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Pressure, humidity, cramped conditions and lack of movement can make flying long haul one of the most unpleasant experiences of your entire trip. Long haul flights can be so bad that some actually avoid traveling to far flung destinations as a result. 

We used to hate long haul flights, but as it turned out, we love exploring the world way more than we hate long flights. Over time, we’ve gotten better and better at long haul flights, learning how to maximize your enjoyment and minimize suffering on a long haul flight,

Here some of our best tips and advice! 

Upgrade Your Seats

If you can afford to splurge, we highly recommend paying that extra to upgrade your ticket from Economy to Business Class or at least to Comfort Plus. The added space and service in business class will allow you to eliminate almost all the discomforts of Economy. You’ll be able to get a good night sleep, eat better food, have the space to stretch, to catch up on work, as well as some peace and quietness to relax during the long commute.

If you can’t afford to pay for an upgrade, consider using Frequent Flyer points. Business Class upgrades are one of the best ways to spend those hard earned points!

Preselects Your Seats

If you can’t upgrade to business class, consider preselecting your seats in advance. For a small fee, you may be able to choose a Comfort Plus seat, which usually comes with extra leg room, toiletry kit, and priority meal service. It’s totally worth the extra fee if you ask us!

If you don’t want to pay for any type of upgrade, pre-selecting your seat can still have its benefits. When flying together, Max and I usually select an aisle and window seat, leaving the seat in between us free. Since very few passengers will voluntarily choose the middle seat, this strategy often allows us to have the whole row to ourselves. That’s extra space for us to get a bit more comfortable during the flight.

Change Your Watch to the Time at Your Final Destination

Do this as soon as you get on the plane, or better yet while you are still at home. If it’s nighttime where you are going, sleep. If it’s day time, try your hardest to stay awake. If you are not meant to be sleeping, but you feel really tired, take a nap and push through.

Dress Comfortably

When selecting an outfit for your long haul flight, think comfort over fashion! There is nothing worse than being stuck in a tiny Economy class seat while wearing a tight pair of jeans for 14 hours. But let us be clear, we are not suggesting that you dress like a bum!

Ladies, a pair of comfortable leggings with a t-shirt and a cardigan will go a long way in making you look put together and feeling comfortable at the same time. I also always bring a sarong or a warmer scarf.

Gentlemen can wear a comfy pair of pants (Max is a big fan of Bluffworks), and a t-shirt, along with a long sleeve shirt in his carry on.

Don’t forget to layer up! Airplanes are notorious for being extra cold, so that extra long sleeve shirt and cardigan will definitely come in handy. If you are traveling to a colder destination consider packing a few more layers so you can be comfortable upon arrival, just in case your checked luggage doesn’t make it to your final destination at the same time as you do.

Wear Compression Socks

The risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis is very real when you are flying long haul and the consequences can be really scary. The risk is much higher for women than men, so ladies take note.

Investing in a good pair of compression socks for flights 4 hours and over is an easy way to reduce the risks. Compression socks apply gentle pressure to the ankle and legs to help blood flow, plus they keep your feet warm and cozy despite the frigid air in the cabin.

Compression socks come in a variety of sizes and different levels of compression, however, Class 1 stockings, (exerting a pressure of 14-17 mmHg at the ankle) are considered to be sufficient. 

Pack a Change of Clothing

It helps to travel in something comfy, but it’s also nice to be able to change out of your bum clothes into something nicer upon arrival.

Shirt weather in La Paz in May

Have a set of fresh clothes to change into upon arrival. It’ll help you feel more refreshed but also save you a lot of hassle if your luggage gets lost en route.

Invest in a Good Travel Pillow

Nothing has a bigger impact on the quality of your rest on a long haul flight than your travel Pillow! We spent the last 2 years testing out all sorts of travel pillows. We had the basic travel Pillow, the Evolution Pillow, and the flat memory foam pillow. None of them worked well and for a while, we quit pillows altogether (bad call!)

A few month ago, we came across a brand new Kickstarter campaign for a DUO Travel Pillow that claimed to be “The Best Travel Pillow”. We grabbed two of these right before our trip to Asia and have since used them on half a dozen of flights and many bus rides. It’s too early for a final verdict yet, but so far we’re loving them!  

The beauty of this pillow is that it can be used in 4 different ways depending on the type and level of support you need/want. It’s inflatable which makes it really portable but it’s also super comfortable thanks to a nice cozy cover. It’s a bit pricier than the regular bottom of the line pillow, but the increased comfort level is well worth the extra money!

