My first long haul was an 18-hour flight directly to Japan, and it also happened to be my first overseas flight. Talk about go big or go home. I didn't have anyone to ask for tips for long flights or what long flight essentials I should pack for my flight.
And, of course, I made all the mistakes. I drank a little too much. I didn't pack snacks. I barely drank water. I was uncomfortably dressed. It was a disaster! And to think. That was before I even made it to my destination.
Let's say I transformed into a Grumpy Cat when I made it to Tokyo.
Fast forward 17 years, and I am now an expert. I look forward to long-haul flights, and for me it's an excuse to catch up on my reading list, get some work done, rest, and otherwise disconnect from the world.
The good news is after years of travel around the world, I finally figured out how to make my flights comfortable. And the answer is not flying First Class. Although some apply even if you're flying first class.
Whether you have a 12-hour plane ride, 15 hours in the economy, or a 20-plus hour flight to the other side of the world, these flight tips will have you get through it.
And yes, they work even if you're flying economy. Because as much as I love flying first class, who has 10's of thousands of dollars to spend on that, I know I don't (yet).
Long Haul Flight Essentials
Get Yourself a Solid Carry-On Bag.
Before we get into what to bring on your long flight, let's talk about what you will put everything in. You need a carry-on that will be lightweight, versatile, and fits under the seat in front of you.
Here are some of our top picks for the best carry-on.
Large Travel Tote
Travel totes are a great lightweight option to pack all your carry on essentials for long haul flights. Look for something that is expandable like this one. It has a zippered main compartment with an additional four pockets to keep your items organized.
The lightweight fabric construction makes it easy to carry. It is the perfect size for taking on board a plane but can be expanded if you need extra room for all the extra shopping you do during your trip.
No need to buy a special bag just for your trips. If you have a gym bag that you love, gym bags make great carry on bags. Extra points if you have one with separate compartments for your toiletries and even shoes like this one.
My favorite type of carry on is a back pack. It is especially great when you have layovers or are going on a multi city trip. Backpacks are easy to carry and can hold a lot of items. You can have your laptop, snacks and other necessities all in one bag.
This makes it easier to zip through airports and not worry about juggling multiple bags while you make connections. I love this one that comes in a variety of colors and styles so I can find one that fits my personality!
Know what to Pack in Your Carry On
Packing for a trip is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. And let's all admit it, we tend to forget something even if we made a list of the things we want to pack.
We all know some travelers pack everything, including the kitchen sink, for a three-day trip, leaving you with little to no room in the overhead bins. But what do you really need to bring in your carry-on? Here are some of the essential items that I bring in my carry-on.
Your change of clothing (yes, including underwear). You do not want to live in the same clothes you traveled with. Bring a new set of clothes to feel more comfortable on the plane (or for when you get to your destination).
Medications and prescription eyewear. Make sure that you have this in your carry-on since these are hard to replace, especially if you are up in the air. Whether your flight is 2 hours or 20 hours, carrying these essential items with you is always important.
Toiletry Kit– Make yourself a toiletry kit with the things you'll need to clean and groom yourself, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, face wipes, baby wipes, facial wash, lotion, and lip balm.
Satisfying Snacks – You do not want to be stuck on a long flight with nothing to eat. Make sure to pack snacks, so you can avoid getting hangry. Especially if you have food allergies. It's better to be safe than sorry.
I say specifically satisfying snacks because you want to make sure they are something you will enjoy. This is not the time to pack something you don't usually like to snack on because you saw it trending on TikTok, and it “looked” good.
Book / Kindle – long flights can be boring and awful, make sure you pick a good book to take along with you. While there are in-flight movies, the selection can be limited and may not be your cup of tea.
Reusable water bottle – Another item that I never travel without is my reusable water bottle. Just make sure the bottle is empty before you pass through airport security.
When packing for your carry-on, you must also ensure that you do not include anything that is prohibited in a carry-on. These are things that include aerosol products (such as anti-static spray or pepper spray), lithium or lithium-ion batteries, firearms and ammunition, and flammables.
What to Bring on Onboard
Here are a few other things that you may want to bring onboard with you and have easy access to during your flight.
