In less than two weeks, I’ll be boarding a plane for the longest flight I’ve ever taken. The total amount of time spent on the aircraft? 16.5 hours, non-stop. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freaking out a little bit. Put me on an 11-hour flight to Europe any day, but 16.5?! That’s cause for concern, right? I’m doing lots of planning to prepare for the journey, and while I’ve listed out a few of ideas below, I’d love to hear any expert advice you guys might have. Currently accepting all the help I can get!

image via wit and delight

photo via debiflue

1. Sit Strategically

Surviving a long international flight starts with making preparations long before takeoff. This flight to Tai Pei is the first time I’ve used SeatGuru, which allows you to see detailed information and reviews about every seat on your aircraft. Can you imagine having limited leg room or a chair that doesn’t recline for that many hours? Doing your due diligence when you’re buying your ticket or checking in helps to avoid those kinds of nightmares.

photo via julia garland

2. Pack Your Snacks

We all know that airplane food can be hit-or-miss (and usually, it’s a miss.) For this trip, I’m channeling my inner soccer mom and packing all the healthy snacks imaginable ahead of time. Fruits and veggies, nuts, and granola are high on my list — what am I forgetting?!

photo via urban outfitters

3. Get Some Good Headphones

I wouldn’t dream of traveling without my noise cancelling headphones. The moment I put them on — whether it’s to watch movies or listen to music — the roar of the engine and the sound of crying babies just fade away…

photo via new darlings

4. Pack Your In-Flight Beauty Essentials

There’s nothing that instantly upgrades my in-seat experience like a little spa sesh (Camille swears by these under eye patches). I love to have mini-sized pampering products on hand for an instant pick-me-up. For the full breakdown on our fave ways to make your seat feel like a mini spa, check out our post on the best TSA-approved toiletries for your in-flight beauty routine.

photo via free people

5. Invest In a Travel Pillow

I have a bad habit of buying a new one of these at the gate just before boarding, and then leaving it on the plane. They’re just such a pain to carry around! But since I’ve never been on a flight quite this long, I’m now planning in advance to find the best travel pillow money can buy. Travel + Leisure recommends a few — do any of you have one that you swear by?

photo via sole society

6. Pack Less

Ever noticed how the more you have crammed into your carry on, the more you struggle with the simple task of finding things and returning them to your bag? And if that tray table is down with beverages on it, well, navigating that situation isn’t pretty. It could even result in a pulled muscle! No? Just me? Fine.

Over the years I’ve learned that the fewer things I pack into that bag, the better. And if I can organize them to be accessible in the seat back pocket in front of me, I might even have a — dare I say it — comfortable flying experience.

photo via free people

7. Get Moving

We all know the importance of staying mobile on long international flights. On this trip, I’m planning on setting a reminder to get up and walk around every hour, and I’ll have this blog post bookmarked for frequent deep stretching.

photo by claire huntsberger

8. Think Happy Thoughts

When all else fails, shifting your mindset could mean the difference between 15 hours of misery, and the exciting first leg of your adventure. On The Tim Ferris Show, scientist M. Sanjayan recently described the mind shift technique he employs on long flights. Rather than focusing on how uncomfortable you are, imagine how much more uncomfortable you could be. When compared to a standing room-only 12 hour-long bus ride through rural India, suddenly, you might find comfort in your reclining upholstered seat and air conditioned cabin.

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Comments (9)
  1. 1
    Susan December 22, 2017 at 4:38 am

    I’ve travelled on so many long haul flights to Asia and Australia that my son when asked by the flight personnel about the long flight to Sydney said ‘not long, only two days”. So 16 hours is about standard but some are 21 to 27 hours with connections.

    I so agree with your recommendation to prebook your seats. Pay extra for that exit row if you can. A few inches and a place away from the toilet can make or break your trip.

    I don’t agree with scheduling a stretch every hour is a good idea if you are in an inside seat. Many people sleep for half of a long haul and you will have to wake your row mate. Also consider that stretching will be a priority for the other 300-700 people on the plane. When I use an American airline its unbearable as there are so many people running up and down the isles trying to “stretch” that service is disrupted. I’ve had many a bottom shoved in my face when I’m in an outside seat as hundreds of people do their plane yoga with little regard for others personal space.

    You may not be able to bring much less in your carry-on as there is the possibility that you luggage may not arrive with you. I would recommend a carry-on that has an easy access top compartment for things that you will only need on the plane. Keep your purse zipped in the main compartment so its safe while you sleep. Also bring a pen for the customs card.

    Here are a few other tips I’ve picked up over the years:

    I recommend stopping for a day at the layover. If its possible without incurring an extra fee for the layover, it really helps with the jet lag on a long haul to Asia and you have the opportunity to see a new city.

    Order a special meal Vegetarian, Asian, etc. as the regular coach meal is inedible and may even make you feel sick. Don’t drink anything that isn’t in a bottle.

