10 Tips for Comfortable Long Haul Flights

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The first time I boarded a flight for an overseas destination, I had no idea what to expect.  Admittedly, I was a bit worried.  Red-eye flights from the West Coast were tough enough for me to recover from.  I had no idea how to have comfortable long haul flights.

While I probably made every rookie mistake possible like staying up the entire flight and not getting up enough to stretch my legs, I did survive that first flight.  I also learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.  Over the years I’ve gained a much better understanding of how to ensure I have a comfortable flight regardless of the length of the trip.

There are ways to make your trip more pleasant. Here are my top ten tips and tricks for having comfortable long haul flights.  I hope it helps you enjoy your journey more!

10 Tips for Comfortable Long Haul Flights

Choose Early Check In

Most airlines will pre-book seats. Otherwise, make an effort to be there promptly when check in opens- normally two hours before the flight leaves.

Unless you are flying first or business class, extra leg room is tough to find.  Seats next to emergency exits and in front of the bulkheads generally have more leg room and are more comfortable. It’s definitely worth asking if they are available.

The other advantage to being early for your flight is a reduction of your stress level.  You won’t have to fret if there are long lines at the check-in area or airport security zones.  You’ll also have to time make any last minute phone calls or purchase any last minute items you may have forgotten to bring, like mints or magazines.

Layer Your Clothing

Forget about high fashion when you are a long haul flight. Opt for loose clothing without restrictive waist bands or tight sleeves. The lower pressurization in the plane can cause swelling and discomfort on long haul flights.

Also think layers when it comes to choosing your outfit. The plane may be too warm or too cool and it is best to be prepared.  A light jacket, slippers or thick socks will also be welcome additions to have to help keep you warm and comfortable while resting.

Nourish Yourself

There is normally an abundance of food on long trips but choose carefully. Hot, spicy dishes can cause bloating and indigestion and too much rich food can cause queasiness.

It’s smart to easy on the alcohol, as well. They say a drink in the air is equal to two on the ground. Instead, drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  When you are well hydrated, it’s a lot easier to recover from jet lag.

Also, pack some of your favorite snacks.  There will be some snacks available during the flight, but the selections are generally limited and snack service may not be available at all times.  I always pack a breakfast bar when I’m on red-eye or overseas trips so that I have something to enjoy if breakfast is not served or I get stuck in customs lines after the flight.


Airlines recommend regular exercise in-flight. This can take the form of walking up and down the plane or simple stretches and movements while sitting. These are helpful in promoting good circulation and protect against swelling as well as more serious conditions such as deep vein thrombosis.

If the plane has a stopover where passengers are allowed to disembark, take advantage of the opportunity to move around freely.

Combat Dryness

The air inside the plane is moisture free; in other words it is very drying. Drink plenty of water to counteract the effects and use moisturizer to keep skin soft and supple.

Nasal sprays can be useful for those with sinus problems or dry nasal passages.  Moisturizing eye drops can be very helpful to have, too.

Catch Up On Work

Long flights are sometimes good opportunities to catch up on work. Laptop use is allowed and it is amazing how much can be done without the distraction of the office environment.

Be sure to charge all your devices prior to departure and bring extra battery backups for electronics.  Many planes have charging outlets now, but it’s always helpful to have a backup just in case.  You certainly don’t want to have a dead cell phone upon arrival.

Occupy Yourself

While it’s ideal to sleep on an overnight flight, you may find that you need a few hours to wind down or wake up early.  Most airlines offer a good choice of movies and other entertainment. Take advantage of these and the effects of gazing at a small screen may even lead to a nap.

Pack a book, magazines, crossword puzzles, an adult coloring book, a small knitting project or other items to also help you pass the time.  If you do wind up staying up the entire flight, you’ll be happy to have multiple distractions to help the time go by a bit faster.

Remember This Is An Adventure

A positive attitude is the very best thing you can take with you while traveling!  There may be some inconveniences along the way, but keep your eye on the prize – a wonderful new destination!

Overseas travel is an adventure and an experience to be treasured in spite of the downsides. Remember this when sleep is evasive, the plane is bucking like a wild horse or a baby is screaming across the aisle.

Bring your favorite uplifting poem, book or quote with you to use when you are feeling a little frustrated or pessimistic.  Tuck a travel guide to your destination in your flight bag and flip through the pages to remind you where you are headed.  Pack noise-cancelling headphones and download some soothing tunes to help you have some peace and serenity during your flight.

Sleep Well

Most people find sleeping in economy very difficult as the seats do not recline into a comfortable sleeping position. Some take sleeping pills or Melatonin, others prefer to battle it out.

Eye masks help block out light and blow-up neck support pillows definitely help with sleep. The airlines normally provide a blanket and a small pillow, but I always bring a shawl or small blanket with me.  That way, I’m sure to stay warm during the flight.

Earplugs are also a great thing to have in your flight bag, especially if you have trouble sleeping in a noisy environment.  While it will generally be quiet on an over-night flight, there’s still the sounds of the engines and the stewards moving through the aisles to help passengers or serve refreshments.

Avoid Jet Lag

The more time zones crossed, the stronger the effects of jet lag. Don’t underestimate what an impact even one hour can have on the human body. For those crossing to the other side of the world, we can’t stress this enough – water is a genuine help.  Stay hydrated!  Even if it means you have to get up more to use the restroom, that’s okay.  It will help you get more exercise!

Some people find that at the end of the flight, coffee or an energy drink helps wake up their body and mind to start the new day.   Following your normal morning routine can be helpful, too.  For example, wash your face and brush your teeth prior to the flight landing.

Also, try and adapt to the looming time change by setting watches to your destination time and sleep when they are sleeping.  Generally, a few days before an overseas flight, I will try to adjust my sleeping times at home a little bit to help me get ready for the time change.  Some people find it very helpful to stay up for 24 hours prior to a flight and then (ideally) sleep through the flight.  The key is to find what works best for you and it may take some trial and error.

Don’t Stress Over The Small Stuff

Above all, don’t be afraid if you don’t do everything perfectly or forget to pack all the items you wanted to.  There’s always room for improvisation and who knows, that may lead you to have an even better time during the flight.

Many airlines are prepared to help you in a pinch with things like toothbrushes and mints.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  If you need something simple like a stick of gum or a tissue, ask a fellow passenger (provided they are awake!) You may wind up making a new friend in the process.

Long haul flights have opened the doors for overseas travel and each year, more and more people take to the skies. Until new designs overcome the space problems in economy class, people will have to cope as best as they can with the restrictions. Nevertheless, a long haul flight is a great adventure. Enjoy it!

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Tags: packing, travel tips

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Barb Webb
Barb Webb is a sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s following the road less traveled, writing about country living and artisan culture. Travel specialties are: Agritourism and Second Season of Life (over 50) Adventures.
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  1. It has been awhile, but years ago I found the first row of two seats in the back of the plane to have a lot of extra room. This was when flying to Italy, it was the first row of two seats towards the back, after the three seats in a row on the sides ended. I do not know if these configurations still exist, but my in-laws flew that way after we did and they thought I performed magic to get them those seats!

  2. Barb Webb

    Fantastic tip, Mitch! Thanks for sharing!! Definitely worth looking into and keeping in mind. I love that your in-laws were delighted, too 🙂

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