39 Advice For Long Flights You Need To Know Before Flying (2024)

Knowing this advice for long flights is just as important as packing the right travel essentials for your trip, especially if you’re a first-time flyer.

Long-haul flights are not easy, both on your mind and on your body. Imagine you’re so excited to live your wildest dreams in the tropics or to quench your thirst for adventures in Europe or Australia, only to realise you need to endure 10+ hours of sitting on an aircraft. We understand the struggle!

Here is what you can do before and during a long-haul flight to fight the dread of anticipation and of having nothing to do (spoiler alert: there are plenty of awesome things to do).

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There is plenty to prepare for before a long flight.

How Do Long Flights Affect You?

Long flights affect you in more ways than just the regular boredom. In fact, boredom is one of the least concerning effects of flying for a prolonged period of time. By understanding what happens to your body during these flights, you will find it easier to plan ahead and prepare yourself better.

So, what are likely happen include:

  • Anxiety/anticipation: this happens more frequently than you’d expect. And it’s totally normal to feel this way during a long-haul flight.
  • Dehydration: the cold air from the AC reduces your body’s fluid requirements. And since you’re not moving as much, you don’t sweat. It’s easy to “forget” that your body needs water even if you’re not thirsty.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): oh, this is a very serious effect of long-haul flights. That many hours of immobility reduce blood flow in your legs, leading to a possible blood clot forming in the veins.
  • Swelling: prolonged sitting can cause fluid to pool in the legs.
  • Fatigue and general discomfort: stress, changing time zones, boredom, and changes in eating patterns can put your body through a serious test.

Prepare Before Flying

Long flight anxiety is real. You worry about what to do to kill those hours; you worry about how being confined for such a long time can affect your body. There’s also the struggle of being away from your essentials in the cargo hold for so long. What if I need this thing and that thing halfway through the flight?

Don’t fret! There are plenty of easy tips and tricks to do to avoid these issues.

1. Pack Smart for Comfort

Flight essentials are stuff you need to stay comfortable (both physically and mentally) during a flight. They can include:

  • Approved toiletries
  • Neck pillow
  • Something to block out the noise
  • Comfy jacket/sweater/hoodie
  • A set of clothes to change mid-flight (if needed)
  • Entertainment and relaxation aids
  • Health-related items such as disability aids, compression socks, medications, and water.
  • Items you need for your situations, like travelling with a baby.
  • Any items in checked baggage you feel you will need on a plane last minute (must be approved).

You can make a checklist of what you need and categorise things into what is appropriate for hand luggage and what is not. This way, you don’t stress your whole way through the long-haul flight trying to look for that one thing.

2. Keep Your Carry-on Items Organised

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The righ carry-on will let everything has its place.

Staying organised is one of the best ways to keep yourself stress-free. You know where to find things, where everything is supposed to be, and how to take it out of your bag if you need it without making a mess out of the inside of your backpack. Use packing cubes. They keep your items categorised, and the cubes fit inside your cabin size backpack comfortably.

3. Avoid Heavy Meals Before Your Long Flight

Greasy food takes a lot of time to digest, meaning you’re going to board that plane with a bloated stomach and have to sit it out for hours. Try lighter meals with soft and digestible food such as porridge, soup, and vegetables, instead.

4. Don’t Do Heavy Exercises Before Your Flight

You may think working out strenuously can drain your body and make you sleep easier on the plane. But sometimes, it’s the other way around. A heavy workout may spike up your endorphins (your brain entering hype mode) and keep you alert and awake. Instead, have a brisk walk, light jog, or some yoga stretches a few hours before your flight.

5. Choose The Right Seat

Picking a seat is tricky business. There's no right or wrong answer here; it’s all down to what you are comfortable with.

  • Window Seat: Ideal for leaning against the window for sleep. However, climbing over your seatmate when nature calls can be awkward and disruptive.
  • Aisle Seat: Freedom to get up and walk around the cabin or simply stretch your legs frequently throughout the flight. The cons? Prone to disruptions from passing passengers, flight attendants, and beverage carts.

