I’ve learned how to survive a long haul flight thanks to our vacations to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida over the years (you can read my Disney Trip Reports here!),and I’m sharing my tips with you today.
We love visiting the Mouse, but the long haul flight we have to take to get to him – not so much! Flying from London to Orlando is a 9+ hour flight for us, and it was the one thing that concerned my husband, when we booked our first trip there in 2011. Since then we’ve flown this route another six times, so we have certainly learned a thing or two!
I know that just the thought of being on an aeroplane for several hours (long haul is typically classed as journeys over 6 hours) can be daunting, but once you read through my tips, it will help your journey be a lot more enjoyable!
How to Survive a Long Haul Flight
Pick Your Seats
When it comes to a long haul flight, where you sit in on the plane is going to matter a lot. The earlier you buy your tickets, the more seating options you will have. It will depend on your airline if you have this included with your ticket price, or if it is extra. We’ve always had to pay extra – but the peace of mind it gives, knowing we have our seats altogether, and in our preferred spot on the aircraft, is worth it.
Before selecting our seats, I look at the airline seat maps on SeatGuru which has the layouts for over 1000 aircraft. There is usually some feedback from other travellers, indicating if a seat is good or bad, or if there is something you should be aware of in that particular spot. SeatGuru also provides the seat widths (which many airlines don’t list on their sites) as well as the seat pitch (the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it). If you are plus-size (as I am), or very tall, or have other issues with comfort in an airplane seat, this information will be valuable. If you have room in your budget, you always have the option to upgrade to a higher class where seats are often wider, and have more legroom than those in economy.
A few quick pointers:
- Turbulence is felt less if you are sat over the wings, or towards the front of the aircraft. You’ll feel it the most if sat at the tail end.
- If you want quick access to get up for the toilet, or to walk about the cabin to stretch your legs, pick an aisle seat.
- For more legroom, pick the exit row – however there are restrictions to bare in mind.
When you’re going to be pretty much sat in one place for hours on end, you want to be as comfortable as possible. While you may not want to be seen in public in your comfy home clothes, comfort matters most on a long haul flight, so it’s important that you get over that quickly! This might be sweatpants and a t-shirt, a tracksuit, or leggings and a loose fitting top – whatever comfortable clothes looks like for you. I suggest light layers too, as it can get chilly on the plane with the constant powerful aircon – yet it might be 90F at your destination!
You also have to consider going through security, so wear shoes that can be taken on and off quickly (as you may have to remove them), and if you usually wear a lot of jewellery, pack it away securely so that you don’t have to remove it all when passing through the metal detector.
I have included links to some of the products mentioned in this post. If you purchase via the links I may earn a small commission.
Invest in Travel Accessories
It’s important to know what to bring into the cabin for your long haul flight – many of these items are a must-have for me, and have made flying more enjoyable because I have been prepared.
I have a small, zip-up clutch bag, that I keep all of my in-flight travel accessories in. It’s about the size of an A5 notebook, and easily slips into the seat pocket. Before and after the flight, the clutch goes inside my cabin bag, which is stowed in the overhead bins.
In said clutch bag I always have:
- small tube of moisturiser (doubles as hand cream too) – all that aircon dries out the skin…
- eye drops – and the eyes…
- lip balm – and the lips
- travel sickness pills – I suffer from motion sickness, so these tablets are a must.
- Bach Rescue Remedy – whilst I’m not scared of flying, I do find nerves start to set in on the morning of a flight. I buy the spray version, and use it as needed to help calm me.
- chewing gum – to keep breath fresh, and also to help combat blocked ears from the pressure on descent.
- hand fan
- headphones/earbuds – and my phone, but I am generally holding that!
- sleep mask – to block out light when trying to sleep.
- travel size deodorant – to freshen up
- hand sanitizer – handy if the soap in the bathrooms run out, and to keep hands clean
- a small pack of tissues – for usual tissue use, and you can also use them with the hand sanitizer to wipe down your tray table
- headache pills/pain killers/prescription medication
DON’T FORGET! Liquids that you take through security must be in its own container of no more than 100ml (3.4 ounces) and carried in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag of up to 20cm x 20cm (8in x 8in) with a total capacity of up to a litre (approximately one quart). You must be able to completely close the bag and be able to fit it in your hand baggage. The bag of liquids must be taken out of other hand baggage to be screened separately.
