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Your Guide to Long Haul Flight Essentials

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As much as we adore travel, it can be hard. In fact, travel can be exhausting, draining and downright miserable! Don’t worry, these long haul flight essentials will ease some of the pain.

Next time you are flying from A to Z (and especially if you are going all the way over B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K with a six hour stopover in Q) remember these tips and a pack a few things and you won’t just “survive” your next flight, but you will enjoy it.

Side of a Virgin Atlantic plane on stand at London Heathrow Airport as the sun sets in the background
Virgin Atlantic plane at sunset

Check out our Virgin Atlantic Upper Class review. Admittedly, it is easier to enjoy a long haul flight in Upper Class!

Water is the Most Important of your Long Haul Flight Essentials

It’s a basic fact that we all know, you need water to live. But, did you know that in an aeroplane’s atmosphere you need an extra half litre an hour to stay hydrated? That’s a whole lot of the clear stuff. I am terrible at drinking water in the real world but on a plane, I suck on my water like a bottle fed baby!

a clear plastic cup of water

And it’s not just the cabin air. Plane food can have very high levels of salt in. They are trying to make up for the deadening of taste buds at high altitude, and so you are dehydrating from the food too!

In flight meal on a red plastic tray with a gold foil tray, cream plastic cutlery, a square cheesecake and a plastic cup of Coke on economy Philippine Airlines A330-300 plane
Philippine Airlines Economy in flight meal

Check out our review of Philippine Airlines Economy

Don’t rely on an airline’s drinks service to keep your whistle wet, take a bottle of your own. You can buy a bottle of fancy mineral water after security, or you can take an empty bottle through and fill it up air-side at a water fountain.

Balhvit stainless stell water bottles in multiple colours to enjoy long haul flights

I also make a point of asking the crew if there is a water fountain on board, or a jug in the galley. This sometimes prompts them to bring you more water.

How to Approach Other Drinks

Many airlines offer alcohol as part their drinks services. The official advice is that you should avoid it, and if you are that way inclined, well done! I do like to have a drink or two though, and so to counteract the alcohol’s dehydrating effect, I make sure I ask for water at the same time.

a plastic glass of champagne against a plane window looking over the wing

Remember that alcohol will hit you harder at altitude so you cannot drink as much as you would at ground level, without really feeling it. This could leave you a bit of a mess and arriving at your destination with a big hangover isn’t pleasant.

Make Sure You Pack Liquids

As well as drinking lots of fluids, there are other things you can do to keep your body from drying out (and this goes for girls and guys).

  • Once the plane has taken off, remove your make up, if you have any on. Once your face is bare, treat it to a nice big blob of intensive moisturiser. Ensure that it is more intense than the kind you would use at home. This will soak in surprisingly quickly, and keep your skin supple.
  • Lip balm or Vaseline stops your lips from cracking. Put on a nice thick slick before you go to sleep to keep them kissably soft.
Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skincare Travel & Starter Kit to enjoy long haul flights
I have been using this set for a while now and it works wonders. Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price.
  • Eye drops or spray will relieve sore, tired eyes by keeping them moisturised. It’s not something you normally think about, but it can make a difference after fifteen hours in the sky.
  • I am a HUGE fan of saline nasal spray. Planes are dry, and they can be rather cold. This makes my nose all dry and sore on the inside. Occasional squirts of saline spray stops this from happening. My mum does the same thing with airwaves chewing gum, but that makes my champagne…I mean water…taste funny.
    Box of Calpol Saline Nasal Spray 15ml to enjoy long haul flights Trust me, this is weird, wonderful and works. Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price.

Check out our Top Ten Tips to Pack Your Liquids Bag for Carry On Luggage Like a Pro!

What to Wear for Your Long Haul Flight

This is a complicated business. We all like to look nice when we fly, it’s exciting to be off on holiday, but you have to find the comfy/trendy balance.

  • Don’t wear anything with a tight waistband. It will only get worse as your tummy swells with the altitude, and that bloating salty plane food.
  • Don’t wear tight shoes or boots that can’t be loosened. Your feet will swell and getting them on again at the end of the flight can be very uncomfortable. If you keep them on they can restrict blood movement and that can encourage DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) which is a very bad thing indeed.
  • Flight socks can look silly (I know) but they work wonders to keep your circulation flowing nicely. You will need to pack a pair of high quality compression socks.
Multicoloured compression socks to enjoy long haul flights At least they make funky flight socks these days. Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price. for these bright beauties. 
  • It can get bumpy on a plane, so ultra low neck lines could result in unwanted wardrobe malfunctions. It’s best to stick to something that covers a little more “decolletage”…or you might get a nip slip!
  • I have said it before, and I will say it again, a seamless sports bra is INFINITELY more comfortable than a regular one when taking a long haul flight. There’s no straps to rub, no hooks to dig into your back and no danger that you’ll get a full pat down when the wire sets off the security arch.
The joys of the seamless sports bra lead to a seamless journey. Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price for this triple-pack to suit every colour top. 

