tips for long-haul flights

Do you dream of visiting Tokyo for the Olympics? Or are you planning on the most romantic getaway in Fiji? We think both are excellent choices, but we often hear travelers voice a concern: those destinations require a long-haul flight, and maybe even two. While it is not exactly everyone’s idea of a fun way to spend an entire day, a long-haul doesn’t have to be a bad day either. 

Here at Awaken Travels, we’ve grown to appreciate a long-haul flight for what it is, the quickest and least painful way to get from home to many of our favorite destinations.

Just like a good vacation, the key to success is a little planning. Let us help you out with a few tips from our experience with long-haul flights.

Drink water and then drink some more water

Fill your own water bottle after you pass security and customs, and drink it whenever you think of it. Whenever the drinks cart comes around and offers drinks, choose water. If you need something else, like caffeine, that’s perfectly acceptable, just ask for water as well. Your water bottle is there for when they aren’t around.

drinks cart on plane

Air travel is notoriously dehydrating on long-haul flights which can lead to headaches, lethargy, generally feeling awful, and can make overcoming jet lag more difficult. Sipping water consistently while en route helps set you up for feeling your best once you arrive at your dream destination.

Of course, drinking tons of water means using the airplane bathroom. Sure, it can be a bit of a hassle to navigate out of your seat and then wait in line, but there is a hidden value here as well that brings us to our next tip.

Move regularly

That trip to the bathroom counts. Anything to get your blood moving a bit is good in the long run. Stretch, make circles with your toes, do a jig in the bathroom line, up to you. Just move around. Sitting or sleeping while seated isn’t the best for bloodflow which can lead to uncomfortable swelling while on a long-haul flight.

Some airlines offer an attendant led stretching session or two during your fight. And quite often stretching videos are available in your entertainment offering as well, such as this video by Qantas. Many regular flyers swear this is an essential key in the fight against the dreaded jetlag and swollen ankles on arrival. 

Entertain yourself

All but the most budget carriers have in-flight entertainment offerings of some sort available to you. But, what exactly that consists of can vary wildly. Often the airline provided headphones would be a unlikely choice to pick, even at a dollar store.

Our recommendation is, at the bare minimum, pack your own headphones. Noise cancelling headphones can be a life saver, and we swear by them for bringing needed serenity to a long-haul flight. But even an inexpensive pair from Amazon is likely to be a better option than what’s available onboard.

sunrise on an airplane

With headphones on, get ready to allow yourself a guilt-free binge session.Most streaming services have a download option for at least some portion of their content. Before you depart, download all the shows, movies and songs you’ll want on your long haul flight to your tablet or phone.

Your airline may offer a great selection of entertainment to choose from, or it might be terrible. Often you can find out what will be available on your flight from the airline’s website in advance, but the best strategy is always to provide your own.

If you’re heading off on a long-haul flight with kids, keeping them entertained is of utmost importance. Include them in which shows they’d like to have downloaded for watching en route.

Check out our tips for flying with kids here.

Moisturize

In order to keep the plane itself in good working order, the humidity in planes is seemingly kept drier than the desert. Unless you live in a desert, this may be a bit of a shock to your skin. A simple moisturizer can be a life-saver for your skin and help combat the overall drying out effect during a long-haul flight. Don’t forget lip moisturizer, too. Oh, and drink more water.

Sleep (if you can)

When to sleep to optimize landing on your feet and avoiding jet lag is a whole science unto itself that we really don’t have time for here. No definite consensus exists on what works for everyone, but we can offer some tips for how to get some rest when you choose to.

What makes for a good sleep? Some could sleep on a pile of bricks on the side of a freeway, but for others, good sleep is an art.  We aim to help the latter. 

Sleeping on a long-haul flight requires overcoming three big elements. Light, sound, and comfort.

Light

Light is pretty easy. We tend to block out the light in one of two ways: a big hood or hat pulled down or, the most guaranteed and likely the most hygienic strategy, is an eye mask. Often these are even provided, or at least available for purchase on long-haul flight. An eye mask is the most solid and guaranteed strategy, are widely available, and take up almost no room in your bag. You can even get fancy here and go for a luxurious silk eye mask. You may even find it useful for sleeping on your dream vacation, too.

Sound

Generally there are two strategies here. If you have a nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones that you’re comfortable sleeping with, these can be a lifesaver. Otherwise, our strategies include dampening the airplane sounds with earplugs, or drown out the noise with calming sound. We always fly with a white noise playlist or two downloaded on our phones. An eight-hour waterfall sound or some classical music on loop has saved many long-haul flights for us.

Comfort

Comfort is very personal. It varies highly on your own preferences, airline choice, and personal dimensions. One of our staff can lay down straight onto the tray table and sleep (after cleaning it, of course!) while another’s knees barely fit under the tray of most standard seats.

A good rule for those concerned with a good night’s sleep is provide your own comfort. Once again, many airlines provide great pillows, blankets and plenty of room in the seat for you to adjust. Others, not so much. If you pick out a nice travel pillow, perhaps an ultralight travel blanket, or even just a cozy sweater to wear or bunch up under your head, you can save yourself a lot of headaches. Literally. Also, drink more water.

Consider an upgrade

There’s a reason airlines can charge so much more for premium services. Sometimes they can be so worth it. If you want to be able to just walk onto the plane and know that you’ll be able to lay flat, have a proper bed, nice food, and plenty of room, you may want to consider that upgrade. The higher classes generally have noise-cancelling headphones provided, eye masks, champagne, sometimes pajamas, and even showers. The sky’s the limit.

business class cabins

Thinking about flying across the world?

We sure are! Some of our favorite destinations involve taking long-haul flights. While it’s typically not a highlight of the vacation, it certainly doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience. Get in touch with us and we’ll make sure you’re getting to the vacation of your dreams in comfort. And of course, we’ll help plan this incredible trip, too!

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