Long flights are very tiring. Even if you plan on sleeping the entire time, there is exhaustion that comes along with a long day of travel.

That’s why it’s important to have a plan before you board the plane. Here are 21 tips for surviving long flights:  

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1) Try to sleep!

There is nothing like watching your clock tick on a long flight. It should be no surprise that one of the best things you can do to survive a long flight is to get some sleep. This may come easier to some than others. If you are lucky enough to be flying first or business class with a laydown seat, you may be drifting off the second wheels are up. But for the rest of us folk in economy, you may need to help your mind and body get some rest.

If you have a hard time falling asleep on a plane, try these few tricks to help you get some sleep:

  • Drink a glass of milk about an hour before your flight leaves. This will give you a boost in the form of natural tryptophan, which is used for producing serotonin and melatonin, both of which cause drowsiness. You can also drink decaffeinated tea beforehand.
  • Choose clothes that are loose and comfortable. The more restricted your body feels, the more difficult it will be to relax and fall asleep. Avoid using tight belts or bras and wear cotton socks instead of wool socks.
  • Bring along your favorite comfort item (think: pillow or blanket) to make you feel at home.
  • Relax your mind before you take off by listening to soothing music or reading a book. Avoid using the in-flight entertainment system or checking your phone as this will make it more difficult to calm down and get yourself into sleep mode.

2) Bring your own stash of snacks and drinks on the plane.

Here’s to hoping you are on a flight with a great in-service meal that consists of more than peanuts and pretzels! But for those who are not, you want to ensure you have your own stash of snacks and drinks handy. 

If you are traveling with multiple bags, make sure you place your snacks in an easy-to-reach location. (Not that carry-on bag that is going in the overhead compartments!)

Be mindful of the types of snacks you are bringing onboard. Salty snacks may make you extra thirsty, which leads to more restroom trips. Consider healthy and light snacks like applesauce, crackers, jerky, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, juice boxes/pouches.

(Important note: If you are visiting another country, be sure to read their rules on permitted food/snacks to bring. Many do not allow fruits or meats to cross borders.)

3) Wear clothes that are loose and not constricting.

Comfort over fashion on long flights! Tight belts and bras can rub against your skin and make it itchier, so be mindful as to what you choose to wear.

4) Bring along your favorite comfort item on the plane with you

Think of this as a security blanket for adults! A pillow, blanket, or cozy sweater is great for just curling up in and relaxing after a long day of travel. If you’ll be sleeping in an upright position in your seat, bring earplugs and a sleep mask to block out all distractions. 

5) Bring a water bottle and drink plenty of fluids.

Hydration is key! The more you stay well hydrated, the less likely you’ll feel the effects of dry air on the plane. It’s important to remember that airplane cabins are very dry and can be as low as 5%-20% humidity- similar to living in a desert. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin out the mucus in your nose and throat, making it less likely for you to get sick during your journey.

Don’t rely on in-flight service, which takes longer than you think; instead, make sure to bring your own water bottle and order another one every few hours.

It’s important to note that alcohol does not hydrate! It may look like a fun drink while flying but keep in mind that it actually makes dehydration worse since it causes more fluid loss.

6) Exercise before flying and stretch during flight.

If you have the option to walk around before your flight, take advantage of it! This will help you both physically and mentally relax as it encourages blood flow throughout your body, which helps bring oxygen to your muscles for more efficient relaxation.

It’s also a great idea to stretch during the flight. Sitting for a long period of time makes your muscles tight, so take advantage of those empty aisle seats and get up from time to time to do some yoga poses or simple stretches.

7) Relax before you fly and listen to soothing music or read a book

Just as it is important to be comfortable both physically and mentally, it is equally important to relax both your body and mind before boarding the plane. Take a deep breath and visualize yourself successfully boarding the plane and getting a few hours of shuteye.

