There’s no denying that travel can sometimes be frustrating. And especially when it comes to long distance travel, a lot of the time it’s just downright uncomfortable.
The experiences once we get to a new destination always make the journey worthwhile, and as soon as we’re trekking through the Himalayas or snorkelling through Mexican cenotes, we completely forget about having been cramped in economy the day before.
But, for those 15 + hours where you’re very aware of just how awkward a long haul flight is, we recommend the following travel hacks to making yourself more comfortable.
How to Stay Comfortable on a Long Distance Flight
Wear Comfortable Clothes
We’ve all read that you have a better chance of scoring one of those mythical first class upgrades if you dress up, though I’ve tried it many times, and I conclude that these upgrades are in fact just that – mythical.
There’s really no need to look glamorous on a plane; that’s not to say that you shouldn’t look presentable or unkempt, but wear something that you’re going to actually be comfortable in. Long haul flights already mean you’re going to feel restricted, so you shouldn’t add to that by wearing restrictive clothing.
Find something in your wardrobe that you’re willing to spend 10 – 15 hours in, and when picking your outfit, choose layers so that you can adjust your level of clothing based on the temperature of the plane (it’s always colder than you think it will be).
Compression socks are great on long flights, because the gentle pressure they give encourages blood flow meaning you greatly reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). And if you plan on taking off your shoes, take a pair of disposable slippers with you (just make sure your shoes don’t smell as that’s unfair on other passengers).
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.
Pack a Toothbrush
Personal hygiene on a long haul flight goes out the window around 7 hours in – everyone starts to feel icky and gross, probably something to do with being confined to a seat in a flying aluminum tube! But, little things like cleaning your teeth halfway through can be a huge comfort boost.
Your personal hygiene can really affect your overall comfort – if you’re sweating or smelly, or facing the prospect of an 8 hour aftertaste of airplane food, it doesn’t leave you feeling great. Simple things like brushing your teeth can go a long way to making you feel fresher. Roll on deodorant can also be great.
Along the same line of thinking, you can take alcohol wipes to wash your face, hand sanitizer (just in case), and dental floss. If you are going to groom yourself though, do it in the plane bathroom. You don’t need to be flossing or clipping toenails with someone next to you.
Have Travel Insurance
Feeling comfortable on a flight isn’t just about the physical comforts, but also about managing your levels of stress and anxiety. One of the best ways to manage vacation stress on a flight is knowing that you’re covered in the case of an emergency.
The last thing you need to be doing on a flight is stressing out over everything that could go wrong; what if the airline loses my bags?, what if a volcano erupts?
The reality is that there are many things that could happen on a vacation, but knowing that you have travel insurance to cover you means you can sleep easy on the flight over. Which leads us to our next point …
How to Sleep Comfortably
A really great way to stay comfortable on a longhaul flight is to sleep through it, though you want to make sure you go to sleep in a position that doesn’t leave you with back or neck pain when you wake up.
If you manage to score a window seat (try to check in online as soon as you can so you have choice with your seat selection), this often makes it easier to fall asleep because you can rest up against something solid. And do your best not to cross your legs as this can restrict your blood flow.
Comfort items also help in sleeping comfortably, whether this is a neck pillow, an eye mask, or headphones which will allow you to block out all surrounding noise. And try to actually avoid sleeping pills and medications as they often just leave you feeling groggy after you disembark.
As much as we hate to say it, you should skip that free airline lounge champagne, 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.
Another hack is that if you’re willing to choose seats at the back of the plane, you might luck out and have a free seat left open next to you. Airlines typically fill the seat allocation from the front to the back, so if a flight isn’t full, the empty seats are often towards the back of the plane. If you’re one of the lucky ones, that of course means more space.
I know, I know, I’ve told you to avoid alcohol, and now I’m waging war on sugar. 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.
Stick to water over soft drinks or juices as staying hydrated is the best way to fight off in flight headaches and dryness.
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!
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All great tips Meg. Aisle seat for me. More leg room. Plus no caffeine, hourly walking breaks and some deep yin yoga for a few sessions makes the journey so much easier and more comfortable.
Thanks Ryan, yes aisle seat is my preference too, I like getting up and down whenever I want to, and you do get a lot more leg room … though granted just keep your legs tucked in when they wheel the carts down lol they have no mercy!
Very useful points you have covered in your blog. I will help travel frequently by flight. Saved your blog
Glad the post was helpful for you Pradish, hope your next flight is a comfortable one!
Oh, thank you for sharing these points. Oh god, I agree with all of them. I still remember my first flight and it was really horrible. .:D
You’re welcome Arthur, I’m glad the post was helpful for you :) Yes, my first long distance flight was horrible too – we live and learn though right!! Happy travels :)