How to survive long haul flights – Ultimate Top 10 Tips!

Chances are, if you’re headed on a long haul flight soon, you’ll be excited as it means you’re most likely going somewhere awesome! However, you’re probably not looking forward to the actual flight. Long flights can really take its toll on your body. Working as an international flight attendant for over 3 years now, working almost exclusively on long haul and ultra long haul flights (sometimes upto 16 hours long!) I’ve picked up my fair share of tips for how to survive long haul flights.

Each month I spend an average of 120 hours in the sky, and in my life I’ve spent over 6000 hours cruising at an altitude of 40,000ft so I’ve learnt a fair bit over the years! From avoiding jetlag to beauty secrets of the industry, read on to discover my top 10 tips to help you survive long haul flights like a pro! Also included are my Top Flight Attendant Tips!

how to survive long haul flights

How to survive long haul flights: The Ultimate top 10 tips!

1. Drink water and avoid alcohol

The most important thing: drink water. This is the best thing you can do for your body on a flight – flying dehydrates you more than you realise, and you need to drink more water than you think! Not just during, but even before and after the flight you need to drink a lot of water to remain hydrated.

When travelling as a passenger, I prefer to bring my own water bottle onto the aircraft – it is much more convenient to have your bottle available next to you, then you don’t have to keep asking and waiting for small glasses of water, and also you can monitor how much you are drinking. Just bring a reusable bottle from home, or buy it or fill it up after the security check point in the airport, or just ask the crew onboard to fill it up for you. Aim for at least 2 litres on any long flight. As a guideline I recommend drinking 1 litre for every 4 hours you are onboard an aircraft. And don’t drink it all at once – spread it out, it’s better to drink little and often.

Avoid alcohol

Try to avoid alcohol on flights as it dehydrates you far quicker up in the air than it does on ground, you’ll feel the effects quicker, and you’ll also suffer a hangover. Not good. Just stick to water. If you can’t resist one cheeky alcoholic bevvie, at least ask for a glass of water with it too. The thing that dehydrates you the most onboard is the lack of humidity: humidity levels on aircrafts are very low, which means you lose fluids faster. Normal air-con rooms have a humidity of about 50%, but humidity levels inside an aircraft are only 10%. That’s comparable to the air in the Sahara desert!

*TOP Flight Attendant Tip:*

Add lemon slices, berries, mint leaves or herbs such as lavender and basil to your water bottle if plain water is just too boring. Pop them in your reusable water bottle before you leave home. You can even bring hydration tablets or electrolytes to add to water to get maximum oxygen to your blood and helping you feel energised!

how to survive long haul flights

2. Change time zone straight away

On long haul flights you will most likely cross several time zones, the thing that leads to jetlag. But how to avoid jetlag? Once you are ON THE PLANE adapt to the local time in your destination straight away. Change the time on your phone so you don’t have to work out the time differences to help you. See what time you will arrive at your destination (in local time there): if you’ll land in the morning, sleep as much as you can on the flight so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you land, and will last until that evening. If you will land at your destination in the evening, try not to sleep too much on the plane, as you want to have a good nights sleep when you land so that you wake up fresh the next morning without any sign of jetlag.

3. Moisturise

ALWAYS moisturise before a flight! The air really dries out your skin even if you can’t feel it. Before a flight, I smother my body and face in moisturiser, let it absorb for a while, and then get ready. When flying as a passenger, I never wear makeup: it is so important to let your skin breathe! It is even good practice to put on a moisturising facemask during the flight, but I understand if you’re too self conscious to do this (however, most Korean passengers apply them on their flights and their skin is flawless. Just saying).

If you must wear makeup on a flight, try to ensure you use one with light coverage, a BB cream, or tinted moisturiser. Bring a small face moisturiser in your hand luggage, 100mls or smaller and keep it handy throughout the flight so you can moisturise whenever you need. Also pack a hand moisturiser and lip balm to combat any dryness!

*TOP Flight Attendant Tip:*

Keep you face hydrated with a facial mist spray – these are a life saver and they will keep you hydrated and even keep your makeup in place!

4. A few home comforts to pack in your hand luggage

I pack my slippers so my feet are cosy and warm during the flight. If you don’t fancy bringing slippers, at least bring some socks. You’ll want to take your shoes off and believe me, nobody wants to see your toes. Wear shoes that are easy to remove, not just for the flight but also for security at the airport.

Do not forget that toothbrush and travel sized toothpaste and deodrant! Face wipes are also a good idea as it is difficult to wash your face in an airplane sink. To maximise space in your hand luggage, bring travel sized items and make sure all your hand luggage liquid items are under 100mls so they don’t get taken off you at airport security. Keep all these items handy with you around your seat area for the flight. If the airlines allow both hand luggage and a personal bag, I recommend to stow your hand luggage up in the overhead stowage but keep everything you need for the flight in your handbag, and keep it under the seat infront of you, so you don’t need to keep opening the overhead stowage for items you need.

