Let’s face it, long haul flights are generally not the most pleasant experience you can have, unless you are fortunate enough to be flying in first or business class. Even then, although you will be more comfortable, you still have jet lag and other things to contend with. Traveling these days is something you have to endure rather than enjoy.
The longest flight I have been on was many years ago when aircraft had shorter ranges than they do today. This meant we stopped for fuel along the way. The flight was from the UK to New Zealand, which took a total of 36 hours! I wish I knew then what I know now.
But don’t despair if you are about to undertake a long flight as there are things you can do to make a long haul flight more bearable. These are my top 10 long haul flight tips to help you survive without feeling like death at the end of your journey.
Choose your seat wisely
Perhaps one of the most important long haul flight tips. Assuming you have a choice, either online when you book or when you check in at the airport, then try to get one of these seat types and positions as they will make a big difference:
Leg room is king
You may have to pay a little extra but get a seat with a little extra leg room is possible. These are often emergency exit rows or rows behind a bulkhead.
Some airlines have a separate cabin area for economy seating with extra leg room which could be called main cabin extra, economy plus or something similar. Extra leg room will be a bonus and make the flight more comfortable, particularly if you are tall like me. As well as giving you more room for your legs it also makes you feel less crammed in.
If you want to get some uninterrupted sleep in coach then getting a seat by a window can have two benefits. Firstly, you can lean against the window area with a travel pillow to get more comfortable. If you normally sleep on your right side then choose the right (starboard) side of the aircraft and the left if you sleep on your left side. Secondly, if you are in a window seat, you will not be disturbed by fellow passengers who want you to move so they can get up to go to the toilet etc.
Whatever you do avoid sitting between two other passengers. If a window seat is not available then choose an aisle seat.
Avoid toilets and galley
Try to choose a row which is away from the toilets and galley. That way you less likely to have people hanging around by your seat in those areas and disturbing you.
Wear comfortable clothes
Perhaps this may sound obvious but it is amazing how many people don’t do it. You see men getting on a 12 hour flight wearing a suit and tie and women in the latest fashions which could be tight fitting and totally unsuitable. Having said that, I don’t mean you should dress like you are about to clear out your basement, as you never know when you might get an upgrade and you are more likely to get one if you look reasonably smart.
Ideally you should be wearing light, loose fitting clothes. Tight clothes will restrict blood flow so are more likely to make you more uncomfortable and fatigued on a long flight as you will be sitting for many hours.
It is also far better to wear a number of thin layers so you can take some off if feeling hot and put some back on if feeling cold, particularly when trying to sleep. Wearing a number of layers is also useful if, for example, you are traveling from a cold climate to a hot one as you can wear less at your destination.
Also try to wear clothes made from natural, breathable fabrics which will help prevent sweating. You may be wearing those clothes for 18-24 hours after all.
Also, think about your feet. Don’t wear shoes that are too tight or pinch your toes. Many people’s feet swell during a long flight so if you wear tight shoes and take them off during the flight you may struggle to get them back on again.
Consider wearing compression socks
Another clothes related issue that can be very important is to give proper consideration to buying and wearing a pair of compression socks.
Sitting for so many hours can severely restrict blood flow to the legs and feet and in severe cases can lead to DVT (deep vein thrombosis) which you definitely want to avoid at all costs.
One of the best ways to help prevent DVT is to wear compression socks which help with blood flow and stop your feet and legs from swelling.
You can read more about them and the socks I recommend in my article. Should I wear compression socks on a long flight?
Travel pillows are essential
Unless you are like a friend of mine, who could sleep standing up on the edge of a cliff, then having a good travel pillow is not a luxury but an essential when flying long haul. There are numerous different types and designs to choose from. Having tried quite a few, the one I find the most comfortable is the BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow. My wife prefers the J-Pillow Travel Pillow. Both are available on Amazon and are quite inexpensive.
