Traveling is a life-changing experience. Long flights are not. Add kids into the mix, and you’re asking for a world of hurt. Thankfully, there are plenty of little things you can do to make the experience far less painful. Here are 10 simple tips how to survive a long flight.
1. Dress Comfortably
In a perfect world, everyone would dress in their pj’s for long flights. Unfortunately, that’s not an option for a lot of travelers. So the next best option would be to go with some comfortable loose fitting clothes. Below are a few more specific items that we use on our travels.
Airlines are colder than you would expect. While airlines attempt to keep the temperature near 72 degrees they have to pump considerably colder air through the cabin to counteract the combined body heat of the passengers. As a result, your flight may feel more like it’s in the 60’s.
With fewer flights offering free blankets. A simple sweater or hoodie could go a long way to make you more comfortable and possibly help you time travel (sleep).
It’s okay to be comfortable. As long as you don’t have smelly feet you might as well kick off the shoes once the flight is underway. Plus you get the added bonus of getting through TSA checkpoint that much faster.
Sitting for an extended period is bad for the body. Long flights are one of the rare occasions when you can feel the restlessness of being in one position. Compression socks help with the restlessness by forcing your blood back up your leg not allowing it to settle in your feet.
2. Opt For The Aisle Seat
Windows seats are excellent for short flights, but they aren’t ideal for long trips. If a flight is over 4 hours, we opt for aisle seats because it’s important to get up and move.
Sitting next to the aisle gives you the freedom to move around the cabin without disturbing the person next to you. As long as you aren’t getting in the way of the crew and the seatbelt sign is off you’re free to roam around and stretch the legs.
Don’t Give Up Your Seat
It’s common for a person trapped in the middle seat to ask if they can switch places with you at the start of the flight. I’ve seen a lot of people reluctantly give up their seat just to spend the trip in misery. Politely say no and keep your sanity.
3. Make Introductions
Right at the start of the flight. Introduce yourself to the neighbors. In many cases, just knowing someone’s name can ease the awkwardness of sitting next to a stranger for such a long time. They may also be willing to forgive you if you’re doing something that annoys them.
A friendly conversation can also help pass the time. Just know when to quit.
4. Noise-Canceling Headphones
Baby’s cry, people snore, they can’t help it. Sometimes the passenger next to you wants to talk the entire flight. Noise-canceling headphones make a world’s difference.
Our travel buddy Geoff likes Beats, but I’m partial to the Bose headphones. They’re amazing!
5. Prep Your Device For Airplane Mode
You can’t assume that your flight is going to offer in-flight wifi. Just in case, make sure to load your device with everything you need to keep you entertained. We wouldn’t be able to make it through a flight without the media mentioned below
I love them! On a 7 hour flight with no in-flight movies? An audiobook will save the day.
The Martian by Andy Weir is a safe choice, but if you need some recommendations check out our Audiobook page.
Of if you’re new to audiobooks, you can try Audible for free by clicking on the audible ad to the right. Signing up will snag you two credits to start your library!
Be sure to install games that work without an internet connection.
Don’t forget to download all the latest episodes before you leave the house. If you’re looking for something genuinely entertaining, I recommend We’re Alive by K.C. Wayland (iTunes). Having been downloaded over 70 million times, We’re Alive is an audio drama about survival that will make you consider staying on the plane and flying it back to keep listening.
If you use an app like Spotify make sure to download your favorite playlists. Regional copyrights may prevent you from listening to your music while you’re abroad. Having it downloaded to your phone can fix that.
6. Complimentary Food (Depends On The Air Carrier)
In addition to the in-flight meals. A lot of international flights offer complimentary snacks and drinks. You just have to know when and where to look.
Midflight, when most people are sleeping the cabin crew will head down into their crew quarters to take a break. At that time, most airlines will set up a small snack bar in the back of the plane for guests to enjoy.
Alcohol is usually free too on an international flight if you didn’t know.
7. Easy Way To Avoid The Long Bathroom Lines
Hundreds of people and a limited number of bathrooms tend to create long lines to the bathroom after a meal service. If you wait until after they pick up your plate you’ll most likely get caught up in that line. Two ways to get around this is to ask the crew what time the meal service is going to begin and go before they start serving. The other option is to finish your meal and use the bathroom before they pick up the leftovers of the meal.
