How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

September 9, 2016 by Claire & Laura Jopson

For most, the phrase ‘long-haul flight’ installs immediate dread. The prospect of endless hours spent inside a metal tube, surrounded by strangers who seem intent on annoying you, whilst being subjected to the lingering smell of microwave meals, is enough to put most off that trip of a lifetime. After many years of enduring flights from our home in the UK, to far-flung countries such as Thailand and Japan, we’ve gathered a few hints and tips along the way, to make that long-haul flight just a little more bearable.

Here are our top 10 tips in helping you enjoy your next flight:

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Select your seat wisely

Before embarking on a long-haul flight, take control of your seat selection. Leaving it in the hands of the airline could result in 10+ hours of you getting to know the intimate bathroom habits of your fellow passengers. We’ve all been subject to that ‘toilet seat’ – the one that comes with its own unique soundtrack and scent. Before you select your seats (and it is worth paying to select them before check-in), try using Seat Guru to see which seats are rated the best and worst on your particular aircraft, making sure you are able to enjoy your flight far removed from the delights of the airplane toilet.

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Stay hydrated

It’s been said before, but depending on a stiff drink to get you through a long-haul flight should be avoided. The typically low cabin pressure in aircraft means your body is working harder to absorb oxygen, meaning that alcohol is not only going to hit you harder, but dehydrate you faster. The result? A banging headache, tiredness and nausea to keep you company on your 12-hour flight. Ditch the booze and stick to water, and your flight will be much more bearable.

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Dress for comfort

The glamorous days of dressing to the nines in order to catch a flight have long since passed, yet we’re still surprised at some of the outfit choices of our fellow passengers. We’re not saying you need to don your favourite velour tracksuit, but dress in something warm, comfortable and breathable to combat uncomfortably tight waistbands and restrictive tops. We always pack a pair of fluffy socks and a soft blanket to put over our heads (think make-shift tent) when we want to sleep.

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Upgrade

Flying long-haul is, unsurprisingly, far more enjoyable if you can actually lie down. However, for most, the elusive free upgrade seems unachievable. We beg to differ. Although it may not be free, an upgrade can be far cheaper than you may think. Before any long-haul flight, we visit the airline’s promotions desk, where you can often snap up a last-minute upgrade at half the original price. We’ve upgraded to Business Class on a flight from the UK to New York City for less than £500. A far cry from the £2,000 we were quoted just days before.

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Keep well-rested before the flight

If the thought of a long-haul flight fills you with dread, you might consider sleeping as little as possible before your epic journey. Of course this will ensure you a maximum chance of sleep once you finally board your flight – exhausted and grumpy… right? Wrong. From our experience, this never happens. Instead, sleep deprived and uncomfortable, tiredness soon turns into over-tiredness, which results in you enduring a long-haul flight as a veritable zombie. We’ve found that a good night’s sleep the night before is far more beneficial.

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Get to know your crew

Sat in a seat for 10 hours, with only your immediate neighbour to engage with, life can become unbearably boring. Particularly if they’re selfish enough to fall asleep. Over the years, we’ve found that an excellent way to combat cabin-fever is to take a stroll up to where the cabin crew are (when they’re not too busy). We’ve tested duty-free makeup with crew; let them try new perfumes on us and got to know a little more about their lives as crew and the incredible places they’ve visited. It’s made the time pass considerably faster!

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Adjust your body clock

One of the best pieces of advice that we were given was to change the time on our watches to the local time of our destination, as soon as we boarded the plane. From here, we can then plan the next 10-12 hours according to this. For example, if we know we’ll be landing early morning, we’ll try to sleep as much as possible, eat a light breakfast and avoid any alcoholic drinks. This will gently ease your body into your new time zone.

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Don’t over pack your hand luggage

Faced with a 10-hour flight, the desire to pack your worldly possessions is strong. You never know when you might need that discarded Sudoku book. Even if you have no idea what Sudoku is. Half a day without access to the internet is a long time, but we guarantee that you will not read all four of the books that you’ve packed. Nor will you colour your way through five colouring books and catch-up on all work emails. Save yourself endless frustration when trying to retrieve something out of your bag and pack as lightly as you can.

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Switch off the overhead map

There’s a distinct difference between having a general idea of how your journey is progressing and watching every minute of your journey unfold via the TV map. On a flight to Japan, we once watched the small icon of the plane inch millimetre by millimetre across the entirety of Russia. At some points, we suspected we weren’t moving at all. Moral of the story? Clock watching or map watching: avoid them all. Time will only go s l o w e r.

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Focus on the end goal

If all of the above fail, take solace in the fact that, although it may not feel this way at the time, your long-haul journey will eventually come to an end. There is life the other side of seat 4B. As uncomfortable and boring as a long-haul flight can be, the flight is just the start of a big adventure (like the glorious New South Wales one pictured above). Enjoy it if you can, because when else can you watch three films consecutively whilst eating a novelty-size pack of M&Ms?


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You might also like:

How to Beat Jet Lag

8 Ways to Deal with Airport Anxiety

About Claire & Laura Jopson

We’re Claire and Laura, identical twins from England. Founders of Twins That Travel, we are normal girls with normal lives, who want to prove that travelling is for everyone. Follow us on Instagram @twins_that_travel or visit us at www.twinsthattravel.com.