Long Haul Flight Tips
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10 Must-Know Long Haul Flight Tips

When you live in Australia, a trip abroad inevitably means taking a long haul flight. Staring down the barrel of a 20, 24, or 35-hour journey is pretty standard for travel to destinations outside of Australasia. And although the prospect of the destination is beyond exciting, it is hard to be a complete fan of the journey itself when it’s a long-haul flight. Crammed inside a (very glorified) tin can with hundreds of other people not moving for almost an entire day has its unique challenges. Over the years I have looked high and low for tips to make it more comfortable, with some successes and several failures.

 

I have found that, with the right preparation, I have actually started to find these flights enjoyable not just bearable. The flights can provide some time to just sit back without the stresses of the internet, work and university, and just relax. There aren’t many days at home where it’s expected and encouraged that you just sit for 24 hours, sleep, watch movies, and have food and drinks delivered to you. If you follow some simple hacks and tips, it can be a stress-free experience.

 

Here are some of my tried and tested tips to make long haul flights more enjoyable.

 

 

 GET THE RIGHT SEAT FOR YOU

 

This is one of the most important points and depends on your personal preferences. Getting the right seat for your needs can make the journey a lot less painful. And, of course, everyone’s needs and wants from an airplane seat are different.

 

For me, sleep and views are the two things that make flights enjoyable so the window seat is the one I always book. Having the window seat means that I can look out over the interesting places the planes fly over (countries I will probably never get to visit) and then curl up and sleep without people waking me up to go to the bathroom. This works because I have super small legs, so needing room to stretch isn’t so much of a problem.

 

If you want extra leg room, it usually comes with exit row seats and seats at the front of cabin sections. These usually cost more money to pre-select but if it’s something that will make you comfortable, it is worth it. Some people love being able to stretch out more and access the aisles/bathrooms which is where the aisle seat is best. And, I guess, some people like the middle seat but I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

 

Try to avoid seats directly next to the toilets as this lends itself to being disturbed. Towards the back of the plane, the width of the plane’s body narrows so the rows feel more claustrophobic, so try to book further forward. Booking a seat further forward also means getting off the plane earlier as there is rarely rear disembarkation on long haul flights.

 

Sleep and views Window Seat

Stretching and access to bathrooms Aisle

Extra leg room Exit rows and front of cabin section

Children Front of cabin section (often airlines will have basinets and extra room here)

 

Unfortunately – and this is something that has been annoying me lately – most long haul carriers are now charging you to select your seats. For years one of the included things in a flight ticket was that when you checked in, you could access the seat map and can choose your seat. Now airlines are either making you buy a higher grade of ticket to be able to do this, or charging $70 AUD per leg of the journey to pre-select a standard seat. Each airline is different, and currently some airlines like Qatar and Cathay Pacific, still offer free seat selection for economy passengers.

 

If your airline does offer free seat selection, check in online as soon as it opens to access the seat map and make your choice. A great website to look up your specific aircraft and the rating of the seats so you can book the best one, check out Seat Guru.

 

 

 

INVEST IN NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES

 

Airlines usually supply headphones for long haul flights so you can watch the in-flight entertainment. Again, presumably in the interests of budget, the quality of these supplied headphones has gone downhill in the last few years. Fortunately, are able to bring your own headphones to listen to the entertainment system and to your own devices. Bringing your own headphones means that you will have higher sound quality compared to airline ones and are more likely to block out the background noise of the plane.

 

Specifically, if you want to invest in some noise cancelling headphones, it’s something you won’t regret for long haul flights. These headphones will help you rest and block out all the noise of the plane around you. Some good quality noise cancelling headphones include these from Bose and these headphones from Sony, and there are also plenty of other more budget-friendly options on Amazon.

 

 

BONUS LONG HAUL FLIGHT HOT TIP 

Bring another set of clothes in carry on to quickly switch into during your layover. It can feel really refreshing to put on a fresh set of clothes and break up the journey.

 

 

ORDER A NON-STANDARD MEAL DURING CHECK-IN

 

 

This is one of my sneaky long haul flight tips and something I now always do when flying. When you check in online you are given the option of updating your meal preferences. I prefer vegetarian food when travelling long haul because it feels a lot lighter on the stomach and a bit more appetising than some of the meaty  options. One time I decided to update my preferences to vegetarian for this reason and quickly realised I wouldn’t go back.

 

When you order a non-standard meal online (vegetarian, vegan, kid’s meal etc.) they are handed out separately and not with the trolley. They are served around the cabin first, usually around half an hour to 45 minutes before the trolley would arrive. As someone who is a bit obsessed with getting as much sleep as possible on these flights, getting a meal up before-hand means more time for rest.

 

 

BYO ENTERTAINMENT

In-flight entertainment quality varies from airline to airline. Emirates are well-known for their fantastic selection of in-flight movies, television and games, but some other airlines leave a bit to be desired. Although most airlines have fairly decent entertainment overall, it can still get boring looking at the same screen for 24 hours. For this reason, I always bring some of my own stuff the break the journey up. I keep a laptop/phone in the bag beneath the seat loaded with videos, some work, and my own music, and also a good book!