While most airlines now have an in-flight entertainment system, sometimes it is a good idea to have some backup just in case. In addition to having the flexibility to watch what you want, having some kind of entertainment will help occupy your time during long flights.
I'm talking books, magazines, downloaded movies/TV series on your tablet and laptop, and even noise-canceling headphones.
One of my favorite long flight tips is to download a bunch of books from your library to your kindle or iPad. Not only is it free but you will have plenty of entertainment.
Phone charger / Portable charger
Flights can be long, and watching a movie or playing a game will drain your battery faster. Make sure to bring a portable charger and/or phone charger with you so that you can ensure that your devices are charged for the duration of the flight and not just a few hours.
Having an iPad or tablet is great for long flights. You can watch movies, play games, read books, and much more. Pair this with noise-canceling headphones, which will help drown out outside sound giving you a better experience while flying.
If you invest in an iPad pen, you can also use your Ipad as a notebook or journal.
If you're an avid reader, bringing a Kindle or e-reader is always a good idea. You can download books and magazines in advance, so you don't have to worry about running out of reading material during your flight.
Also, e-readers like the kindle paperwhite have a longer battery life which means that you can download several books that you can read for your whole flight without having to worry about your book dying.
Create a Flight Essentials Kit
You should always create your long haul flight essentials kit that includes items we already discussed. But it is crucial to have an essentials kit customized to your needs. Here are a few more items you may want to include in your flight essentials kit.
It can get chilly on a flight, so it doesn't hurt to bring a packable jacket like this one with you can that you can throw on when the plane air is just a little too chilly for your liking. Depending on the weather in your final destination, it also may come in handy.
We all know that airplanes can harbor a lot of germs and bacteria. That is why hand sanitizer should be an essential part of your flight essentials kit. A small bottle will do just fine, and just make sure it is travel sized so that you can easily pass through security.
After your in-flight meal, you may want to freshen up. This is why it is a good idea to have some pocket-sized mouthwash in your flight essentials kit so that you can stay fresh and clean during the duration of your flight.
These are essential for long flights if you plan to nap or just want to rest. Long hair can be challenging to manage, and having a few extra hair ties will help keep your hair out of your face.
These are great for long flights when you're looking for a breath refresher. Mints and gum can help keep your breath fresh throughout your flight, and gum is also great if you experience clogged ears when flying.
You might be wondering why the heck you need a pen. Well, if you are on an international trip, you may be required to fill out a customs form which means that you will need a pen.
While most international destinations have started to utilize electronic custom forms, a few places still have paper custom forms, which are usually handed out at the end of your international flight.
It's good to have a pen so that you can fill out the customs form and be ready when it comes time to clear customs and immigration.
This may not be an item you think of when packing your flight essentials kit. Still, it's crucial to have travel insurance if something happens during your trip.
Travel insurance will provide you with coverage if your bags are lost, stolen, or delayed and can also protect against medical expenses if you get injured while traveling. Keep a copy of your travel insurance paperwork easily accessible if you need to reference it.
You will always want to have your passport, driver's license, and any other travel documents easily accessible if you need to provide them while traveling. Make sure to keep copies of these documents as well, just in case your original one is lost or stolen.
You also want to hang on to your boarding pass after you board your plane. You may need the information later on during the trip, for example, when going through customs or immigration.
Even if face masks are not required in your country of origin, that may not be the case in your destination. It is essential to bring a face mask to protect yourself and those around you while traveling.
It is also a good idea to have one available in case it is required in the foreign country you are visiting. (I have actually witnessed people being denied boarding because of fask mask requirements in their destination).
First Aid Kit/Medication
Having a first aid kit available is always a good idea, and you never know when you may need one. It should include essential items like band-aids, antibiotic ointment, antihistamines, or pain relievers if needed.
Additionally, it's essential to bring your own personal medication, such as inhalers or medications for allergies, etc. Before traveling, though, make sure you have copies of your prescriptions. Also, make sure you are doing your research, as some places have restrictions on what you can bring into the country.
With so many stories of flight delays and lost luggage in the news having a luggage tracker has become incredibly popular. You can track your checked luggage in real-time to ensure it is never lost or delayed during your travels.
