How To Survive A Long Haul Flight

If you are about to spend an entire 24 hours in transit – maybe more depending on layovers – you are probably dreading the ordeal. You will spend up to fifteen hours sealed in a very small space filled with strangers, some of whom will lose all sense of decency once they leave the ground. You will be wedged in a small rectangle of space in a seat so uncomfortable you might vow to never get on a plane again. Here are some tips for putting you in the best position to arrive at your destination as relaxed as possible.

#1 Time-zone

Set your clock to the local time at your final destination when you get on the place. This will apparently help you start to adjust to your new time zone.

Note: flying to Europe or the USA means that you are travelling back in time, which is not as exciting as it sounds because it means that you have to try and trick your brain into believing that it is time for bed rather than afternoon tea.

Make sure you adjust your medication schedule – set a timer to make sure you’re not missing any doses.

#2 Sleep

You really need to sleep, and this might take some work. BYO noise-cancelling foam earplugs and a soft eye mask in a good quality fabric like silk.

Discuss sleep aids with your pharmacy or doctor – herbal supplements like valerian might help you drift off, but a prescription for melatonin is fantastic for avoiding jet lag.

#3 Health

Planes are super germy. We have all read those horror exposes about just how disgusting they are, but do you really do your best? You do not have to go overboard, but at the very least use hand sanitiser regularly.

The seat pockets and tray tables are especially gross, but so is your seat buckle, the headrests and the floor (where you keep dropping your blanket).

I should definitely recommend packing your own healthy food for the plane – raw almonds, carrot sticks and an apple are easily transportable. But, there is something really enjoyable about mindlessly eating all the high-calorie plane food, and no judgement if you eat your way through one of those giant duty-free boxes of chocolate.

#4 De-stress

Flying can be stressful, so stock up on things that work for you. You will have plenty of time to practice some meditation (download a guided podcast or app ahead of time). This is definitely not medical advice, but I find chocolate helps immensely.

#5 Move it

After several hours, especially when it is dark and you are watching your fifth movie instead of sleeping, you can get to this weird stage where you feel like you are never getting off this plane. But if you stay in that terrible seat you are going to end up very sore.

Even though the aisles are narrow, make sure you do regular laps before heading to the back to do some stretches. Do not feel awkward – you will not be the only one doing this and it is essential.

If you are not racing to a connecting flight on your layover, spend as much time as you can bear walking around. Again, forget about looking out of place circling the terminal – this movement is good to loosen up and can also help you sleep.

plane travel long haul flight

#6 Hydration

You know flying dehydrates you, but you probably still won’t drink enough water. Aim for 2-3 litres over a 24-hour period. Maybe more if you tend to inexplicably cry buckets while on a plane.

Pack an empty drink bottle to fill up after you pass through security, then ask the flight attendants to fill it up. Do not make the mistake of forgetting to actually drink it, and then guzzle down a litre in one go. Stick with water and maybe a mineral water or herbal tea.

Yes, this means no booze. Sure, it is free and you have to entertain yourself somehow, but it will dehydrate you more and disrupt your sleep.

#7 Skin and hair

Because the recycled air on the plane is super dry, your skin is going to freak out. Pack a thick moisturiser for your face and a nourishing lip balm (go for a tube because, again, germs). Also bring a sheet mask – you might terrify your neighbour but your skin will thank you.

Know what else gets really dry? Your nose and eyes: use a saline nasal spray and eye drops every few hours and you will feel better for it. Remember, there are restrictions on carry-on liquids, so plan ahead.

#8 Clothing

You might imagine yourself leaving the airport looking effortlessly stylish, but do not fall into the trap of wearing the outfit you want to arrive in. These clothes will probably get wrinkled and not be very comfortable. Pick loose or stretchy items in fabrics that don’t crease easily like cotton, silk, or jersey. They can still be well-cut, like wide-legged pants, but plenty of people just go with leggings.

Planes are always cold, so don’t forget a jumper or (my favourite) an oversized wrap. It is not just okay but encouraged to take your shoes off – pop on some warm socks, or many people like compression socks, which also help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis.

#9 Manners

Just because other humans might be terrible does not mean you should be. We hope you enjoy your flight.

Kate Robertson is a cultural critic who has written about arts and culture for publications like The Atlantic, Vice, Marie Claire.