5 Tips for Surviving a Long Flight

a black sock with grey soleWhile it’s critical to be comfortable on any flight you take, long flights are a special case. Before my first trip to Manila I was anxious for weeks about the 26 hours of travel time–especially the 14 hour flight from DFW to Tokyo. I bought all kinds of random stuff that I hoped would make the flight easier for me, but most of it wasn’t necessary. Fancy organizers and seat cushions sound cool, but didn’t do anything besides weigh down my bag. On later trips, I only brought the essentials  and did just fine. The tips below for surviving a long flight come from a wealth of experience gained by me, coworkers, friends, and family over a decade of frequent international travel.

Dress comfortably. This may be the most important thing of all. There’s not really any need to be fancy; anything that feels like pajamas will be just fine. The first time I flew to Manila, I wore yoga pants and a long sleeved t-shirt. Maybe not the most fashionable, but I sure was comfy! These days I go for a combination of comfort and style with  leggings, a tunic or jersey dress, cardigan, and Toms. I also strongly recommend compression socks. It will make you more comfortable, keep your ankles from swelling, and reduce your risk of deep-vein thrombosis. (Here is a more detailed post with options for what to wear,)

Sleep aids. There is nothing more frustrating than being exhausted on a plane and not able to sleep. Not to mention getting some sleep on the plane allows you to land feeling refreshed, or at least less zombie like. I need a pillow, blanket or pashmina, eyemask, earplugs (or earbuds), and a Tylenol PM taken a half hour before I want to be asleep. Something that works well for me is to play my White Noise app through my headphones. Puts me right to sleep! (Check out my recommendations for getting your best sleep on international flights.)

Beauty necessities. There are a few toiletry items you can bring that can keep you feeling marginally human on a long flight. I recommend heavy lip balm, moisturizer, hand lotion, and a disposable toothbrush. Face-cleansing wipes, deodorant, and makeup also make the list.

Entertainment. Whether you like to work, read, listen to audiobooks, watch movies, play games, knit, etc., bring something to entertain you during transit. Many airplanes have movies but you may not like what’s showing. Obviously tablets like the Kindle Fire are great multi-purpose options–read, listen to audiobooks, play games, or watch movies all on one device! I prefer to use my Kindle Paperwhite for reading, as reading on tablets or phones hurts my eyes after awhile. Once it’s full of library books I’ve been saving up it feels like a treat to have so much uninterrupted time to read! Know yourself, and bring what you need.

Snacks. Buy a big bottle of water at the airport, and have a few snacks on hand such as almonds, bars, trail mix, chocolate, whatever. This way you’ve got something to tide you over if you’re about to pass out from hunger and the flight attendants haven’t made it to your row.

Readers, what are your best tips for surviving a long flight?


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  1. I love to use a snuggie (the blanket with sleeves) on long flights. The fleece makes it light for a carrying but it’s still warm. The sleeves make it so it doesn’t slide off when you are sitting/reclining.

    Someone sitting next to me last time had a sleeping bag liner which also would be a good idea for long flights. They are really compact so easy for carrying on.

  2. Great list! I always bring with me Melatonin 3mg (gets me to sleep), my Kindle e-reader filled with books, plane pillow and noise cancelling headphones. That makes my flight go so smooth!

    Thanks for sharing!

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