If you plan on getting some sleep on your overnight flight, having a pair of earplugs handy can be essential. These can help block out the noises of other passengers, crying babies, or the loud kids in the front who are too excited.
They will help you get quality sleep during the flight making your travel experience much more enjoyable. Ear plugs are a key long flight essential.
Airports and airplanes are breeding grounds for germs. It's essential to have some antibacterial wipes handy to give your area a quick wipe-down when getting on the plane.
You can wipe down your tray table and armrests. This will help keep you safe from any potential illnesses and make your flying experience more comfortable.
Notebook or Journal
A notebook or journal can be a great way to document your journey. This can be used to write down memories, ideas, places to visit, etc. I
t's also lovely to look back on these moments and remember the beautiful experiences you had during your travels.
You can also use it to take notes during your flight should the flight attendant (or even your seat neighbor) share some helpful information.
Having tissues on hand can be an essential item for long flights, and they can help wipe up spills, blow your nose, or even clean the tray tables before eating or drinking.
This is a great item to have in your bag as it is a great immunity booster and can also give you an energy boost when you need one. EmergenC supplies vitamins and minerals that the body can easily absorb and provide an energy kick should you need one.
This could be useful if you arrive at your destination jet lagged or exhausted from traveling.
Electrolytes are essential for long flights as they help with hydration and replenish minerals that may have been lost while flying. You can purchase electrolyte powder like this one that you can mix with water. Having some on hand can help you avoid dehydration during the flight.
Long Haul Flight Beauty Essentials
Long-haul flights are tough on the body, especially regarding the skin. The dry air on flights can quickly dehydrate the skin, and keeping your skin hydrated is essential. Here is a list of some airplane essentials you can bring along.
Your lips can get really dry during a flight, sometimes indicating you need to hydrate. In addition to drinking water, a good lip balm should do the trick and keep your lips from cracking or peeling.
This will help to give your skin a boost of hydration during the flight. A facial mist will help keep the skin hydrated, reduce puffiness, and refresh you.
A good moisturizer is essential for long flights. This type of product will help ensure your skin remains hydrated during the flight and helps to prevent it from drying out or cracking due to dehydration.
Long flights can also lead to your skin becoming dull or tired. A good facial mask will help boost the skin's hydration and give it a much-needed pick-me-up. You can choose various types of masks, such as hydrating, exfoliating, or calming.
All these products will help keep your skin looking fresh and healthy even after a long flight.
Dry eyes usually occur after a long flight due to the dry air. Eye drops can help relieve these symptoms and soothe red or irritated eyes. It's essential to keep eye drops handy during your travels as they can be invaluable in keeping your eyes fresh and feeling good.
As with the skin on your face, the dry air in airplanes can also lead to dryness of your hands. A good hand cream will help to keep your hands looking and feeling soft during long flights.
Facial moisturizers are also essential while traveling to help keep your skin well-hydrated and looking good. Long-haul flights can lead to the skin becoming quite dry, so bringing a good moisturizer is essential.
Luxury Long Flight Essentials
Just because you're not booked in first class or even business class does not mean that you can't enjoy a little bit of luxury during a long trip. There are plenty of things you can bring along with you on international flights that will make your experience luxurious, even if you are sitting in a cramped airplane seat.
These are must-have items when traveling long distances. Long flights can mean your feet swell and become uncomfortable, so bringing some soft slippers to slip them into can be pretty comforting.
Lavender Sleep Mask
Lavender is known to help promote better sleep, so why not invest in a lavender sleep mask? This can be very helpful when trying to get some rest on a long flight.
Inflatable Foot Rest
This is a great item to bring along on long flights to get some relief for your feet and lower back. Inflatable footrests can be easily inflated and used as leg support during the flight.
Long Haul Flight Tips
How to be a long-haul pro?
Book Your Tickets Early
How far in advance should you book your flights? When traveling on a budget, every penny counts. Unfortunately, the cost of airfare can burn a severe hole in your wallet. But don't let that stop you from taking a vacation.
The most important rule is, don't wait until the last minute. If the price is right, book your tickets early, ensuring that you get the first dibs on the ideal seat. Use tools like google flights to compare flights to get the best deal and SeatGuru score the best seat.