Bring along a mobile device loaded with soothing music or audiobooks! Avoid using electronic devices that have bright screens or will beep or buzz, as this might keep you more alert than you’d like on such a long journey.

8) If possible, book your flight according to your sleep schedule.

For example: If you are normally a night owl up until the wee hours of the morning, try looking for flights to depart between 1-5 am. This will help you relax and fall asleep more easily during your flight if it is in line with what your body wants.

If you are a morning bird, book early morning flights around 5 am so that you can sleep in before your flight.

9) Drink Chamomile tea, peppermint tea, or any other herbal teas that are soothing before “bedtime”.

Another great way to relax yourself both mentally and physically is by drinking herbal teas that help to calm you down.

10) Avoid rushing so you can kick off your flight relaxed

Arrive at the airport early so that you can find something healthy to eat before boarding the flight and give yourself enough time to get through security and gate check-in without feeling rushed.

11) If possible, upgrade to a seat with more space or lay-flat bed

On some airlines, the cost of upgrades is significantly lower in the days just before your flight. Be sure to check frequently to see if an upgrade is available and affordable.

Alternatively, you can always ask if upgrades are available once at the airport. Bring your nicest smile and manners, and have a chat with the gate agent.

12) Choose your seat wisely

Try to look for a seat with extra legroom so that you can stretch your legs and avoid cramps. If you think you will need frequent restroom trips or will need to walk the aisle, choose an aisle seat so you can avoid climbing over seatmates. If you think you will sleep the majority of the flight, consider a window so you can avoid your seatmates climbing over you.

Be sure to check out the site: seatguru.com. This site will tell you where the best seats are located on your specific plane. You can avoid seats that don’t fully recline or have an issue (i.e. in-flight entertainment doesn’t work) or are located too close to the restrooms.

13) Use a travel pillow to keep your neck supported and help you sleep.

Since the neck muscles are frequently in a contracted state during flight, a travel pillow can be super helpful in keeping your body aligned and comfortable.

14) Plan ahead of time when you want to sleep during the flight.

For example, if you want to sleep for 6 hours straight but the flight is 12 hours long…adjust your plan. If you know you will be enticed by in-flight entertainment as soon as you board, set a plan ahead of time to give yourself the freedom to watch a few shows before resting.

15) Bring along an eye mask and earplugs.

This will help block out all distractions from lights or noise around you so that you can fall asleep more easily. 

16) Pack headphones for in-flight entertainment

Remember that if your flight has in-flight entertainment, you will want to bring along headphones that are compatible with the in-flight entertainment system. (iPhone headphones do not typically work on planes as their input is shaped differently and/or there is no wifi connection but this neat gadget may help.)

17) Practice mindfulness on the flight.

If you find yourself feeling a bit anxious, use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Close your eyes and focus all of your senses on what is going on in this moment. Notice how far off the ground you are and concentrate on the motion of the airplane as it takes off and lands. Use this as a chance to practice being present in the moment.

18) Get up and walk around every 1 to 2 hours.

This will keep your blood circulating and will help to prevent clotting. 

19) Allow yourself to engage in any activities that you enjoy.

If you like board games, bring them along. If you like reading on your tablet, feel free! If you love knitting, don’t forget your supplies. The point is if it makes the flight more enjoyable for you…do it! 

20) Bring a change of clothes for long flights

If you can, bring a change of clothes for your trip that is easily accessible in the overhead bin. This way if you get cold or hot throughout your flight, you can adjust comfortably. For overnight flights, you may want to change into clothes when you wake up in the morning so you can feel refreshed.

21) Bring a small gift for your flight attendants (and pilots)

Bring something small like candy, chocolates, or Starbucks gift cards. This nice gesture can go a long way in making everyone happy on board. While you should do this out of the kindness of your heart, you may be surprised with some special treatment throughout your flight to make your trip more comfortable.

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Do you have an long flight coming up? Check out these tips to survive your flight and actually enjoy it!

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