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How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

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Long-haul flights are a necessary part of exploring the world, but they can also be physically and mentally taxing. And since upgrading to business or first class isn’t always possible budget-wise, it may seem like finding comfort while flying is a lost cause.

Fortunately, with some thoughtful planning and essential tips, you can not only survive but actually enjoy your journey.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to make the most of your long-haul flight experience.

Table of Contents

Choose the Right Seat

Choose the Right Seat

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Selecting the right seat can make or break your long-haul flight. Let’s look at the different benefits of window seats, middle seats, and aisle seats before looking at a few additional tips.

Window Seats

Window seats offer a unique perspective and several advantages during a flight.

Passengers in window seats have a view of the world outside, which can include breathtaking landscapes, cityscapes, and even celestial displays like sunrises or stars at night. This view can be especially captivating during takeoff and landing.

Window seats also provide a solid surface to lean against, making it easier to rest your head or take a nap.

Additionally, you have more control over the window shade, allowing you to adjust the amount of natural light entering your space, which can help with sleep and overall comfort.

Middle Seats

Middle seats are often considered the least desirable option, but they do have some benefits.

One advantage is that you have two armrests, one on each side, which can provide a bit more comfort compared to aisle or window seats, where one armrest is shared.

Being in the middle also means you have easy access to both the aisle and the window passenger, reducing the need to disturb others when you need to get up. It can also be a good option if you’re traveling with a group and want to be closer to your companions.

Aisle Seats

Aisle seats are highly favored by many travelers for several reasons.

One of the primary benefits is easy access to the aisle, allowing you to get up, stretch your legs, or visit the restroom without having to climb over other passengers. This convenience can be especially valuable during long flights.

Aisle seats also offer more freedom to move your legs and reposition yourself without disturbing fellow passengers.

Additionally, if you’re someone who likes to stay hydrated and frequently needs to get water or use the restroom, the aisle seat provides quick and hassle-free access to these amenities.

Additional Tips

  • If you want to avoid the noise of the engines, opt for a seat closer to the front of the cabin.

  • If you are physically able to handle the responsibilities presented by sitting in the emergency row as detailed by your flight crew, I highly recommend sitting there as emergency rows tend to be built with more legroom.

  • Try to sit as far away from bathrooms as you can. The closer you are to the bathroom, the more likely you are to be repeatedly disturbed by the noise of passengers walking to or using the facilities and by any unfortunate smells that may linger.

  • Don’t be afraid to lay your seat back. Some people (myself included!) tend not to recline their seats in case it causes discomfort for passengers sitting behind them. But on long-haul flights, you’re going to be much more uncomfortable if you sit upright the entire time.

    My general rule with laying my own seat back is to wait until the cabin lights dim and I’m sure the person behind me doesn’t have any uncovered drinks that may spill on their tray.

  • Always check seat maps online or use seat selection tools provided by airlines to make an informed choice.

Dress Comfortably

Dress Comfortably

Dressing comfortably for a long-haul flight is a key to ensuring a more pleasant journey.

Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing made of natural fabrics like cotton or linen. And remember that layers are your best friend, as they allow you to adjust to changing cabin temperatures.

Additionally, as cute as they may be, jeans are definitely not your friend on a twelve-hour flight, so opt for stretchy, comfortable leggings, rompers, or sweatpants.

As for footwear, make sure to choose a comfortable pair of shoes you can easily slip on and off for security checks and in-flight comfort, and pair them with compression socks to help with your circulation.

Ultimately, choosing comfort over fashion is the way to go when embarking on a lengthy journey, as it will help you stay relaxed and at ease throughout the flight. And don’t forget to pack a cozy sweater or shawl in your carry-on, as planes can get chilly!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

The dry cabin air can quickly lead to dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the flight to stay hydrated. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, as they can contribute to dehydration.

I usually try to pack an empty, reusable water bottle in my carry-on that I can fill up after going through security, and I definitely recommend it!

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Pack Essentials in Your Carry-On

Pack Essentials in Your Carry-On

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Packing essential items in your carry-on is a smart approach to ensure comfort and preparedness during a long-haul flight.

