Surviving Long Haul Flights

As I write this I am actually on the final leg of our longest flight marathon yet…  Adelaide to London via Melbourne and Guangzhou, which due to some delays whilst waiting to land in Melbourne actually ended as a full 24 hours in the air with further transfer times of about 7 hours in between.  As a result of these sorts of flights we are very lucky to be able to see some of the worlds most amazing places, however they can be tough, and no matter how you prepare take a little time to get over!  On our inbound leg it took us about 2 days to get over it.

There are a few things which you can do to make it a little easier on yourself, and it sometimes starts well before you ever even fly!


When you book your flights make sure you plan them carefully, especially if you have connecting flights which you are organising yourself.  For internal flights give yourself 3 hours if you can, and for long haul I would recommend 4, this way if any of your earlier flights are delayed, you have plenty of time to stop yourself sitting there worrying about your next flight!

One of the most important parts of planning for your trip is to cover events such as above where maybe no amount of time will be enough…  Make sure you get a good insurance package covering cancelled and delayed flights (including natural disaster cover).

The last thing you want to do before you make your way to the airport…  24 hours before your flight departure in fact is to check in online.  Pretty much every airline offers this now and it can be a great time saver when you get to the airport and gives you the opportunity to have a say about where you will sit…  Great if you are travelling with other people or have a preference about position.

Surviving Long Haul Flights

Pack a flight bag

Whether all your stuff fits in carry on luggage or you are sending it all in to the hold, reserve some space in your carry on for a couple of things!  Firstly there is almost nothing worse than post flight breath (well actually that’s quite an exaggeration but nevertheless it’s not a great smell)!  Especially if you are meeting people when you arrive pack a tooth brush and small tube of tooth paste or just a small bottle of mouth wash.  Freshening up with some wet wipes and deodorant is always nice at the end of the flight as well…  There is plenty of time after your last meal on the flight to get these done…  A change of t shirt / jumper is also always nice.

The most important thing to pack in your plane bag is plane snacks!  Bring some snacks which you like, but if you bring sandwiches remember to get rid of any you don’t eat before entering some countries such as Australia.  Even if you have free food on a long haul flight, there are often long gaps with these and let’s face it…  The food is never great either.

Surviving Long Haul Flights

When you’re on the plane you will want to make use of headphones but I prefer not using the re-packaged ones they give you for free so always bring my own, but to make this easier to use, a travel adapter is worth having…  Plus for those times when you are waiting to use the entertainment system and it may not yet be on / already turned off, its always handy to have an mp3 player of your own…  I know most phones now do the same thing but find an mp3 player to just be a bit easier.

Just in case you need it for arrival forms, don’t forget to pack a pen either…  So that you don’t forget any essentials here are some things I always travel with:

Getting to the airport

Your journey begins when you leave your home.  Do some research to see what is the most practical and cost effective way to get to the airport.  Taxi is often expensive but it is a very convenient way to get there allowing you to relax right away.  Trains and buses are similarly stress free but it’s always nice to have some privacy.

Driving can be the cheapest way some times, but if you are going on a really long trip do remember that after your 24 hour flight or so, where you may not sleep properly, that you then need to drive home!

What ever you do, just make sure you get there early enough…  At least 3 hours for long haul and I recommend 1.5 to 2 hours for internal flights, for your first flight.  Often the check in desk will still be shut if you arrive earlier than that, but it’s better to wait for check in to open than to run through the airport.

At the airport

Surviving Long Haul FlightsMost important thing during check in is have all your stuff ready…  If you are lucky enough to have a check in kiosk where you can print your own boarding pass and luggage tags (Virgin Australia and Iceland air certainly offer these) make sure you put the tags on your bags before you get to baggage drop…  You don’t want to annoy everyone in the queue behind you! You’ll be on a flight with them for some time.

Make sure to leave time for getting a bite to eat before you get on the flight, and maybe even grab a drink or two…  Get in the holiday spirit.  But sadly some people forget that if you get far too drunk they won’t let you on the plane so just leave it at a couple!

The best way to enjoy a couple of drinks and some food before heading off is in an airport lounge if you can afford it (it is so much quieter than the terminals), but if not there are loads of restaurants at most international departure terminals these days.

Hit the shops / kiosks to add one last thing to your plane bag which you should have packed earlier…  Something to drink.  Take your favourite drink so that you don’t have to call for an air steward every time you want something, whilst hoping that they have what you want.

Once you’ve eaten and chilled out for a while, go and wait near your gate…  As soon as it gets announced it is good to head over there as it’s a great place to be kept up to date on departure times and gate changes.

It’s time to start boarding!  For some reason when the gate staff say we will now board rows a to b, almost everyone starts to queue…  Your seat is set and written on your ticket.  If you find that everyone has done this just sit down…  Why stand there moving at a snails pace with everyone else shoving you when you can just sit there and watch everyone else get in a scrum… You’ll still end up in exactly the same seat, and the crew will always find space for your bags…  Little tip if you fit your carry on in a small rucksack you can easily fit it under the seat in front of you.

Surviving Long Haul Flights

On the plane

When you first sit down get yourself comfortable and sorted.  Fill the seat pocket with the things you need to have a comfortable flight… Snacks, a drink, iPad maybe!  This way you don’t need to keep reaching for your bag when ever you need anything!

Make sure you have brought everything you need to keep you busy.  Many companies are now really good with giving you a big selection of inflight movies, TV shows or even games, but there are now so many ways for us to enjoy our favourite shows and films on the move, that you don’t need to be restricted by that!  You can plug in your tablet or phone on most planes to give you as much battery life as you need, so if you decide that it’s time to get in to game of thrones and you’ll have time to watch all of season one…  Download it!  The flight is several hours of you sitting there doing what you want, so do it…  Within reason of course!

Need some download inspiration?  Try some of these:


One thing I have not seen for a while is the little leaflets on planes telling you how to do little exercises whilst being stuck in your seat…  It’s quite simple really, and is pretty important to keep you feeling good about being stuck in there for so long…  Do move your legs, feet and arms as much as you can without interfering with others around you, and make sure you get up a few times to properly move around and stretch your legs.

Most importantly just get yourself prepared, and don’t worry about the flight.  Everyone says that the flight is the worst part of the holiday, and sure it’s never a great experience, but there’s no reason why it has to be a terrible thing you dread before you go on holiday…  It’s part of your trip, so treat it as such!

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