Maybe you’ve been on a plane before, maybe your eight- or ten- or eighteen-hour flight will be your first! Whatever your flight experience, long hauls always take a bit of preparation to be as comfortable as possible. Our advice below will have you as set up as any seasoned traveller for your many hours in the air.
Pack an amenity kit
Even the shortest long haul flights are the equivalent of spending an entire school day in one small seat, so you’re bound to want some items to hand to keep you feeling fresh and comfortable. We recommend packing a small bag of toiletries in your carry on, including a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, moisturiser and facial wipes as a start. Remember that any liquids or gels need to be 100mls or less, and packed in a separate clear bag for inspection at security.
Other items that will help make your flight more comfortable are a sleeping mask and earplugs – you might be surprised at how noisy an aeroplane can be. You will likely be grateful for a travel pillow at some stage of your flight as well. Trying to sleep upright in a cramped seat without accidentally falling asleep on your neighbour’s shoulder is never an easy task!
Spending hours on a plane breathing ‘canned air’ (as my aunt calls it) will dehydrate you faster than falling asleep in the sun on the beach. The incredibly low humidity in a plane cabin means your body is drying out much quicker than it ever would on the ground, so it’s extra important to make sure you drink plenty of water. At least 250mls every hour will help work against the dry air, and keeping yourself hydrated will also help with jetlag.
Take an empty water bottle through airport security, and you’ll be able to fill it up on the other side. You can also keep it topped up when flight attendants come by with water during your flight.
Take some entertainment
Most airlines will provide in-flight entertainment on long-haul journeys, but it’s always a good idea to take a few alternative options. If you prefer to curate your own media viewing, you could pre-load your phone or tablet with your favourite films and a good series or two. Or if, as your mother always warned, you get square eyes from watching too many movies in a row, it’s great to have a book or an e-reader in your carry-on. You may want to take a creative activity as well to keep your mind busy, such as an adult colouring book, a journal, or a sketchbook.
We wouldn’t recommend taking a laptop, as they can become heavy and bulky to carry around airports and through transits, and a hassle throughout your tour. They are also a very tempting item for thieves, so if you do decide to bring one, make sure you keep it secure.
Unless you’re somehow lucky enough to be flying first class, your seat area will be small, and you probably won’t need much convincing to get up and stretch your legs, but it’s extra important to ensure you keep your blood flowing while in the pressurised cabin environment. Try and remember to get up and move around every hour or so. This will help ease any discomfort or restlessness from sitting in one spot, and also counteract some of the health risks associated with long haul flights. You can also do some small exercises in your seat, such as toe and knee lifts, shoulder stretches, and neck stretches.
Wear comfortable clothing
Most importantly, you want to make yourself as comfortable as possible, so our advice is to dress like you’re lounging around the house on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Avoid anything too tight or restrictive that will become uncomfortable after a few hours of sitting, like jeans or stiff jackets. Leggings or loose-fitting pants with an elastic waistband are good, comfy options that will allow plenty of movement.
It’s also best to wear layers that can be adapted to various changes in temperature. Planes can be both overly chilly or stuffy and hot, so it’s a good idea to wear something like a loose t-shirt under a hoodie or sweatshirt that you can take off and put on as needed. Many people also find that their feet swell during a flight, so wearing comfortable shoes is a must. You might even want slip on shoes that you can remove easily, but do your fellow passengers a favour and try and make sure your feet are clean and smelling of roses before you do so!
Bring your own snacks
Airline food has a well-known reputation for being less than five-star. With this in mind, you might want to pack a few snacks of your own to enjoy between your in-flight meals. High fibre and protein-rich snacks such as nuts, granola bars or energy balls are nutritious and easy to slip into your bag. It can be nice to take a bar of chocolate or something sweet as a treat as well.
Of course, if you have special dietary requirements, bringing your own food is a lot more important. Most airlines cater to a basic range of dietary requirements, but are unable to assist with specific allergies. Make sure you’re aware of the options provided by your airline and prepare accordingly.
Also be sure to leave any snacks you don’t consume on the plane, as certain countries have strict rules about bringing food in, and will charge heavy fines for undeclared food.