Consider Wearing Slippers on Your Long Haul Flight

I like to change into little stretchy slippers for my flights. They keep my feet warm, allow them to swell without pain, and they are a bit sturdier than socks for my little walks around the plane. I have black ones which are a little more discreet. They go in the washing machine when I find a laundry and then they are fresh and clean for the next flight.

If you are worried about those questionable drips on the bathroom floor, wear comfortable shoes you can slip on and off quickly. I wouldn’t recommend wear flip flops and you will get cold toes and the “flip” “flop” slaps as you make your way to bathroom could disturb other passengers.

Keep it Moving

Get up and have a wander around the plane every so often. It is nice to get a change of scene; to look out of the window when you’ve been trapped in the centre of the plane can be a revelation. More importantly it promotes blood movement and helps prevent DVT.

If you are trapped in a middle seat and can’t clamber over your slumbering neighbours there are still little exercises you can do to simulate the benefits of a walk. You may look a little silly, but they are asleep so it doesn’t matter.

Blue economy seats on Edelweiss Air Airbus 340-300 plane
Edelweiss Air economy cabin

Check out our review of Edelweiss Air econonmy here

Plan The Entertainment for Your Long Haul Flight

If you know that your plane has entertainment, why not visit the airline’s website ahead of time, and take a look at the listings. This allows you to decide what you want to watch and in which order. It would be very annoying to find a great film just as the plane starts its descent.

On overnight flights, I watch a blockbuster whilst I eat dinner. Then I get ready for bed and put on some sort of kids film, or a frivolous comedy. It is inoffensive, I don’t mind falling asleep to it (got to cut out that engine noise somehow) and they all have a nice predictable plot. It’s very comforting. When I wake up a few hours later, it’s back to the exciting films. This passes the time, gives me something to look forward to and sometimes saves me money at the cinema. Win, win, win.

Emirates is well known for their great entertainment ‘ICE Information Communication Entertainment’, check out a full Emirates economy review

Pack a Pillow

I am not sure the world has invented the perfect sleep pillow for flights yet. I can’t function without a surface to lean against! But we persist. At the moment I am using a blow up pillow. It takes up very little space and when I only have hand luggage, that is a big plus!

HIKENTURE blue inflatable neck pillow to enjoy long haul flights

I have read great things about Cabeau Evolution and I’m tempted to try it for my next flight, but it looks very cumbersome and quite heavy for backpacking. Maybe I’ll give a go for my next city break.

Cabeau Evolution S3 grey travel pillow to enjoy long haul flights Why not give it a go? Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price. 

If you only have one piece of hand luggage, and it is too big to fit under the seat in front (or you are gifted with long legs and need the space), prepare an essentials pouch. You can slip this in to the seat-back pocket negating the need to get up and down every ten minutes. It also makes it less likely you will forget loose items. Here’s what’s in mine;

  • Eye mask and ear plugs – I’ll be honest, I always fail to use these when I am actually on the flight, but Mr Fluskey uses his religiously. They block out light and sound for when you are ready to sleep. The eye mask I use, mostly when we are in a noisy hotel, is a 3D mask (check out all our accomodation reviews including budget, midrange and luxury). It fits the bridge of your nose snugly but doesn’t press on your eyes/eyelashes so it is very dark and very comfy.
This looks just like mine and even comes with free ear plugs. Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price. 
  • Pen – For filling out landing cards, making notes or doodling.
  • Phone – It may be on aeroplane mode but it still my blogging tool…plus it has games and back up videos if the entertainment system is awful…or non-existent.
  • Portable charger and USB cable – You may get lucky and have an in-seat power supply, in which case, you’re OK. Just in case there isn’t, have your portable charger fully juiced and ready for back up.
Anker PowerCore 10000mAh black power bank to enjoy long haul flights This is exactly the model I have and I couldn’t live without it! Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price. 
  • Headphones and splitter. Don’t bring your wireless headphones because you can’t use them with the inflight entertainment system, except on the newest Virgin Atlantic A330 planes.
white multi 3.5mm headphone splitter to enjoy long haul flights We have had a great run with one of these multi-splitters, plus four of us watched one video together…win! Tap on the picture to check the latest Amazon price. 
  • Liquids – Those listed above
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste – Read on…

Check out our Top Ten Tips to Pack Your Liquids Bag for Carry On Luggage Like a Pro!

