March 16th, 2015

50 Expert Travel Tips for Long Distance Flights

We know the long-distance flight required to get to your dream destination is daunting, but with a little planning and preparation ahead of time, you can make it a substantially better experience.

Here are some expert tips to help you fly long distance with the best experience possible:

Avoid Unnecessary Stress

1. Don’t pick long flights with time-crunched connections 

If you are traveling abroad, you’ll likely have to go through customs, re-check your bags, change terminals, and go through security again, and this won't be a quick thing.

2. Choose the right airline

The differences in airlines get accentuated when you’re trapped inside an airplane for 10+ hours – so make sure you scope out what the airline is offering what in terms of food, entertainment, seat size, legroom, etc.

3. Consider using Hipmunk to search flights ranked by “agony” 

Here's how the site describes its agony feature: “We know that price isn't the only factor that goes into purchasing a flight. While other sites sort by price, Hipmunk automatically sorts results by "Agony," which is primarily a combination of price, flight duration, and number of stopovers”

4. Be choosy about the aircraft

Depending on the type of aircraft, you may have a 3-3 configuration or a 3-5-3 configuration, with the 3-3 there’s only one aisle.

5. Get the right seat

Consider checking out SeatGuru, a website with information about airline seat maps, seat advice, and with user comments and ratings.

Stay Healthy

6. Bring hand sanitizer

Now you can snack without worrying about germy hands.

7. Bring antibacterial spray

If you’re really not a fan of lurking germs, bring a compact pack of antibacterial wipes or Lysol Travel Spray so you can wipe down your tray, armrests, and other areas probably neglected and in need of cleaning.

8. Keep your toothbrush handy

If you’re going to be flying for long hours, you’ll probably want to have a toothbrush to keep your mouth feeling fresh after multiple meals.

9. Protect your toothbrush

Think about getting a toothbrush sanitizer to make sure your toothbrush doesn’t pick up unwanted germs – theSteripod Clip-on Tooth Brush Sanitizer comes in a two pack for less than 10 bucks.

10. Stay hydrated

Flying can dehydrate you and the last thing you want is to feel sick when you get to your destination, so make sure to take every opportunity to drink water.

11. Consider using a portable humidifier

This can keep your skin from drying out too much – this one is powered by a USB port and can attach to a water bottle.

12. Get your beauty routine down pat

You can also get tips for mastering the right long distance flight beauty regime.

13. Avoid alcohol

Although alcohol may be tempting on a long flight, the effects of alcohol are accentuated in the high pressurized cabin and it can dehydrate you significantly.

Sit Comfortably

14. Wear the right clothes

Make sure you can comfortably sleep in them, easily take off your shoes, and will have some stretch to them.

15. Find the exit rows

Exit rows are your friend – aisle seats are fine, but remember, every time a cart or passenger goes by, your knee is fair game.

16. Stay away from the row just in front of the exit row

These seats often do not recline at all!

17. Snag a spot in the overhead bin for your carry on

Sure, you could put it undernearth the seat in front of you, but these days planes are cramped for space everywhere. The last thing you want to do is sabotage your own precious free space. 

18. Travel on “off days” if possible

Less common travel days (especially when business people aren't traveling) mean less hecticness and less crowds. This means, dare we say it, the middle seats may be empty.

19. Move around every once in a while

Stand up, stretch, and walk around at least once every hour to keep your legs from getting too cramped and keep blood flowing. 

20. Bring your own towel

Consider bringing a small travel towel so you can stay clean by giving yourself a little wipe down every few hours.

Stay the Right Temperature

22. Wear layers

Make sure to wear layers so you can add or subtract clothing until you’re the right temperature.

23. Bring a travel blanket so you can stay warm during the flight

We're a little biased of course, but we do love the foot pockets in this Eagle Creek fleece blanket allowing you to sneakily stow away items while snoozing.

24. Consider getting flight socks

They will keep your feet warm and can prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Keep Moving

25. Go for the aisle

An aisle seat will give you the freedom to get up whenever you want without having to bother your seatmate.

26. Go for the back

Sit near the back of the plane so you can get up, stretch your legs and go to the bathroom as many times as you’d like.

27. Avoid becoming completely stagnate

Regardless of where you sit, try to move around and stretch every couple hours to keep your muscles from getting too stiff. Stretching does not make you geriatric, it makes you smart and ready to enjoy your trip. 

Stay Occupied

28. Watch every single movie you've ever wanted to watch 

Take advantage of all of the movies available to watch – now is not the time to picky, with a surplus of time to burn, you may as well try things you wouldn’t normally watch. The opportunity cost of a bad movie is practically nothing on a long flight where you can simply stop the movie and pick another one to see. 

29. Engage your brain

Bring crosswords, Sudoku, magazines, books, music – anything to keep your brain occupied (if you bring a book, consider selling it to a used bookstore when you get to your destination or giving it away so you can lighten your load). 

30. Read guidebooks, you travel nut!

Use this time to learn all about your destination and get excited for the activities you want to do. You know how much fun it's going to be to tell your travel mates about all the awesome things ahead you have to look forward to. Plus it keeps you focused on why your trapped inside an airplane in the first place.

31. There's an app for that

Look into getting gaming apps that don’t rely on an internet connection to play for either your smartphone or tablet - Stylecaster has a post featuring 7 apps that don't need internet 

32. Be productive

A long flight can be a great opportunity to catch up on projects – consider bringing a little work with you if you need to get some stuff done.

33. Load up your tech gadgets with good stuff

Make sure to fill your iPad or other tablet with fresh movies and books to read before your trip.

