How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

This week I’m flying back to the states for a little over two weeks to visit my family and do some research for my dissertation. It got me to thinking that over the past few years I’ve actually done a surprising amount of flying. Ever since I was a small child I’ve loved travelling on airplanes– last week I listened to a podcast that described it in a way that captures this a bit, saying that it’s incredibly cool that you can get into a giant metal tube, and be across the globe in twelve hours. Yes, the process of getting to that point can be long and frustrating, but once I’m actually en-route the ‘speeding through the air’ bit almost always outweighs the ‘I’m far too close to this stranger’ bit.

Below are some of my ‘survival’ tips for making your next trip as easy as possible. Planning ahead is always key, but my tendency to over-prepare means that I’ve definitely carried more than I needed over the years. Below will be a streamlined list of some things I’ve found make the biggest impact when travelling. A while ago I wrote a post about packing a carry-on bag for shorter flights, but this list will is aimed at longer flights, like overnights or transatlantic.

The one thing I always carry with me on flights, no matter what, is actually something you don’t have to carry at all– a big scarf. It’s usually one that will take up a bit of space in my bag, so wearing it means the added benefit of more space for other things, besides this though, it makes regulating my temperature much easier, especially since I am almost always cold. Thrown over my outfit it gives the illusion of presentability, but can also be used as a blanket or rolled into a makeshift pillow as needed.

The Non-negotiables: 

These are the things I absolutely need to make it through a long flight feeling like my best self, and ready to enjoy my time wherever I’m headed.

  1. Water. Yes, this is an obvious one, but also the one thing you can do that will have the greatest impact. The air inside of airplanes is super dry  (humidity adds a lot of extra weight) so it’s incredibly easy to become dehydrated. As a rule of thumb I try to have at least one full glass of water before getting on the plane, and one per hour for every hour I’m in the air. Of course, if I manage to fall asleep this doesn’t always happen.
  2. Snacks. For me snacks are key in most scenarios (I’m a bit of a grazer), but when I travel I like to make sure I have some that are especially nutrient dense, and preferably fruits or veggies. Bringing some yummy snacks with you (cut fruit or veggies, trail mix, etc.) will make it easier to avoid the usually disappointing array of snacks there, and have the added benefit of helping me resist my super strong sweet tooth.
  3. Skincare routine. I like to bring a pack of face cleansing wipes and do a quick, paired-down version of my nighttime & morning routines including a heavy moisturiser (like Lush’s Cosmetic Lad), and some eye cream. Not only does it help keep my skin hydrated and happy, but also helps me mentally prepare to go to sleep.
  4. Toothbrush/Toothpaste. Since  I treat an overnight flight a bit like any other night, washing my face and, of course, brushing my teeth are a must. Plus, there’s something about brushing my teeth that always puts me in a better mood!
  5. Charger/back up battery. This is one I always felt a bit unnecessary until I found myself stranded in JFK with 5% battery and the looming prospect of having to sleep in the airport (spoiler: I did). Getting in touch with my family and rearranging my flight was super-stressful, and having a charger on-hand would have made life significantly easier.

The Optionals:

In this section are things that may not be totally necessary, but certainly make the trip  more comfortable. If I have space I will usually bring all of these, especially number one as they take up such a small amount of space.

  1. Eye mask and earplugs. Yes, this is technically in the optional section, but I love having at least me eye mask and some headphones. The vast range of movies on a long flight can be very appealing, but so is setting myself up for minimal jet lag, and trying to get a jump on the ‘correct’ time zone definitely helps. Sometimes this means not sleeping on a flight, but I like to be prepared just in case.
  2. A good book. One of the things I most like about travelling is that the ‘in between’ time of being in the air is the best excuse to do something I enjoy, but sometimes feel guilty spending time on. Working on airplanes is pretty impossible for me, so it’s the perfect time to do some reading for fun.
  3. Makeup for landing. This one is definitely optional, but always nice. Using a cleansing wipe to ‘wash’ my face when I land, and doing the bare minimum of makeup (usually a bb cream, concealer, and sometimes a swipe of lipstick) makes me feel more like myself, and also means I’m ready to dive into the rest of the day.

Some of these are pretty intuitive, but there have definitely been times where I’ve been in a hurry to leave (especially for morning flights!), and I’ve forgotten one of them, only to realise how definitely necessary it is. To set myself up for success I try to take care of packing my carry on bag the night before to minimise the odds of  forgetting anything, and do one quick check in the morning.



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