- 10 tips – how to survive a long flight
- Also read: 15 packing tips that will make your travel amazing
Here are ten tips to survive a long flight including what to eat and pack.
While pleasure travel may not have really opened up everywhere, and even if it has, we are still wary about packing our bags and taking off. However, essential trips are unavoidable. We had hoped to visit our son in the US this year and were looking at tickets, especially with Air France Airlines with the idea of extending our travel to Europe, but there is no sign of the B2 visa interview slots opening up as yet.
Fortunately, our son had a summer break and was able to come home. True the long flights are exhausting with several hours’ layovers, but what to do? In fact, there are three flights, two of which are 14 hours and 5 hours respectively and the last leg is mercifully 3 hours.
We have friends who have been offering us great tips on how to survive these long flights and not feel like a zombie by the time you reach the immigration counter. My son’s first trip to the US was pretty harrowing, as it was during the pandemic but it has taught him a thing or two about survival.
Now let’s talk about how to survive that long flight.
Here are some tips compiled by talking to seasoned travelers and of course, my son, too. Perhaps these will make your flight much pleasanter the next time you have to be up in the air for all those hours. It has certainly made the journey better for us.
10 tips – how to survive a long flight
1. Choose your flight
The first step is to pick a flight. We chose an early Air France Airlines flight. For one thing, your flight is likely to be cleanest at this time. Also, flight attendants recommend booking an early flight as they are almost always on time and the least likely to be delayed. Weather issues usually tend to occur in the afternoons. And let’s not forget the best part – early morning flights are cheaper. Airports are also less crowded in the early morning hours. So, as annoying as it may seem to have to wake up early, it is well worth it. You can always catch up on your sleep on the long flight.
2. Choose your seat
Choosing the right seat is a big deal so that you are as comfortable as possible on the flight. Your choice may vary depending on your habits.
Personally, I prefer a window seat as I can rest my head and look out of the window and enjoy the scenery. Also, I need to get up only when I want to visit the loo. Added perks? No jostling by beverage carts.
However, if you are the sort that likes to get up often, feels anxious on a flight, or needs to visit the loo frequently, an aisle seat might be best for you.
In any case, pick your seat of choice in advance so that you don’t get stuck with something you don’t want.
If turbulence during a flight scares you, pick your seat towards the front half of the plane or the wings that are nearer to the plane’s center of gravity, which tends to be more comfortable.
Of course, it goes without saying that bulkhead seats—where you don’t have space for your carry-on—and seats in front of exit rows—which won’t recline—are best avoided.
While picking your seat, choose your meal options as well. Did you know that all special meal requests are the ones served first on the flight? So, if you want to be served with the first batch, make your choice ahead. Depending on the airline you choose, you’ll have a variety of food options. Check it out online before your flight.
Besides what you eat on the flight, it also matters what you eat before you get on the flight. Digestion is tougher on a flight as you are stuck in a seat for long hours. So try not to overeat. It is a good idea to eat just before you board your flight and stick to healthy snacks on the flight.
If that is not an option, always go for a warm meal rather than cold stuff as warm meals are easier to digest.
Some valuable tips I’ve learned from traveling:
- As attractive as that cup of coffee seems caffeine will not only interfere with sleep but also dehydrate you. Opt for green tea which is also supposed to help deal with jet lag.
- Carbs such as oatmeal and wholegrain foods make it easier to tackle jet lag. The higher insulin levels help to ease the switch from one sleep/eating schedule to another.
- If at all possible, skip onboard meals and snacks and pack your own. Apparently, when we are up in the skies, the dryness and cabin pressure make our taste buds less sensitive to taste. To overcome this, flight foods have extra salt and sugar. As a result, we tend to feel fatigued and bloated after we consume flight food.
- Ensure you drink plenty of water on the flight. Snack on healthy fats such as nuts and trail mix to keep you satisfied.
- Minimize or avoid alcohol intake. While it feels great to enjoy that wine, the truth is that alcohol is a depressant and may actually prevent sleep. It can also make you feel more dehydrated and duller and make jet lag worse when you land. And you definitely do not want to feel sick on a long flight.
