How to Survive a Long Flight

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo is my guy, but if he had gone on a few more lengthy flights, I suspect he might temper that bit about longing to return…

As someone who’s weathered a handful of 10-plus-hour flights, I’ve learned a thing or two about staying comfortable over the long haul. Of course, comfort wasn’t always my priority. When I was a less experienced traveller, I was more concerned with packing as light as possible.

Mount Fuji in Japan, seen from the air

But the older I get, the more important comfort is, especially on those long flights. While there are some things you can’t always change—like who ends up in the seat next to you or the temperature in the plane—there’s a lot you can do to make the trip more comfortable.

1. Sleep Gear

Taking the red-eye doesn’t have to mean foregoing shut eye. The more you can sleep, the better off you’ll be when you arrive at your destination and need to find your way to your accommodations or hop on a connecting mode of transportation.

I tend to bring both a neck pillow and a blanket. If you’re concerned about packing light, dress in layers and opt for a compact pillow. A sleep mask and earplugs (or noise-cancelling headphones) can help you tune out the rest of the plane.

2. Entertainment

While sleep is as valuable as any entertainment, it’s not always possible to sleep for the duration of your flight. Nor can you count on in-flight entertainment. I’ve made the mistake of bringing a single magazine on a 15-hour flight. Within 45 minutes, I’d read it cover to cover.

Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, Thailand

There’s nothing worse than twiddling your thumbs as you count down the hours on a long flight. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to stay entertained. You don’t even need to carry an actual book anymore—load your phone up with a few episodes of your favourite podcasts or a couple of audiobooks and you’re good to go. And don’t forget that charger.

3. The Right Toiletries

Spending hours in a crowded plane can quickly leave you feeling icky. That’s where your favourite self-care products—facial wipes, essential oils, deodorant, toothpaste—come in. Pack your own personal travel kit to freshen up mid-flight, or right before you land.

4. A Lot of Water + Snacks

Air in the cabin of a plane tends to be low on humidity, so dehydration can be a serious issue. I always make sure to carry an empty water bottle with me through security, and fill it up once I’m on the other side. Of course, you can always purchase a bottle of water before you board or in the air.

Caffeine and alcohol are always tempting, but they will dehydrate you more—plus, they can also interfere with sleep. That’s something to keep in mind.

A lot of water, but no snacks in sight

5. Move Around

It’s important to get up from time to time, even if it means asking your neighbours to move so you can get out of your seat. A lap around the cabin every couple of hours can loosen you up and make sitting easier. I like to do a few discreet neck, arm, and leg stretches here and there, too.

Do you have any tips to share with the community? Add yours in the comments below!

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