It’s overwhelming, the thought of hurtling through the sky for 6, 7, 10, 12, 14 hours. What do I do? Where do I go? How do I occupy myself? But, realistically, we’ve all spent that many hours sat in one place binge watching Netflix, sleeping off a hangover, or ya know, sleeping. So really the thought of figuring out how to survive a long-haul flight shouldn’t terrify you at all. But if it does, or if you’re just ready to step up your flying game, I’ve got your back. Here is what I do, what I consider to be the long haul flight essentials, and how I get off the other side as sprightly as a springtime fawn.
Long Haul Flight Essentials to Carry On
First let’s talk about what to pack on a long-haul flight. I’m not talking what to pack on your vacation, or even what to pack in your carry-on overall, I’m just talking what to pack to help you survive hours upon hours in one lousy seat surrounded by the recirculated carbon dioxide of strangers.
1. Eye Mask
Ready to go to sleep before the lights dim on the plane? Need to hide from your neighbors obnoxious reading light? An eye mask is the answer. The first eye mask I traveled with had eyes on the outside and multiple people told me it freaked them out, I liked that.
2. Ear Plugs
Goodbye, screaming children. I have tried many, many different ear plugs and I can tell you with all certainty that they are not all created equal. You want to look for ones which are soft and squishy and shaped. They need to be rounded on one end and become wider on the other end. I recommend traveling with a handful of these, they are easily lost.
Plug into your iPod shuffle (don’t you miss how little those things were), or, if you’re lucky, have a single jack connection to the in-flight entertainment system. I opt for earbuds. Not only do they take up much less space than those over the ear things, but I also don’t understand how people’s ears don’t hurt like hell after 5 minutes of those things squeezing them against the side of their head. I also go corded, none of those overpriced bluetooth need to be charged non sense. I can’t think of anything I would lose or forget to charge faster.
Lots of people go for heavier sleep-aids to get themselves to sleep when they’re trying to switch time zones, if that’s your style, go for it (but please wait until you’ve taken off, you don’t want to be in the airport knocked out trying to deal with a cancelled flight, believe me, I’ve seen it!). If being totally knocked out kind freaks you out (as it does me – it’s honestly not very safe) try Melatonin. Melatonin is the chemical which naturally occurs in your body to make you tired, taking a supplement just makes you extra sleepy right when you need to be. One thing that drives me mental about Melatonin is that it’s not possible to buy small quantities, 60 pills is the lowest count I’ve seen.
5. Compression Socks
Increase blood flow, keep down swelling and the chance of blood clots. I can’t tell you that these are the best compression socks for long haul flights because I haven’t tried every compression sock there is, plus how do I tell it’s working, I just don’t get a blood clot? Anyways, these are the ones I use, and I like them.
6. Fluffy Socks
These are my guilty packing pleasure. Think of them like slippers, put them on over your compression socks for a little bit of coziness, and extra warmth. Plus, I love having these with me as slippers around in my hostel, apartment, or wherever I’m staying.
7. Neck Pillow
No one wants to sleep with their head rolling around all over the place, and I can tell you that this pillow is significantly better than those U-shaped things that have been around for years. This keeps my head in place, no jolting forward onto my chest. It’s super comfy.
8. Face Mask
To keep you looking young, even after eternity in the air. I pretty much always just pick mine up at drug stores, anything moisturizing will do.
9. Hand Sanitizer/Wipes
This is not only so you don’t have to crawl over your seat mate just to wash your hands, but also so you can do a little wipe down of your fold out tray before dining. I have a little liquid hand sanitizer which hangs off my carry on back pack as a key-chain, it’s super convenient. And no, I never put it in a plastic bag as a liquid, it’s small enough so it’s fine.
Just bring one, o.k.
This may not be for every one, I’m a blogger, I love to write, and I get loads of inspiration staring at the back of a seat for 14 hours, honestly. Bring one with a soft cover.
Even if you’re not into writing, bring a pen: immigration forms, you’re welcome.
Most airlines provide blankets, the cheaper ones don’t, but even the good airlines don’t have the best blankets and you’ll want something to double up or to split up covering your body with, airplanes get chilly. A big pashmina type scarf is a great versatile item which will be useful beyond your flight. Go for a darker color.
14. Effervescent Vitamin C or Immunity Booster
That recirculated air, man. I pop one at the beginning of every long travel day.
15. An Empty Reusable Water Bottle
We all know you can’t carry full water bottles through security, but you can absolutely carry an empty one. And these days the majority of airports have free taps to fill up at.
16. Toothbrush and toothpaste (travel size)
Get one of those toothbrushes that fold into themselves, they are super handy, no one wants to get up after 12 hours and not be able to scrub their mouth.