 

 

BONUS LONG HAUL FLIGHT HOT TIP 

A lot of planes these days have USB ports in the chairs so you can charge your phone mid-air. Don’t forget to bring a phone charger in carry on!

 

 

BRING AN EYE MASK

 

I wear an eye mask to sleep every day anyway (which is a bit extra, I know) and, as a light sleeper, it 100% helps me stay asleep through the night. Long haul flights are one time I would never go without an eye mask. The lights and activity of these big planes can make it really hard to get to sleep and stay asleep. Minimising these stimuli through noise cancelling headphones and eye shades can help make the plane environment feel more normal.

 

 

STAY HYDRATED!

This is a mum point, but good Lord, it is the most important of all the long haul flight tips. There is nothing worse than feeling dehydrated and planes dehydrate you like crazy. The most obvious way to stay hydrated is to make sure you drink plenty of water before and during the flight. Seek out water refilling stations in airports because they are usually frequent, make sure your water bottle is a decent size and reusable.

 

Some airports won’t let you take water on the plane at all, even after all the security check points, so in this case:

  • Make sure you drink a lot of water in the airport before boarding
  • Don’t throw out your drink bottle
  • Ask the flight attendants after you board to fill up your reusable drink bottle (this is much more effective than receiving small cups of water throughout the flight)

 

BONUS LONG HAUL FLIGHT HOT TIP 

Things to pack in your carry-on:

– Deodorant

– Toothbrush and toothpaste

– USB Chargers

– Headphones

– Eye mask

– Chewing gum / mints

– Spare change of clothes

– Reusable water bottle

 

 

ORGANISE ADDITIONAL SLEEP COMFORT

 

Sleep is paramount on long haul flights. You will want to feel as refreshed as possible so you can start your trip on a good note with minimal jet lag. I can’t lie, there really is nothing comfortable about sitting in ever-shrinking airline seats so you have to work with what you’ve got.

 

Personally, I combat this with comfort. Sitting in the window seat, I try to pack the seat with pillows and blankets to feel as much like a bed as possible. To do this, I usually use the airline supplied pillow and blanket and bring a few things from home. I love memory foam pillows which can be compressed to take up less room and be easily transported, and will rarely take a long haul flight without one. You can also fashion extra pillows out of clothes, I will stuff a woollen jumper inside a puffer jacket and tie it up to make a separate pillow.

 

 

BONUS LONG HAUL FLIGHT HOT TIP 

Dress in layers for a long haul flight. The aircraft can get pretty cold at times so it’s important to bring something warm. Make sure your outfit is comfortable and not restrictive — the aisle is not a catwalk.

 

ARM YOURSELF WITH A FEW SNACKS

Airline food can leave a bit to be desired. Bringing some comforts from home (as long as they’re not breaking any rules) can make a difference. Sometimes you can get peckish on big flights especially if you accidentally sleep through a meal service (guilty), so these snacks can be helpful. I always pack some chewing gum/mints for freshness, a muesli bar, and some trail mix.

 

 

STRETCH AND WALK AROUND

Hours sitting in a small space can make you feel a bit crazy. Stretching and exercise can make it more bearable. To be perfectly honest, there isn’t a lot you can do in the comfort of your seat, but it is still nice to do gentle stretches. Make sure you get up and walk if you need as well, even a quick stroll up the aisle can feel refreshing. Before boarding the plane, try not to sit around too much because the next few hours will be doing the same, walk around (even if it means doing laps), squeeze in as much exercise as you can, and avoid early boarding.

 

BONUS LONG HAUL FLIGHT HOT TIP 

Pick an airline/flight with the right amenities, inclusions, and layovers for you. Choosing the right airline and flight combination can make the journey a lot more enjoyable. Things I always look for when booking a long haul flight include:

  • Price of the flight
  • Reputation for quality in economy class (I love Qatar, Emirates, Qantas, and Singapore for economy)
  • Length of layover (ideally 3 hours)
  • Long flight during night time to maximise sleep
  • Arriving with enough time to get to accommodation and not at a dangerous time for solo travellers

 

PIN FOR OTHERS!

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY LONG HAUL FLIGHT TIPS? LET ME KNOW BELOW!

Follow Travel Textbook - Lucy:

Founder of Travel Textbook, Medical student

Lucy is the final year medical student who wants to cure disease, but not her travel bug. She is addicted to a good macchiato, documentaries and jetting off around the world, and no adventure is off-limits. She writes to help other young people find the inspiration and information necessary to explore the world and its cultures.

4 Responses

  1. Travel Food Atlas
    | Reply

    Some good advice but I would also say to time your sleeping pattern with the destination that you are flying to. You might have to stay awake longer or sleep earlier but it will make you feel better when you land!

  2. Jean
    | Reply

    Set your watch to the time zone you are going to as soon as you board. I find it helps the disorientation you feel when you get to your destination. Also, I like to bring grapes along with me for snacking. Helps with thirst and dehydration.

    • Ooh yes, both of these are great! I always do that with my watch as well. Also helps me keep an eye on whether I’ll be making my connections!

      Lucy x

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