Long-haul flights are something we all absolutely dread. You're stuck on a cramped plane for what seems like forever. The person who designed the seats clearly didn't understand that normal people have legs. And to top it all off, there's a screaming baby in the row just behind you.
Long-haul flights don't have to be something you dread. With simple tips from moving around on layovers to bringing a power bank, your next long flight will be a breeze.
Not only that, but your phone's out of juice, you didn't pack any headphones and the passenger next to you is way chattier than a late-night talk show host. Sound familiar?
It doesn't have to be like that - making your flight more enjoyable is not that difficult. Whether you are an experienced traveler or a first-time flyer, you just need to be prepared. These 19 easy flight tips will make your trip pass in flying colors so that you never dread a long-haul flight again.
1. Dress Comfortably
Flying is one of those things where you need to prioritize comfort over everything else. Especially on flights that are in the 10+ hour range. One easy way to make your flight more comfortable is to wear the right kind of clothes. Tracksuits, leggings, cotton t-shirts, hoodies and lightweight sweaters are all great options. Especially since you can't really wear pajamas on a flight… unless you are in first class!
However, don't forget your feet - make sure that your shoes are worn in, and as comfortable as possible. Don't make the mistake of wearing brand new shoes on a long-haul flight, and ladies, keep those heels in your checked luggage.
It's also okay to take your shoes off on long haul flights as long as you make personal hygiene a priority. That means it's not ideal to walk around the plane in your socks. Afterall, the floor is pretty dirty, especially if you have to go to the restroom. So, wear some simple slippers if you don't want filthy socks. You'll thank me later.
2. Don't Be Shy, Ask To Be Reseated
If you're not happy with the seat you've chosen, the best thing to do is ask about seating options at check-in. Of course, it's always better to book seats as far ahead as possible. However, things always change on a plane, and seats often become available over time.
For example, even if a great seat was taken when you booked, someone might have canceled their ticket. Don't give up hope.
If it's a priority to you, keep on asking too. Ask at the airport check-in desk; ask the person that's working the gate; ask the flight attendants once you've boarded the plane. You never know what's possible, especially since all of them have the power to move you around. Who knows, you might even get the dream - an aisle seat next to an empty middle seat. Or, a whole row of seats to yourself.
3. Carefully Choose Your Seat
It's smart to check websites like SeatGuru when choosing your seat, especially for long-haul flights. If we're talking about a flight that's an hour or shorter, then it's okay if you don't have enough legroom and you're sitting by the kitchen - the whole thing will be over before you can even get annoyed.
However, with long-haul flights, a little extra legroom is the difference between a good hour of sleep and swollen feet upon arrival. When choosing a seat, also consider your priorities - do you want to be closer to the exit so you can get off the plane faster? Or, do you want a window seat so you can admire the views and rest your head against the cabin wall? Maybe you want to be able to get up and go to the bathroom whenever you please - in that case, an aisle seat is the preferred option.
4. Ask for an Upgrade
When you arrive at check-in, have a polite conversation with the attendant about the seating situation. Ask if it's possible for you to upgrade your seat using frequent flyer miles, by auction, or just for some extra cash.
Even a small upgrade like premium economy will make the flight more enjoyable, thanks to the extra legroom.
Having your ticket upgraded can also get you lounge access and priority boarding. Imagine, while everyone else is waiting in line, you could be enjoying a free espresso and some actual edible airport food - how's that for more comfortable?
5. Aim for Airline Status
Having a status with your airline can be very rewarding and lucrative. It's also a sure way to make every flight more comfortable and enjoyable. Airline status means possible upgrades to business or first class, lounge access, and shorter waiting times.
Unfortunately, this is one of the few air travel tips that you can't really do much about on the day. All you can do is fly a lot with the same airline, ahead of time. The only way to have airline status is to rack up those frequent flyer miles until you reach the amount required. That's when your preferred airline will start giving you special treatment.