34. Keep your cables organized so untangling them doesn't become your activity du jour 

If you’re bringing lots of gadgets and their chargers, consider keeping chargers organized in a small bag to keep them from getting lost inside your bag – this will save you from having to rifle through your bag and pull everything out every time you need something, we'd tell you about our Pack-It Specter eCube, but Mike sums it up nicely: "This little gem is a "must have" for any traveler. I use the small size for all of the typical electronic gizmo chargers; cell phone, camera battery,I-Pod, etc. Keeps it all handily organized with a velcro divider." Thanks Mike. 

Stay Rested

35. Don't fool yourself into thinking the night before is a good time to skimp on sleep

It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking it's a good idea to skip sleep the night before because you'll have the opportunity to catch up on sleep on the plane. With all due respect, when was the last time you remember having the best sleep of your life on an airplane? It's better to be well rested because you'll surprise yourself with how tiring flying can be. Not to mention, if something goes wrong and you miss your flight or your plans change, you will have an awful experience the next day. (Trust me, I stayed up all night before a flight from Florence Italy, to California, thinking it would be a great idea, but the plane couldn't land, so I was stuck coordinating four new flights back to America, including a bus trip to Rome, in a state of extreme exhaustion, it's not ideal!) 

36. Get on board with the time zone the minute you get on board the plane 

Right when you get on the plane adjust your watch to the time of your destination so you can keep in mind how you will adjust to the time difference – you can use this to try to align to the destination’s schedule.

37. Eyeshades can keep the light out of your eyes when that one annoying person insists on looking out the window

Sure, you could get one of those super trendy eyeshades with some obnoxious saying on it, but really, why not just look like you own the place with an eyeshade that seriously does its job to block out light, let's you blink, AND is washable? (Hint hint) But of course if trendy sayings about risqué behavior is your thing, by all means go for it.

38. Get comfy with a pillow and blanket

A compact travel pillow and travel blanket will help you get more comfy when it’s time to snooze. You're going to need something to keep your face from getting squished against cold metal and it's not ideal to start drooling on the shoulder of your seat mate, so prepare in advance. 

39. Ear plugs and/or noise-canceling headphones 

These handy items can keep unwanted noise out and help you get closer to your Zen state - if you're in the market for noise-canceling headphones, CNET has rounded up their top picks for 2015.

40. Just knock yourself out

Okay, so obviously do this responsibly, but consider using a sleep aid like melatonin (if you're not familiar, learn about this natural method from The Sleep Foundation). You can also go the medical route and pop a ZzzQuil™ or other type of sleep medicine to induce the zzzs. 

41. Be smart about arrival times

Think about booking a flight with a later arrival time rather than getting to your destination early in the morning – it will be easier on track with the time zone by going to sleep earlier than by forcing yourself to stay awake once you get there.

Avoid a Growling Stomach

42. Bring something to tide you over

It's those in-between times that can catch you off guard. When you're out of your element, not in your own timezone, and tired, you can get hit with a huge wave of hunger at unexpected times. To solve this problem, bring your favorite energy bars and snacks to tide you over between meals.

43. Have cash and a credit card handy for on-board food purchases

Just in case you run out of energy bars and are still starving. And hey, even though you might be a big fan of your pepita seeds, fruit leathers, and almonds, sometimes a long flight is the perfect time to splurge on something you wouldn't normally get caught eating. Like those delicious potato chips in the fun shape you can use to make duck faces... and no, this is not in reference to the "duck face" young people use for selfies. 

44. Go for the protein

Choose foods high in protein so you will be fuller for longer and try to eat a solid breakfast the morning of your departure.

Stay Secure

45. Protect your valuables

Keep valuables like cash, credit cards, and your passport in a money belt or other secure place – a long flight makes it easier for people to act unsavory (as the ultimate travel aficionados we've of course taken this to another level by giving people the opportunity to hide their valuables in a money belt, but also a neck wallet, hidden pocket, bra stash, leg wallet, and even ones with RFID protection! All of which you can check out here).

46. Spy on your luggage's every movement

So if you decided you weren't up for the challenge of 10 days in a carry on, you'll want to make sure your bag doesn't get lost in the endless abyss of airline logistics. Simple enough, right? Well, since the airlines don't currently prioritize a customer's need to track their bag's every movement, you'll need to take this into your own hands. Fortunately, there's a handy device called Trakdot, which serves as a GPS for your luggage, and let's you keep track of its every move. (Go ahead, say muahaha, we know you want to.) 

Other Tips

47. Chew away ear pain

You know that feeling you get as the plane ascends high into the sky, and you feel the thrill of rising above the city and the anticipation of your destination? Well that wonderful feeling is sometimes accompanied by ear discomfort because of the sudden change in altitude. Bring your favorite chewing gum to help pop your ears.

48. Don't get caught in a foreign city without clothes

Make sure you pack an extra set of clothes, including spare underwear, sunglasses, and whatever else you need to get by for a couple of days if the airlines lose your luggage.

49. Don't dilly dally too much before boarding your flight

Don’t wait until the last minute to board the plane – you want to be able to use the overhead bins to store your luggage.

50. Take smart bathroom breaks

Yes, you can definitely get small wins by going to the bathroom at opportune times. For example, a good time to make your break is right after the flight attendants are done passing out food and before they’ve collected all the trays, people are less likely to go while they wait for their tray to be picked up.

 

Whether you are flying cross-country or around the world, being comfortable in the confines of an economy airline seat is worth some pre-planning. So print out this list, email it to yourself, save it to pocket, or share it online so you can make sure to master the long distance flight! 

Your Turn: Are you a travel pro? Share your favorite tips for getting through a long distance flight in the comments below! We love to hear from our community of travel enthusiasts. 

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