Long Haul Flights – 5 Tips for Comfort

IMGP0521 If you’re like me, you love going to exotic places on vacation and exotic places aren’t exactly in your own backyard.  I’ve flown dozens and dozens of long haul flights to find a picturesque paradise or to visit family overseas.  (Oh Hawaii!  Why are you so far away?)

Long flights can zap your energy and leaving you feeling like you’re in a fog, but there are some things you can do to combat these problems.  Over the years, I’ve learned some tricks for making the best of these long flights. In this article, you’ll find my best tips to help you feel as good as possible at the end of a long flight.

1.  Get the Best Seat That You Can
image Find a diagram of the plane for the flight you’re booking.  You can do this by checking the airlines web site for the type of plane they use.  Most airlines show their seating arrangement online. If the airline does not have a seating chart for your flight and if you know the type of aircraft, you can find diagrams on SeatExpert and SeatGuru.  All seats are not created equal, so you should always check sites like SeatExpert and SeatGuru to find advice on which seats are good and which seats you should avoid.

In general, the best seats in economy class are exit row seats which offer more leg room.  If at all possible avoid the middle seats.  If you don’t get a good seat assignment at the time of booking keep checking periodically to see if any of the better seats have opened up.  Seats will open up particularly on the day of the flight, so be sure to politely check for better seats at the airport on the day of you flight.

2.  Keep Entertained
If your flight does not include a movie or the movie doesn’t interest you, staring at the back of the seat in front of you can get boring really fast.  So, make sure you bring a variety of entertainment on board.  Some suggestions include:

– Books – Playing Cards – MP3 Player or iPod
– Magazines – Travel Games – Lap Top Computer
– Newspaper – Personal DVD Player – Stationary for Letter Writing

Most long haul flights include movies, but some airlines charge a fee to buy headsets in the coach cabin, so bring a small pair of earphones with you just in case.

3.  Keep Hydrated
imageIf you want to avoid feeling like a raisin at the end of your flight, make sure you are well hydrated before you board the flight.  Bring a bottle of water to sip throughout the flight and if flight.  To avoid any security issues, buy the bottle of water inside the terminals past security.  If flight attendants offer cups of water during the flight, take advantage of that as well.

4.  Bring Items to Help You Stay Comfortable
These are my “must bring” items that I never fly without.

  • Lip Balm – I apply often so that my lips aren’t flaking off by the end of the flight.
  • Kleenex – You will be surprised how dry your nose will get during a long flight.  I often get sneezy. Some times I’ll bring a small bottle of nasal saline mist which I will use in the lavatory.
  • Immunity booster like Airborne – To help boost my immune system and fight off colds.  Even celebrities swear by it.
  • A travel pack of antibacterial wipes.  I use these to wipe down all the surfaces at my seat and around the tray table when I initially sit down.  (Who knows what kind of cooties the previous passenger had?)  I also use the wipes throughout the flight when I’d like to wash my hands, but it is too inconvenient to get up to go to the lavatory.
  • If you plan to do any sleeping, an eye mask, earplugs, and neck pillow are essential.  I use an inflatable neck pillow to save space in my carry-on luggage.

5.  Don’t Get Stiff
image Once you shoehorn yourself into your seat, it’s so easy to just sit there with limited movement.  Hours may pass without getting up out of your seat.  Before you know it, you may need a crowbar to lift your bottom off your seat.   There are a few simple exercises and stretches you can do to keep your refreshed.  Qantas offers some easy exercise suggestions on their web site.

Bonus Tip – Wear Comfortable, Breathable Clothing and Take Your Shoes Off
(I know I told you that there were five tips, but as you know, I always like to over deliver at GoVisitHawaii.)  Pick out your most comfortable outfit and wear that on the flight.  Try to wear something that is stretchy and unrestrictive.  Most people experience some swelling during a long flight.  I’ve found that my feet usually swell slightly during a flight.  So, I always take my shoes off and put on a pair of socks.

I hope you have found these tips to be useful.  Do you have any others you’d like to add?  Please share your suggestions in our comments.

This post inspired by Daily Blog Tips Writing Project.

  1. I forgot to mention that I would not recommend drinking tap water from an airplane. Make sure you drink bottled water. I’ve heard that some tap water from airplanes is not the cleanest (depends on the airlines, specific planes and cleaning staff).