- To avoid going hungry on the flight, pack protein-rich snacks that satisfy you and keep you fuller longer. I usually pack roasted almonds, peanut butter, cheese, protein bars, and yogurt.
It is important to remember that long flights dehydrate you and so, drink more water than you are accustomed to. Don’t wait till you are thirsty. Sip water as often as you can. When you feel dehydrated, your energy levels take a hit and so does your skin. Headaches are an unwelcome addition. And if you enjoyed that glass of wine earlier during the flight, that makes it worse. Therefore, drink enough water.
Dress comfortably when you travel – this is something we all know. But on a long flight, it is even more important to ensure that you wear loose clothing.
Also, dress in layers as flights can sometimes turn cold. To maintain a comfortable body temperature, wear layers so you can add or remove them based on changing cabin temperatures. This will make sitting in that economy seat more bearable and help you sleep better. In fact, I always pack an extra set of clothes just in case I need to freshen up, depending on the weather in my destination.
One of my favorite accessories is a large silk scarf, which not only makes a great accessory but also serves multiple purposes—it doubles up as a light blanket or can be rolled up into a back support or a pillow.
And oh, let’s not forget footwear here. Always wear closed-toed shoes or sandals to avoid dirt and debris from getting in. I also find it easier to move around in fully closed shoes. If wearing socks, pack a fresh pair.
If you are at risk for Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which causes leg pain or swelling without symptoms you may want to invest in compression socks which prevent this and keep you comfortable when you have to sit in the same position for hours.
6. Packing for your flight
Of course, I am not going to tell you what to put in your suitcases. But in your carry-on, here are some things that will bring you comfort. As I mentioned before, flights can be dehydrating due to the pressurized air and hardly any humidity.
- Carry a TSA-approved pack of lotion and lip moisturizer.
- To make those long hours a little more comfortable, consider carrying a neck pillow to help you sleep. When you doze off, the sudden jerk to the neck can be quite painful.
- Sitting for all those hours can put a strain on your back, so think about carrying a small pillow that you can cushion your back with. Of course, you can do this by rolling up your jacket and using that too.
- How about an eye patch to keep the light off your eyes and sleep better?
7. Your devices
We can’t do without our devices these days. But can you imagine carrying them and finding they have run out of charge? So here are some things to do to survive a long flight:
- Charge all your devices, as travel can deplete your battery pretty fast.
- Carry a power bank, also fully charged.
- Carry your own noise-canceling headphones to keep the constant sound of the engines out. Not only will this help you listen in peace to whatever you are listening to, but also keep other sounds out. You may want to download some soothing music or meditation tracks to help you relax.
- And while the flight provides entertainment, feel free to carry your own. Add a book you’ve been planning to read for when you have to turn off your electronics, games, your favorite shows, and movies.
8. While on the flight
- Carry your hygiene pouch with toothpaste, deodorant, mouth freshener, moisturizer, etc. Your bathroom break after a few hours can be a good opportunity to freshen up, considering that you will be sitting/eating/drinking and probably sweating in the same seat, in addition to arriving at the airport hours before the flight.
- Avoid wearing too-strong perfumes or deodorants, in consideration of your fellow passengers so that they are not annoyed by the smell.
- As a freelance writer and blogger, I find it soothing to work on a flight through the long distraction-free hours where I can focus on what I am doing. If it suits you, you too may want to carry some work to tackle on the flight.
9. Staying active on the flight
What?! Yes, indeed. Sitting for long hours, even if it is mandatory on a flight, need not always be uncomfortable. There are easy exercises you can do right in your seat to survive a long flight.
- Some simple stretches
- Neck rotations
- Lifting your feet a little and rotating your ankles clockwise and anti-clockwise
- Placing your heels on the floor and pointing your toes up, lifting your heels and pointing your toes down
- Shoulder rotations
– all of this helps. Do what feels most comfortable to you.
10. Finally . . . get enough rest before the flight
On the day before your flight, spend some time walking and stretching as you are going to be sitting for long hours on the flight. There are last-minute things to do, packing, etc., but do ensure that you get enough rest. We all have a tendency to rush around, thinking that we will catch up with our sleep on the flight, but that does not always happen.
Have a pleasant journey!