Sit in the Back
Speaking of seats, opt to sit in the back. There are a few reasons for this. First, the likelihood of getting an entire row to yourself is pretty good.
I got lucky on a trip from New York City to Paris once. Hubby and I had our own row, and we were in heaven and slept the whole way through.
Use your Miles
The most coveted perk of being a frequent flyer is an upgrade to a comfier seat. If you have miles to burn, call your airline and inquire about using your miles to upgrade. Upgrading with miles sometimes presents an excellent way to fly in comfort without shedding extra money.
You might get lucky and end up with a First Class Seat for the price of economy. Also depending on your status with an airline you may be eligible for free upgrades so do your research.
Upgrade to Premium Economy
I am short, so I really don't need the legroom, but it wouldn't hurt to get some extra space for yourself, isn't it? Especially if you are tall, keep an eye out for upgrades to premium economy. Airlines usually offer upgrades for a little extra.
I once found an offer in the airline app for $30 while checking my flight details. You better believe I jumped on that opportunity right away.
Bring your own pillow.
You want to have a comfy travel pillow. Choosing which pillow to bring with you on your flight isn't that different from choosing pillows for your bed at home, and it must be comfortable.
Yes, I know it sounds crazy. However, if you get a window seat and lean it against the window, you won't have to bump your head on the window and feel uncomfortable. I also make sure I change the cover on the pillow to my favorite satin pillowcase for lesser frizz and fewer skin creases.
Also, consider bringing along a regular-sized pillow. It might seem kinda ridiculous but trust me. You will be super comfy.
Bring an eye mask
If you are used to sleeping with all lights out, it will be hard to get sleep on the plane. You don't have control over the lights, and not everyone has the same time schedule. So bring a comfortable eye mask so you can get some decent shut eye on your night flight.
Invest in noise-canceling headphones.
When flying internationally, there is no guarantee that everyone will be on the same schedule. Whether you are trying to get some zzz's, avoid a baby's endless cry, or just want to be in your own world and take advantage of your alone time, noise-canceling headphones are your best friend.
There are a lot of good headphones in the market now, but my fave is from Bose. They were one of the best investments I have ever made. It provides an unparalleled level of comfort and has terrific noise canceling.
This set is unique in that it effectively reduces a broader range of frequencies, from low rumbling airplane noise up to the human speaking range. .
Keep an eye out for sales on sites like Amazon. I scored my Bose headphones for $99 during a flash sale.
Pack a scarf or pashmina.
If you are flying a budget airline, they may not provide you with an airline blanket. Or if they do, it may be at an extra cost. To save money, bring your own.
An oversized scarf or pashmina does double duty as a blanket and fashion accessory. This is where fashion meets function, and you can evenstyle it as a skirt or top if you're creative.
You can also use it as a headscarf when visiting religious sites or at the beach when you don't have a beach towel to lay on. They are easy to pack, so they won't take up a lot of room.
Charge up your devices.
Before you head out, ensure all your devices are 100%. And resist the urge to start binge-watching your favorite shows while at the gate waiting to board.
Save that power for the flight when you really need it. Even if the plane says it has power outlets, do not depend on it. I am pretty sure you won't be happy if you get on your flight only to find out the outlets do not work.
Always have a backup.
Keeping yourself entertained is one of the most complex parts of being on a long haul. So make sure to pack multiple forms of entertainment. There are plenty of things you can do to keep busy. That way, your long flight will literally fly by.
- Download your favorite shows or movies.
- Pack a book or a few magazines.
- Listen to Podcasts and download topics that interest you.
- Coloring books and puzzles are also a great way to pass the time.
- Write in a journal.
- Listen to some good music. This is your time to finally memorize that song on shuffle
- Learn the local language (if you are traveling to a place that widely uses their own language)
- Organize your itinerary.
You can even pack a game of cards. Have you tried Monopoly Deal yet? Love that game!
Many will recommend that you have a few glasses of wine to help with anxiety and put you right to sleep. I would be a hypocrite if I told you not to do that because I always do it. However, make sure to keep a few things in mind.