Avoid seats near the bathrooms or the galley if you want some peace and quiet. If you need more legroom, opt for an exit row or bulkhead seat. Be aware that exit row seats often come with responsibilities during emergencies. Or you can just upgrade to a premium economy class or higher for more legroom. Remember to check in together for an increased chance of seating with your travel companions or family members.

6. Adjust Your Sleep Schedule A Few Days Before

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Adjust your sleeping rhythm to that of the destination. Photo by Di Studio - stock.adobe.com

Sleeping in a time pattern that is the same at your destination can help you rest easier on the plane. Aim for small adjustments, ideally shifting bedtime and wake-up time by 1-2 hours daily towards your destination's time zone. Traveling East? Go to bed and wake up an hour earlier each day. Traveling West? Delay your sleep schedule by an hour or two daily.

7. Mentally Prepare At Least 2 Days Prior

According to Rick Steves, a wise thing to do is think of the two days prior as if you are leaving for real. Besides working and commuting, you should leave partying or anything too much out of your schedule. This is to ensure you are leaving for the trip at your best and be able to deal with anything, expected or unexpected, head-on.

8. Think Of It As Part Of The Adventure

A long-haul flight is not a challenge you have to endure before you get to enjoy your dream vacation. It’s actually a part of your trip! Without it, you can never get where you want to be. By changing your mindset, you’re already halfway through it. Stressing out over long flights can even make it harder to prepare well for your adventure.

9. Don’t Sit At Your Gate

You are going to sit in one spot for the next several hours; don’t be sedentary. Try to walk around, explore the terminals, do window shopping, go cafe hopping, etc. Or even explore the outside world if you have a long layover. On a side note, you may get used to these things the more you travel. Always pick one fun, new thing to try next time you fly, long-haul or not.

Essential Items to Pack for a Long Flight

Long flights can be a drag, but with the right essentials in your carry-on, you can turn that cramped economy seat into a cosy oasis. Here are some must-have items to pack for a long flight:

10. The Right Cabin Bag

One less hassle for a long flight with the right cabin bag.

Not many people think of this, but a lightweight, perfectly-sized, and compact carry-on bag can be a make or break factor of a good flying experience.

The majority of the time, the cabin will be in flight mode. Keeping a bag with essentials at your side would be a godsend. You don’t have to rummage through an overhead bin in dim light. Plus, it can be a makeshift footrest.

Our cabin size backpacks. They have been measured to fit perfectly in the overhead compartment of an aircraft. You can shop by size or by airlines.

11. Comfortable Clothes

This should go without saying. For a long flight, you’re going to be sitting down a lot, so wear loose and breathable clothes. Also, carry a jacket to layer in case you feel cold in the cabin.

12. Comfortable Shoes

Tight shoes cause sores and numbness, even if you’re not walking in them. Shoes with complicated designs can also be a nuisance if worn on long flights.

So, opt for sleek, minimal and comfort-prioritised pairs, such as slip-ons and flats. You can even wear loafers or slides. If you’re a heel wearer, though it’s better not to, you can consider kitten and block heels that aren’t too steep.

13. A Spare Outfit

A change of clothes can be very handy in case of spills or discomfort. Personally, we’d like to pack 2 changes of clothes, two pairs of socks and underwear, and medication. Toss them all into a crossbody bag or your personal item. When the worst-case scenario happens (lost luggage), at least you will feel fresh with a spare.

14. Compression Socks

Compression socks can help improve circulation and prevent swelling in your legs during a long flight. Moreover, they can help with long walks at the airport and finding your gate. You should opt for one that is at least knee-high, as the compression is only helping up to your ankle if you use an ankle high one.We recommend adding electrolyte powders to the mix for fewer visits to the lavatory.

15. Light Snacks

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It’s important not to skip meals during a long-haul flight.

Long flights often come with meals. Even if the food is not the best there is, eating is one of the ways to give your body a dopamine shot. You’ll feel much better afterwards. Also, keep some light snacks in your backpack to eat between movies or chapters.

16. A Reusable Water Bottle

Pack an empty reusable bottle and fill it after you clear security at a water refill station in the airport. It’s better than relying solely on the cart. You should bring the largest one you can carry. We also recommend adding electrolyte powders to the mix for fewer visits to the lavatory.

