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How to Survive a Long Haul Flight — According to a Flight Attendant

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew the secrets to stepping off a long-haul flight feeling fabulous, energized, and ready to crush your day?

If you’re going on a long-haul flight in the near future, it most likely means you’re going somewhere pretty exciting. If only you didn’t have to do the actual flight part, though. Being stuck in a metal tube for hours on end at 40,000 feet in the sky with hundreds of other people can sure make those flights tiring and challenging. Flight attendants work these long-haul flights day in and day out, so they have to figure out ways to survive them; otherwise, they really take a toll.

From avoiding jet lag to prepping your skin beforehand and packing a few creature comforts, here are the best tips to survive those long-haul flights like a pro—as told straight from a flight attendant’s mouth.

Drink Water, Avoid Alcohol

We know it’s your holiday, but trust us on this one. Drinking water is the key to feeling fresh–it’s the best thing you can do for your body on a long-haul flight. Flying dehydrates us more than we realize, and while we are on the flight (and even before and afterward), we need to drink a lot more water than normal just to remain hydrated.

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What dehydrates us most onboard is the lack of humidity, which causes us to lose fluids faster. As a guideline, aim for one liter of water for every four hours you are flying.

Alcohol dehydrates us far quicker up in the air than it does on the ground, so resist the temptation of having a couple of glasses of wine to help you fall asleep. If you can’t resist one cheeky bevy, at least order a glass of water with it.

INSIDER TIPBring some berries or mint leaves to add to your water if it will help you drink more. You can even bring electrolytes or hydration tablets to add to your water to help you feel energized and get maximum oxygen to your blood.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Always moisturize your face and body before a flight–this is key! Even if you can’t feel it, the air onboard really dries out your skin. Pack a small face moisturizer in your hand luggage (3 oz. or smaller to comply with regulations) and keep it handy so you can frequently moisturize throughout the flight. 

It’s also worth packing a hand moisturizer and lip balm to combat any dryness. Avoid wearing face makeup, too: it is so important to let your skin breathe!  If you must wear makeup, try to ensure you use a light coverage one, such as a BB cream or tinted moisturizer.

INSIDER TIPKeep your face hydrated with a facial mist spray–this is a lifesaver for keeping you hydrated, plus they even keep your makeup in place!

Change Time Zones Right Away

You will most likely cross several time zones when on a long-haul flight, and this is what leads to jetlag. Adapt to the local time at your destination as soon as you get on the plane. Change the time on your phone and watch and alter your body clock to that time.

If you are landing at your destination in the morning, sleep as much as you can on the flight, so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you land, and you’ll be able to last until that evening.

If you will land at your destination in the evening, avoid sleeping too much on the plane. You want a good night’s sleep when you land, so you’ll wake up fresh the next morning without any sign of jetlag.

Wear Layers and Comfy Clothes

This sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many people forget. Always wear comfy clothes for a flight! Avoid jeans, just stick to leggings or loose trousers with an elastic waist. Your body expands during flying, so you don’t want anything tight cutting into your skin–that can get quite uncomfortable! 

Also, always pack warm clothes for a plane journey, even if you’re going on a beach holiday. The air-conditioning on airplanes can get pretty chilly, and those thin blankets they give you sometimes aren’t enough to keep you warm. Wear layers so you can remove them or put them back on as you wish.

INSIDER TIPBring a scarf or shawl with you: you can wrap it around you like a blanket if you’re cold or use it to cover your face if it’s too bright to sleep.

Pack Home Comforts in Your Hand Luggage

Pack comfy socks, so your feet are cozy and warm during the flight. You’ll want to take your shoes off during the flight, and trust me, flight attendants don’t want to see your feet.

Pack a travel-sized toothpaste, toothbrush, face wipes, and deodorant in your hand luggage so you can freshen up during the flight. Ensure hand luggage liquid items are under 3 oz., so they don’t get taken off you at airport security.

Keep all these items handy around your seat area for the flight, so you don’t need to keep opening the overhead stowage for items you need.

If you get dry or blocked sinuses, bring a saline nasal spray or nasal inhaler, and if your eyes get dry and irritated, be sure to pack eye drops.

INSIDER TIPAbout an hour before landing, head to the bathroom to freshen up. You’ll want to look decent when you step off the plane, so brush your teeth, sort your face out, and change clothes if necessary: it will definitely make you feel ready!

Prepare Yourself for Sleep

If you want to be able to breeze long-haul flights, it’s important to get sleep on the plane. A great tip is to arrive at the airport tired so that it’s easier to fall asleep during the flight and you won’t get restless. If a travel pillow will help you, bring one.

Pack an eye mask if light bothers you when you’re trying to sleep, plus ear plugs to block out the sound of any crying babies or call bells. Don’t rely on airlines to provide them, as they are not always available.

Bring Your Own Food

Remember you are on an aircraft, and there is only so much choice of food onboard. If you don’t like it or you have a specific diet, you could be stuck if you don’t come prepared.

If you have a particular dietary requirement, make sure the airline knows when you’re booking your flight. If you wait until you’re at the airport to ask for a specific meal, it’s often too late. 

Eating healthily onboard will greatly help to minimize grogginess and jet lag. We all know airlines aren’t famed for their healthy food, so if you’re organized, pack some of your own food to bring onboard. If you know you’ll get peckish in between meals, bring your own snacks–just don’t bring any smelly food onboard!

INSIDER TIPProtein bars are a good snack to bring as they are small and easy to eat, with no cutlery or plate required. Plus you’re not left carrying any Tupperware afterward.

Choose Your Seat Beforehand

You’re either team window seat, team aisle seat, or you generally don’t care. Whatever works for you, choose your preferred seat online, or get to the airport early and choose your seat at the check-in desk.

Those who sit at the window seat are generally less likely to have distractions such as people brushing past them or the meal cart bumping into them, meaning they often get better sleep than those in aisle seats.

Compression Stockings Are Your Friend

Invest in some compression stockings. While most people think compression stockings are just for old ladies, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Compression stockings can seriously decrease the chances of you developing blood clots due to flying. Especially as we age, and in particular for women, the chances of getting Deep Vein Thrombosis and blood clots increase significantly. Your health is important so take it seriously.

Walk around the aircraft periodically to keep blood circulating in your legs. And make sure to get the correct size of stockings, otherwise, they will do you no good.

Bring Something to Keep You Occupied

Be prepared and bring something to keep you occupied for the times when you can’t sleep: a book, a downloaded audiobook, podcast, or music selection, for example—and don’t rely on the airplane’s entertainment system.

Many people actually use their flight time to get work done, so they don’t feel like they are wasting time or getting restless. It’s amazing how much you can achieve in a few hours when you’re focused and with no distractions from your phone!

INSIDER TIPMost long-haul planes will have an electrical socket around the seat area, so remember to pack your charger in your hand luggage. Charge your devices onboard, so they are recharged and ready for when you land.


CWDJ January 12, 2023

Thanks for the handy info...some I already do...but a lot of new ideas!