First, always hydrate. Make sure you are drinking a good amount of water. Do you know that the human body loses 8 ounces of water per hour at an aircraft altitude, mostly from breathing? Well, now you know, so make sure you're always hydrated.
Staying hydrated while on a long-haul flight can be difficult. So it's a good idea to bring your own water bottle so you do not have to depend on the flight attendants to bring you water. You can refill your bottle before you board and ask for extra water everytime the flight attendants pass by with beverages.
Make sure that you are eating well before and during your long-haul flight. Now is not the time to try too fast. Flights can be draining, and you need all the energy you can get.
Also, while plane food is way better than it used to be, you don't want to just depend on airplane food to keep you on a long flight when you may not be eating for an extended period.
Drink in moderation
It is ok to have an adult beverage or two but do not overdo it. Keep in mind that the air pressure in the cabins of commercial planes is relatively low, which can slightly reduce the amount of oxygen in our bodies.
So if you are drinking while on the air, you may feel the effects of the alcohol a little more intensely than usual. Being hungover and jetlagged is not the way to start a nice holiday, don't you think?
How good does it feel to shower or even wash your face after a long day?
While showering might not be doable, there are little things you can do to maintain good hygiene. I pack a toiletry kit with the following items:
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Baby Wipes
- Change of Underwear
- Facial wash and some moisturizer
After dinner, wash your face and freshen up with baby wipes. Put on some moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated too. As mentioned above, if you have an evening routine, now is a great time to do it. This will trigger your brain that it is time for bed and help you to fall asleep. This is also helpful in preventing jet lag.
Before landing, wash your face and freshen up again. If you haven't done so already (or want to do it again), brush your teeth, change your underwear, and put on some deodorant.
It's not the same as a shower, but it will definitely have you feeling a lot better.
How do you survive a long flight?
Follow a routine
The excitement of traveling to a new destination can make it really hard for you to even think about a routine. However, following your routine while on a flight will help you first pass the time, but more importantly, sleep.
I'd like to like I'm home, going to bed, and getting the sleep I deserve. And what I usually like to do before bed is to wash my face, possibly have a beverage (I usually go for tea, but a glass of wine is also a good idea), and read my favorite book. So whenever I fly, I try to do the same exact thing.
TIP: if you like tea, bring your own. All you need is hot water, and you can ask the flight attendants to bring you some. Skip the generic tea being offered on board and indulge in something that you absolutely love,
Wear Comfy Clothes
If you wouldn't sleep in a sequin gown, wearing one on a plane is probably not a good idea. And it doesn't matter if you're traveling in the middle of summer, and it will always be cold on the plane.
Comfort is a priority. Although there is no dress code on flights, you want to wear clothes that you are comfortable in. Here are some of the clothes that I found very comfortable to wear while on a flight:
- Loose Lightweight Sweatpants or Joggers
- Tank Top
- Long Sleeve Cotton Tee
- Compression Socks
- Pashmina (can double as a blanket)
- Maxi Dress (this makes me feel like I am wearing a nightgown)
- comfortable shoes
Book a window seat
If you want to get some rest and not be disturbed, opt for a window seat away from the galleys. You can lean against the window as you doze off and won't have to worry about getting up if someone needs to use the restroom or stretch their legs.
And you will have control over whether to open or close the window shades.
Bring a Change of Clothes
So you survived the flight but now feel less than good about yourself. You are on a flight for over 12 hours and will want to change your clothes. Bringing a change of clothes can give you a change of mood once you hit the ground.
Packing a change of clothes in my carry-on has become a habit. It started as a just-in-case they lose my luggage, or my flight gets canceled or delayed. But now, it has become a necessity. A change of clothes after a long-haul flight makes all the difference, like a feeling that you can finally breathe.
Sleeping can be hard when you don't have as much space to lie down and stretch out. The key is to make yourself as comfortable as possible. You can start by bringing along things like a blanket, pillow, and even earplugs to drown out the sound of that crying baby.
In addition, if you have a bedtime routine, replicate it during your flight, which will help signal your mind that it is time for sleep.
Drinking plenty of water is something we should all do, but it is imperative when traveling. Long flights can dehydrate, and drinking water helps combat dehydration. It also helps flush toxins out of your body and keep you refreshed throughout the flight.
