10 Tips for Surviving a Long Haul Flight

IcelandAir, Chicago Illinois. O’hare International Airport

Don’t like flying? I understand, who does? What bothers me is the commute to the airport, the security lines, the chaos that ensues, baggage claim, broken and lost luggage, plane delays, overpriced airport food and probably another 5 things I’m forgetting… 

With that being said, I’d like to present to you, tips for surviving a long haul flight so that you don’t dread it.

I’ve taken quite a few long haul flights in recent years. I’ve flown from Chicago to;

  • Greece
  • Hawaii
  • Spain
  • Costa Rica
  • Portugal 
  • Germany

Here’s what I’ve learned, in 10 easy steps.

1. Buy your plane ticket at the most opportune time

Use Google flights or your CapitalOne Travel Portal to start searching and tracking prices and routes. Get quick alerts when prices drop and buy as soon as possible! Sometimes deal alerts don’t last very long.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Google Flights

Use Your Travel Rewards Portal

Don’t have one? You should probably get one if you want to travel. I prefer the CapitalOne Travel Portal to track prices and use their price prediction system to notify you when the right time to book is. See the example below.

To use the CapitalOne Travel portal, you will need to sign up for a CapitalOne card HERE.

Book earlier, rather than later. If you wait until the last minute, chances are good that you (and your elbows) will be sandwiched into a dreaded middle seat. Frequent flyer? The time to cash those miles in on an upgrade is now.

Glacier National Park. Montana.

2. Wear something comfortable

Forget trying to look like you fit in first class on a long haul flight. Im not saying to look like a slob, but shoot for tastefully comfy. When it comes to long-distance travel, stick to a dress code of neutral, loose-fitting layers you can move around in. Besides keeping cozy on a flight, you’ll also guard against deep vein thrombosis—a serious condition that’s aggravated when you sit in cramped positions for long periods of time. Experts also recommend wearing compression socks, which reduce swelling and decrease the risk of blood clots.

3. Invest in a good travel pillow and sleep mask

Embarking on a 8+ hour flight? I’d consider a hat to shield the bright lights of a plane window or a sleep mask. Another great idea is investing in a quality neck pillow with memory foam.

4. Bring your own headphones

Crying babies? Sitting next to the bathroom? Loud plane engine noises? Karen won’t stop talking? 

It’s time to invest in the right pair of headphones that will stay in your ears. Pack noise-canceling headphones. You will thank me later. Here is a pair of BOSE headphones I highly recommend for noise canceling and superior sound quality while watching your movies or listening to music.

5. Take the smallest personal item you can

No matter how tall or short you are, when it comes to sitting in the same seat for hours on end, every inch of leg room is sacred. Don’t limit yours with a needlessly large personal item, which you’ll be forced to stow under the seat in front of you if you’ve also brought a carry-on onboard. Opt for a bag that’s versatile and soft, so you can squash it down if need be.

Related: The Ultimate Packing List

6. Bring your own re-fillable water bottle and snacks, or buy some before boarding

One of the beauties of long-haul flights is how well you’re fed—often, at least two full meals and a mid-flight snack to curb your cravings are provided. But what about when the lights are out, flight attendants are nowhere to be found, and you’re HANGRY? What then? Be prepared with your own snacks and a bottle of water.

Don’t forget your collapsible water bottle like this one by Nomader. Just fill it up before you walk on the plane and your good to go!

7. Be friendly to your armchair neighbor- practice good airplane etiquette

This might be self-explanatory, but be nice. Learn the rules of the air: unless you’re in the middle seat, hogging an interior armrest is a jerk move. Before reclining your chair, glance back to make sure it won’t disrupt anyone, and whatever you do, don’t do it during meal service. Also, whether you’re on the window or the aisle, expect—especially during long hauls—that everyone is going to have to use the bathroom at least a few times. Be forgiving and courteous, and you might even make a new friend in the process.

In flight airplane food on a long haul Iberia flight.

8. Choose your in-flight food (and drinks) carefully

That cheesy chicken parmesan wafting down the center aisle might smell delicious, but you may want to reconsider eating a heavy meal. Heavy meals keep you awake, and are more difficult to digest. If you can, avoid foods and drinks high on sugar, salt, or caffeine. The same goes for alcohol. While it can act as a sedative for anxious fliers, it is also extremely dehydrating. Instead, stick to your bottled water

9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

I don’t know about you but I can’t drink enough water on a flight. I get very dehydrated, very quickly.

Don’t forget your collapsible water bottle while walking around, like this one by Nomader.

Because planes are constantly replenishing cabin air with the air outside, the levels of humidity inside plane cabins are comparable to what you’d find in a desert—bone dry. The effects are two-fold: the extreme dryness dulls the skin, and, if not addressed, dehydration leads to worsened jet lag.

10. Get up every few hours to keep the blood flowing

Pressurized cabins spell less oxygen for passengers and, over periods of time, symptoms due to lower blood oxygen levels that include fatigue, headaches, swollen limbs, and dehydration. The best solution? Stretch. Walk up and down the aisle to boost blood flow and practice some non-intrusive exercises in your seat, like rolling your shoulders and rotating your ankles.

Consider a pair of compression socks.

LEARN TO VALUE TRAVEL.
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive if you know what you are doing. 😎


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