Don’t Forget an Eye Mask & Ear Plugs

If you are going to sleep during the flight, don’t forget to pack your own eye mask and good quality ear plugs to help you snooze even better.

Pack Moisturizer

Your skin, just like the rest of your body, is prone to getting dry while in the air thanks to the low levels of humidity in pressurized cabins. What’s worse is that if you get stressed while traveling, your skin can suffer even more (think redness, blotchiness, and breakouts). So pack a small container of moisturizer in your carry on to hydrate your skin every few hours.

We recommend keeping it simple and natural with a small jar of coconut oil.

Pack Toiletries to Freshen Up Before Arrival

Pack a toothbrush and toothpaste and a small bar of soap so you can wash your face, brush your teeth, and freshen up just before your arrival.

Ladies might also want to apply some fresh make up. Just because you spent the night on the plane, doesn’t mean your morning routine should go out the window. 5 minutes of freshening up before landing will go a long way to making you feel like a human again upon arrival.

Pack Reading Material and Other Entertainment

While many airlines these days offer personal screen entertainment, we never rely on it fully. Sure, there might be 1 or even 2 movies you want to watch, but if you are flying for 10+ hours that’s not going to be enough to keep you entertained.

If you travel with a laptop or an iPad, download a few episodes (or even a whole season) of your favourite Netflix show or maybe something you’ve been wanting to binge on for a while. Pack a good pair of headphones and an audio splitter (if you are traveling as a couple), so you can indulge in great entertainment for the entire flight.

If TV shows and movies aren’t your things, load up a few good books on your Kindle. We particularly enjoy reading books based on the destination we are traveling to or a good old Lonely Planet guide.  

Pack a Charger

There is nothing worse than running out of battery on your computer/phone/tablet half way through a long haul flight, so we always pack chargers to help the juice flowing to our devices.

These days a lot of airlines offer in seat power or at the very minimum a USB plug to charge your phone/tablet. Alternatively, a power bank like this one will do the job. Note: The one in the link has a USB-C output so we can give a little extra juice to our MacBooks on route as well.

Hydrate

Fill up your reusable water bottle before you get on board and drink 2 or 3 times more than you usually do at home. Dehydration is one of the biggest side effects of air travel, but luckily there is an easy way to reduce its impact on your body. Drinking one or two cups of water an hour should do the trick.

If water is too boating, opt for tomato juice which gives you a nice balance of salt and sugar and may help you hydrate more than a sugary drink, or even worse Coca Cola.

Avoid alcohol, coffee, and other diuretics that dehydrate your body. Yes, that means you might have to limit even your tea consumption to only 1-2 cups. Of course green tea and herbal teas are very low on caffeine but it’s rare to see these varieties served on the plane (so bring your own)

Eat Well

Airplane food is notorious for being overly processed and full of nasty preservatives, so watch what you eat if you want to help your tummy while in flight (and after). If you have an opportunity to eat something healthy but light before your flight and avoid airplane food altogether do it.

Alternatively, bring/buy some healthy snacks so you are not 100% reliant on crappy airline food. Nuts, seeds, and high fiber snacks are the best, as they will keep you full and help with digestion.

Plan for Layovers

If your long haul flight comes with a long layover, have a plan of attack to help you enjoy that time at the airport. If it’s just a few hours, a nice meal, a stroll, and some window shopping will usually do the trick, but for long layovers, you’ll need more.

Calves massage at the Singapore Changi Airport

Layover time went spent –
calves massage at the Singapore Changi Airport

If you are going to hang around the airport, consider investing in a Wifi Hotspot like Skyroam so you can access the internet without having to camp out in a cafe and worry about connection speed and signal strength. It works in over 160 countries around the world and will cost you only $8/day

Alternatively, consider getting a lounge pass (for the airline you are flying with or any airline you have status with), or even taking a short trip to explore the city, especially if you are laying over during the day. We’ve had some great experiences exploring new destinations on long layovers in a variety of countries and have always felt like it was well worth the hassle. Our layover in Singapore a few years ago is a great example.

Exploring Singapore with nothing more than a little backpack!

Exploring Singapore on a layover

After years of flying and learning from our own mistakes, we feel like these tips can really help make the most of a long haul flight. Do you agree? 

What other tips do you have for surviving a long haul flight?