Perform Your Bedtime Routine to Get Enough Sleep

This is very important if you seriously want to get some rest. You need to trick your body into thinking it is bedtime.

  1. Go to the bathroom.
  2. Change into some light, loose cotton clothing.
  3. Brush you teeth.
  4. Make sure you can sleep on your hair comfortably.
  5. Do whatever else you do before you go to bed (nothing naughty please).

This psychologically puts you in mind of bedtime and so when you return to your seat and strap back in (doing up your seat belt before you sleep is very important or you could be woken by the crew to do so) you are ready to slumber.

Red setting sunbeams through an airplane window with the blind half drawn

Try Flirting to REALLY Enjoy Your Long Haul Flight

I know, I know, this is a weird piece of advice, but flirting (without being cringy) can achieve some wonderful results:

It might get you a slightly better seat on board or convince a crew member to give you extra drinks, food or water. It also means that if you are looking for ways to make the time fly(!) on your plane, you can go and have a chat with the crew. You could also try and make conversation with your fellow passengers. You may make a friend for life…or alienate the passengers around you… Either way, you’ll have passed some time.

Plus, it is a free way to enjoy your long haul flight!

Check out all our flight reviews including British Airways, airBaltic, Turkish Airlines, Jet2 and Delta

Final Tips for Travelling on Long Haul Flights

  • Check in online. There are many different reasons for this but just believe me, check in online.
  • Always set you phone or watch to your destination’s time zone. This means you can try and start adjusting straight away. Many airlines will try and keep you asleep for most of the journey, but if it’s 13:00 in your destination, you should be awake. Consider setting an alarm when you get ready for bed to ensure you wake up at the right time.
  • Need to pee a lot? Pick an aisle seat. Need to lean on something to sleep? Pick a window. Got a tight connection? Sit as close to the front as you can get. Want a nice photo? Just behind the wing is good.
  • Relax and enjoy, you’re going somewhere great!
view out of a plane window of the wing and tip above clouds

Rosie xx

Long haul travel can be hard. You can enjoy long haul flights, and here's how! #longhaulflight #flighttips
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14 thoughts on “Your Guide to Long Haul Flight Essentials

  1. Carrying a pillow is must for me for any long haul flight but the most interesting tip is flirting. 😛 It reminds me my last solo trip to India to Paris where a beautiful lady sat beside me and she was also backpacker. We flirted almost all the time in flight and became good friends at last.

    1. Haha, what a lovely way to pass the time! I chatted to a nice guy next to me on my flight home last…but I was chatting to his cute baby more lol

  2. I like you sense of humour in the first paragraph! You got me hooked up real good! These are really nice tips! I have never removed my make up though! Looks like great tips!

  3. Great tips here! I love the one about following your normal night time routine. I don’t do any of those things yet but always struggle to sleep on planes. Maybe that’s what I need to do to finally get some zzzs!

  4. I fly very often between US and India and long haul flights are synonymous to flying home for me. I can totally agree with every single tip of yours including flirting! haha, well sometimes just talking with your neighbor (given that he/she has interesting stories) can help pass sometime.

  5. I completely agree about water! I drink tons on a flight. I live in NZ so long haul flights are every time you leave the country.

  6. Hahahaha I never expected to see flirting as one of the tips, but you know I just might try that next time!

  7. All of these are great tips. Some of this key points are very easy to overlook normally but now we can keep this in mind for our next long flight

  8. Great post, I fly between the UK and Australia a few times every year, its been utterly impossible to find the perfect travel pillow so I’ve done away with them completely – thanks for the tips – very informative

  9. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I have done a few long (13 hour) flights and I want those flight socks! I always drink on flights, why not! try to drink water and get up too. I like the idea of pre selecting movies. yeah i usually put on something I dont really want to watch if im trying to sleep.

  10. As an Aussie, I see long haul flights as a necessary evil. I don’t have them, but I definitely don’t enjoy them either. My way of dealing with them is to wear warm clothes, nap as much as possible and watch movies.

  11. I wear huge fuzzy socks on long-haul flights – they look ridiculous (especially when I wear them IN my sandals when I go to the washroom…) but they keep my feet warm and they placate those people who think it’s gross to see bare feet on planes (yes, that’s a whole subset of traveler!).

  12. All great tips, and I use most of them. Though no matter what I do, I can’t sleep on a plane; I haven’t found the right pillow yet. The blow-up version sounds good though, I never thought of it, but you can put as much or as little air in it as you want; it might help. Thanks for putting this list together, all the great tips in one place.

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