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How to Survive a Long Flight

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Remember when you were a kid and vacations meant hotel swimming pools, fighting with your siblings, road trip snacks, and cheesy souvenir key chains with your name on it? Some of those things still apply (Have you tried road-tripping with your siblings as adults? You can still drive each other crazy!), but now you’ve got a whole other host of things to think about:

  • Did you pack enough underwear?
  • Do you have directions to the hotel?
  • Did you cancel the mail / close the garage door / turn off the oven / unplug your curling iron / call the bank / reserve a car, etc., etc., etc.!

Not to mention the plethora of issues flying brings to the forefront! Along with panicking about the size of your liquids and your carry-on, now you’ve got to face a long flight! And as someone who can NOT sleep on airplanes, few things knock the wind out of vacations for me than the thought of getting on an airplane and all that that entails. 

Unfortunately for me, if I want to travel the world (and I do!), flying is part of the deal! Here are a few tips I’ve found for making the most of a long flight.

survive a long flight

How to Survive a Long Flight

1. Get comfortable

Should you get on an airplane in your old nightgown? Probably not. However, you can get comfortable and not make your seatmates uncomfortable. My outfit of choice lately is a stretchy maxi skirt or dress and a jacket. The skirt keeps my legs warm and is much more comfortable than sitting for hours in a pair of tight jeans (and aren’t ALL women’s jeans tight?)

I can take the jacket off or put it on when I’m cold and with a maxi skirt you don’t have to worry about your clothing touching the bathroom floor. (Because that’s just gross.) Keep it loose and comfortable and if you’ve got an extra long overnight flight ahead of you, don’t rule out changing into your pajamas once you’re ready to *try* to sleep.

Bonus tip: I always travel in sandals or flats I can easily slip on and off when going through security but throw a pair of comfy, warm socks in my bag for once I get settled. Just don’t forget to put your shoes back on before you head to the bathroom. Again, gross.

2. Come prepared

Unless you’re flying an airline with lots of restrictions, most allow you a carry-on and a personal item. Instead of using my purse as my personal item, I tuck it inside a larger tote bag that’s also filled with the things I’ll want during the flight – whether it’s a magazine, my earbuds, snacks and the water I always buy once I’m in the airport. It fits right under the seat in front of me and I don’t have to worry about getting things out of the overhead bin once we’re in the air.

Make sure your phone or tablet are charged and that you hit the airport restroom just before you board. Now you don’t have to wait for the beverage cart to pass or for the guy in the aisle seat to wake up so you can climb over!

3. Find what works for you

I can’t afford to fly first class (believe me, I would if I could!) but I have found what works for my comfort level. I prefer a window seat so I’ve got a place to lean against. This really helps in those moments when you’re exhausted enough to keep dozing without drooling on the stranger next to you. My husband prefers an aisle seat with the extra bit of room it gives him. This means of course that we often don’t get to sit by each other, but at least we’re more comfortable!

You usually can select or change your seat when you check in for your flight (typically 24 hours before you leave), so make sure you do this as soon as possible to get a prime spot on the plane!

4. Entertainment is your best friend

Reading makes me dizzy on planes so I’m thrilled that most longer flights these days come with some form of video monitor to watch movies or television. And while obviously free access is ideal, I did just pay $7.99 on a flight recently to watch television.

As a nervous flyer being able to focus on something other than every weird noise and bump is worth it to me! Since in-flight entertainment isn’t always a given, you can always download a few movies to a hard drive or tablet too. (Make sure you’ve packed extra chargers!)

For shorter flights that don’t offer entertainment I’ve found that making playlists on my phone that are about the length of time of the flight help me too. Make sure you throw some headphones or earbuds in your bag. At worst they’ll help muffle the sounds of a crying baby, at best, they’ll save you a dollar or two if the airline doesn’t provide free ones.

5. Bring your gear

Ear plugs (the foam kind that expand in your ear), sleeping masks, neck pillows, noise-cancelling headphones – you got ’em? Bring ’em. If you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, do whatever you can to get comfortable and stay that way for the duration of the flight. If you’re one of the lucky ones who can catch some shut eye on an airplane, make sure you buckle your seatbelt on top of you jacket or blanket. Now the flight attendants don’t need to disturb you to check!

Have your own tip for surviving a long flight? Share! Happy travels!

Originally published May 26, 2016

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