If you get dry or blocked sinuses, bring a saline nasal spray or nasal inhaler, also bring eyedrops if your eyes get dry and irritated. Make sure if you wear contact lenses that you take them out immediately! It is so important to get air to your eyes. Also pack a pen for customs/immigration forms!

*TOP Flight Attendant Tip:*

You can apply a damp towel/handkerchief over your nose and mouth, so at least the air you’re breathing in will be moister than the air around you. Myself and other colleagues do this when on rest and it really helps.

how to survive long haul flights

5. Wear comfy clothes

Now this may sound basic but it’s surprising how many people forget. ALWAYS pack some warm clothes for any plane journey. Yes even if you’re going on a beach holiday! The air-con can get pretty chilly on planes and that thin blanket that they give you is still not enough to keep you warm sometimes. Wear a couple of layers so you can remove them or put them back on as you wish.

Also make sure to always select comfy clothes to wear for a flight!! I never wear jeans, only loose bottoms with an elastic waist (your body expands during flying so you don’t want anything tight cutting into your skin). Don’t wear a skirt incase you do get a row to yourself as you’ll have to be careful if you lie down.

*TOP Flight Attendant Tip:*

Bring a scarf/shawl with you: you can wrap it round you like a blanket if you’re cold, or use it to cover your face if it’s too bright to sleep.

6. Compression stockings

Invest in some compression stockings. Ok so they are hardly gona get you on the cover of Vogue, but your health is important, especially as you get older and especially for females, the chances of getting Deep Vein Thrombosis and blood clots increase (and I know, when I was working in the hospital I used to scan so many people who had developed blood clots are a result of frequent flying).

Make sure to walk round the aircraft to keep blood circulating in your legs. It is really important to get the correct size of stockings, otherwise they will do you no good. Get someone to measure you, or if you have a vascular doctor they will be able to recommend which size medical compression stockings for you to buy.

7. Prepare yourself for a nights rest

It’s important to get sleep on long flights. When I travel as a passenger, I always try to get to the flight a little tired so that it’s easier to sleep during the flight and I don’t get restless. Personally I don’t use one as I can quite comfortably sit sleeping, but I do recommend travel pillows. Also pack an eye mask if light is bothering you, and ear plugs to block out the sound of any crying babies. Don’t rely on airlines to provide them as they are not always available (dependent on airline, route and aircraft you’re on).

flying emirates

8. Bring something to do

Be prepared and bring something to keep you busy: a book, listen to music or podcasts (download them before so they will work offline!), work on laptop – don’t rely on the airplane’s entertainment system! Keep yourself occupied, learn a new skill, actually read a guide book for your destination and plan your trip (if you left it that last minute!!). It’s amazing how much you can achieve in a few hours when you’re focused and with no distractions from your phone!

*TOP Flight Attendant Tip:*

Most long haul planes will have an electrical socket in your seat area. Bring your charger in your hand luggage and remember to charge your devices so they are recharged and ready for when you land!

9. Consider bringing your own food

Whilst eating healthily onboard will greatly help to minimise jetlag and grogginess, if you know you’ll get peckish or want to have snacks when you’re watching a movie, consider bringing them with you. Remember you are on an aircraft and there is only so much choice of food they will have onboard. If you don’t like it, or you have a specific diet, you could be stuck.

If you have a particular dietary requirement, make sure the airline knows when you’re booking your flight – it’s often too late to turn up to the flight and ask if you can get a gluten free meal, for example. Just don’t bring any smelly food onboard – you don’t want to upset fellow passengers with your durian fruit (nor make them jealous with the smell of your McDonalds wafting through the cabin)! For those more organised people (I am NOT one of them sadly!), bringing your own food is often a much healthier option.

*TOP Flight Attendant Tip:*

Things like protein bars are a good idea to bring as they are small and easy to eat (ie: no cutlery or plate required) and you’re not left carrying any tuppaware or anything afterwards.

10. Choose your seat beforehand

Personally I always choose a window seat as you can lean against the window to sleep and are less likely to have distractions (people brushing past you or the meal cart being bashed into your knee by mistake), but that’s just a personal preference. Of course, you have to deal with that awkward what to do moment when you need a pee and the people next to you are fast asleep. Get to the airport early and choose your seat at the check in desk, or pick your seat online if the airline allows.

And finally, about one hour before landing, head to the bathroom to freshen up. You’ll want to look decent when you step off the plane, so just quickly sort yourself out – brush your teeth, sort your face out, and change if necessary. If you wait until the Captain’s announcement and the plane starts descending, it can sometimes be too late as there is already a giant queue forming, and you may not even get to the toilet if the fasten seatbelt sign comes on.

 

To read my article on “Pros and cons of being a Flight Attendant” CLICK HERE!

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how to survive long haul flights

 

 

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