How to Survive Long Flights: A Guide to Travelling in Comfort


Even the most seasoned overseas travellers have experienced an uncomfortable plane ride.

If you're flying in Economy, it's inevitable you'll be squashed, prodded, woken up, or just flat out irritable at some stage during a long flight.

But there's just about no alternative, unless you're willing to sit on a boat for weeks on end to travel the world, planes are a necessity.

So how do you make the most out of a bad situation? What measures can you take to survive those long overseas flights?

There are a number of things you can do before you fly, and once you are on the plane to improve the experience. Let's take a closer look.

Before you fly

  • Choose your seat - The seat you are assigned can make or break your long flight, so make sure you specifically choose the seat you want to sit in. For some, that's a window seat, for others it's the aisle, or perhaps it's an exit row seat. Use an online tool such as SeatGuru to discover the best seats for your chosen airline.
  • Pack warm clothes & socks - It can start to get really cold as your plane reaches high altitude, so pack some warm clothes and comfortable socks so that you don't get too cold.
  • Think about your next destination - Where are you getting off your flight? If it's in a different climate from where you boarded, make sure you have packed appropriate clothing for when you get off.
  • Bring activities to do - If you can't sleep very well on planes, then you'll need some activities to keep you from complete boredom. While the movie selection is a good distraction on most airlines, it's usually a good idea to bring some of your own activities. A book or magazine to read, music to listen to, a paper to write, your laptop to do some work... something to keep you busy.
  • Load up your favourite podcasts - Listening to an interesting story or inspiring interview on a podcast can be a great way to pass time, but usually you need to listen to them while online. So load up a few episodes of your favourite podcasts before boarding the flight.
  • Pack snacks - Inevitably there will be a moment during the flight where you get peckish and would like to snack on your favourite bag of chips, chocolate bar or some healthier alternative. Think ahead and pick these things up at the supermarket before getting to the airport.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes - Plane seats are generally small and restrictive, so either bring or wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes so that you can relax as much as possible.
  • Take a neck pillow - Neck pillows aren't for everyone but they provide an extra layer of comfort that might help you get a bit more sleep. Every minute is gold on a long flight!
  • Charge your devices - There is nothing worse than planning out your whole flight relying on your tablet, laptop or smart phone for entertainment, only to realise that your battery is about to die. Make sure you charge your important electronic devices before taking off.
  • Check-in early - Check into your flight online, or get to the airport earlier than most other people so that you can avoid any unnecessary stress.

During the flight

  • