Traveling the world is something that I will never stop doing. My favorite thing about flying is take-off and landing, it’s the in between that’s not so fun. From long layovers, lost luggage, to 10 plus hour flights, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that will help you survive long-haul flights.
Eat Before You Get to the Airport
No one wants a hangry traveler, eat before you head to the airport. Food at the airport can be expensive and unhealthy. This will avoid you breaking the budget like we did when we spent $50 on two ham sandwiches. If you are traveling with a family of four it can get costly really quickly. Spend your money when you arrive at your destination on GREAT food and not airport food. If you have to eat at the airport, try sharing a meal to get you by so you won’t break the budget even before you arrive at your destination.
Pack Your Own Snacks
It’s a good idea to pack one or two protein bars in your daypack/carry-on. This is really helpful when you have a late night layover and all the shops and restaurants are closed. If you get hungry you will always have something to eat. I know because we had a two-hour layover in Korea and nothing was open.
Bring a Comfortable Neck Pillow
This can be a lifesaver on long-haul flights. I don’t like to use the pillow that the airline provides. I’m a germaphobe and I’m not quite sure if the pillow was used by someone else before me. I’ve read a few too many horror stories and would rather avoid it.
Make sure it’s a comfortable neck pillow. My husband packed a neck pillow with those little beans inside and it was the worst decision ever. He was uncomfortable the entire time and the worst part, it was one of those fancy ones you get from Brookstone.
I know this sounds odd, but I have been known to use my neck pillow when I find the pillow at my hostel or Airbnb to be a bit suspect. Again, I’m a bit of a germaphobe.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
What you wear can really make a difference in how you feel on long-haul flights. Skip the skin tight skinny jeans because that will cut off your circulation. Instead, stick to breathable clothing options that you can layer. I recommend bringing a large scarf if possible which can double as a blanket. Temperatures on different flights vary and you want to be prepared. Wearing clothes that you can layer as you go can be quite helpful and make all the difference in your comfort level. We have been on international flights where the air quality wasn’t great and it was sweltering hot for half the flight (it was a 13-hour journey) then freezing cold the other half.
Many people like to take their shoes off on flights and get comfortable. I don’t have any issues with that but hopefully, you are wearing socks. No one wants to see or smell your bare feet next to them. That brings me to another tip, wear wool socks. Let’s face it, sometimes your feet sweat from all the traveling. If you are wearing wool socks it won’t smell as much. You don’t want to be that passenger that takes off your shoes and the whole row knocks out from the horrific smell.
Aisle Seat Hack
If you are sitting in the aisle, you are in luck. Did you know that the armrest can be lifted up? Most travelers don’t know this because the button isn’t on the side like the other armrests, it’s at the bottom. Slide your hand all the way to the back of the bottom of the armrest, you’ll feel a button, push it down, the armrest will lift up. This allows you to stretch out in the aisle.
Pack a Sleeping Mask
Most international flights will have a built-in screen for entertainment in the seat in front of you. This means your fellow travelers will probably be watching movies, listening to music or tracking the flight on their BRIGHT little screens. Catching up on your sleep is important during a flight. This way, it will help you adjust to jet lag and your new time zone a bit better. Packing a sleep mask will help ensure you are not woken up by a bright screen or when someone next to you turns on their seat light to search for something.
Pack Disinfectant Wipes
Airplanes are a cesspool for germs. You should wipe down your armrest, seatbelt, tray table and if you in sitting in the window seat, the area around the window with disinfectant wipes. It’s a small space, control what you can and sanitized as much as possible. You might think I’m crazy but that tray table probably never gets wiped down that well and think about it, it’s the same tray table you will eat your in-flight meal on later.
My husband and I both take Emergen-c before we get on a flight and when we arrive at our destination. The last thing you want is to get sick while you are traveling. Preventing it from the beginning is a must in my book.
