I have a secret, I hate flying.
Despite that fact, I have traveled to over 70 countries, run a travel blog for a living, and have taken a countless number of flights. Believe it or not, flying gives me anxiety. The anxiety ranges from thinking I will miss my flight, to failed security screenings, to mini heart attacks every time there is a small bump in the air – in short, my brain runs wild during the whole process.
Since I travel full time for a living I have to overcome these feelings all the time and board the next plane. There are several strategies I take to ensure I have a smooth a travel experience when I fly long distances. Whether it be your first flight ever, or your 50th I hope these tips will help you the next time you fly.
How to Survive a Long Haul Flight (in Economy)
Wear a sweatshirt
If you’re wondering what to take on a long haul flight a sweatshirt or jacket should be of most importance. Don’t forget a jacket or sweater when getting on any flight. I’ve noticed the temperatures in planes range from insanely hot to insanely cold. There’s only so much you can do if it’s hot, but a sweater will help you with any chills. Airplanes often don’t have extra blankets so if you arrive without something to keep warm and the plane is freezing you’ll be snuggling up with your seatmate and your one blanket.
Pack what you need to be comfortable
When getting on any long-haul flight I make sure I have everything in my carry-on to be comfortable for the entire trip. For me my long haul flight essentials are typically a charged phone, sweatshirt, lotion, a toothbrush with a small tube of toothpaste, chapstick, my computer to work, and noise canceling headphones.
Say what you want about yoga pants, but they are my go to on any long-haul flight. If I’m getting on a 10-hour flight my main priority is my comfort, not looking fashionable. I’m not saying you should go looking like a dirty vagabond, but it’s not necessary to fly in heels and a dress either. My perfect long-haul flight outfit is black yoga pants, cute shirt or oversized sweater, and my Vans sneakers. Try to avoid belts and excessive jewelry as it will hold you up at security. For men, Cameron suggests a sweater, t-shirt, Vaha pants from prAna, and Vans sneaker.
Other long haul flight essentials to stay comfortable:
If you’ve ever been on a flight offering food you may have noticed some people get their food before everyone else. That’s because when booking they selected a special meal. This could be vegan, kosher, vegetarian, or a plethora of other options.
We always order vegetarian when we are booking because we are actually vegetarian and because that means we get our meals before everyone else! I’ve also noticed that the special meals are often fresher and more specialized than the standard meal given. The first step to having an enjoyable long-haul flight is to be full and happy.
Invest in TSA Precheck
We just got TSA precheck at the beginning of this year and I don’t know why it took us so long sign up. If you travel more than a few times a year in the United States then TSA precheck is amazing and a great time saver. It makes the whole check-in and security process at the airport less stressful.
Now we don’t have to take off our shoes or pull out our laptops, but the real advantage is the time you save in line. It’s so nice (especially when we are running late) to hop in the precheck line and breeze past the main security. If you are a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Capital One Venture card holder your card will reimburse you $85 for your TSA precheck application or $100 for Global Entry.
Bring your own headphones
Most long-haul flights have in-flight entertainment and will provide you with their headphones free of charge. However, these headphones are typically the cheapest and most uncomfortable earbuds ever.
Bring backup entertainment
We’ve been on a few long haul flights that don’t have any entertainment at all. Let me tell you those can be brutal if you don’t have a backup source of entertainment or a way to pass the time. Want to know how to pass the time on a long haul flight? Whether it be a book, kindle, iPad, phone, or laptop make sure you have something on you or it could be a very long flight.
Don’t forget a water bottle
My water bottle is always on me so that I save plastic and money when traveling. Bring a water bottle on board the plane with you so that your flight attendant can fill it once and not waste a plastic cup or keep coming back to re-fill. Check out a few of our favorites here.
Be kind to your eyeballs
For my fellow contact and glasses users, I would highly recommend prefilling a contact lens case with contact solution before any long-haul flight. We all know that feeling when you fall asleep with your contacts in and wake up with them glued to your eyeballs. Don’t let that happen onboard and come prepared with your glasses and case so you can interchange between the two. It’s pretty easy to forget when you’re on a long haul flight.
Board the plane last
I learned this tip from a fellow passenger I was chatting with on a flight to Costa Rica. He told me he always tries to be the last person to board the plane. That way if he doesn’t like his given seat he can sit somewhere else (assuming it’s not a full flight) and pretend it was his original seat. If you do this and have a special meal make sure to tell the flight attendants to avoid confusion at meal time.
Recheck your seats before your flight
When you book your flight be sure to select the seat you want. Whether that be aisle or window it’s important to select instead of being assigned one at random. Some handy tips I’ve gathered over the years:
- Don’t pick a seat in front of an exit row. The chairs often don’t recline.
- Don’t pick seats right next to the lavatory or it could be a smelly ride with people always lined up near you.
- When we travel as a pair we try to choose the window and aisle of a row, leaving the middle open. At best no one will choose that middle seat and you will have the row to yourself. At worst the seat will get filled and 99.9% of the time the middle seat will switch with you to avoid the middle.
- Enter your airplane model into SeatGuru to see which seats and considered the best and worst.
- Recheck your seat map the night before your flight to see the occupancy levels and if you can switch to better seats.
- Seats towards the front of the plane will experience less turbulence.
Checking in beforehand?
