long flights 6+ hours, I avoid sodium as much as possible so I like to bring an orange. In addition to getting some extra vitamin-C, it helps with morning breath and if you bring an extra one, it’s nice to share with your seat companions. Just be sure you eat it on the plane because most countries won’t let you bring food or water past customs. I also wear socks during the flight but have flip-flops ready for walking around. I do miss the good ole days when I could bring frozen bottle waters with me.

  35. I have been buying the silky $5 animal print sleep mask on Amazon for several years. They are comfortable and take up very little room. You can be a zebra or a leopard!

  36. I always try to bring a frozen water bottle, and have only had it challenged twice. In once case, the agent checked with another agent and I was allowed. In the other case, I was told that it was not all frozen, and I chose not to argue.

  37. I bring slippers – the hotel freebies – to wear when walking around on a long flight. I thrown them away afterward, or when I get to a hotel where I can replace them. I also wear compression socks, the knee high ones. Sometimes I’ll bring an old pillow from home and just chuck it after the flight, or use a pillowcase and stuff it with my fleece or down coat. Lastly I use a drawstring athletic bag with everything I need for the flight to keep me organized. I can pull it out of my carry on and throw it back in at the end of a flight.

  38. I definitely agree with you 6th tip “Don’t forget your eye mask.” My husband does a lot of traveling and he tries to sleep on the plane when he has to take a red eye flight. He doesn’t have an eye mask so maybe I’ll look into getting one for him. That would definitely help him to be able to sleep and block out all of the light.

  39. Many things for personal care while in a long flight; I suggest to bring a lip balm, beside for the lips, smear a little on the tissue and rub it in and around your nostrils, do it privately please, it helps for breathing dry air.

  40. I like your idea to pack a pillow and blanket. I’m hoping to visit some relatives in New Zealand this year, so I’ll have to take my first long flight. I’ve heard there are even seat covers that I could buy to help my flight be more comfortable.

  41. Thank you for all the great tips, i am flying to Australia this coming august, so i can use all the information i can get i also bring my own pillow and eye masks plus special socks, so i am getting ready

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