Air Travel

How to Survive a Long Flight

I don’t believe anyone in this world genuinely likes long flights. For those of you who do, I really don’t understand why. Being confined to a seat for 10-plus hours is enough to drive me crazy sometimes. I tolerate it because I absolutely love to travel, but I do not enjoy the long flights.

Over the years, I have come to understand that enjoying long flights and learning to cope with long flights are two completely different things. We can learn to make long flights more tolerable without actually enjoying them.

In a perfect world, we’d all fly in the luxury and comfort of first-class. And if you have the means to do so, then you’re probably all set. However, for the rest of us, we need to do a little extra planning and preparation to make sure that we can survive those really long flights.

That’s where this article comes in. I am going to fill you in on some of the most important tips and tricks we have learned over the years for surviving those really long and painful flights. If you follow these tips, you can make your next long flight much less unpleasant.

Seat Location is Paramount

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When trying to survive a long-haul flight, it is essential to pick the right seat. The right seat can mean the difference between a comfortable flight and hours of discomfort and frustration. There are several factors that go into picking the right seat location, but the most important factor is the location in your row.

You should always try and get an isle seat if possible. Even if you don’t normally like sitting in the isle, an isle seat will be your best friend on a long flight. Odds are that you are going to need to get out of your seat more than a few times during the flight, and it is much easier to do when you are sitting on the isle. Below are some other ways in which you can make sure that you are seated in the optimal location for the flight.

Check-In Early

It should go without saying, but one of the best things you can do to make sure that you are seated where you would like to be is to check-in for your flight early. With some airlines, you are able to choose your seat location at the time you make your reservation. However, this is becoming increasingly rare with certain fare classes for more-and-more airlines.

If you are able to snag the seat that you want when you make your reservation, then we strongly recommend that you do that. However, if you aren’t able to reserve your seat when you book your flight, it will be very important for you to check-in for your flight early. The earlier you check-in, the better chance you have of getting that coveted isle seat.

Don’t Sit By Restrooms

If you want to have any chance of sleeping on the flight, we would strongly suggest selecting a seat that isn’t near a restroom. It may sound convenient to have the restroom by you, but the restrooms are high traffic areas and traffic means noise. If you end up sitting by a bathroom, be prepared to have a constant flow of people walking past you, as well as the bathroom door opening and shutting repeatedly. Besides, having to walk a ways to a bathroom will allow you to stretch your legs after sitting stationary for hours.

Pay For Premium Economy

Most airlines charge for their premium economy seats, so you will usually need to pay extra to reserve one of these seats. Sometimes you can pay an up-charge after booking your ticket to get one of these seats, but sometimes airlines include these seats in a separate fare class that you need to choose at the time of booking. In this case, changing fare classes could mean cancelling and re-booking your ticket.

However, premium economy seats usually include more leg room, dedicated overhead space, and other perks that can make the extra cost more than worth it. When booking your airfare, we would strongly recommend comparing the cost of premium economy to that of basic economy before booking. Depending on demand, sometimes you can snag a premium economy seat at a pretty reasonable rate. You can also consider redeeming airline miles to upgrade your seats to premium economy. Depending on the length of your flight, it might be a great value for those miles.

Comfort is King

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If you are going to have any chance of surviving a long-haul flight in a pleasant mood, you have to be comfortable on the flight. In that sense, comfort is king. Of course, no one is going to be completely comfortable confined to a seat for hours on end, but you can make sure you are as comfortable as possible. The following are some tips to help you make sure you are as comfortable as possible on your next long flight.

Wear comfortable clothes

None of us what to look like a slob in public, and we aren’t suggesting that you do that. However, if you want to be comfortable on a long flight, comfort has to be a factor in the clothing you wear. That doesn’t mean you have to wear your favorite beat up sweatpants and hoodie, but if you are planning to wear dress pants and a dress shirt, I hope they are super comfortable. The key is to find that balance between looking presentable and feeling comfortable.

Bring Necessary Sleep Gear

If you want to feel rested after a long-haul flight, you are probably going to want to try and get some sleep on the flight. I know, it is easier said then done when you are confined to a small seat on a noisy plane. That is why it is important to be prepared with all of the necessary sleep gear when you board the plane.

Some great things that you can bring with you to make getting some sleep a little bit easier include a sleep mask, a comfortable pillow, a travel blanket, some noise cancelling headphones, and some melatonin.

A comfortable pillow and blanket will help you get as comfortable as possible, which should make sleeping a bit easier. Don’t rely on using the ones the airline provides, as their pillows and blankets typically leave a lot to be desired.

