A long-haul flight is tough. Whatever capacity you’re flying in – Economy, Business or First Class – being cooped up on an aeroplane for 12+ hours is a wholly unnatural experience and takes a real toll on your body.
I’ve been on countless long-haul flights over the years, and I’ve learned that however much sleep I get on a flight I will never feel rested when I get off. In fact, I will feel like a walking zombie, always.
However, looking back on a recent flight from London to Sydney, I can see that I have now managed to fine-tune my in-flight experience; I know exactly what to bring with me, what to wear and what to eat. And, as 24-hour flights in Economy go, that particular journey wasn’t that bad!
So, if you’re a keen traveller and have a long-haul flight up-ahead, take onboard (pun intended) my best advice and tips. After all, you don’t want the dread of a bad flight to ruin your trip!
10 Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight
1) Carry-On Correctly
You’re going to want to bring a lot onboard with you when you’re flying long-haul. This means that your carry-on bag itself needs to be carefully selected. My advice is to bring a big rucksack, rather than a handbag or tote bag. A rucksack will allow you to carry more, evenly distribute the weight across your back, allow easier access to your belongings and keep your belongings secure.
Also, I find that with a rucksack it is easier and more acceptable to have it under the seat in front of you instead of in the over-head lockers, meaning easier access and less hassle!
2) Bring your own food and stay hydrated
Plane food is notoriously substandard. Personally, I wouldn’t go near it if it wasn’t put on my lap whilst I was bored on a flight. And let’s face it, most of us pass the time by waiting for the next sighting of the food trolley.
My advice is to bring your own food. This may sound hassle-some, due to inflexible airport security regulations that restrict you from travelling with food from outside the airport, but I’ve found it really worthwhile doing a little food shop and stocking up on healthy snacks before heading to your departure gate. Better yet, fill up your stomach with a large warm and nutritious meal from a restaurant in the airport before you board. You will feel energised and prepared for the road (flight path) ahead.
When it comes to choosing your snacks, it can be tricky. You aren’t going to be able to keep a sandwich fresh in your bag until breakfast-time, for example, and chowing down on a tuna-melt panini won’t make you the most popular person with your plane neighbours. So, my solution is to buy a variety of dried snacks.
The snacks I like to bring on a flight include a fruit and nut selection, chips, cereal bars, lollies, etc. I also like to bring a 2l bottle of water and coconut water (full of electrolytes), and aim to steer clear of coffee. This way, I can fill up on food that is a little less bad for you, and you won’t feel as sluggish or as dehydrated.
Plus, if you’re an anxious flyer, munching on your favourite tasty sweet treat will soothe you and make your trip that little bit more bearable.
3) Wear layers
One of the most important pieces of advice I can impart about surviving long plane journeys is about plane attire. You should aim to be as comfortable as possible, and if that means you wear your pyjamas, then all power to you! (I once wore jeans on a 10-hour flight because I didn’t know any better, and needless to say I was beside myself.)
Personally, I like to wear multiple layers of baggy, non-restrictive clothing (to me, this means no underwear. Yes, really). Planes can get very cold but also very stuffy at times, so comfy layers will be able to help you stabilise your body temperature and make your experience better.
4) Take your skincare seriously
Plane air can wreak havoc on your skin. The air-con is seriously drying, and the stale air the circulates isn’t the kindest on your complexion. I always seem to get a new spot by the end of the flight!
I like to pack all of my heavy-duty skincare products in my carry-on (in small pots to adhere to airport security regulations). These include cleansing wipes, a thick moisturiser, a sheet mask, an overnight serum, an eye cream, cooling gel eye pads, lip balm and coconut oil. I find that having a concoction of my favourite skincare products helps to keep my skin in-check.
5) Tackle jet-lag early on
Jet-lag is a horrible thing; flying across time zones can really mess up your body, sometimes for longer than anticipated. And whilst there is no magical cure-all for jet-lag, I have found a something that is helpful in lessening its effect…
My advice is to set your watch time to the time zone you’re heading to, as soon as you get onto a long-haul flight. This will subliminally signal to your brain what time of day you are supposed to be in, and almost trick you into switching your routine and sleeping habits to coincide more harmoniously with that local time. It will also help you to work out what time is best to try and sleep, and what time you should pry those eyelids open.
Like I said, it’s not a cure-all trick, and jet-lag will still hit in some degree, but it’s something that might help a little.
6) Download films and TV shows
Planes are usually very generous with their in-flight entertainment, but don’t count on it to take you through your whole journey. Having your favourite programmes and films to hand can be a great antidote to boredom or anxiety.
For me, I make sure I have the whole Sex and the City box set and all of Harry Potter films (shameful, I know) downloaded onto my laptop. I just find these soothe me as I know them inside out, and the length of either the box set or the HP saga will certainly carry me through the duration of any journey.
7) Buy flight socks
If you’re a frequent flyer, especially a frequent flyer on long-haul flights, you should take flight socks in your carry-on bag. Their health benefits include reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) as they apply gentle pressure to your feet and ankles to help blood flow. You can usually get flight socks at the airport, in pharmacies or online.
8) Take a foam neck pillow
Neck pillows are a saviour for me when I’m on a long-haul flight. Having one with me means I can prop my neck in a comfortable position and sleep more easily. Plus, you can clip them to the outside of your carry-on luggage, freeing up space inside your bag, and they still count as your one-permitted carry-on item.
And if you’re feeling a little luxe or your neck really needs better support, choose a foam neck pillow over a bead-filled pillow – you won’t regret it!
9) Use eyedrops
If, like me, you wear contact lenses, you will find that the dry air on planes dries them out immensely. Even if you don’t wear contacts, you might feel this dry-eye sensation, and that can put a real crimp in your journey.
I always pack some moisturising eye drops and use them sporadically throughout my journey. I find they make my trip more comfortable and mean I don’t feel so groggy when I wake up from a nap.
10) Don’t neglect your dental hygiene
No matter how clean I am on a plane, or how recently I showered before I boarded, I will feel like a grub almost instantly when board. The quickest way for me to feel fresh is to clean my teeth, and so I always carry with me a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste. Most airlines will provide this, but just in case, I like to bring my own.
I brush my teeth before I know I am going to sleep, or after I have woken up from a long nap. This is one of the most important things to getting through a long-haul flight!
So, there you have it! My top 10 tips for surviving a long-haul flight. I hope they can help you on your journeys.
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Or, if you’ve not got a trip planned anytime soon, see my guide on how to survive Sydney in the winter!