Move around and stretch.
Sitting in one place for an extended period can cause your muscles to become stiff and sore. Getting up and walking around every couple of hours is essential to avoid this. You can also try stretching or doing some simple exercises while in your seat. This will help keep the blood flowing and reduce fatigue.
Take advantage of the airport lounge
If you have a layover, then take advantage of the airport lounge. Many credit cards now offer free lounge access. However, even if you do not have lounge access through your credit card, you can still purchase access to the lounge at most airports.
Lounges are a great chance to refuel and refresh. Most lounges offer food and beverages and some have showers and even nap rooms. It's definitely a great way to refresh during a long trip.
Additional Tips for surviving a long haul flight
The stress of being on a long-haul flight is tough for everybody, both for fellow passengers and so as the flight staff. Preparing for the reality of sitting on a plane for hours is essential. While we must plan ahead for things we want to bring, preparing physically and mentally for a more comfortable journey is also essential.
Here are some tips on how to survive long haul flights and avoid being stressed out.
Try to relax. Do whatever it takes to have a peaceful moment — listen to calm music, meditate, and do some breathing exercises. This will help you sleep more easily and have a calm mind during your flight. I usually listen to that zen music that runs for 2 hours to make my surroundings relaxing.
This helps me calm my mind, especially when trying to get some sleep. Breathing techniques can also help us trigger the relaxation response in our body. Inhale for four counts (your stomach should expand), then exhale for eight counts (your stomach contracts). Do this for three minutes.
Get some sleep, even if it's for a short nap. Sure it is not easy to get some sleep especially when you are on a long-haul flight.
We have mentioned it above but there are a lot of things that can help: a good eye mask to block out the light, an earplug that can somehow eliminate noise that may wake you up, or a comfy pillow that can improve your sleep.
You will feel less tired if you get some sleep on your flight. You may have the energy to do adventures right when you land at your destination.
Stretch your body. Stand up when you can. You don't want to sit on the plane during the entire trip.
And lastly, stay positive. Long flights can be dreadful, but there's nothing a positive mind can fix. Focus on yourself and on how you would like things to be. We tend to worry about possible things that could go wrong.
When we think this way, we create unnecessary anxiety that makes us think negatively. We get trapped in a cycle of negative thinking. So be aware of the thoughts that you are having. Think about how happy you will be during your holiday and what memorable experiences you could make that you can keep in your memory forever.
Surviving long haul flights is more than just about passing the time comfortably. You also want to think about after you land and how you want to feel when you arrive at your destination.
Long Flight Essentials: FAQs
What do I need to bring on a long flight?
You should bring comfortable clothing and accessories, like a neck pillow, eye mask, snacks, noise cancelling headphones/earplugs, and an entertainment device like your laptop or tablet on a long flight. Also, bring any necessary travel documents, such as your passport or visa.
What should I pack for a 12-hour flight?
For a 12-hour flight, pack a portable charger and/or charging cables for your electronic devices. You should also bring a large water bottle, eye drops, and other comfort items like a small blanket or travel pillow.
What should you not wear on a long flight?
To make your long flight more comfortable, you should avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing. You should also avoid clothing with metal details, such as studs or metal zippers. These can set off the alarm during security checks. Lastly, avoid wearing shoes that are difficult to take on and off, and opt for slip-on shoes.
How to survive long flights in economy?
To survive long flights in economy, it is essential to be prepared. As previously mentioned, wear comfortable clothes, and pack your carry-on bag with the flight essentials you need for your personal preference. The goal is to create an environment that is desirable to you.
Long Haul Flights Essentials, Tips & Tricks
Long-haul flights can be exhausting, but you don't have to dread them. By being prepared with the right items and following some simple tips, such as eating light meals, stretching your body when possible, and staying positive during the flight, you'll ensure that your long-haul journey is pleasant.
With these long-flight travel essentials in hand – an eye mask for blocking out light, earplugs to reduce noise, and comfy travel pillows for added comfort while sleeping or just relaxing you'll be able to enjoy your trip without any worries!
So get ready and prepare yourself for the next big adventure. What are some of your favorite long-flight travel tips and long haul travel essentials?