How to survive a long flight (and what to bring)

Well, it’s official: I am certifiably crazy. During the last seven days I hopped on two 14-hour flights, adjusted to the 13-hour time difference not once, but twice, and now I’m back at work, teaching teenagers. But that’s not all. I did all this traveling for a guy. And not just any guy, but a guy I met on Tinder, in Shanghai, six months ago, who now lives in New York.

Like I said, crazy.

But I’ll leave the “why” I did this for another post, and focus on the “how.” Because, after living in Asia for almost three years, I’ve had my fare share of long flights. Each time it gets easier, but it never gets easy. That is, until the day I make enough money to purchase a first-class ticket, or get upgraded. Why haven’t I been upgraded yet??

Anyway, here is what you need to do in order to comfortably survive a long flight and lessen the effects of the dreaded jet lag:

1. Workout the day before and the day of your flight, if possible.

The point is to wear yourself out so you can hopefully sleep some on the plane. It’s also to improve circulation during the flight. Aim for at least an hour of high-intensity aerobics and weight-lifting.

2. Get a good night’s sleep the night before.

Don’t count on sleeping on the plane. If you do, great; but if you don’t, at least you won’t look like The Walking Dead when you arrive to your destination.

3. Request an aisle seat.

This is a personal preference; but for me, I can’t get comfortable in a center seat, or even a window seat. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re bothering the person next to you when you need to get up to go to the bathroom. Plus, I like to get up every 2-3 hours to stretch. (That, and I have the bladder of a 93-year-old woman.)

4. Skip the alcohol.

While free wine and booze can be hard to turn down, it’s necessary in order to stay hydrated, which is a huge factor in quickly recovering from jet lag. Sip water instead, and do so every hour.

5. Come prepared.

If you’re boarding a 7+ hour flight, you need to plan accordingly, and make sure to pack your carry on strategically. Here are my personal must-haves:

  • Face wipes to remove makeup, followed by a heavy moisturizer.Β I like an exfoliating yet gentle cloth, like Aveeno, and a night cream or a “sleeping mask.” High altitude is extremely drying, so it’s important to hydrate not only your body, but also your face. I have recently been using Eborian Sleeping BB MaskΒ and love it.
  • A reusable bottle of water and several packets of Emergen-C. I cannot stress the importance of staying hydrated enough, but Emergen-C is formulated not only with enough vitamins to combat sickness from your fellow passengers, but also electrolytes to keep you from losing fluid.
  • Snacks. On a 14-hour flight, it’s important not to rely on plane food alone. This is not only because you might get hungry, but because plane food is full of sodium, preservatives, and who-knows-what-else. It’s better to pack your own foods like raw nuts, chopped-up vegetables, fruits, and Lara Bars.
  • Your own headphones. The headphones the airline provides are usually cheap and hard to hear from. To get the most out of in-flight entertainment (and to block out the noise of screaming children), pack your own.
  • A neck pillow. There are tons of different kinds, but I personally prefer a memory foam model with a removable, washable exterior. Don’t waste your time on the blow-up plastic variety. They suck.
  • Eye drops. If you’re like me, you have trouble sleeping on planes and like to take advantage of the in-flight movies. This is great, but also hard on your eyes. Make sure to pack lubricating eye drops to avoid irritation.
  • Compression socks. Yes, I wear them. Yes, I’m 32. But I swear by compression socks. They make for a more comfortable flight, improve circulation, and prevent post-flight cankles. They can also prevent DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Search Amazon for deals.
  • A hoodie and/or blanket. Usually the airline will provide blankets, but you may want to bring your own. I personally wear a tank top, followed by a long-sleeved shirt, topped with a hoodie, and use the provided blanket. There’s nothing worse than being too hot or too cold on a long flight.
  • Sleep aid. This topic is heavily debated, and I tend not to agree with using pills to conk out. But this is because I like getting up every few hours to make sure my body is healthy and getting the circulation it needs. However, I am a full supporter or melatonin. I personally like the drops (available at any drug store or vitamin shop). I also like to put a few drops of lavender essential oil on my neck pillow to help me rest.

Hopefully this list helps you have a more comfortable flight and get some rest on your next long voyage. Is there anything I left out? Please comment below for more suggestions!

12 thoughts on “How to survive a long flight (and what to bring)”

  1. Your comment made me laugh about having the bladder of a 93 year old woman — I feel the same way on a flight that’s why I always aim for the aisle seat. 14 hours is brutal, I did that when I went to Korea. No matter how many long flights I’ve been on, I feel like they don’t get any easier since it’s so hard to sleep. I’m always amazed by the people who sleep like babies on the plane — lucky them! Great tips by the way!

    1. Thanks for reading, Eden! I was joking with my Korean students that I think they’re hardwired to sleep anywhere and everywhere. πŸ˜‰

  2. This is a great read! I have never thought of packing Emergen-C for a flight. I am going to start doing that since I typically feel a little blah after a long flight. Thanks for all the great tips!

    1. Hey Elle, thanks so much for your kind words and for reading! I will check out your blog as well πŸ™‚

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