Oh, those long-haul flights!

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, long distance air travel is sometimes necessary in order to fulfill your true wanderlust and embark on that dream trip.

Once you get that plane ticket, it is time to start preparing.

Essential to any plane ride is having the most comfortable experience possible, and unless you opt for first class, long haul flights can be a drag!

This guide will show you how to make the most out of your epic journey in the air.

The window of an airplane as a travel tip for long flights

Our Long Flight Top Travel Tips

  • Make sure all of your travel documents are in order and easily accessible before you even reach the airport. This means your boarding pass, proof of any special accommodations for your flight, and your passport!
  • Most airlines will let you choose your airplane seats as you book your international flight. Whatever you do, don’t choose the middle seat! It is akin to purgatory, as you will most likely be squished in between two people for the entire flight. Think hard about whether you’d like an aisle or window seat.
  • Take advantage of your airlines’ airport lounge, if they have one, either in your departure airport, or if you have a long layover. For just a few extra dollars, you get to pamper yourself with all of their amenities, such as free food and drinks, while you wait for the flight to board. Many airlines have elite programs that offer this service for free.
  • You don’t have to make friends with whomever is in the seat(s) next to you. However, you should always be friendly and accommodating with them throughout the flight, as you will be stuck with them for quite a while! Don’t hog the arm rest, and always be polite when getting up to move around or use the lavatory.
  • Ladies, try not to wear makeup, but do moisturize just before you head to the airport. The dry cabin air and decreased blood flow will wreak havoc on your skin, so treat it well, and hydrate! The climate in the cabin is similar to the desert.
  • Dehydration is a common problem on any flight. For longer flights, this contributes to worsened jet lag. If you find that you have depleted your water, ask a flight attendant for more at every opportunity.
Business Class Seat
  • Speaking of jet lag, a good tip is to slowly acclimate yourself to the time zone of your destination in the days before your flight. Go to bed earlier or later, depending on which direction you’re going. Your body will start to change its natural clock and you will get less of a shock when you finally hit the new time zone. It helps to perform your nightly ritual (brush your teeth, wash your face, etc.) before going to bed, to help induce sleep.
  • Get up from your seat every 2-3 hours to keep the blood flowing, especially in your legs. Stretch a bit, then walk up and down the aisles. This will also help with any fatigue and headaches that may arise. Also, while in your seat, do shoulders rolls, light neck stretches and rotate your ankles every few hours.
  • If you are a frequent traveler and use points, see if you can upgrade to business or first class. There is no better friend for a traveler than frequent flyer miles! Look into credit cards that offer generous bonus points just for signing up. Also, it doesn’t hurt to ask at the check-in counter at your gate about how much an upgrade will cost. Depending on how full the flight is, you may get a good deal!
  • Secure your belongings! Especially any valuables you keep in the overhead compartment, as you will not be able to keep a close eye on them at all times. Make sure your money, credit cards, etc. are tucked deep into your bags, or in a money belt attached to you, where probing hands cannot easily get to them. And use locks on your carry-on, if possible.
  • In addition, don’t try to deprive yourself of sleep the night before, thinking you’ll be so tired during the flight that sleep will not be a problem. Try to let sleep come naturally. The minute your eyes start to droop, get out those ear plugs and eye mask and go with the flow!
Long aisle of an airplane as a travel tip for long flights

Pack a Flight Essentials Kit

Here is where you get to curate your own airplane survival kit, chocked full of the best travel accessories.

The long-haul flight essentials toolkit should be no fuss, and no bigger than a small purse’s worth of stuff.

  • Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste, wash cloth, ear plugs, eye mask, compression socks (or thick, woolly socks), and neck pillow (preferably memory foam). The best long haul airlines will provide a lot of these, but they are not always of high quality. So it’s best to bring your own.
  • Electronics such as noise-canceling headphones, and a plethora of your favorite (already downloaded) movies, audio books, podcasts…whatever you like to listen to. The same goes for reading material.
  • Try to put the big stuff in the overhead bin, and only have your flight essentials kit in a small bag underneath the seat in front of you. Trust me, you will need the extra foot room.
  • Expanding on the hydrating tip above, also bring eye drops, chapstick, and a little extra moisturizer to dab on as needed.
  • If you have trouble sleeping on long flights, pack a sleep aid such as melatonin, or over-the-counter sleeping pills. Just be sure to try them at home before your flight so you know the correct dose to take. The same is true for any prescription sleep aids you may get from your doctor.
A travel kit as a travel tip for long flights

