Long Haul Flying: Your Survival Guide

Posted 17th Oct 2019
How To Survive A Long Haul Flight

Whether you are a well seasoned traveller or a first timer, there is nothing more daunting than a 10 hour + flight.

I have experienced a few in my time, but by the luck of the draw, on my first solo long haul flight to Belize, I was upgraded to business class - no idea how or why, but I wasn’t about to question it. Whilst this was amazing experience, the fall from those heady heights back to economy hit me hard. Since then, I have had no luck in getting upgrades (not through lack of trying), and I am not yet savvy enough to understand the complexities of points, flyer miles and credit card rewards. However, I did find this article really helpful when I started looking into credit cards and certain benefits. Remember there are lots of travel credit cards out there with many perks way beyond points. Think about what is the right fit for you. 

Before my flight to Bali, I did some more research into how to make a long haul flight bearable, maybe even enjoyable. And I am super happy to say, the research paid off and the flight was indeed enjoyable. 

So I wanted to share with you what I had learnt and practiced so you can enjoy those long haul international flights too and get your trip off to an epic start!

Two Days Before Your Long Distance Flight:

1. Drink plenty of water and get your body into a state of hydration. I drink at least 3 litres of water a day before a long haul flight. 

2. Avoid alcohol! Yup, I am sorry to say it, those pre-flight beers or wine are not going to be your friend on a long haul flight. 

3. Eat clean and healthy! This will prep your body and your gut before you fly. 

4. Up your face cleansing and moisturising routine because the compressed air in the cabin really affects skin hydration. Try a face mask or intensive moisturiser for two days (or 1 week) before you fly. 

5. Get a good night's sleep and keep to a healthy sleep pattern. 

6. Prep your Kindle, Ipad, Ipod and phone - downloading all the movies, music and books you think you will use on the flight.

7. Sort out your travel insurance! I always use World Nomads. I have tried and tested multiple insurers over the years, but these guys always have my back and their insurance policy is jam packed with goodness - covering emergencies, adventure travel and lost baggage - more so than other providers. 

On The Day Of Your Flight:

1. Depending on the time of your flight, wake up nice and early and have a productive morning so you will sleep better on the plane. 

2. Drink at least a litre of water before you fly to make sure you body is fully hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol. 

3. Eat healthy and nutritious food before you fly and pack lots of snacks and water to take with you on the flight. 

4. Download some helpful apps: Maps.me and Trip-it.

-> For Maps.me you can download the maps for the countries, towns and cities you are visiting - but only when you are in WIFI. So if you are going somewhere where the WIFI isn’t good, do it before you fly!

-> Tripit connects with your email and automatically pulls through all of your travel itineraries, terminal and gate information, your confirmation number, duration of your flights and so much more! It also allows you to upload copies of your travel documents in case something happens to them, protected by a secure PIN.   

-> XE Converter is a must when travelling to a country with a different currency. Download it before you set off so you can have some assistance when trying to work out currency conversions on your trip. 

On The Long Haul Flight:

Here are our 10 top tips for how to survive a long haul flight and perhaps even enjoy it a little too. 

1. Pack a Long Haul Flight Survival Kit

The most important piece of advice we can give you is to pack a ‘Flight Survival Kit’.

This includes: Deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, moisturiser, lip balm, hand sanitiser, snacks, chewing gum (helps with your ears as you ascend and descent) and reusable water bottle (go big with 2 litres). Electronics such as Kindle, Ipod, Laptop, battery charger, cables, headphones (and airline adapter). Not forgetting a pen for any documents you need to fill out, your journal, and then the most important accessories of all - travel pillow and some sort of blanket or sarong!

**Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Put all of your toiletries in a clear wallet, bring a carabiner clip with you and clip it to the top lip of the seat back pocket on the seat in front with you - easy to access and no need to keep your hand luggage by your feet, taking up precious room!


2. Wear comfy clothes

Super important when you are travelling long distances. Forget the jeans and forget the shorts. The airplane cabin gets cold! I always opt for leggings, hareem pants or a nice cotton playsuit. And pack layers. I strongly suggest having a jumper and a sarong / blanket with you as well as bringing a pair of comfy warm socks. You can even bring a pair of hotel slippers with you for those all important bathroom breaks. If you suffer from bloating and swelling, invest in a pair of compression socks to help. 


3. Reserve a good seat

The amount of blogs I read pre Bali that said, the best way to deal with a long haul flight is to get an upgrade. I mean, come on. Who actually has £4000 to spend on a seat on the plane (If I did, I wouldn’t have to spend hours researching how to survive on a long haul flight - but where would the fun be in that...) Forget the upgrade if you are on a budget. Instead, here are some tips for long haul flying in economy class:

1. Choose a window seat, where you’ll get more rest as no one will need to get passed you to get out.

2. If you’re going to need to use the WC frequently, choose an aisle seat to make it easier to get there.

3. Avoid the middle seat at all costs.

4. If you want to get some sleep, avoid the front of the plane where the kids and families tend to sit.

5. The rear seats are where you will feel turbulence more.

6. If you did have a little money to invest in your flight, pay a little more for the extra leg room over the Exits. It is worth if for long haul flights - or see our tip below and get it for FREE!

