7 Tips for Surviving Long Flights

02.24.23 by Travelex Insurance
Image credit: Getty Images

You’re excited about you upcoming big trip, but the thought of spending a full day on an airplane with a bunch of strangers isn't very appealing. How do you survive it?

We're here to help. Read on for pro tips on how to prepare, how to pass the time, and what to take to make your long flight more pleasant.

1. Reserve a good seat

Book tickets early to claim the best seat. Think about what’s most important to you — is it being on the aisle so you can escape to the bathroom quicker, next to the window so you can lean and sleep, tucked in the back of the plane, ample leg room? The better international airlines offer seat widths of more than 17 inches, so do your research and book accordingly.

If you have airline miles coming, use them to upgrade. If not, consider splurging a bit on Premium Economy or Business Class which offers more legroom, wider seats and priority check-in. If you’re the gambling type, try upgrading to business class when you check in at the airport. If the gate agent isn’t swamped 15 minutes prior to boarding, ask them if there are any open seats you could take. Certain airline apps will show a seat map in real time, so if you have that information, ask for the actual seat by number. It doesn’t hurt to try.

2. Get in the mood

Prepare yourself mentally and physically. You’ll be seated for long periods on the plane, so what can you do to get in the mood?

  • Check in early to avoid unnecessary stress at the airport. Arrive early so you’re not stressing over long TSA lines or finding your gate.
  • Reduce stress before you arrive and before boarding the plane. Have a nice meal, walk around, check out the airport shops and amenities or treat yourself to a relaxing spa treatment.
  • Determine to be kind to yourself, graceful to others and friendly to flight attendants. Practice airplane etiquette and everyone wins.

3. Prepare for jetlag ahead of time

If spending the first few days of your trip trying to stay awake isn’t your cup of tea, try the following:

  • Try adjusting your sleeping patterns days in advance.
  • Be well rested before you fly. Staying awake the entire night before your flight just doesn’t work.
  • Book your flight so that it arrives during the day.
  • Make the most of your stopovers. There are some pretty cool things to experience during layovers these days!
  • When you get on the plane, adjust your watch to acclimate yourself to the new time zone.

4. Wear comfortable clothes

If you’re going to be stuck on a plane for hours on end, do yourself a favor and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You don’t have to impress anyone (FYI: dressing up isn’t likely to get you an upgrade these days) and you’ll be much happier 10 hours from take-off. Think layers in case it’s hot or cold during your flight. So go ahead, pack a pair of travel slippers and get your comfy on.

5. DON’T overpack; DO bring long-haul essentials

Avoid the annoyance of reaching over people to get into the overhead bin. Keep these items in a bag you can keep by your seat:

  • A comfy lightweight blanket.
  • A good travel pillow and eye mask.
  • Noise-canceling headphones or ear plugs.
  • Travel size moisturizer for hands and lips, tissue, hand sanitizer, pain reliever, gum/mints.
  • Basic toiletries:  travel toothbrush/paste, deodorant and even a fresh shirt and socks.
  • Heathy snacks and a water bottle. For tips, see our guidelines for taking food on a plane.
  • Your digital devices and chargers — don’t forget to fully charge them before you go.

6. Remember your health

Compression socks are a must on long flights .They even come in fun designs now, so there’s no good reason to skip them. Stretch often to avoid DVT (deep-vein thrombosis) by getting up and walking the cabin and stretching in your seat. Move around to keep the blood flowing. Stretch your 5 minute bathroom break into 20 minutes and do basic DVT-prevention exercises:  pointing your toes to stretch your calves, drawing the letters of the alphabet with your feet to stretch your ankles. Hydrate throughout your trip. Brush your teeth and freshen up a time or two while in flight. You’ll feel better.

7. Relax

Plan ahead for stuff to do while seated. You’ll be much happier if you’re not relying on one magazine to keep you entertained! Remember to load music, podcasts, movies and/or books on your device in advance so they’re ready to go. While international flights usually have in-flight entertainment, you never know when it may not work. Sleep, listen to music, watch a movie, lose yourself in a good book, meditate, catch up on busy work, draw, write… whatever relaxes you and puts you in a good mood. Go ahead and have a glass of wine if you like, but don’t overdo it. Alcohol is dehydrating and too much isn’t good for anyone.

Long flights can be daunting, but they don’t have to be miserable. With some planning, you can make the most out of your long-haul flight. You don’t have to merely survive it, but rather make it your goal to arrive in a peaceful frame of mind. Your flight is part of your travel journey — plan to enjoy it!    

Want to protect your upcoming trip? Get a travel insurance quote now.

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