17. Moisturised Products for your whole body

In the same vein, other parts of your body need to stay hydrated, too. Carry eye drops, lip balm, lotion, and nasal spray in a small pouch and use them every 2-3 hours. It can make a big difference.

18. Travel Pillows

A travel pillow for your neck and back is considered a long-flight essential. It can fill up the weird empty spaces between the seat and neck and lower back, helping you sit more comfortably. Plus, it could be a place to store clothes and socks when in a pinch. Something like the TRTL Travel Pillow is often recommended among seasoned travellers.

19. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

A new staple for seasoned travellers, especially if you want to tune down the crying babies and constant hum of the engines. The right one can make you forget that you are even on a plane and focus on the content you are consuming. Check if you can connect to the plane’s in-flight entertainment system.

20. A Support Item

This may sound odd, but each of us has that one item we consider mental support. For some, it’s a small stuffed animal; for others, it can be a keychain or a photo. If these items make it easier for you to rest, there’s nothing wrong with bringing them with you as long as they are allowed on planes.

Staying Comfortable During the Flight

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Invest in a small bag to store your in-flight essentials.

Shop Shoulder Bag

Besides the general anxiety and boredom, your physical body is also drained during long flights. You may feel achy, stiff, nauseous, and groggy upon arrival. Negative effects such as deep vein thrombosis and dehydration are also more common than you think. That’s because your body sits in one place for too long. Here is some advice for long flights to keep your physical body pristine and fresh for your upcoming wondrous adventures.

21. Set Water Reminder a.k.a Stay Hydrated

If your body is not using much energy, you might not feel thirsty. When in fact, it still does. So, remember to drink plenty of water, double the amount you would normally drink. For travellers who tend to forget to drink water, consider setting a water reminder every one or two hours.

22. Don’t Drink Alcohol, caffeine, and Sodas

It’s a misconception that alcoholic drinks make time fly by faster. Alcohol can make your jet lag worse with a hangover and its dehydrating effect. Caffeine drinks such as coffee interfere with sleep, especially in the second half of the flight. Sodas and carbonated drinks can also cause bloating and gas. Avoid these and stick to water only.

23. Get Up And Walk Around The Cabin

The best advice for keeping your physical body in check on a long flight is to squeeze in some quick stretching exercises for your arms and legs. You can do these right in your seat.

Doing this can help get a bit of “fresh air” as well as release your body from the tension of sitting too long, which is notoriously famous for causing anxiety. Think of it as giving your body something to do.

What Exercises Prevent Blood Clots?

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Get your body moving every once in a while. Photo by lightpoet - stock.adobe.com

You can start with the simple ankle rotation exercises. Lift your feet off the floor and start rotating your ankles in circular motion, clockwise then anti-clockwise.

Calf raises are also good to keep your legs’ circulation moving. While seated, lift your heels off the floor. Raise yourself up so that you stand on the balls of your feet. Hold for a few seconds.

Other effective exercises to avoid blood clots from sitting too long on a plane include:

  • Leg lifts: lift one leg at a time off the floor and straighten it in front of you. Take a deep breath and feel the good stretch.
  • Shoulder rolls: raise your arms up to the sides of your body. Bend your elbows so that your forearm and upper arm form a 90 degree angle. Slowly lean your forearm backwards while keeping your upper arm still.
  • Body twists: sit up or stand up and twist your body to one side. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other.

Apart from the exercises, try walking up and down the aisle a few times every three or so hours.

24. Do Your Skincare Routine

By following your regular routine, such as washing your face and applying your cream, you can trick your brain into thinking that it’s a part of your trip instead of an obstacle you have to overcome before you can fully enjoy your holiday. Not to mention, the air in the aircraft can dry out or make your skin more oily than usual.

25. Avoid Crossing Your Legs

Crossing your legs may make you feel snuggled and comfy at first, but after a while, they can feel numb because your blood flow is restricted.

26. Set A Timer For Your Activities

For example, set a timer for snack time every four hours. This way, you can make sure you won’t snack too much in one go or completely forget to eat.

