How To Survive A Long-Haul Flight, As Told By Travel Experts

Nowadays, a record number of people are traveling by air, with the aviation industry having carried 4.1 billion people in 2017 to various destinations around the world, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Tourists comprised a percentage of that figure (50%), with half the world’s 1.2 billion tourists crossing international borders traveling by air in 2017. That same growth is reflected here in Mexico, where airlines are serving more and more passengers, as revealed by an Anna Aero’s report on air traffic in Mexico.

The ICAO credits improvements in safety, security, and efficiency for boosting air travel numbers, but such growth is also being fueled in part by people’s changing travel habits, many of whom now prefer the convenience and speed of traveling by air. Then again, anyone who has ever flown on a plane knows that the longer the flight gets, the more challenging it becomes, especially when flying economy.

That being said, Jubel has compiled some of the top expert tips on how you can survive a 12-hour (or longer) trip. These tips are applicable for any long-haul flight, some of which you might have to take should you want to attend any one of the music festivals we’ve featured previously. Snowbombing in Austria, Traenafestivalen in Norway, Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, Dimensions in Croatia, and Quest in Vietnam are all worth your while, though you’ll most likely have to spend 12 hours or more on a plane just to get to each host country. The same is true if you want to explore South America, in which case you can refer to our top picks here. Or, if you want to visit the other side of the world, you can check out our best places to visit guide for Oceania. Wherever your final destination may be, it’s a good idea to keep these tips in mind if you know you’ll be in the air for 12 hours or more.

Mind Your Pre-flight Regimen

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Make sure you've packed everything you need.

Often, what you do before your flight will affect the quality of your flight experience. The trick here then is to find a routine that works for you. Do you get queasy in the air when you board on an empty stomach? Then enjoy a hearty pre-flight meal! Prefer to go light before boarding? Then settle for a snack instead. Again, go for whatever works. Just as important, try to get a comfortable seat, or at least one that you prefer. If you’re tall, try to getting a seat with extra leg room — that is, in the exit row. Yes, you’ll have to shell out a bit more, but the extra cost will ensure better comfort, which is crucial in any long flight. Be realistic with how you’ll feel at the end of that long flight and weigh it against the extra cost. Is saving a few extra bucks really worth the discomfort?

To this end, making sure that everything’s in order and taken care of already is also important, as knowing that all’s well will give you peace of mind throughout your flight. That means having every single detail planned out and every item needed packed and ready to go. Imagine the horror of getting to the airport without your passport, or the feeling of finding out mid-flight that you have left behind your smartphone or an important gadget or document. In her USA Today travel tips article, Leaf Group’s Lisa Mahoney advises travelers to avoid last-minute packing. She recommends making a list of must-haves a day or two prior to the flight, and then packing every item accordingly. This is especially true for families going on vacation or fliers traveling on a business trip. In these instances, certain things are absolutely necessary; swimsuits and sunblock for that trip to the beach, for instance, or your laptop when going to a convention. Remember, you can’t get fully comfortable if you’re worried about forgetting something.

Find Your Comfort Zone

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A neck pillow can make life more comfortable for you.

For any flight, the key ultimately is to get as comfortable as possible say Business Insider travel writers Sophie-Claire Hoeller and Sarah Schmalbruch. So, go find your comfort zone. It all starts with what you wear: choose clothing that is loose and comfy. Then make sure you bring the accouterments that will make life on-air a bit easier, or at least more bearable. This may include travel and neck pillows, lumbar supports, and long-sleeve pullovers (airplanes can get really cold). Layers of clothing are highly recommended, too. Having layers of clothing — a sweater on top of your tee, then a scarf to top them off, for instance — are useful for changing temperatures. Pile the layers on when the temperature dips; remove a layer or two when the temperature goes up.

Aside from those tips, you can even bring your own snacks or meals, though you ought to check first with your airline on what kinds of food they allow on the plane.

Moreover, families and even those traveling in groups are advised to get seats close to one another. The reason for this is that the familiarity of having someone you know will certainly help make anything — including a 12-hour flight — more manageable. For solo fliers, a window seat is an option worth exploring. The view can be calming, you're partially away from people you don't know, and it's generally more comfortable.  

Bring Your Gadgets and Manage Your Sleep

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Sleep Tracking

Gadgets are extremely useful on flights, long and short. You can use them to read a novel, listen to music, watch movies, or even play games. But you can't stay awake indefinitely and getting your sleep under control when traveling is a common challenge: In the absence of familiar routines and a circadian rhythm thrown out of whack, seasoned traveler Ed Hewitt states that it can be nearly impossible to know how much sleep you're getting. That's why he and many other travelers recommend bringing a fitness tracker with a sleep tracking function. It can provide helpful sleep information from the get-go, during your vacation, and on the return leg.

Many of these trackers are noted by Coral as having technology that monitors heart rate and other vitals. It can come in handy in stressful situations and long-haul flights, by helping you be more aware of your own body. Moreover, a tracker will help you understand what your body needs when you're trying to adjust to jet lag and a different time zone, and help you reset your sleep when you get home. So, if you’re thinking of getting one yourself, a Fitbit would be perfect. It has all the functions mentioned, plus it has what is called Relax. Exclusive to Fitbit, this on-device tool helps guide the user’s breathing rhythm through a guided breathing session. Once you get that rhythm going, your blood pressure will be lowered, your stress reduced, and your anxiety lessened. You’ll be calm, and that will make it easier for you to sleep.

Minimizing Jetlag

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An eye mask can help minimize jet lag.

So, you’ve survived that long flight. But you’re jetlagged nonetheless. That means your productivity is decreased for at least a full day as you try to reorient yourself and adjust to the new time zone. But there’s a trick you can do in-flight that will minimize jet lag, or even eliminate it completely. A Scientific American article on how to prevent jet lag explains that the simple acts of seeking and/or avoiding light can help reduce its effects. Before your flight, go online and find websites — like Jet Lag Rooster, for example — that calculate when to seek and avoid light during a flight. Once you’ve determined the proper times to seek and avoid light, do so while in your flight. To avoid light, you can simply wear an eye mask; to seek light, use a commercially available portable light box (again, an additional cost, but the trade-off of minimizing jet lag may just be worth it).

Take a Break and Exercise

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A good stretch is good for you.

Spine surgeon Jeremy Smith knows how the human body works. He also happens to be a frequent flier who has survived his fair share of long-haul flights. One of Dr. Smith’s in-flight survival tips is to regularly give your body the break it needs. You can do so by standing up often and moving about. Walk along the aisle, march in place, or give your body a stretch — anything that’ll get your body moving and your blood flowing. Just standing up and stretching every 30–45 minutes goes a long way in helping you survive your flight.

So, go ahead and explore the world. Venture out as far as you (and your pockets) can take you. Don't let the challenge of a long flight deter you from visiting places far, far away. As you now know, there are life hacks for that challenge, and all that's left is for you to put them to good use.


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