17. Face mist (toner)
I love this as a little wake up cleanser, and also a makeup remover if you’ve got some on.
Long Haul Flight Essentials to Wear
I truly think the choice you make on what to wear for a long-haul flight might be the most important packing decision of your trip. Wearing something that’s too tight, or too cold is going to result in a lot of hours of being uncomfortable.
1. Loose fitted long pants
I have these awesome pants from Ann Taylor, they’re loose fitted with an elastic waist and elastic around the bottoms. They’re 100% polyester. They’re light weight and comfy. My mom swears by these Eileen Fisher ankle pants for all of her flying. (pictured are similar to the pair I use – thought not the same ones)
2. Light loose top
I don’t really have anything that consistently makes it onto long haul flights on my top, but I usually go for a basic t-shirt in a dark solid color which is loose and reasonably light.
I travel with my VT Flannel, not just because I’m a Vermonter and like to rep it but because it’s warm and comfy. I used to do hoodies but found they were too bulky to pack for the rest of the time. If you want to rep your own VT Flannel, you can get 10% off online with my code JUMPER
4. Comfy bra and underwear
Important. Pack the sexy shit (you never know when you might need to throw it on for some sexy sex in your hostel), wear the comfy shit.
5. Socks and shoes
These don’t really matter, you’re gonna be taking them off and putting on your compression/fluffy socks anyways. But cats on hamburgers, you might wan to wear those just cause.
Where to Sit
Ah, the age-old question, where to sit on the airplane. There are two very distinct teams who tend not to have much cross over on this one, and then there’s that guy in the corner muttering something about how he loves the feeling of being surrounded by sweaty thighs. Nah, no guys that creepy, no one wants the damn middle seat.
I’m a proud life-long window seater. No one will ever be able to convince me otherwise. People knocking into me on their way to the toilet, food trolley whacking into my knee when I’m trying to sleep, no thanks, that’s all yours team aisle.
Team aisle though has this argument about how they get stressed out about having to get over people to go to the toilet. O.K. but like that’s just part of living in this world isn’t it? When someone’s gotta take a piss, you get outta their way. It’s pretty simple.
Plus, there’s nothing like having control over that window shade, am I right? And leaning your head up against that wall – ah, 14 hours of bliss. No one’s asking me to move so they can take a leak!
But, here’s the problem. Sometimes, somehow, you get stuck in that middle seat. Hell no. Hell no, you are not sitting 14 hours in that middle seat. O.K. So ask. Ask to move.
Ask at the check-in counter. If they say no,
Ask at the gate desk. If they say no,
Ask the first flight attendant on the plane. If they say no,
Ask the second flight attendant. If they say no,
Keep your eyes peeled. And the second the announcement comes over the intercom ‘boarding is complete’ find the first flight attendant and ask if there are any available seats. Any.
More than once I have started in the middle seat, been told the flight was completely sold out and it would be impossible to move me to a different seat, and then ended up in my blissful window seat with an empty middle seat between me and that sucker who I’d be climbing over later after a few glasses of wine. Now that, that is how to survive long flights in economy, spread out like it’s first class. (I have no idea what that would be like, I’ve never flown first class, but I’d imagine there’s plenty of room for a good ole man-spread)
What to Do
- The last thing you should do before leaving wherever you are leaving is take a shower. It’s gonna be a lot of hours already before the next one, don’t add more on to that.
- Fill up your water bottle in the airport.
- Remove makeup – if you have any on (why do you have any on?) in the airport bathroom before you board.
- From the moment you get on that plane, change your clocks to your final destination.
- Make sure you’re in your preferred seat, if you’re not – see above.
- Take an effervescent tab. With all those germs surrounding you, you need to boost your immunities, no one wants to land on a holiday with an itchy throat.
- Change into your compression socks and pull the fluffy socks on over top.
- Eat whatever meal they’re serving you. Stop complaining about airplane food, it’s not that bad.
- What happens next depends on what time it is where you are landing. But try to get on that time as quickly as possible. If this means marathoning movies and chugging coffee because you arrive at night time and need to stay awake until then so you’ll be tired enough to go to sleep, do that. If this means having three glasses of wine and two melatonin cause you need to sleep even though you just woke up, do that.
- Generally, flight attendants will turn on the lights and start chit chatting at you over the intercom 1-2 hours before landing. They’ll serve you breakfast regardless of what time it is where you’re landing. Weird. Eat your breakfast.
- Brush your teeth, use that face spritzer to freshen up a bit, and get that face mask on. The recirculated air is super drying and no one wants to be breaking out in their holiday insta-snaps.
HEY LOOK YOU’RE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD AND IT ONLY TOOK LIKE 12 HOURS.
You’ll be fine. Have a glass of wine. Watch a movie. Go for a piss. You’ll be fine.
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