27. Fresh Up Whenever You Can

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Go the the bathroom during layover to refresh yourself. Photo by zhu difeng - stock.adobe.com

Long flights can leave you feeling grungy, but staying fresh and clean is important. Don’t neglect brushing your teeth after meals, reapplying deodorant and using sanitiser after the bathroom. On a layover, head to the bathroom and use your change of clothes, deodorant, and toothbrush/toothpaste. If possible, you can pay for lounge access for a shower.

28. Use Suitable Sleeping Medication

Not everyone can fall asleep or rest comfortably for long flights. If you’re one, consider taking a suitable sleep medication or supplement (but not before boarding the plane, as there may be delays). Remember to read instructions carefully, consult a doctor, and test-drive it at home several days before. Some may react differently to your other personal medications.

29. Take In The Fresh Air Once You Land

We know it’s tiring, but try to have a 30-minute walk in a green space or on the street. Put your luggage somewhere, i.e., at a hotel, grab your backpack, and take as many strolls as possible. Light exercise and lots of sun on the first day can do wonders for you physically and mentally.

Entertainment on a Long Flight

You've found yourself strapped into the tiny seat, 30,000 feet in the air, with nowhere to go for the next few hours. Here are some fun entertainment ideas to make the time fly by (pun intended).

30. Mix Up Your Activities So You Don’t Get Bored

Don’t just stick to watching movies or reading. Plan your flight ahead and try to mix things up. For example, right before you board, watch a movie. Then two or three hours later, switch to reading. After a while, consider getting some shuteye. Then eat and walk around.

31. Watch A Movie/Series Or Anything You Love

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Do something that makes you forget time during a long flight. Photo by BullRun - stock.adobe.com

A movie or series is the best way to distract you from the long hours. You can watch it using the in-flight entertainment or download what you like to watch on your own device. How about binge-watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy extended edition?

That said, download 2 types of shows: ones that require focus and ones that are light-heart/don’t require much focus. When you are tired, you can switch to the latter without getting bored.

32. Listen To Music Or ASMR Audios

Listening to music is a great way to keep yourself calm and relaxed if you're easily distracted or agitated by background noises. You can also try listening to ASMR sounds (if you haven’t already). They are, in a nutshell, sounds that the ears love. They may help you rest easier.

33. Read A Good Book

Books are the gate to escape reality for a moment. The action of reading and envisioning a scene in your mind can distract you from the remaining hours it may take before landing. It’s a good mental exercise. We recommend packing a Kindle to save on space.

34. Play Games On Your Phone Or Tablet

Playing games is a good way to pass the time during a long flight. But remember to use earphones and limit your data use. A handheld device or a gaming laptop is wonderful for such a purpose.

35. Write In A Journal

This is good advice for long flights because it doesn’t take much work, and it’s very relaxing. You can choose a topic to write about, explain why you’re feeling anxious, or note down your plans.

36. Plan Your Itinerary

Take advantage of the hours and think about what activities you’re going to be doing once you land. The excitement from being able to do them can make time run faster.

37. Meditate Or Do Mindful Exercises

Take slow and deep breaths and focus on how each part of your body is feeling. Notice any tension and discomfort and try to release it.

38. Take A Nap

There’s no other easier way to forget the long hours than catching some z. The important thing is setting your clock to the local/destination time and try to adjust yourself to that. don’t sleep if it’s 2pm at Japan. Moreover, don’t sleep at the airport. Otherwise, you may find yourself not catching a wink of sleep once you board.

39. Get Some Work Done

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A good downtiem for some work. Photo by Billie_kvlt_of_atom

If you’re a digital nomad, put in your noise-cancelling headphones, sit comfortably and work. This way, you may earn yourself extra time to squeeze in an extra activity or two at your destination. Remember to choose the right personal item bag that allows you to easily stow your laptop.

Advice For Long Flights: Prepare Mentally & Physically

To recap, your best advice for long flights is to prepare for both your mental and physical comfort. Long flights can be tricky on your body, so it’s best to plan carefully ahead. Think of your personal needs and build a plan based on that.

And last but not least, whether you’re spending 10 hours or nearly a day on an aircraft, remember to enjoy the journey with as much enthusiasm as when you get to your desired destination.

If you find this article useful, don’t forget to leave us a comment and share your stories with us via social media.

Nguyen Tran Gia Khanh

39 Advice For Long Flights You Need To Know Before Flying (2024)
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