As you gear up to travel over the holidays, or book your next big adventure, you might be hit with a sense of dread. Long-haul flights, and those hours you spend overcoming boredom and discomfort, can instill anxiety in even the most seasoned traveler.
It almost seems like they’re specifically engineered for maximum annoyance. Not only is there the question of how to stay occupied for a long stretch sitting in one place, but the ensuing jet lag can be the ugly cherry on top.
Not this time!
We’ve written posts on how to stay comfortable on a long distance flight, and even how to survive them, but what if you could learn how to actually enjoy your time in the sky?!
Rather than suffer through the in-flight entertainment on that painfully small screen; rather than twist and turn on the rock-hard headrest; rather than touch down at your destination feeling like death warmed over, follow these simple tips for enjoying a long-haul flight.
How to Actually Enjoy a Long Haul Flight
Pack for Comfort
First things first – you can’t enjoy yourself if you’re struggling with discomfort. So make sure you pack your carry-on with plane comfort in mind.
It’s you against the flight, and you have to arm yourself with whatever weapons necessary. Have your water and audiobook at the ready (more on those below), and consider investing in a memory foam neck pillow.
If you don’t already have one, invest in a neck pillow – they make the world of difference. They cradle your neck throughout the rockiest turbulence and help you get to sleep when you need to.
This list of the top neck pillows has options for a variety of budgets. Otherwise, the following neck pillows are our personal recommendations –
Also, dress in layers. Planes can either be stuffy and warm, or powerfully air-conditioned, and you won’t know until you’re mid-flight. To avoid boiling or freezing, have a few layers you can take on or off.
If you have a layover in-between two long flights, it’s amazing what packing a spare change of clothes in your carry on can do to your overall mood.
Changing into clean clothes and underwear halfway through gives you the chance to feel clean and refreshed, and this really goes a long way to your overall comfort on the last leg.
Immerse Yourself in Audiobooks
Far better than the in-flight entertainment is an absorbing audiobook, which keeps you occupied without straining your eyes; because it’s not always possible to read a physical book once they’ve dimmed out the lights.
Audiobooks are easy to prepare: just think about a few books you’ve been meaning to dive into, and then get your audiobooks online before the flight. And, unlike actual books which weigh a lot, you can download as many audio books as you like.
Audible is the best place to check for titles – they have a vast library of audiobooks, and you’re guaranteed to find at least a few books you want to listen to.
The great thing about audiobooks is that they don’t keep you awake like on-screen entertainment, meaning you can get the sleep you need to kick that awful jet lag.
Which leads to the third tip …
Plan Your Sleep Accordingly & Stay Hydrated
Let’s be honest – who doesn’t enjoy a good excuse to sleep?! With an informative travel audiobook or witty comedy audiobook in your ear, you can feel free to drift off.
That said, in order to successfully stave off jet lag, sleep at the right time. If you want to forego that hazy feeling of being in a new time zone, it’s best to try and adapt to your destination’s sleep schedule in advance.
That means, if two hours into your flight to Paris, Parisians are settling in for bed, you should try to sleep at the same time. It’s a simple travel hack, but it works wonders!
It’s also been scientifically proven that proper hydration helps avoid jet lag. Planes are notoriously dry environments, and that woozy, foggy feeling you get on the other end is partly attributable to dehydration.
Drink more water than you think is necessary, start sleeping when your destination sleeps, and you should be able to hit the ground running.
Alcohol & Sugar Do Not = Enjoyment
I know what you’re thinking – I didn’t have to write this post, because you can sum up how to enjoy a flight in two short words: free alcohol!
As much as we hate to say it, you should skip the free wine (including at the airline lounge beforehand), and avoid alcohol completely. While you might think alcohol will send you to sleep, this is usually only short lasting, maybe 3-4 hours, and you’ll then wake up with a headache, feeling thirsty, and won’t be able to get back to sleep.
The same goes for sugar. I know, I’m obviously no fun.
But seriously, avoid that chocolate bar, and try to stick to healthy foods while you’re flying.
When you’re sitting down for long periods of time, you’re not using up a lot of energy, so when you eat salty or sugary foods this ends up causing a lot of bloating. And nobody wants to feel bloated while they’re flying.
Packing healthy snacks to take with you is a great way to avoid paying double for them at the airport, and this way you’re also not tempted to impulse buy at the terminal.
Get in Some Frequent Exercise
Despite popular belief, exercise can actually be very enjoyable, and especially when you’re dealing with a long flight, getting up and moving around at frequent intervals will keep your blood flowing, and your spirits high.
You don’t have to do yoga in the aisle, but walking around at regular intervals, and stretching when you get the chance to is one of the best ways to stay comfortable, as it promotes blood circulation, and means you won’t get stiff.
Even if you’re just walking back and forth up the aisle, this makes a huge difference, and it’s recommended that you should get up and walk around at least once an hour (while you’re awake).
This is where your seat selection can come into play again; while it’s often easier to sleep if you have a window seat, having an aisle seat means you can easily get up and down without annoying the person next to you or pretending not to straddle them as you’re trying to jump over their sleeping body.
If you manage to score an exit row on the window, you have the best of both worlds; you can rest up against the window, stretch your legs out while you’re sitting, and easily get in and out.
Exit row seats are often available at a cost when you do your online check in, though if nobody has chosen to pay extra for them, if you get to the airport early you can ask the staff if there are any exit seats available.
This actually does work a lot of the time, unlike those mythical first class upgrades!
The ultimate way to actually enjoy your time on a plane is to accomplish something in the downtime. Maybe there’s something you’ve always been too busy to do, but can complete it while you’re stuck for 19 hours in an aluminium tube!
Whether this is finishing a book, listening to an album from start to finish, editing 2,000 photos, or writing your memoir, pick something that will keep you distracted, and leave you with a sense of accomplishment on disembarkation.
While many airlines now offer inflight WiFi, most long haul flights mean you won’t be connected – so this is a unique opportunity to have a concentrated amount of time you can dedicate to that task you’ve always promised yourself you would do.
I mean, how often does life grant you eight-ten hours to just sit and relax? Seize the opportunity.
Keep in mind that not all planes these days have power sockets under every seat, and you may not even be able to find an available socket at the airport. So if you rely on your devices, it’s important to make sure that they’re fully charged before you leave home.