Of course, the rules for frequent flyer miles vary significantly from airline to airline, so be sure to do your homework. You never know when you will stumble across a loophole that might speed up your journey to that elusive status.
6. Apply for TSA Precheck
One of the best air travel tips for US residents is to apply for TSA Precheck, or Global Entry, as it's sometimes called. Especially if you fly regularly - it will save you lots of time and make all your flights more comfortable.
You can submit an application online - TSA Precheck is US$85 and Global Entry is US$100 for a 5-year membership. This may seem expensive, but it's an absolute bargain for the amount of time you save at the airport.
With TSA Precheck you don't have to remove your shoes, belt, or a light jacket, and your laptop and liquids can stay in your bag. You also have access to expedited security queues. After all, not wasting time pointlessly standing in line is one of the first steps you can take to make all your flights - short or long - more enjoyable.
7. Pack Snacks
Let's face it. Airplane meals are nothing like what your mother used to make! Especially if you're flying economy. They're usually far from the healthiest option, let alone tastiest, so your best bet is to pack your own snacks. That way you have options, even if the meal is ok. You might be hungry later, or decide to eat once you wake from a nap.
Another handy flight tip is to order the vegetarian meal, even if you're a self-proclaimed carnivore. They are usually of a higher quality, and you're more likely to be one of the first people served.
8. Charge Your Electronics at Home
In this day and age, your electronic devices are the key to making your flight more enjoyable. Watching a good TV show, or gaming a few hours away is the easiest way to make the time fly by. However, that's not going to happen if you run out of juice mid-flight. So, make sure all your devices are fully charged before you head to the airport.
Sure, some planes will have USB power ports in their seats, but not all of them do, and sometimes they just don't work. If you're flying with an airline for the first time it's best to check ahead whether you can charge your devices in-flight. If they don't have power ports, then you should pack a power bank in your carry-on.
9. Always Bring Entertainment
If you're anything like me, then you don't just want to pass the time on a long flight, you want it to go by as fast as possible. This means that you will need an activity that you find both fun and engaging.
Whether it's watching three movies in a row, binge-watching an entire season on Netflix, or devouring a good book - make sure that you have enough options to keep you entertained for the length of your flight. Otherwise, time can tick by very, very, slowly.
Did you know that Netflix will let you download episodes of certain shows and movies to your phone or tablet so that you can watch them offline? This is great for your device's battery, since WiFi tends to drain it a lot faster and is ridiculously expensive on planes.
10. Consider Noise Cancelling Headphones
The difference between a nightmare flight, and one you enjoy, can be as simple as bringing noise-canceling headphones. Even though some airlines will distribute earphones for free, they're usually cheap and nasty and not great at drowning out the background noise.
Imagine this scenario: you're on a 12-hour flight, you didn't bring any headphones and your neighbor is extremely talkative. Or even worse, they have a screaming child that doesn't look like it's ever going to get tired. Your only options are those overpriced earplugs you can buy from flight attendants, or jumping out the window mid-flight!
With good noise-canceling headphones, you can just put on an audiobook, music playlist, or a good movie and forget all about the mayhem around you. Quality headphones will also drown out all of the engine noise, which is important when you want to catch a few hours' sleep too.
11. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
The key to staying comfortable on a long flight is hydration. There's nothing worse than a tickle in your throat, especially when there's no flight attendant around. You should drink extra water leading up to your flight and even more when you're in the air.
Since you can't bring a gallon of water from home, it's best to bring a reusable water bottle that you can easily fill up once you've passed the security checkpoint. That way, when you run out of water on the plane, just ask one of the flight attendants to refill it for you. They will likely help as long as the supplies onboard allow it, so just wait until they are less busy, smile, and you will be good to go.
12. Hydrate Your Skin Too
The pressurized air inside the cabin is incredibly dry and it's not great for your skin. After a long flight, it might even feel like you washed your face with sandpaper.
