The ultimate guide to surviving a long haul flight

At the airport

Get there early

It is very stressful worrying about whether you are going to miss your flight and so it’s very important to give yourself a decent amount of time to get to their airport.

I recommend taking the estimated time it should take to get to the airport and doubling that time to be safe - I can’t count how many people have told me that they missed their flight because they didn’t know about roadworks or train lines closures or because their car broke down. I also recommend leaving an hour to check in, check your bags and get through security.

I know this might seem like a lot of time and often you will end up with time to spare. Honestly though the time goes past really quickly - especially if once you get through you make a beeline to a bar or cafe for a coffee or alcoholic beverage of choice.

Be Nice

I have been bomb checked multiple times, had my bags searched for nail scissors that didn't exist and had my husband detained (temporarily) because he had travelled to a high risk country as part of his military service and every time I have smiled and been helpful and this makes the experience 100 times more pleasant.

I have also seen people bring downright rude and unhelpful and let me tell you a little secret as someone who works in customer service. If you are a dick, we will make things hard for you. We will take longer to do simple things. We'll say no instead of yes.

So, lesson for the airport (and you know, life) don't be a dick - they are doing their job and they will bomb check you regardless of whether you are nice as pie or a tosspot - so how that goes for you is entirely in your hands.


On the flight

Let’s be honest here - long haul flights are not fun for anyone. Particularly if (like me) you live in Australia and flights of over ten hours are the norm. Ultimately there is only so much you can do to make an economy flight comfortable (I mean that’s why business and first class exists after all) but there is definitely ways you can make the experience more positive.

Getting comfortable

When deciding what to wear it’s important to dress comfortably both in the literal sense of the word and also in the sense that you need to feel comfortable with people seeing you in this outfit.

Of course everyone has a different level of personal comfort but what I would suggest is wearing something stylish but comfortable for around the airport and for the first part of the trip - I have a dress I wear every time that’s made of jersey material and is short sleeved  which is perfect for all the changes in temperature you can go through when travelling. I also pack some actual pyjamas to wear for “night-time” on the plane to help me get some sleep.

In addition I always pack a loose cardigan and a pair of socks - most airlines these days do provide socks and blankets but you never can tell how cool the plane will get.

Lastly neck pillows are a must have, I know they are dorky and carrying them through the airport is embarrassing but it’s been a game changer for us when we travel. The first time we flew to Europe we tried to get by on the tiny pillows the airline provided. I got no sleep and neither did Mike. The second time around we both had neck pillows and not only did it make the thirteen hours on the plane more comfortable we both actually got sleep!

Self Care

Self care is so important on long flights to help you to recover more quickly from jetlag. Firstly it is so important to hydrate regularly. I learnt this tip from experience after our first flight to Paris, I had forgotten my water bottle and had to survive on the water provided by the flight attendants. Anyone would think I had been in the desert for days from how parched I was at the end of the flight.

I definitely recommend packing a big water bottle in your carry on, remember to make sure it is empty otherwise you won’t be allowed to take it through security, and fill it up before you board the plane. Also it may go without saying but where you can avoid caffeine and alcohol.

I also recommend taking advantage of any layovers - most large international airports offer some kind of services these days to help weary travellers. For example Changi airport offers showers, massages, lounges for having a nap and even prayer rooms. Many airports also have yoga rooms.

If I was to make one recommendation it would be to take a shower. Pack some travel sized versions of your normal face wash, body wash, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste to make the most of it.

Keep yourself entertained

The most important thing to remember on a long haul flight is to give yourself as many options as possible for entertainment. You don’t want to do the same thing for thirteen hours in your everyday life - it’s not any different on a plane.

If you want some recommendations on how to entertain yourself I wrote a whole post on the subject that covers all my favourite ways to keep myself busy.

Getting some sleep

Sleeping on a plane is incredibly illusive. I can’t say I’ve cracked the code but I definitely have picked up a few tips for improving your chances of getting some shut eye.

Firstly, brush your teeth and wash your face. Perform all the normal rituals you would perform if you were in your house to help set your mind up for sleep.

Now let’s get comfortable. Recline your seat back as far as it will go. Use the neck pillow I know you’ve gone and purchased. Also use the pillow the airline has provided (either prop it against the window or use it to help support your back).

Take a melatonin pill. Put on own your socks and if necessary the socks the airline provided. Pull your blanket up high and put on a guided meditation - Headspace, Calm and Buddhify all have some specifically designed to help you to get to sleep. Once the meditation is done put on a playlist to help you sleep - I like the rain forest sounds one on Spotify. Lastly pull your eye mask down and let yourself drift off to sleep.