12 Ways To Deal When You Have A Super Long Flight



No matter how much you enjoy traveling, the thought of a 12-hour long-haul flight can be a little daunting. Okay, a lot daunting. But it’s not entirely impossible to survive.

Based on some top tips from a flight attendant and my own experiences, here are some top tips for not only surviving, but actually enjoying your next long flight. 

1. Eat light, simple meals before the flight.

There’s no delicate way to say it. Anything you eat a few hours before your flight, you will be dealing with on board an aircraft. Due to pressure differences, we tend to bloat during flights, so avoid eating or drinking anything you know might give you indigestion or could make you feel bloated. Also avoid rich, spicy or heavy foods that might upset your digestive system, particularly if you suffer from travel sickness.

2. Buy water at the airport after security.

The human body doesn’t really like flying at high altitude. In addition to bloating (see #1) we dehydrate much faster in the low pressure and heavily air-conditioned cabin environment. While you will be provided with drinks during the flight, a few small cups of water won’t keep your hydration levels up. You won’t be able to carry water through security, but most airports have somewhere to buy bottled water after security, although be prepared to pay a steep premium.

3. The Three Day Rule.

If you have connecting flights, your chance of arriving at your destination without a suitcase increases. If your connection time is short, these odds increase further.

A baggage handler at San Francisco airport explained that airlines incur huge fees for missed take-off slots, so any bags that aren’t loaded on time will be left behind and will follow on a later flight. Paying out $100 compensation for a delayed suitcase is significantly cheaper than the costs of a delay. To get around this, make sure you pack your first three days’ worth of clothes in a carry-on case. That way, if you arrive at your destination and your case is still lounging around an earlier airport, you can still enjoy your trip without worrying about trying to buy replacement clothes until your case catches up with you.

4. Prepare your entertainment.

Copy your Spotify playlists, load up your Kindle, pack enough books and magazines, download some games – whatever your entertainment preference is, bring plenty of it! A good long-haul airline will offer plenty of seat-back entertainment, but it’s a good idea to have some of your own in case the in-flight entertainment isn’t to your taste. Remember that your devices need to be in airplane mode, so ensure anything you want to read, watch, listen to or play is downloaded to the device for offline use.

5. Pack some snacks.

Airline food is frequently a topic of contention amongst travelers; the portions aren’t big enough, the food is too salty, the food is unrecognizable. Whatever your gripe, there’s a chance that you’re not going to be satiated after your meal. And if you struggle with travel sickness, the unfamiliar food may be a complete turnoff.

Pack some simple, non-perishable snacks, such as granola bars. Avoid chocolate if your destination is likely to be hot and there’s a chance you won’t eat it all before arrival, so you don’t have to deal with a sticky mess later. If you struggle with travel sickness, ginger, citrus or mint-flavored candies may help, while hard candy and gum can help sore ears during take-off and landing.

6. Pack a big scarf in your carry-on and warm socks.

Airplanes are heavily air-conditioned and can get cold. I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of taking a pashmina or large scarf. It can keep a draft off your neck and shoulders, but also doubles as a blanket – and can be folded up as a pillow when you want to sleep. Warm socks are wonderful for napping, and are a good alternative to bare feet, which is often a point of controversy. (Personally, I’m a “get on-board, get them off” kind of girl.)

7. Wear lightweight, comfortable layers.

As discussed earlier, we tend to bloat during flights, so your favorite pair of super-skinnies may not be quite so favorite after a couple of hours of the waistband digging into you. Also, depending on the time of your flight, you will probably want to get some sleep, so comfortable, lightweight clothing is your friend. Layers are good for temperature control and avoiding chills, but also allowing you to loosen off if it gets stuffy.

8. Wear sensible shoes.

If your flight has connections, the last thing you want to be doing is dragging your bags from Gate 3 to Gate 68 in tottering heels, or your very-cool-but-bloody-painful loafers, especially if you have a short connection time and need to do it quickly. Wear something that’s attached to your feet, but also something breathable, should you want to keep your shoes on during the flight. For these reasons, gladiator sandals are brilliant travel shoes.

9. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

Due to extreme air conditioning and the low pressure, airplane cabins are usually at about 20% humidity, which, given we operate best at between 40-60% humidity, can be pretty tough on our skin. Plus, as discussed in #2, this can increase the risk of dehydration.

Take a good moisturiser with you. Elizabeth Arden’s 8-hour cream is a travel favourite for many. Also carry lip balm, and if you suffer from dry eyes – moisturizing eye drops. If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes are even more likely to be a problem, which can ultimately lead to eye scratches or infections (trust me when I say “ouch”). Look for some good contact-friendly drops, or even better – change out of your contacts into your glasses for the flight, to prevent scratches and ripped lenses.

10. Get moving.

We’ve all seen news horror stories about perfectly healthy people boarding a plane and then dropping dead of a stroke three weeks later. A few years back, there was a flurry of media attention on the dangers of Deep Vein Thrombosis caused by flying. It’s easy to take the attitude of “it won’t be me,” but long periods of immobility, dehydration and the constriction of blood vessels due to the low pressure can contribute to trigger this potentially fatal condition.

Get up, wander around, wiggle your toes, do stretches in your seat.  No one will mind (although be considerate to your fellow passengers – they may draw the line if you start doing a full-on yoga session in the aisle) and it will make you feel energized and less cramped as well as reducing your risk of contracting DVT. If you’d like to know more, the NHS have some great advice here.

11. Try to get into the sleep pattern of your destination.

Most long flights will naturally encourage this, adhering to meal times and ‘lights out’ times for your destination, rather than where you’re leaving from.  For very long flights, this can be rather disorienting as you board at lunchtime and within a few hours, the crew are handing out pillows and blankets, but the sooner you can start to adjust to your new time zone, the less you will be impacted by jetlag when you reach your destination. A sleep mask may help if you’re trying to sleep during daylight hours.

12. Drink the free champagne.

Because life is short, and champagne is lovely.

{featured image via Unsplash}

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