Your carry-on should include important documents like your passport, boarding pass, and any necessary visas, as well as a copy of your travel itinerary.

Additionally, dedications, a change of clothes, and essential toiletries (including a toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste) are vital in case of unexpected delays or lost luggage. And don’t forget to pack snacks and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.

Entertainment items like electronic devices, headphones, books, and magazines keep you occupied during the flight, and a travel pillow and eye mask can help you rest more comfortably. 

Stay Active

Stay Active

Staying active during a long-haul flight is essential for maintaining comfort and minimizing the potential health risks associated with prolonged sitting. Make an effort to get up and move around the cabin regularly.

Simple in-seat exercises, like ankle circles, knee lifts, or seated leg stretches, can help improve circulation and reduce stiffness. When it’s safe to do so, take short walks up and down the aisle to stretch your legs. Many airlines also provide in-flight exercise videos that you can follow along with on your personal screen.

These small movements and stretches can go a long way in combating the physical toll of extended air travel and help you arrive at your destination feeling more refreshed.

Entertainment and Distractions

Entertainment and Distractions

Entertainment and distractions are your allies in conquering the boredom and restlessness that can creep in during a long-haul flight.

Load up your electronic devices with a variety of entertainment options, such as movies, TV shows, music playlists, or e-books. Alternatively, noise-canceling headphones can provide a peaceful oasis amidst the airplane’s ambient noise.

If you’re not one to rely solely on digital screens, consider bringing a good old-fashioned book or magazine as an alternative source of diversion.

Having a mix of entertainment choices ensures that you can pass the time and keep your mind engaged, making your long journey feel shorter and more enjoyable.

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Time Management

Time Management

airplane window desert travel sunset

Effective time management is crucial when embarking on a long-haul flight.

Start by adjusting your watch or setting your phone to the destination’s time zone as soon as you board the plane. This mental shift can help you prepare for the local time upon arrival and reduce the impact of jet lag.

Plan your activities based on the new time zone, whether it means sleeping when it’s nighttime at your destination or staying awake during daylight hours.

Setting an alarm for key moments, such as meal services or landing preparations, helps you stay on track and manage your time efficiently throughout the flight.

By syncing your internal clock with your destination’s time zone, you can better adapt and maximize your productivity and comfort during the journey.

In-Flight Meals

In-Flight Meals

In-flight meals play a significant role in your comfort and overall experience during a long-haul flight. Opt for lighter, easily digestible options to prevent that heavy, sluggish feeling.

Many airlines offer special meal requests, so consider ordering a vegetarian, low-sodium, or gluten-free option to suit your dietary preferences or restrictions.

Remember to stay hydrated with water or non-alcoholic beverages and limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and heavy, greasy foods, as they can contribute to dehydration and discomfort during the flight.

Finding the right balance between nourishment and comfort is key to making your in-flight meals a part of your enjoyable journey.

Rest and Sleep

Rest and Sleep

Rest and sleep are essential components of surviving a long-haul flight. If you plan to sleep during the journey, bring a comfortable neck pillow and consider using earplugs and an eye mask to create a sleep-friendly environment.

Adjust your seat to a reclined position, loosen your seatbelt, and find a position that allows you to relax your body. Setting an alarm for a reasonable nap duration ensures you wake up in time for meal services or landing preparations.

Remember that the quality of your rest can significantly impact your overall well-being upon arrival, so prioritize sleep as part of your strategy for enduring and enjoying the long-haul flight experience.

Ready to Jump on Your Long-Haul Flight?

Surviving a long-haul flight is not just about enduring the journey; it’s about transforming it into a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

From choosing the right seat and dressing comfortably to staying active, managing your time effectively, and packing essential items in your carry-on, these strategies can help you not only endure but actually make the most of your time in the air.

By implementing these tips, you can arrive at your destination feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to embark on your travel adventures. Long-haul flights may be a necessity for exploring the world, but with the right approach, they can also become a part of the journey worth savoring.

Happy travels!

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