What to Wear on a Long-Haul Flight

  • Wear slip on shoes that can easily be taken off, and your most comfortable outfit. No, don’t arrive at the airport in your pajamas! I know you were thinking that lol. Rather, wear loose fitting, breathable clothing that you can sleep in. Nice looking sweatpants are okay.
  • Compression socks can be a life-saver. Literally! They help prevent deep vein thrombosis – a condition that is aggravated when you sit for long periods of time in one place. Compression socks will help reduce swelling in your legs and decrease the risk of blood clots.
  • It’s not uncommon for it to become cold on a plane ride. It may seem like the opposite is true on long international flights, but the cabin is generally maintained at a cool temperature to keep things from getting too stuffy. That means that it’s possible that you’re going to be cold, so bring something warm with you. Perhaps it’s a sweatshirt, a comfortable lap blanket, socks or any/all of the above. Generally, the handouts from airlines leave a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness, so you may want to stay away from those if at all possible. 
  • There’s generally no reason to bring along a change of clothes for your flight, unless you’re traveling with small children who love to destroy clothing or you’re meeting someone special – personal or business interest – as soon as you land. Otherwise, you’re going to be busy dealing with the final leg of your journey, which involves getting from the airport to your lodging, and you won’t be worried about anything else at that point. Bathe, shower and put on a fresh set of clothes when you arrive and save yourself the hassle of packing extra gear that you’ll have to lug with you on your flight.
A female pilot who is thinking of travel tips for long flights

Food on a Long-Haul Flight

  • You will no doubt be served at least two meals while on board, but why wait for the flight attendants if your stomach starts rumbling? Pack some snacks, such as crackers, trail mix, dark chocolate, or whatever snack floats your boat. Just try and make sure that your snacks are not high in sugar or salt.
  • Another of the travel tips for long flights that’s often overlooked is that you should keep your fellow travelers and your flight crew in mind when you pack your food and/or snacks. Most of us can remember at least one time when we wanted to crawl inside of our airplane seats, because someone near us hauled out spicy, stinky food that permeated the entire travel cabin within seconds. It’s an unpleasant experience for anyone to have to go through that, so make sure that whatever you pack is not going to make others uncomfortable, or you uncomfortable a few hours after you eat.
  • You will definitely want to bring a large bottle of water on board. You can grab one in the terminal just before your flight boards. The number one rule for your body on international flights is to hydrate, then hydrate some more! This also means avoiding alcohol as much as you can.

As You Take Your Seat

  • One of the most common travel tips for long flights is that you need to watch for opportunities to make yourself more comfortable, almost from the moment you purchase your plane ticket. After you choose your seat initially, check back to see if any other, more desirable seats have opened up due to rebooking issues or cancelations from other passengers. If so, grab that seat you want! 
  • When you arrive at the airport, it can’t hurt to ask the gate attendant if there are any unsold seats in an upgraded class, and if so, what the cost is to upgrade. You won’t usually get the answer you want, but it can’t hurt to ask, and on the rare occasion when something is available, you’re in for a much better flight experience. Not all travel tips for long flights are guaranteed to work, but a longshot here and there is worth two minutes of your time.
  • Assuming you don’t find a new seat, that still doesn’t mean that there won’t be opportunities to improve your situation. A plane ride with no one next to you is glorious for a plethora of reasons. As you sit down, look around and see if there are any open seats on a window or an aisle with no one in the middle. If it’s clear that no one else is going to board, ask a flight attendant if you can move. As long as it’s in the same class of seat, more often than not you’ll be allowed to do so, and that creates a wonderful bit of additional room in that coach seat in which you’ll be spending several hours.

After You Land

  • Ahh! You made it! You landed in your destination! Finally! It’s time to get out there and… hold on a minute… you still have to go through customs, which can be involved for some people. One of the most appreciated travel tips for long flights is to try to get a Global Entry card before you leave, as that can save you a lot of time in customs if you’re traveling to a place that accepts them. If not, then simply prepare yourself to stay patient while you wait in line to have your travel documents checked. It will likely seem like it’s taking an eternity, but that’s because of your situation. It usually doesn’t take that long.
  • Don’t worry about your luggage when you pass through customs, as it’ll most likely be there safe and sound. What you should not do, however, is allow anyone else to handle it even after you’ve arrived. It may seem tempting because you’re tired and you just want to relax, but load your own bags if possible and keep them within eyesight so that you don’t encounter any issues.

Business travelers, travel writers, and travel bloggers the world over know these tips and tricks for long-distance travel – it is second nature to them.

So, whether this is your first international flight or you’ve been on many, follow these essential travel tips for long flights and you will have the most relaxing flying experience possible.

What are your travel tips for long flights? If you have any, comment below!

If you are looking for a step-by-step guide to help you plan your next trip, check out The Ultimate Guide to Trip Planning.

If you’re looking for some great trip ideas, explore our tips for trips to France, Japan, or even Ireland.

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