10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights

Not every long haul flight has to be miserable. Some people have the talent of being able to doze off for a 10-15 hour flight while others seem to always have something to do to pass off the time. Whoever you are and whatever your habits may be, you’ve probably experienced in-flight anxieties or sleeplessness in one way or another.


Surviving a Long Haul Flight

Because of this, we’ve put together 10 tips to help you combat something as simple as boredom to something a little more serious like dehydration or even deep-vein thrombosis or sleep deprivation. After reading these tips, you’re surely going to ace your next long haul flight. All you have to do is get ready for take-off and you’ll arrive at your destination in no time!

1. Treat Yourself to an Upgrade

Don’t forget the fact that your frequent flyer miles aren’t just for booking your flights. These points can also be used to score you serious deals on in-flight upgrades. This is why, on your next long haul flight, you should go treat yourself and upgrade your seat to first class. Spacious legroom, fully reclining chairs, better meals, entertainment, and breathing space are just a few rewards points and a card swipe away!


Pro tip: Don’t have miles to burn? Consider bidding on an upgrade. Instead of giving empty front-cabin seats to elite frequent flyers, more and more airlines are selling upgrades to travelers on regular economy tickets.

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Woman making use of her miles for an upgrade
Photo from Tripsavvy

2. Escape, Escape, Escape!

You will want to have a rock-solid plan for frittering away several hours of your flight, and I don’t mean working; staring at spreadsheets and writing proposals may burn up hours, but it does not make time vanish.


You want these hours to disappear almost without a trace. Think headphones and Hollywood blockbusters. Getting a lot of work done is fine—rarely do you have 15 consecutive hours without phone calls or texts to disrupt you, so I encourage bringing some work. But work will fail you when you get to the brutal middle hours of this ordeal. Headphones and Hollywood; don’t stray from this.

Fun things to do on a long flight include watching movies, playing the games on your seat back TV, binging your favorite shows, or listening to music or podcasts (download them onto your phone in advance!).

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Woman listening to her playlist on a flight
Photo from Departure Lounge

3. Don’t Carry on Too Much Stuff

While checked baggage fees are inspiring travelers to carry on more and more stuff, on a long-haul flight this could burn you. Anything that is under the seat in front of you just means less legroom and a more cramped living space for 15 or 16 hours. Don’t bring so much on that you compete for your own sleeping space!

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Leg room on an airplane
Photo from Travel + Leisure

4. Bring Your Go-to Gear

Although your total carry-on haul should be limited, you may want to consider some in-flight essentials to make your long haul flight a bit more bearable. Some of these essentials include a neck pillow, sleep masks, and a noise-canceling pair of headphones.

Your body and brain will thank you for every small comfort you can provide, and the inconvenience of packing and carrying these around is dwarfed by the misery of 15 hours in flight with crying children, pilot announcements, engine noise, and a major crick in your neck. Gear up.

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Woman wears a neck pillow for comfort
Photo from Jetsetter

5. Wear the Right Clothing

Unless you’re walking off the plane right into a business meeting, a long-haul flight is not the time to prioritize fashion over comfort. You’ll want breathable, loose-fitting clothes that let you move freely, shoes you can easily slip off, and an extra layer (such as a hoodie or pashmina) in case the plane is chilly.

Pro tip: Don’t wear contact lenses for the duration of a long-haul flight; instead, wear glasses. (Wearing contacts for 14 hours straight is unsafe, according to ophthalmologists.)

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Comfortable clothes worn by long haul traveler
Photo from The Belle Voyage

6. Secure Your Things

A long haul flight gives unscrupulous travelers plenty of time to size up the location of your wallet, wait until you fall asleep, and make a move on your luggage. Secure your valuables deep inside your bags where it would take a TSA X-ray machine to find them. Consider keeping items like your passport, credit cards, and cash in a money belt under your clothes.

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Woman secures her belongings on plane
Photo from Southern Cross Travel Insurance

7. Consider a Sleep Aid

If you are planning to use sleep aids (including “natural” methods such as melatonin, over-the-counter sleeping pills such as Unisom, or prescription drugs such as Ambien), try them before you fly with them. These drugs can vary greatly in how they affect individuals, so you will want to try them at home before you rely on them on the plane. Also, a prescription is fine with your doctor’s approval, but don’t experiment on a long flight.

A couple of hard-earned tips: First, don’t deprive yourself of sleep the night before a flight, hoping to sleep the entire way. As attractive and intuitive an idea as this seems, you are in for a world of hurt if you can’t sleep for any reason. You will be on the plane long enough to catch a few winks even if you are somewhat rested.

Simply put, take it when it comes. If your eyes start to droop, get out the eye covers and earplugs, and go with it. If you throw away a solid two-hour nap on a few extra rounds of Angry Birds, you might be angry at yourself later.

Secondly, sticking to your usual pre-bedtime routine can sometimes help you prepare your body for sleep.

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Man sleeping soundly on a long haul flight
Photo from Luxury Travel Magazine

8. Ask About Seats at the Gate

Are you failing in the ability to choose great seats before your flight? Try again at the gate. If the flight is not full, the gate agent may be able to see an empty row or put you and a traveling partner in a “window and aisle” configuration that reduces the likelihood of having someone sit in the middle seat, thereby getting you a seat and a half, at least.

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Asking for a different seat at the gate
Photo from Video Blocks

9. Take Care of Your Health

Hydration: If you think hydration is a concern on a cross-country flight, try tripling or quadrupling your time in the air. Drink a lot of water and take in enough electrolytes for a long haul flight.  

10 Ways to Survive Long Haul Flights
Man hydrating during a flight
Photo from RachaelRayShow

10. Don’t Drink Alcohol the Night Before the Flight

Drinking alcohol the night before a flight can cause obvious problems. Alcohol dehydrates, tires, and even sometimes nauseates you. These are things you won’t want to experience on a normal day, let alone on a 10 or 15 hour flight. Avoid alcohol the night before.

You should also avoid diuretics such as coffee, soft drinks, and even chocolate (all of which contain caffeine). Just like you won’t want to be exhausted on a flight, you also won’t want to be restless or dehydrated from caffeine. If you have no issue with ulcers, take a baby aspirin the night before and day of your flight.

Let’s face it: electrolytes, movie after movie, and aspirin don’t change the fact that you are stuck inside a plane for several hours. Just keep reminding yourself that this too shall pass. Let go of all your anxieties and be sure to try these tips to help you pass the time on your next long haul flight.