I wish I was one of those people that can sleep anywhere. I have some friends that don’t mind long flights because they view them as an opportunity to catch up on sleep. How do they do it? I’m lucky to snag some restless sleep in 30 minute increments!
If you can sleep on a plane pretty easily, no need to worry about this post. It doesn’t apply to those lucky few.
Everyone else – well, we have to figure out how to spend 8 or more hours in a cramped, dry, tube.
The longest flight I’ve ever taken was 12 1/2 hours. Eesh. That’s where I learned my mental stamina for long-haul flights starts to wane after 8 or so hours. Come the tenth hour, I’m downright antsy.
After taking at least 14 trans-Atlantic flights, I’ve figured out there are three main problems when it comes to long flights: discomfort, boredom, and trouble sleeping.
If you can find ways to squash each of these problems, your long haul flight may become marginally less miserable… and possibly even enjoyable! If you’re traveling soon, this guide will tell you exactly how to survive long flights.
Just a quick disclaimer – some of the links below are affiliate links. What this means is, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
I find discomfort to be the worst part of being stuck on a plane. Imagine spending an entire workday, or longer, stuck in a cramped tube with 200+ strangers breathing their recycled air and constrained to a small square of personal space. If that sounds miserable, it’s because it is.
Some pre-flight preparedness will make it much easier to survive your long flight.
First off, I recommend you wear comfortable clothes. A lot of people wear jeans as a default but honestly, jeans are not that comfortable. My favorite thing to wear on long flights are maxi skirts or dresses. It looks more dressed up than jeans & a T-shirt but requires minimal effort. In addition, your legs will remain covered so you don’t have to sit like a lady all the time and you won’t get cold.
If that’s not your thing, pick your most comfy pants. It’s generally frowned upon to wear pajamas on a long flight but some nice black yoga pants or your most worn-in slacks may be a good option.
Speaking of getting chilly, I always recommend you bring a jacket. Yes, the airline will provide a blanket, but it’s hard to keep your arms covered while you’re sleeping if all you have is a blanket. It can also double as a cushion if you need a break from the Economy-class cushion!
Something that has become a staple on my long-flights is a reusable water bottle. It is critical to drink a ton of water on a long flight in order to prevent jet lag and a reusable water bottle makes that much easier. I really like the ones below. They are super cute and colorful and will keep your water cold for hours. I have like 4 and love them!
Something else that makes it harder to survive a long flight is hunger. Because of that, I always pack at least a few snacks in my carry-on. Some flights will give you way more than enough food but I have been on flights where they actually ran out of food! It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
And, finally, something I always keep in my carry-on is a basic grooming kit. Included in that kit are:
- Lotion, cuticle oil, and/or chapstick – because no one wants to feel dry for 10 hours.
- Nail clippers and/or nail files – because hangnails are extra annoying when you can’t do anything about them.
- Primping products – Tic Tacs, face or body wipes, peppermint facial spray, (it’s like mouthwash for your skin), a travel hairbrush, and deodorant can help remove some of that grungy feeling. I always go primp just about an hour before landing.
Comfort is important, but it’s only part of the equation when surviving long flights.
Most long-haul flights I’ve been on have excellent entertainment options. The best TV series or new movie releases are usually available, so that makes it easy to stay entertained.
I always pack my Kindle Fire tablet, too, so I can read or watch my own movies at my leisure. I’ll be honest, though – I rarely pull it out because the entertainment options are usually that good.
However, I have a few things, in addition to my Kindle, that I always carry-on to a long flight:
- My favorite headphones. Yes, the airline will distribute headphones for you, but imagine how many people used them before you. Gag! Bring your own. Side note: I do NOT recommend you bringing any kind of pod-type headphones. Wired headphones are MUCH easier to retrieve if you drop them!
- Riveting books for when I’m sick of TV and movies. This list includes some of my go-to books. I’ve re-read all of them at least a few times! Even if you don’t end up reading on the plane, it’s nice to be able to read at a park or a bar.
- An external phone charger. I like being able to land with my cell phone fully charged. Yes, technically the airplane has in-seat charging, but I find that my devices end up glitchy after charging via the airplane. I’ve read that the power supply is “dirty”, whatever that means. So I just like being able to supply my own. This device is fantastic and holds multiple iPhone & Android charges.
- Guidebooks if you haven’t planned your trip yet. Nothing makes time go by faster than getting excited about the trip you’re on!
I’ve tried everything short of prescriptions to sleep on an airplane. Nothing has ever given me restful sleep. Instead, it’s just made me feel groggy and drowsy for my entire flight and the entire first day.
Because of that, I don’t personally recommend taking any supplements. If you aren’t able to get at least 4-6 hours of solid sleep, it’s my opinion that those supplements make functioning harder.
What has helped me catch a little sleep is:
- A nice, neck supporting travel pillow. This one keeps me from drooling on my neighbors or getting an achey neck.
- Good earplugs. Canceling out the screaming children and coughing passengers is important!
- Comfortable eye mask. I like this one because it keeps my eyelashes from getting caught when I open my eyes.
A drink or two may help, as well – just be careful not to overdo it.
And, one last thing related to sleep: be an opportunist. Usually, I find myself enjoying the free entertainment too much. I’ll feel myself get drowsy and I check my show or movie and say “I’ll nap after this 30-minute episode is done.” Make a vow to yourself that you will snag some zzz’s whenever the mood hits – because, if you’re anything like me, the drowsiness will pass as soon as “Young Sheldon” is done.
Surviving the long flight isn’t the only hurdle to overcome when you’re traveling – if you want to read about beating jet lag, check out my post here.