10 Ways to Survive Long-Haul Flights


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Truthfully, I have a love/hate relationship with flying. My Dad was actually a pilot and flight instructor for his entire career, but interesting my mom hates to fly! These days I’m not super keen on the actual flight part of travel, but my apprehension is still trumped by the exhilaration I feel when landing in a new city or destination, so I keep going! Maybe you actually love flying, if you do, hats off to you! Unless you’re in first class (lucky you), it’s usually just about surviving. However, it doesn’t have to be miserable. I was so anxious about our 13 hour flight from LAX to Auckland, New Zealand last November. I’ve done a flight this distance before, but it had been a several years since I was on one quite this long!

Here are my ten favorite tips for surviving a long haul flight! This is what works well for me, but everyone is different. Consult with your doctor or a medical professional.

1. Prepare

I try to make sure I eat a healthy meal, get a good night’s sleep the night before a long flight (which is hard because I’m usually so excited). Having a checklist of things I need to do before leaving helps me stay organized and stress free! This is actually really helpful to start your journey! I am admittedly not a very organized person, but when it comes to travel and planning ahead I have become the queen of making lists and it helps me so much!

2. Hydrate

The level of humidity on a plane is less than 20%. We’re usually comfortable above 30% humidity. I always travel with a reusable water bottle (love my hydroflask or camelbak) and fill it up before the flight. This way I’m not waiting until they start the food and drink service. It helps feel better during your flight and can also help alleviate jet-lag!

What about alcohol? Everyone’s different, I personally can’t handle much. I’ll get an awful headache (one glass is more dehydrating than on the ground). This is also important to help you feel better when you land. If it helps you relax or go to sleep that’s great, just remember you need to drink even more water if you’d indulged in a little.

3. Don’t overeat/bring your own snacks

I’ve actually found eating less helps me feel much better especially on long flights. If you bring your own snacks, I would recommend a trail mix, raw almonds, or healthy snack bars (Kind bars and Lara Bars are my fave) or snack box with fruit and cheese. I also try to refrain from carbonated or bubbly drinks. It can upset your stomach if you’re prone to an upset stomach. Avoid excess carbohydrates and sugary snacks.  This can be challenging because your options are so limited.  It's tempting to eat more because you're bored and you're thinking, what else is there to do? Personally, eating light helps me so much! It also helps me feel less bloated after flying.

4. Night Time Routine

There’s a good chance you’ll be flying through the night on these long haul flights! Give your eyes a break from those screens, because it disturbs your sleep cycle.  So if you're really trying to catch some zzz's you need to turn off the movie or your tablet. 

I have a really hard time sleeping on planes, but the past few flights I've gotten more sleep than I ever have.   The difference?  I made a genuine effort to sleep.  I went through my bedtime routine (washed face, took out contacts, moisturized my face).  Give it time, close your eyes, relax, breathe.  I used to get frustrated after 3 minutes and give up! You're body needs more time to fall asleep in these weird conditions, not looking at the screens for several minutes will increase your chances of catching some z's.  

I’ve found making a really relaxing playlist helps me calm down to get ready to sleep. If you have a moisturizer you use every night at home, bring it with you for the flight! The familiar smell will put you in the mindset that it’s time to sleep.

5. get up and Move (when You’re not sleeping)

When you’re not sleeping (that's ok) get up and move around! I like to stand and do calf raises or some stretches in the bulk head areas.  Sometimes I’ll just stand for several minutes and massage my stomach. I get really antsy (someone who us used to standing and moving around all day) so this most difficult thing for me.  If I can, I choose an aisle seat so I can get out of my seat easily without bothering the person (usually my husband) next to me.   I'll just stand for a few minutes near the galley just to stretch my legs a little bit.  Movement helps get the blood flowing helps prevent blood clots.

6. Compression Socks

Speaking of preventing blood clots and DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)…We all know planes make us swell and bloat. Compression socks help reduce the risk dramatically and you will feel much better at the end of your flight!  Seriously, pack these if you know you have a long flight (greater than 4 hours you should really be wearing them). After one of our long flights last year, Rob noticed that he had trouble getting his shoes back on after the flight and I had no trouble at all. Guess who wore compression socks? Yep, me. Now he always brings them for extra long flight.  

7. Emergen-C/Airbourne and Hand sanitizer

Planes are the perfect place for catching germs.  I always bring Emergen-C or Airbourne.   Travel is unpredictable, so I like to bring these for back up.  If can give your immune system a little extra fighting power it's worth it! I usually take one with my first meal on the flight! If you travel very frequently a probiotic is another way to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Now we know a lot more about the digestive system health, which is critical to immune system.

8.  Comfort over fashion

Everyone has tons of advice on what to wear on flights. Leggings! No leggings! Loose pants! It may take some experimenting for you. That’s the secret! Find what works best for you. Layers are essential for me. Usually, I’m pretty cold on planes, but you never know! I usually wear a soft cotton t-shirt, a light long sleeve shirt and I’ll have an extra sweater or hoodie in my carryon. You can always take add or take away layers. I love a soft pair of leggings. Not too tight, and honestly I usually try to pack some older ones, they are a little more stretched out and comfortable! Also wear comfortable shoes. I love my Asics Kunun-Knit and Allbirds because they’re lightweight and breathable, and easy to slip on and off!

 9.  Noise canceling headphone and ear plugs

I can’t tell you how important these two items are to have with you. I love my Bose quiet comfort headphones and I still think they hold the crown for noise-canceling. I’ve had them for a few years now and they are fantastic. Earplugs come in handy when it’s time to sleep (or if there’s a baby crying)! Ear plugs plus the noise-cancelling headphones= Game-changer!

10. entertainment

This one is kinda of obvious! If you’re anxious about flying, these can really help! Books, movies, music, and podcasts. I have a few playlists that I love to listen to pre-flight and during take-off. It really helps me relax and stay calm. I always load my Kindle up with good books and download some podcasts. It’s good to have options if you really can’t sleep. I personally love to watching something funny and lighthearted— to those that know me, that’s no surprise! Or I love a really engaging mystery novel that keeps my focus!

My checklist of essentials for a long haul flight:

  • EyeShade- you might get one on board, BUT I like a really nice soft one that feels good on your face and cuts down on the extra light.

  • Lotion/Moisturizer/lip balm- I have a separate little bag that I keep readily accessible

  • Face Wipes

  • Headphones- with extra batteries

  • Kindle or iPad

  • Compression Socks- Recently gave my husband Comrad socks (he really likes them)!

  • Snacks

  • Emergen-C, Advil, and Pepto Bismol to ease your stomach

  • Neck Pillow- now some of the planes have these built in to the seats, because let me tell you I HATE packing and carrying extra things I only use for flight.

  • Face Mist

  • Hand Sanitizer

    A few other helpful tips:

  • If you have another short connecting flight, I like to set aside a fresh change clothes that’s easy to access so I can do a quick change before the next leg. I’ll usually keep a small pouch with face mist, tinted moisturizer with SPF, and lip gloss so I can quickly freshen up!

  • Before leaving for any trip go through a checklist of the most important items when leaving your place and when you arrive at the airport: ID or passport, wallet, etc!

  • If taking Uber or other ride share service, all I have out is my phone. This reduces the risk for leaving something behind!

    There you have it! Hope these help you prepare for your next long-haul flight. Do you have any other tips that help you on long flights?

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    Until next time! Happy traveling!