After many years of international travel for work and for leisure, I’ve picked up a thing or two about being well prepared for flying. This post shares my long haul flight tips – I’ve used them for decades now to make sure I’m in good shape to survive every long haul flight I take.
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Long Haul Flight Tips
Long haul flights can be exhausting! The best way to survive your trip is to prepare well and to have the right things with you. Here are my tried and true tips to make every flight you take more comfortable.
1. Don’t assume that cheaper equals better
It’s so tempting to snap up budget flights, but I’ve learned the hard way that you need to check the fine print! Cheap flights can mean cramped seats and exhausting layovers in bad airports. Ugh! I’ve reached the age now when I’d much rather pay a little bit more for the sake of arriving at my destination unknackered (is that even a word? You get the general idea though).
One great FREE resource for checking what your seat is really like before you book is here.
2. Snag an upgrade
On most airlines, the step up from economy to Premium Economy/Business class brings a huge amount of extra comfort in the shape of extra legroom and wider seats. Paying for an upgrade or using up frequent flyer miles is your only way to guarantee the seat you want.
But, you might be able to snag an upgrade at the airport if you’re lucky – and you dress smart. 12+ hours on a long haul flight in a comfy seat with room to stretch is a whole lot better than 12 hours in a cattle class seat.
3. Prebook an aisle seat
There’s a whole bunch of reasons why an aisle seat is the best seat on a long haul flight (in fact on any flight).
I had a middle seat nightmare when flying home from Australia, many years ago. Needing to visit the loo after a long snooze, I gently tapped the shoulder of the elderly gent in the aisle seat next to me, asking him to let me pass by. That’s when I realised he wasn’t sleeping – sadly he had passed away while I slept!!!
I’ve also reached the age where I get seriously uncomfortable if I sit for an extended time, so I have to get up and walk around (and visit the loo) quite often. It’s one of the joys of travelling during menopause – and travelling in my 50s!
It’s irritating for other people if they have to keep moving for me. Aisle seats also put you in ‘pole position’ to grab your bags and make a quick exit when you land. Essential if you’re travelling for business.
Middle seats always seem smaller than window or aisle ones. Maybe it’s because you’re hemmed in on both sides by other passengers’ elbows? They are definitely the least desirable seat option. I’ve even been stuck in a middle seat next to a mum with a huge lap baby who thought it was OK to change the baby’s nappy (diaper) in the seat instead of the loo.
4. Prepare for smelly fellow travellers!
Most travellers feel less than fresh by the end of a long haul flight, but what do you do with someone who’s more than a bit whiffy when they board the plane? It’s no joke to sit next to a passenger with an appalling body odour or someone who takes off their shoes and has stinky feet. I’ve found that regularly applying hand sanitiser does help to reduce the pong and Vicks vapour rub is a great last resort.
5. Grab a blanket and pillow as soon as you’re seated
Most airlines provide blankets and pillows for long haul flights, but yours could get snaffled by other passengers if you don’t lay claim to them straight away, especially if you’re playing with the hell that is cattle class. I’ve been there and it is hellish. Memory foam travel pillows are great, but if you’re travelling light, they take up a lot of space.
6. Pack the right stuff in your cabin bag
Stashing the right kit in your carry-on
7. Have one glass of fizz then drink lots of water
Dehydration is a major issue on long haul flights, so look after your body and drink lots of water. It doesn’t hurt to have one cheeky glass of fizz, but don’t drink your own body weight in alcohol if you want to feel human when you arrive. Remember too that you’ll feel the effects of an alcoholic drink far more in the air than on the ground, due to reduced oxygen availability.
8. Arrive in the morning and stay awake
The best way to avoid jet lag is to book a flight that arrives in the morning, wherever you’re going. When you arrive, keep going all day, take a long hot bath and then get a good sleep that night. Your circadian rhythm (internal body clock) will return to normal faster if you manage to stay up all day on arrival. You might still feel less than optimal for a good few days when you arrive though.
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Do you love to fly to new destinations? What are your best long haul flight tips? And horror stories – I’d love to read them all in the comments below.