One of the most common reasons people choose not to visit their dream destinations is because they do not believe they can handle the long-haul flight. Australia may be beautiful, but the 22-hour flight from New York is not. You should never let a long, uncomfortable journey stop you from checking off your travel bucket list; there are many ways to make it comfortable! I compiled this list of tips on how to survive a long-haul flight to elevate your experience (no pun intended).

Wear Comfortable Clothes

Picture of clothes hanging in a closet. It is important to choose comfortable clothes before a long-haul flight.

Wearing comfortable clothes is probably the most crucial step toward surviving your long-haul flight. Nothing is worse than being stuck in tight jeans with no way out. The tank top you want to wear may look great, but it won’t feel great when you are cold for 12 hours straight. It is understandable to want to dress your best if you have activities planned after landing, but I suggest bringing a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. I recommend wearing a short-sleeved shirt, a light jacket/sweatshirt, your most comfortable pants, and sneakers on every flight you take.

Bring a Blanket, Sleep Mask, Earplugs, and Neck Pillow

Picture of blankets, which should be brought on a long-haul flight to stay warm and comfortable.

It is essential to get some sleep to avoid jetlag after certain flights. Between the cold air, the neck pain, the ambient light, and the noisy children, this sometimes seems impossible (unless you come prepared, of course). I highly recommend bringing a blanket, sleep mask, earplugs, and a neck pillow. If you are worried a neck pillow will be too much to carry, consider investing in a blow-up one.

Sometimes, blankets may be provided by the airline; however, I would not rely on this. On one of my long-haul flights, the blankets were reserved for First Class; on a different flight, they ran out of blankets before they got to me. Even when I get a blanket, they usually are too thin to make a difference. These experiences scared me into bringing a blanket on every long-haul flight; I will never forget one again!

Bring Lumbar Support

Picture of a man with back pain, which is a common occurrence on long-haul flights if you do not come prepared.

Despite what airlines may say, airplane seats are not designed for comfort. Their shape is terrible for your back and neck; your spine will not be able to rest in its natural form. As someone with chronic back pain, this is something I dread every time I get on a flight. To ease the pain, bring something to wedge behind your lower back; a pillow, jacket, or blanket should do the trick. Your spine will thank you.

Choose Your Seat Wisely

Picture of seats on a plane. The secret to surviving a long-haul flight is choosing the right seat for you.

Choosing the right seat is essential for a comfortable flight experience, and it is primarily how I survive my long-haul flights. The seat you choose depends on what is important to you. Exit row seats are best if you want extra leg room. Choose a window seat far from the bathrooms and cabin crew areas if you intend to sleep. A seat over the wing is best for avoiding turbulence, and a seat in the front of the plane is best for noise reduction.

I always choose the aisle seat; I like being able to get up whenever I want without disturbing anyone. An argument against this seating choice is that people must disturb me when they want to get up. Moral of the story: choose your seat wisely!

Bring Snacks

Picture of snacks. To survive a long-haul flight, you will need snacks.

I don’t know about you, but I eat when bored. Flights are boring, so I am pretty hungry the entire time. Waiting for the flight attendant to come around with snacks can be brutal. To make matters worse, you may not like the snack offerings, and they sometimes run out of certain snacks (gasp). On a long-haul flight, you need to be able to give your body what it needs when it needs it; that is why it is essential to bring your own snacks.

Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones

Picture of a girl listening to music using headphones. Headphones are important to bring on a long-haul flight.

Although many airlines provide headphones during the flight, they are not of good quality. The sound of your movie may be muffled, and you’ll probably have to crank the volume up pretty high even to make out what the actors are saying. On a long flight, you’ll want to distract yourself and immerse your mind in a movie or music; this is quite difficult when your headphones are inadequate.

Investing in a good pair of headphones was one of my best decisions. My fiancé claimed he had the best flight experience a while back because he bought a nice pair of noise cancellation headphones. Being the skeptic I am, I had to try it to believe it. Sure enough, he was right; it made a world of difference. Not only was the audio clear and, well, audible, but it also drowned out the noise from other passengers (screaming babies included).

Bring a Small Personal Item

Legroom is hard to come by on a plane. To make matters worse, your personal item takes up much of that precious real estate. Do your legs a favor and bring the smallest personal item possible; I recommend not bringing one at all (although this is easier said than done). You will not be able to walk around as much as your body requires, so having space to stretch out during a long-haul flight is so important.

Skincare is Self-Care

The stale air on a plane can make you feel pretty gross, and you’ll wish you could freshen up. Speaking from personal experience, my face gets very oily on long-haul flights, which leads to acne (and overall discomfort). I do two things to combat this. First off, do not wear makeup; let your pores breathe. Secondly, I highly recommend bringing face wipes. I use Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes, but many other options exist. Wiping my face is an automatic pick-me-up when I start feeling gross.

Download Movies and Music in Advance

Picture of a phone with Spotify, which is an app you can use to download music for your long-haul flight.

Picture this: you board your long-haul flight, expecting to watch many movies, but your plane does not have video monitors. You are stuck staring at the back of the seat in front of you for hours, bored out of your mind. You may think that, nowadays, most airlines offer many digital entertainment options; the key word there is “most”. The truth is, even some of the major airlines have not updated all of their planes. I was recently stuck on a long-haul flight without video monitors and did not enjoy myself. Even if your aircraft has digital entertainment options, you may not be pleased with the selection or eventually run out of interesting things to watch/listen to. I highly recommend downloading your own movies and music in advance; the secret to surviving a long-haul flight is preparing for the worst-case scenario.

Wear Compression Socks

Sitting for an extended period is not good for your circulation; it is essential to keep the blood moving. However, on a long-haul flight, you do not have the option to walk around as much as your body needs. Wearing compression socks will increase blood circulation and prevent swelling of the feet and calves, which is a common problem on long-haul flights. This is how I survive a long-haul flight…literally.

Bring Treats for Flight Attendants

Picture of candy, which can be given to flight attendants during a long-haul flight to ensure a pleasant experience.

Some people gift their flight attendants to show their appreciation, while others do this to try to get free upgrades or preferential treatment. No matter what your motivation may be, your flight attendants will appreciate it. It will smoothen the long flight experience for you and the flight crew. Flight attendants will generally accept anything that is packaged and has not been tampered with; candy is a popular gift.

Hydrate!

Do your throat and skin ever feel dry during a flight? Airplanes have very low humidity levels, which causes dehydration. Drinking water is one of the many ways I survive long-haul flights. Many people do not drink water on the plane to avoid going to the bathroom and disturbing their seat neighbors (I am also guilty of this), but it leaves them feeling pretty gross. Drinking water in the sky is even more important than drinking it on land; it will also help make jetlag a little more manageable!

It is also essential to keep your alcohol intake at a minimum to stay hydrated. Alcohol causes excessive urination and, in turn, causes dehydration. In addition, it stimulates the body before depressing it, so you may not be able to sleep. As you’d imagine, alcohol does you no favors in terms of jetlag.

This might go without saying but sitting in First Class definitely makes a long-haul flight more comfortable (although it is much more expensive). It is often how I survive a long-haul flight, but it is not for everyone. To find out whether Delta’s First Class is worth the money, check out my blog post here.

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How do you plan to survive your long-haul flight? Contact me or let me know in the comments!

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