When the 24 hours before your flight time hits you will likely get an email prompting you to check in. This is great if you are flying carry-on only, but if you have bags to check you will still have to get to the airport and either check in with a ticket agent or print your bag tags out and self-drop them off. So allow extra time for that and if you already checked in online beforehand be prepared to do it again anyways.
Don’t go overweight on baggage
This one seems simple, but I see it almost every time we go to the airport. Passengers going over their weight allowance for their checked bags and then scrambling to open their luggage and readjust their items while others are trying to check in.
I myself have done it a few times, and it always creates unnecessary stress at the airport and makes everyone else in line wait on you. Before you pack your bags pay particular attention to your weight allowance.
Once you are packed up weigh your bags on a scale to make sure you are within your airline’s allowance. Most airlines allow 23 kg or 50 lbs for checked baggage, however, low-cost carriers typically only allow 20 kg for checked baggage.
Pay for baggage when booking
Pay attention when booking and see if checked bags are not included in the price of your airline ticket or not. Most US domestic flights do not include checked baggage, and low-cost carriers never do. However, the vast majority of long-haul international flights include one to two checked bags.
Always check the specifics on checked bags when booking your flights. You will want to pay for your baggage during the online booking process or you could end up paying double at the airline counter.
Bring a travel pillow
A good travel pillow can make a long haul flight more endurable. I prefer ones that wrap around my entire neck and provide good support for when my neck ultimately slouches to one side.
If you are flying international on an overnight flight the airline will typically provide you with a blanket and a small pillow, but don’t expect quality here. If you are flying a low-cost carrier – like WOW Air, Spirit, Norwegian Airlines, or Jetstar don’t expect items of comfort to be readily available for free.
Enjoy a glass of alcohol
When I’m flying long haul I will typically order a glass of wine with my meal (or a gin and tonic if liquor is included). This isn’t because I’m a big drinker, but rather that the alcohol will put me to sleep a little faster and make the flight pass by.
If you don’t drink try ordering a cup of chamomile tea to soothe your nerves and muscles. Or pack some Nyquil or melatonin to help zonk you out if you have anxiety – but don’t get too zonked out.
Set your clock to your new time zone
Chances are you will switch time zones on your long-haul flight. When I board the plane I like to set my clock to the time in my new country. I then try to set up my internal clock to my new time zone. It helps with the jet lag!
Pack some snacks
Even if your long-haul flight has food on board it may still be worth it to pack a few snack items. Things like Cliff Bars and apples hold up well on a plane and can curb your appetite a bit.
Carry on all electronics
We never check electronics for three reasons. One – they are fragile and could easily break. Two – because you never know who is going through your bag! Three – lithium-ion batteries in electronics are prone to fire in rapid temperature shifts. For the safety of the plane, it’s best to keep large batteries on your person in the pressurized cabin.
Get a TSA friendly suitcase
The Transportation Security Administration is pretty notorious for having bad service and practices. Things like broken locks or missing/damaged items are common occurrences for passengers. Then there are countless videos going around showing airline employees rummaging through suitcases in search of valuables. While you can’t completely prevent something from happening to your belongings you can minimize the risk and get a TSA Friendly suitcase. This only what happens in the U.S. let alone in developing nations with employees making far less in salary.
These types of locks mean you can secure your belongings and know that no one can enter your bag beside the TSA. I personally travel with theeBags Hardside spinner and love it!It features a Flush-mounted TSA-recognized 3-dial combination lock for safe packing and I haven’t had any issues yet.
Side note: Many travel credit cards and travel insurance will reimburse you for any lost or damaged luggage.
Remember your phone charger
Many of the long haul flights I’ve been on recently have USB ports to charge your phone, so make sure to remember to bring your charging cable so you can be fully charged when you land in your destination. These days it’s a valuable tool as it holds all of our reservations, maps, currency calculators, and ride service applications.
Pack a pen
This is a simple item you will want to have in your carry on bag, but it’s often forgotten. If you are flying internationally filling out the customs form on board the plane will save a lot of time at immigration. However, it always seems like no one ever has a pen and I wouldn’t count on asking the flight attendants. Travel with one in your bag to stay ahead of the game.
Bring a yoga mat
I travel with my travel yoga mat so that I can practice yoga in countries around the world. Sitting on a plane for hours at a time is not only uncomfortable but unnatural for the body and it’s important to take time and care for your limbs when you can. I love to stretch before the flight and after once I reach my destination.
Consider Priority Pass
If you are a frequent traveler a Priority Pass membership may be worth it to you. We just got one a few months ago and it has made traveling around the world so much more enjoyable. Priority Pass is a membership the grants members access to many airport lounges around the world. It is incredibly handy if you have long layovers or arrive at the airport early.
Many of the lounges that we have been granted access to are top notch with great food and drinks, free WiFi, and comfortable places to sit. However, a few have been shoddy, cramped, dirty, and not much better than the terminal. We received a free Priority Pass membership as Chase Ultimate Reserve cardholders. The card has a high $450 annual but has tons of perks that have paid for itself tenfold.
Just think about all the money you spend on food and drinks at the airport. With membership in airline lounges, you can knock that costs out as they often have free food, drinks, and coffee – some even have full bars. This has been a game changer for us when it come to long haul flight tips.
Plan for your landing
If you are changing climates make sure to pack what you need to be comfortable in your new home. You don’t want to arrive at a snowy destination in flip-flops and vice versa.
Above all, sit back and try to enjoy your flight and get excited about an epic trip! Want to see what all to take on long haul flight? Check out our flight essentials list here.