Place Your Personal Bag in the Overhead Bin
Legroom real-estate is everything on a long haul flight. Most travelers aren’t in first class where your seat is literally like a mini apartment, we are in economy, like the rest of the world. I know most of us have things we want to keep near-by so we don’t have to get up in the middle of the flight to access the overhead bin, this is what I do before I board the flight. First, I place the small things that I will need during the flight in a small pouch that will fit in the pocket seat in front of me. I wear my neck pillow around my neck, hold the pouch in my hands and when I walk onto the flight all I have to do is place my items in the overhead bin while I take a seat and get settled.
Trust me, being able to stretch your legs under the seat in front of you on a 13-hour flight to Southeast Asia will save you from getting leg cramps later.
Take Off Your Makeup
I used to travel with makeup on but that is SO bad for your skin. The air inside the plane is recycled, therefore will leave you dry and yucky feeling. I totally get it that you want to look presentable while boarding the plane and facing the world but the moment you step on the plane you should take off your makeup. Your skin will feel much better and this will prevent breakouts too. These are my personal favorite as it is also hydrating.
I was on a 13-hour flight and didn’t have any makeup wipes with me. My mascara decided it wanted to give up. My eyes started to get irritated and red and that was no fun at all.
Pack Toothpaste and a Toothbrush
Just because you are on a plane doesn’t mean you should forget about hygiene altogether. If you’ve been snoozing for some time, it probably also means your breath may not be so fresh. Some airlines will provide you with an inflight toothbrush and mini toothpaste but I like to bring my own just in case. Take a moment to use the laboratory and freshen up. It will not only make you feel better the passengers around you will also be thankful.
Drink Plenty of Water
The air in planes is recycled which makes you really dry and thirsty. Stay hydrated. Instead of asking for soda or juice drink water instead. Soda and juice are full of sugar which only makes you more thirsty.
Your skin is going to feel dry and cracked on long-haul flights. If possible, bring a travel size moisturizer with no scent to apply on the flight. Notice how I mention, no scent. Be respectful to your fellow travelers as some people may have allergies or they just don’t really jive well with your strong Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion you got at Bath and Body Works.
Again, it’s a really small airtight environment and strong scents are not recommended.
Get up From Your Seat Every Few Hours to Stretch
As I get older my body tenses up a bit more when I have to sit still for long hours. I don’t know how most people never get up during long flights, it’s not good for you. This may be why your legs and feet swell. Even if you don’t have to get up to go to the laboratory, get up, walk back there and walk back. This allows you to stretch a bit and your body will thank you later.
You will get bored on the plane. If you fly the same airline internationally on several flights during a relatively short period of time, you probably have already watched all the good movies on the first two flights. Download a TV series and binge watch it on the flight or have an arsenal of good music to listen to.
Most international flights will provide you with free headphones. You can use those or bring your own which can be more comfortable. You will also want them during layovers too.
Pack Deodorant / Antiperspirant
We recently had a 28 hour travel day and after 28 hours no one smells nice. Make sure you have deodorant/antiperspirant in your day bag. You will want to freshen up the moment you step off the plane.
Pack an Extra Pair of Undergarments
You never know what might happen and packing an extra pair of undergarments is always a good idea. After a long flight, typically no one smells that great. Being able to have an extra pair of undergarments to change into is always nice. Especially when your flight lands at 5 am and your hotel won’t let you check in until 3 pm. You can always change to feel a bit more fresh while you explore the city and wait for check-in time.
Try to Pack Only a Carry-on
We try to pack as light as possible when traveling, which means carry-on only. This is mostly due to the fact that we don’t want our luggage to get lost since we typically travel to multiple destinations at a time. Whatever you thought you might have needed, you can always pick up when you get to your new destination.
There will be times when you need to check-in your carry on since different airlines have different carry-on restrictions. For example, Singapore Airlines has a weight restriction of only 7kg. After we had traveled to three countries, I picked up a few extras which made my bag a bit too heavy for carry-on. I had to check my bag. When this happens you can always request the attendant place a tag on the bag as “Hot,” when you have several connecting flights. This helps the percentage of your bag arriving at the end destination.
Long haul flights can be exhausting. Hopefully, these tips will help make your next international flight more enjoyable.
Thinking about staying in a Hostel? Read: Hostels | Survival and Packing Tips