    Bring hand sanitizer and use it whenever you leave your seat as long-hauls are famous for transmitting upper-resporatory diseases, flus, and colds from close proximity to so many people from different countries-planes are very dirty and aren’t cleaned very often.

    Don’t wear shoes while flying. Bring slipper socks and put them on early as your feet will get cold and certainly swell no matter how much you walk. Airlines used to provide these in the good o’l days.

    If you have a child under 2 years book them a seat and use a capsule as flights are very full these days and you will not be able to hold then for 16 hours. Most airline offer a baby discount.

    Try and sleep. If you need to have an Ambien then take one. This cuts the perception of flight time to just 8 hours rather than 16.

    If you can, bring an iPad with movies and books or binge-watch a new series.

    Of course, wear loose comfortable clothing in layers as planes are kept cold on long hauls.

    Hope this is helpful! Enjoy your trip.

    • Chloe May 15, 2019 at 10:54 am

      Such fabulous, in-depth advice. Thank you.

  2. 2
    Gabstagramm May 8, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    My meditation apps (Calm or Headspace) are my favorites for long flights. I think there’s an inherent anxiety about flying regardless of time and starting the session at takeoff is a guranteed way to settle in for the haul or ideally drift in to sleep.

  3. 3
    Ellie May 9, 2019 at 3:03 am

    OMG YES snacks are key to surviving many hours on a plane! Plane food is just not good enough

    Ellie xx

  4. 4
    Becca May 9, 2019 at 7:43 am

    Compression socks have been a game changer for me! Change into compression socks at take-off, and use their slippers when you need to get up.

    Drink some vitamin-c packets, and bring a silk eye mask (there’s a great one on Amazon for like $10).

  5. 5
    Sue Burpee May 9, 2019 at 8:01 am

    One suggestion I learned on long flight from Australia, is to plane the time. In the seat pocket of the plane was a planner with the hours of the flight laud out in a timeline and when snacks or dinner would be served. Then they suggested times to watch movies, sleep, etc. I found this really helped. Instead of that huge twelve hour chunk of time, suddenly I now had a three hour chunk, and a two hour one etc. So now I always make a little plan in my head. Plus I bring a variety of things to entertain myself, not just relying on the movies etc. provided by the airline.
    Lots of good suggestions here. Hope you have a wonderful time on your trip.

  6. 6
    Don L May 9, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    Best to plan ahead with regards to staying away from certain foods a few days prior to long flights. Feeling as good as you can during long flights is a must. Something I have learned in the 30+ years selling and placing our clients on premium cruises is to stay away from consuming foods that have too much salt content. Eating the quick hot dog, corned beef sandwich, deli meats, smoked foods etc should be greatly reduced or better eliminated for at least 3-4 days prior to flight. As far as liquids are concerned limit or eliminate your onboard alcohol consumption. Also limit or eliminate carbonated drinks. All in all bottled water (and a good supply!) is strongly suggested. Keep hydrated. Enjoy!

    • Bella September 3, 2021 at 11:36 pm

      Agreed! Yes it feels horrible to board a long haul flight wth blasting from poor driving ey choices during the day(s) prior to your trip. I try to eat light or fast… gas and bloating at 40,000 ft exhausted ands and becomes very uncomfortable. Hydrate and eat light! No alcohol, después how tempting ir seems!

  7. 7
    Bella September 3, 2021 at 11:29 pm

    I’ve done these long haul flights all over the world for the past 17 years, and I learned a few great tips for making the trip more bearable. Pack earplugs. A few sets. Don’t wear makeup. Bring along a nice moisturizing face mask and drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty. Yes, get up and walk around if you can. Bring a Xanax or other preferred benzodiazepine if you tend to get the jitters (like me) on a really long flight. Alcohol is very tempting to “relax” but it always feels worse to drink in a long flight. Bring a few makeup essentials in your carryon for when you arrive ( spf moisturizing bb cream, eyebrow pencil, lipgloss or chapstick, and mascara if you’re meeting someone and want to look less than drained). Wear sporty pants or yoga pants, a comfy T-shirt and bring a hoodie for chilly nap time during night flights. I bring gum, a toothbrush, a sleep mask, or earphones for your iPhone to directly put calming white noise into your brain for a relaxing nap. A sturdy memory foam neck pillow has changed my life on these flights! It provides ample neck support and comfort (the blow up air pillows just can’t do this for me). Eat light before your flight. Bloating and gas become painful at higher altitudes. Ask for an airline blanket right away before they run out (overnight flights can get chilly when you’re trying to nap). Moisturizing your face throughout the flight feels great too! I always carry on painkillers, laxatives or a suppository in case (it hurts sitting for 30* hours with travellers constipation) ! Stay hydrated and comfortable!



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