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10 tips for Surviving a long-haul flight

Do you have a long-haul flight coming up? What even is a long-haul flight?

Airlines generally consider a short-haul flight to be up to three hours in duration. Medium-haul flights last 3-6 hours; long-haul flights last 6-12 hours and ultra-long-haul flights lasts over 12 hours! To me, anything over 8 or 10 hours is long, no matter how you classify it!

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My next long flight is from Minneapolis to Seoul, a whopping 14.5 hours. And my regular Atlanta to Johannesburg flight lasts 15.5 hours. But airlines are pulling out all the stops. Currently the longest flight is Singapore to New York (19 hours!) with even longer flights in the works.

Even if you’re lucky enough to be up front, that’s a long time to sit in one spot, with limited ability to move around, eat and drink as you normally would, let alone exercise or sleep as usual. You need to have a plan for how to keep yourself safe, as well as sane!

Here are 10 tips for surviving a long-haul flight:

  • First off, pick a good seat. That will, of course, depend on your preferences. Some people prefer a window seat to try to sleep undisturbed. Others prefer an aisle seat so that they can get up as they choose and not bother others (but you will no-doubt be bothered by others). A bulkhead seat will give the tall people more legroom, but it also can be where people congregate to use the restroom. Keep in mind that airlines often put families in the bulkhead, as there are spaces to attach bassinettes, which can mean crying babies. There’s no easy answer, right? I like to check with SeatGuru.com if I’m not sure. It provides all sorts of information about the aircraft layout, seat location, comfort, windows, etc., even reviews of particular seats.
  • Obviously, wear comfy clothes. Gone are the days where people got dressed up for a flight. Consider knit loungewear or yoga pants and tops that are breathable and stretchy. I always bring a scarf or fleece for the flight, as layers are the best bet. Flights can go from freezing to hot in a matter of minutes, and back again.
  • I never go barefoot on a plane but often slip into comfy socks or slippers. You might consider compression socks to keep legs and feet from swelling up.
  • Prepare to sleep, whatever that may mean for you. Melatonin? Maybe. Eye masks, pillows, Noise-canceling headphones… Even bringing toiletries to wash your face and brush your teeth might be a normal night-time routine that will help you drift off. Some people swear by a ‘foot hammock,’ to elevate your legs, though I’ve never tried it.
  • But as much as you need sleep, you also need to move around frequently on long-haul flights. Experts suggest that you get out of your seat and walk around every 2 hours, if possible. If you can’t do that, even moving legs and feet is good. This will help prevent DVTs (deep vein blood clots) which can have dangerous, even deadly consequences.
  • Can’t sleep? There’s a good chance that you’ll have movies to watch, but it’s also a good idea to have a backup. Download podcasts, movies, music or books to have for entertainment. Or even just bring a book or magazine.
  • Be sure to fully charge all your electronics before you leave home and have those power cords on the flight within reach. I often bring a backup charger, in case I run down my phone battery and there’s nowhere to plug in, or the plug-in isn’t functioning. Don’t forget your earbuds and bluetooth adapter, too.
  • Stay hydrated on the flight. This means drinking plenty of plain old water, avoiding the alcohol, which is dehydrating (and disturbs sleep, anyways), and having hand and face lotion and lip balm with you. Occasionally flight attendants bring around water, but it’s a good idea to have a water bottle to bring with you. I know, that means more trips to the bathroom, which is a nuisance, but think of it as helping you get your movement in every 2 hours. Consider wearing glasses instead of contacts, as eyes tend to dry out, and you wouldn’t want to fall asleep with them in place, either.
  • Along with water, plan to bring snacks on the flight. We all love the Biscoff cookies, but you may need something more substantial and/or healthy. Items like cereal bars or protein bars, nuts, small sandwiches, or dried fruit might help when there’s nothing available. Just be careful about bringing fresh fruit and/or meat on the plane, as you often can’t take it off the plane if you don’t finish it. (I’ve even had packaged, dried meat that I purchased at an airport for a gift confiscated at US customs)
  • Finally, you might opt to pass the time by being productive on the plane (something I always think will happen, but never does!). You essentially have a good chunk of time, potentially without distracting phones or emails. Now is the time to finish that report, prepare for an event, or organize your thoughts.

If all else fails, and you simply can’t bare the thought of 10-12-15 hours on a plane, don’t! Plan an itinerary with more stops and schedule at least a 2-3 hour layover. Heck, some foreign airlines even work that into your booking, allowing you to stop over in certain cities for a day or two, even paying your hotel bill! Barring that, stop at a lounge in the airport. You may have access through your airline status or credit card, or simply purchase a pass! Even a couple hours to relax in a lounge can work wonders for breaking up a long flight and getting you to your destination in good shape.

You may find this post helpful, too, with helps to beat jet lag!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases and this post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission should you chose to make a purchase using my link.

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