  2. Hi Christian – I hadn’t heard of Diana Fairchild. Thanks for the link. I just signed up for her newsletter.

    Also, thanks for the tap water warning. Seems like there were reports out about a year or so ago warning that the drinking the tap water on the plane was risky. If I remember correctly even coffee and tea made on board might slightly contaminated.

    I just did a quick search and found this article about contaminated water in airplanes. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jan2005/2005-01-19-02.asp Most articles I saw were from January 05. I haven’t heard any new reports out recently, have you?

  3. Those are some really good tips. One thing I was told before my first 12 hour trip was to plan bathroom breaks. That is, know when dinner and breakfast will be served and try and use the bathroom before this. This way you don’t get trapped in your seat, and usually there is a rush for the bathrooms after meals.

    Your tip about taking lip balm is certainly one I will remember. (I suffered last time)

  4. Interesting stuff. Though, first and second on my list are Cognac and MP3 palyer. I hardly ever stay awake in long haul flights. 🙂

  5. @ Dee – great advice on planning the bathroom breaks! If I didn’t bring lip balm on long flights, I’d might as well bring a chisel and hammer to chip off all the dry skin on my lips. 😉

    @Jimbo – LOL…those are some helpful items.

  6. Those are great tips.

    One extra thing I make sure to have in my purse are eye drops in case my contacts get dry and they invariably do.

    And if you are the type of person who likes to sleep their way through those long flights, try to time your arrival at your destination for early morning. It helps to adjust to the time change more quickly. The reverse if you tend to stay awake the entire flight.

    I’ll be coming back to check out your blog more thoroughly. We lived on Maui for four years and I do miss it terribly, so I get my Aloha fix wherever I can.

  7. Great list. The only things I could add would be: –

    The need to continually walk around the plane for stretching.

    Seats at the front of each section – behind the bulkhead can be good
    (no one in front of you reclining full stretch while you are trying to
    eat) However, they usually are the seats with the bassinets i.e.
    crying babies all night!! They are also the seats which are situated
    directly under the video screens on some carriers. So even if you want
    to sleep/read the screen will be flashing away directly above you.

    The only thing I have found to help jet lag…exercise at the
    destination. However, you have to watch not twisting an ankle if you
    are half dazed. (done myself a few times) Milk also seemed to help a
    little – not sure why… might have countered all the coffee I had to
    drink to stay up all night. And if that does not work… a few
    Maitais fixes everything!!

    Seat belts – don’t forget to keep them on all night if you are
    sleeping. Some people have been injured by turbulence when they have left their seatbelts off.

  8. @ Susan – Thank you for mentioning eye drops. A bottle of visine used to be my trick for looking bright eyed at the end of an overnight flight. I used to carry a bottle in my purse, until the new regulations for carrying liquids on board. Since I almost always travel light and bring all my luggage on board, my zip-lock baggie quickly gets full with 3-oz bottles of sunscreen and I run out of baggie space quickly. I look forward to your return visits for your aloha fix. Thank you for commenting!

  9. @ Jason – Well hello, friend! It was so nice to see your comment! You are an absolute expert on long haul flights!

    I love bulk head seats. They really are nice in that they offer more space in front of you. I’d much rather look at the wall panel that’s 3 or 4 feet away than the back of the seat that is 18 inches away. Andy isn’t usually a fan of bulk head seats, though. It kind of depends on the type of plane. Some planes seem to have less leg room at bulk head seats. I’m so short, that I’ve never noticed the difference. 🙂

    About the bassinets – the first time I ever saw one used was from Tahiti to LAX on an Air Tahiti Nui flight. I thought it was neat. It would be nice if they were adult sized. 😉 I don’t believe US airlines use them.

    I will have to try your suggestions of exercising and drinking milk on my next flight.

    Thanks again for stopping by and commenting. Please say hi to your lovely wife…and let’s plan to meet up in Hawaii for one of those Maitais that “fixes everything”. 🙂

  10. Great tips from Jason – he’s probably circled the world a million times.

    For me, bulk heads are hit and miss. You need to know the actual plane. Some bulk heads have 3-4 feet of legroom, while others have less than the regular seats.

    I have to agree with the Mai Tai suggestion though–my favorite remedy! 😉

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