Prepare yourself for that - bring a moisturizer on the flight and maybe even a sheet mask if you can. Lip balm is also a good idea because your lips will dry out far sooner than your face. Just make sure that the moisturizer you decide to bring is in accordance with the TSA rules - meaning, it needs to be in packaging of 100ml (3 ounces) or less.
And you know what this also means? Don't wear any makeup on the flight. It's just going to clog up your pores, making it even more likely that you'll have issues in the days following the flight. Go makeup-free for the duration of the flight, and your skin will thank you afterward.
13. Don't Wear Contacts
I can't stress this one enough - wearing glasses instead of contact lenses on a flight. This can be the difference between a relaxing flight, and having to rush to the optometrist as soon as you land. The dry air inside the cabin will dry up your contact lenses, often causing them to stick to your eyes. Not only is this really uncomfortable, imagine what happens when you try to remove them afterwards!
If you absolutely have to wear contacts just make sure to keep your eyes from drying out with regular use of hydrating eye drops.
14. Maintain Personal Hygiene
Making yourself even a little more comfortable on a long flight can be as simple as freshening up mid-flight. We all start to feel a little gross after a few hours on a flight - after all, you're stuck in a giant metal tube, with no way to shower, or access fresh air.
So, when you start to feel icky, just head to the bathroom and freshen up. Splash some water on your face, put on some fresh deodorant, and maybe even brush your teeth. You can put on a fresh shirt - feeling nice and clean will help you stay comfortable and your neighbors might thank you for it!
15. Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks help regulate the blood flow in your legs, and they are particularly useful on longer flights. Especially if you usually have issues with swelling in your feet or ankles.
Good quality compression socks will keep the blood flowing in your legs and they can be the difference between smiling as you leave the plane at your destination, or painfully dragging your feet down the aisle.
You can easily get a pair online or at your local drug store, and they are usually very affordable.
16. Organize Your Daypack
When you get to the airport you have one important goal - board the plane as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And, if you act like a headless chicken when you reach the TSA checkpoint, you've not only failed yourself but potentially made yourself a target for a special security check.
That's why you want to organize your daypack (or carry on) down to the very last detail, instead of just throwing everything inside. Remember, when you get to the security checkpoint you'll have to take out your laptop and toiletries. So, put those somewhere easy to reach and not at the bottom of the bag. The better organized you are the faster you'll get through security and board the plane.
17. Move Around on Layovers
The biggest mistake you can make on a layover is sit in the lounge and stare at your phone. Take the opportunity to stretch, walk around, and maybe even light exercise if it's possible. Do anything you can to get the blood flowing. You can sit again once you board the plane again. Now is the time to move.
If you spend the time waiting for the next plane sitting around, you're more likely to increase any pain or tiredness, and especially if you have swollen feet.
18. Ask Before Reclining Your Seat
If there's a person sitting behind you, it's not okay to just recline your seat whenever you please. Imagine if the person in front of you did that - not only would that make you uncomfortable, but it could also be fatal for any electronics you have on the tray. Not to mention your in-flight meal.
If you're lucky enough that there's nobody directly behind you, recline away - if you're in the window seat. If you're in the aisle seat and there's someone in the row behind, you still need to ask the person if it's okay. Maybe they want to use the bathroom or have something on the tray of your seat. Or, they are claustrophobic and it would ruin their entire flight if you recline your seat. In any case, don't do anything you wouldn't want others to do to you, and always check before reclining your seat. You might even make a new friend.
19. Bring a Blanket and a Pillow
If you plan to sleep during the flight, you will need a blanket and a pillow to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Most airlines will provide you with blankets and pillows on long flights, but it's always a good idea to bring your own. Especially if you're concerned with who used that pillow before you.
If you don't want the hassle of packing a blanket, or you don't have enough space in your carry on, at least pack a supportive neck pillow. You will be far more comfortable, and you'll avoid nasty neck pain and soreness once you wake from any nap you manage to have.
Also, the neck pillow might keep you from getting in awkward situations with your neighbor. After all, nothing quite compares to somebody waking you up because you're drooling all over their shoulder.