I’ve found that some airlines have reduced their drink/snack offerings over the years, a cost cutting measure no doubt, so I also take:
- some snacks– graze box, granola bars, trail mix, potato chips, or dried fruit are good options.
- bottle of water – buy this after you have gone through security
Other travel accessories to consider:
Most airlines provide a pillow and blanket, but they’re not always the most comfy of things. You might want to invest in a good travel pillow to help you stay comfortable when [trying to] sleep. As one of my layers I take a pashmina wrap/shawl or poncho, which I can wear at the airport in London, that can double up as a blanket on the plane, and be put away when I land at my destination.
In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) has improved significantly over the years, but what if you don’t fancy watching any of the offerings, or what if it breaks (I have had that happen!)? You need something else to occupy, and pass the time.
This might be:
- music or podcasts you’ve downloaded onto your phone or MP3 player
- a tablet so you can play games, or watch (downloaded) movies/TV shows
- an e-reader like a Kindle if you enjoy reading on flights (or download the Kindle app on your tablet!)
- or it could be good old fashioned magazines and a book.
Don’t forget your headphones/earbuds, charging lead and portable charger/power bank. While airlines do provide their own for their IFE, but they may not fit your device. Similarly newer headphone jacks might not fit the IFE – something I discovered with my latest phone!
If you’re interested, I’ve written two posts What’s In My Cabin Bag (2014 Edition) and What’s In My Cabin Bag (2015 Edition), the latter was when I realised I was taking too much stuff into the cabin with me! My top tip for accessories is to pack as lightly as you can! Anything that you do not need, put in your regular luggage to go in the hold!
What about the kids?
They are probably going to get really, really, REALLY bored, they’ll definitely let you know about it, and may even start acting out – not the kind of stress that you need! So make sure you take something to occupy them too – suitable films/shows on a tablet for them to watch, non-messy things to play with… it’s a blog post all of it’s own, so I will be writing another one about travelling long haul with kids as soon as I can.
Let Vanity Go!
You may have noticed that I didn’t include a hair brush or makeup in my cabin bag. I tend to wear my hair up in a messy bun when we travel, so I don’t need to worry about a brush. And having makeup caked on your face for a long flight, is not kind to your skin – so do as I do, and stay au naturel!
However, if you really can’t be without makeup, try a tinted moisturiser for coverage, and a coloured lip balm, which will take up minimal space. If you definitely need a hairbrush, why not try a mini Wet Brush? Even though it’s small, it is an amazing brush for wet and dry hair – I love mine for travel.
Now, I’m not saying you aim to look like a dishevelled mess by the time you reach your destination, but if you’re not looking magazine ready, it really isn’t a big deal!
And finally, make sure you look after yourself during the flight:
- Stay hydrated – the air in the cabin is very drying, so remember to drink plenty of water and avoid too much tea, coffee, and alcohol. Similarly, you may feel your skin and eyes drying out, so use moisturiser, lip balm, and eye drops to he re-hydrate you.
- Stay active – okay, so there is only so much exercise you can do on a plane, but on a long haul flight you should aim to get up and move around every couple of hours. Walk up and down the aisle, or, depending on the aircraft, around the galley area at the tail end where there is a bit more room. You could also do some gentle exercises in your seat, like pointing and flexing your feet, making circles with your ankles, raising your knees like you are marching. All these will help to keep your circulation flowing and avoid the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). I wear compression socks on flights to help avoid DVT.
- Take a nap – might be easier said than done, but if you can have a little snooze on the plane, it will help pass an hour or few! Wear an eye mask, and pop in some earplugs to help you nod off with less distraction. Plus, you are likely to be crossing time zones, so a nap will keep you going once you arrive at your destination.
- Relax – let’s face it, plane seats are not the comfiest of things, and being cooped up for hours upon hours isn’t anyone’s idea of fun… but you may as well sit back and enjoy the ride! Drinks service and your meal is usually served within the first hour or so after take off, and that whole service process will take about an hour too. Then get up and have a walk about the plane, before watching a film. Movies these days are often upwards of 2 hours long, so already we’re potentially four hours into a flight. Watch another movie, do some stretching exercises, have a snack, have a nap, and you’re probably just hours away from your destination by now. You’re likely to get another small meal towards the end of the flight, and you’re could
Taking a long haul flight doesn’t have to be as daunting as you think, you just need to be prepared! I hope these tips on how to survive a long haul flight will help you to stay comfortable and relaxed onboard. Happy travels!