As we’ve acknowledged many times before, flying the high skies can be super-stressful and downright uncomfortable. With longer flights, it gets no easier. A lot can go wrong, especially with so many people cramped into a small space for such a short amount of time. Sitting in an uncomfortable position for extended periods of time can be painful and also makes it hard to sleep. The further you are into your journey, the more likely you are to feel bored, anxious, exhausted, or just downright annoyed.
Even if you’re flying with the best airlines, there’s only so much your flight crew can do for you. It’s important, therefore, to sometimes take matters into your hands to ensure that you have the comforts and necessities you need to make a long flight more bearable. Hopefully, airplanes will have tons of new features in the future to address passenger concerns regarding space, comfort, food, and safety, but in the meantime, here are some secrets to surviving a long flight without disavowing the entire experience.
While you should always be polite to anyone and not do anything to make your flight attendant hate you, it’s a good idea to go the extra mile, especially if you’re on a long flight. Your cabin crew is your lifeline — in some unfortunate cases, literally — and a little can go a long way in keeping them happy. Put some extra life into that hello and maybe even hand out some treats to the crew. Not only is it a kind thing to do, but they’ll be more likely to serve you enthusiastically and maybe even move you to a better seat or give you an extra snack or two.
Comfort starts with good planning. Most travelers have a seat preference, and you’re likely no different. Book your tickets as early as possible to have a better chance at selecting the seat that’s best for your comfort.
You know that hobby you’ve been putting off or that New Year’s resolution you kind of dropped? You’ve always said you just didn’t have the time, but now you do! As long as it’s something you can do from the comfort of your seat, a long flight is the perfect opportunity to get in touch with your creative side or something that helps you relax. Whether it’s finishing knitting that scarf you were supposed to have finished by Christmas or trying your hand at some new sketches or short stories, the plane is the perfect place to do it.
While most airlines do provide pillows, particularly on long-haul flights, those pillows are often very small and may likely not be fit to your needs. Bring your own pillow, one that you know you love, for a more comfortable flight and a more restful sleep. Plus, those airline pillows tend to be reused.
Both alcohol and caffeine can mess with your sleep, which is definitely not good for a flight where you’re trying to get some rest or for the ensuing jet lag. Alcohol can also be dehydrating, already a potential issue when you’re in mid-air. It’s also much easier to get intoxicated mid-air, and the hangover will not be fun. Coffee on a plane is also inadvisable; even the flight attendants refuse to drink it.
Don’t count on the in-flight entertainment. You may not like their selection of movies, TV shows, or music, or the system might even fail — not to mention the fact that their remotes are kind of dirty. You can make sure you love your entertainment selection by picking it yourself. Download (legally, of course) some of your favorite songs, movies, or television episodes or ones on your bucket list onto a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Podcasts are also a great way to pass the time.
Flying that high up in the air can get you pretty dehydrated, so it’s important to drink more water than usual when you’re on a flight. We recommend asking for bottled water or bringing your own, however, as the plane’s water is notoriously bacteria-ridden.
Just in case you end up not liking your meal at all, pack some of your favorite junk food or some feel-good healthy snacks for the flight so that you know you won’t go hungry. You also get to eat on your own time rather than waiting for the meal cart for a snack.
If you’re traveling with someone else, playing cards are a fantastic way to pass the time. It’s quiet so as not to disturb your neighbors yet totally distracts you from a long and otherwise boring flight.
Again, you may have felt like you just never have the time to do the things you love, but if you’re a reader, you should be excited to fly. There’s nowhere you have to go for the moment and not much interruption — perfect for finishing that book or even a few, depending on how fast you read and how long your flight is.
Not only will paying attention to the time at your destination help you keep track of how long you have in your journey, but you can also use it to adjust yourself so that you’re prepared for life back on land. Sleep according to your watch’s time to minimize jet lag and maybe alter the rest of your routine to follow too.
While some flights do attempt to dim the lights or turn them on in accordance with your destination’s time zone, there’s still a lot going on. Wearing an eye mask while you sleep will help you snooze more restfully in case your neighbor turns their reading light on or you’re feeling sleepy even when the cabin’s bright.
While staying seated while the seatbelt sign is on is advisable, so is stretching when it’s not. Sitting during a long flight can be really uncomfortable, downright painful, or even dangerous as it decreases blood circulation, which can cause swelling or blood clots. Avoid this by taking a walk up and down the aisles every so often to stretch your arms and legs and do some foot and leg exercises from your seat to keep your circulation going.
Sheet masks have skyrocketed as a beauty trend, and for good reason. Hydration is super important when traveling, and sleep masks are super hydrating. They’re also super relaxing, which helps with the inevitable stress and restlessness that comes with being on a long flight.
Flights can be noisy. From the jet engines to crying babies to just general chatter, noise-cancelling headphones can help you get some peace and quiet or focus on your in-flight movie. They’re also better than the in-flight headphones, which tend to be reused as well.
Another way of ensuring you don’t get any blood clots — or deep vein thrombosis as it’s known when it happens in deep veins such as those in your legs — is wearing compression socks. Even if you’re not at risk of DVT, compression socks can help with the painful swelling that many flyers get in their legs after a long flight. By slightly squeezing your legs, compression socks increase your circulation by helping blood move along through your veins and muscles.
It’s both stressful and uncomfortable to fly; try to give yourself as much comfort as possible by wearing something you’re comfortable lounging in, especially so that you can sleep well. It can still be stylish, if you prefer, but it’s a good idea to wear loose clothes, shoes that are easy to take off, and something you don’t need a belt for (especially because of that pesky airport security). Another not-so-secret to surviving a long flight, of course, is picking the right airline; here are the past year’s best.