*Go Travel and Talk Top Tip - if you can’t reserve a seat online, get to the airport early and be the first one to check in.  Ask for an Exit row seat (pictured) - you will have much more leg room and a comfier flight! Worse case scenario, there are no seats left and you are stuck with a middle seat (like I was on my way back from Bali) speak to the cabin crew when you board and ask them to notify you if there are any free seats on the plane when everyone has finished boarding!

**We also recommend checking out SeatGuru, a site that helps travellers choose the best seats with the use of aircraft seat maps and seat reviews by actually real life humans who have taken the same flight previously.  

4. Sleep Essentials

With a long haul flight, you are most likely going to need to sleep at some point. But planes can be noisy with everyone on different schedules. I found the following items invaluable on my long haul flight to Bali and I urge you to invest:


Sleeping mask

Blanket or sarong

Comfy socks or compression socks

Travel pillow - I have done SO much research on this and trialed many a travel pillow but this is by far the best! I could actually sleep without getting neck pain or noddy dog syndrome!

Sleeping Aids*

Meditation Apps - downloaded and ready to go (Calm or Breeth are great ones).

*Sleeping aids can really help on a long haul flight. Rather than feeling like you have just gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson, popping a sleeping pill or aid, can really help you feel fresh when you step off your flight. I have used a variety over the years, some have been effective and some haven’t. If you are from the UK you can go to your doctors and ask for something to help with a long haul flight but they will likely say no. You can buy a some stuff from Amazon - Melatonin or try Calms


5. Take your own snacks and plenty of water

I have always had an issue with plane food - I mean, what do they put in it other than salt? I am also a Vegetarian and don’t drink or eat dairy so it can be tough when flying. So in response, I pack ALOT of snacks. Anything from fruit, to breakfast bars to tasty liquorice. I don’t eat nuts but they are also a great snack to take with you. 

Staying hydrated is long haul flying 101. Because you are in a compressed cabin with minimal clean air, your skin and body will be crying out for hydration. To help this, bring lots of water with you. I would say at least 2 litres if not more. If you want to make it a little more interesting, also pack some electrolytes with you to put in your water. They are also great for hydration and your skin whilst flying.  


6. Move around to avoid DVT

Deep vein thrombosis from sitting down on a long haul flight is possible. So our key piece of advice is to get up and move around a little. When you go to the bathroom, why not take 20 minutes instead of 5. Stand up at the back of the plane or take a walk up and down the aisle if you can to keep the blood circulating through your legs and body. You can also do basic DVT prevention exercises like pointing your toes to stretch your calves and drawing the letters of the alphabet with your foot to move your ankles around. 

7. Make use of your Ipad, Ipod orKindle!

If you have used the days before as your perfect prep time, you will have downloaded books, movies and music onto your various devices. I say this, because whilst there is in-flight entertainment on long haul flights, perhaps there is a series you are really into that would pass the time and keep your attention for longer. Or that book you have been dying to read but haven't had the time? Admittedly I am not a Kindle lover - I am a good old fashioned books kinda gal, but in terms of space and weight saving I can see the value in having a Kindle. 

*Make sure you have a fully charged battery charger with you and look into investing into some plane earphone adapters as often the plane headphones aren't very good. 


8. Plan your time

Planning flying time is something I didn’t do initially. I would sleep when I wanted to and watch a movie or three when I felt like it. But now, I calculate my flight time according to my normal pattern. So if you are flying during the day, try not to sleep. But if you are flying overnight, sleep when you would normally to keep your body in a similar routine. Depending on my schedule, I also try and sync my sleeping pattern to the local time of my destination in the days prior to my flight to encourage more sleep on the plane and to be in sync when I arrive. This will not be suitable for you if you are one of those people that can’t sleep on the plane - perhaps more rest prior to flying might be more beneficial for you. 


9. Adjust your watch / phone time

Great tip that worked out really well for me. As soon as you board the plane, set you watch and clocks to the local time of your destination and rest as if you were already there. This may mean that you don’t sleep on your flight or you’ll need to wake yourself up after a few short hours, but it will be worth it in the long run. 

10. Chat to your neighbours

Anyone who knows me, knows I love chatting to strangers - learning about their stories, where they are from, where they are going etc. And boy does it help to pass the time. So if you are on a long haul flight and fancy a chat and the person beside you looks receptive - i.e doesn’t have headphones in, isn’t engrossed in a book or a film, then why not strike up a conversation? You never know what could come of it and some of the most beautiful experiences are those we have with strangers. 

I experienced this first hand on my way to Bali and ended up chatting to my seat neighbour for over 6 hours. It was beautiful. I learnt so much from the conversation and the flight time flew by (pun intended!) In fact we are still in touch and looking to meet up - all from being open to having a conversation with a stranger. 

Long Haul Flying: Final Thoughts

Long haul flying doesn't have to be scary or anxiety inducing. The comfort and enjoyment of long haul flying is all in the planning. So if you follow our top tips for surviving a long distance flight, we have no doubt that the time will whizz by and that you will actually enjoy it.

If you do use our top tips on your next long distance flight, let us know how you get on - tag us in your Instagram stories using @gotravelandtalk or send us an email to contact@gotravelandtalk.com.


Go Travel and Talk founder Cj
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Lover of psychology, nature, animals & adventure.
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