8. Have A Toothbrush And Toothpaste Handy
The dry air and long naps are a perfect storm for bad breath. So do yourself a favor and keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in your carry on. Having the opportunity to brush your teeth on the flight is refreshing.
9. Prepare For Some Extremely Dry Air
The air inside the cabin is extremely dry. With humidity at or below 12%, your body is going to feel the effects. Having Chapstick & lotion on hand will keep you more comfortable. You may also want to bring some tissues in case you get a random nosebleed.
10. Bring Items To Keep You Comfortable
Long flights do a number on your neck and lower back. Bringing a neck pillow can help a lot when it comes to comfort. After trying a handful of neck pillows, we like the Total Pillow the most. I keep it in my car whenever we aren’t traveling.
Also, lower back pain is common on long flights. Try placing a pillow or blanket behind your lower back to give you extra support when you are sitting.
Be Courteous To Everyone In The Airport And On The Flight.
Flying is stressful. Airports and planes tend to fray the nerves. You never know if the person you snap at at the security checkpoint is going to end up sitting next to you on the flight. So do your best to cut everyone some slack when you’re traveling.
Those Are Our 10 Simple Tips on How To Survive A Long Flight.
Hopefully, these little tips can help in some way. Most are common sense, but you would be surprised how many people come unprepared, ending up miserable throughout the flight.
If you have any useful tips we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments below. We’re always looking for ways to ease the pain of long flights. Be sure to check out our Travel Page for even more useful travel resources. There we post stories, itineraries, and helpful tips we’ve learned from our travels.
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I’m shocked that someone in a middle seat would ask to switch with someone in an aisle!?! What an awkward situation!
You’re right, it is awkward and it’s happened to us on more than one occasion. We never give up the seat and the passenger is never really up to talk we shut them down.
Your best piece of advice is to be polite. So many people are rude when traveling. There’s no point. We are all in it together. Make it the best experience possible
Yup, that’s exactly how we see it. Being kind makes the experience better for everyone 🙂
Ah I love this! I’m the worst flyer (I get so nervous) so anything to help my flights are so welcome. I have a flight coming up soon (Spain – New Zealand)… Last time it took me over 40 hours and I need all the tis I can get. I think the ideas of chapstick, lotion and even just wearing comfy clothes are invaluable. Thanks so much for the tips!
Thanks! Those little things really do add up to give us a better flying experience. Happy to have helped in any way. Goodluck on your flight Spain to New Zealand is a long one!
Gillian Kent says
I have such trouble sleeping on planes. My legs are always uncomfortable. I wear compression hose which does help with the puffiness. Loading up my Kindle and audio books and a good neck support are a must. Thanks for the tips.
I’ve always had a tough time sleeping on flights. The total pillow has helped a lot more then any other neck pillow I’ve tried before. I’ve actually managed to knock out a few times using that, and blindfold, and a song on repeat on my headphones 🙂
Melissa Blevins says
As a Mom of 3, you forgot “Leave the kids at home” lol Great list! My husband is a frequent flyer! I’m sending this to him
LOL isn’t that the truth! It’s been hit and miss with our daughter. Hats off to you and your husband to do it with three! Thanks for passing it along to him, hope he can pick up something from it 🙂
If you’re flying on a legacy airline carrier, there will almost certainly be an on-board, seat-specific entertainment system, with a decent selection of films, TV shows, news programs and games. That’s typically how I pass my trans-Atlantic flights: Just watch a few movies. You can also download new books onto your tablet or buy new hard-copy books to read if you don’t have a tablet. Depending on the length of the flight, there will be at least one and perhaps two or even three meals served during the flight.
Just make sure to get up every so often to stretch your legs, even if you don’t need to restroom.
Brittany Woodard says
Oh my stars! I thought I knew everything I needed to know about surviving long flights and yet I learned so much with this post! Compression socks, downloading all the podcasts, noise canceling headphones…adding these to my carry-on packing list. Thank you!