A good sleep mask and some noise cancelling headphones will help block out any unwanted distractions, such as light or noise from your neighbors. You’ll be really glad you brought some noise cancelling headphones if the plane gets especially noisy.

The Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. You can find Melatonin supplement pills at any drug store. Those pills will help your body with sleep regulation and should make getting some sleep much easier.

Have Your Carry-On Organized

Chances are, you are going to need to get into your carry-on bag at least a few times during a long flight. Yet another reason why isle seats are ideal for long flights is that they give you easy access to the overhead compartments.

That said, easy access isn’t all that you’ll want to have. You’ll also want to make sure that you can quickly and easily find what you are looking for in your carry-on bag. This can eliminate any unnecessary stress during your flight.

The easiest way to make sure your carry-on is organized is to not over-pack your bag.  Not only is an overstuffed bag a drag to have to lug around with you, but it can make finding something when you need it difficult. Feel free to use our Guide to Packing Your Carry-On Bag checklist to assist you in packing your carry-on bag.

Load Your Tablet with Movies

A great way to make the time seem to pass faster on a long flight is to have a boat load of great movies at your disposal. Now, most airlines do include in-air entertainment on long flights (if not most flights) these days, but you are rolling the dice with the movie selection.

We always like to have a bunch of movies available on our tablets just in case we don’t like the airline’s movie selection or there is an issue with the in-flight entertainment (which has happened to us). Throw in a pair of noise cancelling headphones and you can escape to your own little world to pass the time.

Make Your Health a Priority

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An often overlooked, but critically important, factor in getting thru a long flight without feeling exhausted is your health. If you don’t take care of your body’s needs, your body is going to tell you it isn’t happy about that. The following tips can assist you in making sure that you are doing everything you can to take care of your body while on a long flight.

Stay Hydrated

One of the best ways to make sure your body is taken care of is to make sure you stay hydrated. Airplanes are notorious for causing dehydration, and getting dehydrated on a long flight can lead to discomfort and prevent you from getting adequate rest.

In order to make sure you stay hydrated, you should drink plenty of water during your flight. I know, the more liquid you drink, the more you will need to use the restroom. Again, that’s where the importance of the isle seat comes in.

In order to make sure you get enough water, we suggest that you bring your own water bottle. If you ask a flight attendant, they should have no problem filling it up for you. And go easy on the alcohol and caffeine. Both caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate you, so you want to stay away from them as much as possible.

Get Plenty of Rest the Night Before

There are a lot of opinions out there on how you should adjust your sleep before a trip over multiple time zones. Some people say you should adjust your sleep patterns before you leave so that you are less jet-lagged when you arrive.  In our experience, this has just left us even more tired when we arrived because we didn’t get adequate sleep in the days leading up to the trip.

Instead, we recommend that you get a really good night’s rest the day before you leave.  That way, your body is fully rested and more prepared to deal with the stresses of travel.  There is nothing worse than being overly tired on a plane and yet still unable to sleep.  That’s when lack of attention can lead to mistakes or lost items.  So get some good rest before your trip.

Stretch Often

Sitting in a small chair for hours on-end during a long flight is not just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous.  If you don’t take care of yourself on a flight, there is a risk you can develop blood clots, in a condition known as deep vein thrombosis.  Deep vein thrombosis usually occurs in your legs, which just-so-happens to be the extremities you aren’t able to move much while on a long flight.

One way in which you can combat deep vein thrombosis is to wear compression socks.  Compression socks will help with your leg circulation and prevent blood clotting.  We have invested in compression socks and always wear them on long flights.

Another way in which you can combat blood clotting while on a long flight, and make yourself feel better in general, is to do some periodic stretching.  Light stretching will help with blood circulation and muscle cramping.  Some airlines have even gone so far as to offer yoga tutorials for their passengers.  If you aren’t comfortable doing yoga or stretching on a plane, even getting up periodically to walk to the bathroom (an added benefit of not sitting by them) can do wonders.

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7 replies »

  1. I do almost everything you mentioned, and – as long as I have an aisle seat – I actually love long-haul flights. Guess I’m a weird person! 😀 but I enjoy the feeling of being up in the air, unreachable to anybody, with a bunch of strangers, for many hours. When I say it like this, it does sound weird, but what I like is that after a long-haul flight those “strangers” don’t seem strangers anymore. I feel a connection to my fellow travellers as we spent so many hours up there together. I also love having the time to watch movies, play games, etc…

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