Keep yourself hydrated
As tempting as it may be to avail yourself of the aircraft bar trolley as it passes and drink lots of alcohol my advice would be to not drink too much alcohol, or ideally, none at all. Instead drink lots of water as the recycled air in an aircraft cabin is very dry so you will become dehydrated quite quickly. Drinking lots of alcohol might seem like a great way to pass away the boring hours sitting in your seat but it actually speeds up your dehydration. Also, at some stage, you may start to suffer from the effects by having a hangover and that on its won is hardly going to make the flight more enjoyable.
Don’t sit still for too long
Although you don’t have too many options, try to get up every now and again, even if you don’t need to go to the toilet. This will help to get your circulation going and reduce the risk of DVT and swollen feet.
If you don’t do that much then at least do some foot and ankle exercises while you are sitting in your seat. There are normally examples of these exercises in the airline’s inflight magazine or, failing that, you can try these out.
Simple things do make a big difference.
Watch out for Jet Lag
If traveling long distances east to west or west to east then jet lag can be a major problem. It can spoil your first days at your destination until your body adjusts to the new timezone. It is actually normally harder to adjust when traveling west to eat than the other way. Fortunately, there are ways you can reduce its effects which I cover fully in another articles. How to prevent jet lag – my top tips that actually work.
I always find that one of the most annoying and tiring parts of long haul flying is the constant noise. You have the sound of the air rushing past the fuselage, the sound of the engines.
Once I discovered the wonderful world of noise cancelling headphones my life changed when flying for long (and short) periods forever. The added benefit is that you can use them for the onboard entertainment rather than the rubbish headsets the airlines hand out.
I would say that using them is the number one essential of my long haul flight tips.
Noise cancelling headphones are “active” which means they electronically cancel out particular types of noise. This includes engine noise, the air rushing past the aircraft and air conditioning.
They can range in price from as little as $35 to almost $1000 so there is quite a range. You get what you pay for to some extent but only up to a certain level I think.
I have been using a relatively cheap pair for a the last few years after my expensive Sony headphones finally stopped working. I have to say that there is little to choose between them but then I haven’t tried the latest Sony version so they may have improved considerably since my old ones were made. If you feel like treating yourself then you can check them out – Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones.
The ones I currently use are the Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth Headphones. I am really impressed with them as they work really well yet cost less than $100. They are designed for air travel with a carry case and an aircraft in flight entertainment adapter.
You can also buy noise cancelling ear buds but personally I don’t like having things in my ears. If you are ok with it then these TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds are very popular on Amazon.
There is big difference between flying long haul these days compared to some years ago. That is the ability to be entertained on board to help make the time pass a bit quicker. When I flew to New Zealand, on the 36 hour flight I mentioned, all I had to pass the time were books. Nowadays, of course, most airlines provide a good selection of films, music, games etc which is great.
But just to be on the safe side, and particularly if flying on a foreign non-English speaking airline, I always load my tablet or laptop up with whichever films and tv programs I may wish to watch and my phone or mp3 player with music. Even if you don’t need them on the flight, they can help if you have long delays in an airport.
Also, make sure you take your charging cables and perhaps a universal adapter so you can charge them up if you need, assuming the aircraft has charging points. If not then consider buying a portable powerbank to take with you. Check out the Anker PowerCore 20000 on Amazon which I use.
I have now written a complete article about what to take on a long flight to keep you entertained.
Sleeping in a coach/economy seat is not easy, particularly if you are tall. But there are ways to at least make an attempt at sleep possible. This can significantly improve the way you feel at the end of the flight.
These range from keeping warm, keeping your seat belt fastened so the crew won’t disturb you, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, using a travel foot rest, using a sleep mask like this one my wife uses to shut out the light and some of the tips above like travel pillows and noise cancelling headphones/ear buds I have already mentioned above.
Read my full article – How to sleep comfortably in Economy Class – My top tips to find out more.
I hope you find these long haul flight tips and tricks useful. Do you have any others? If so, please put them in the comments below.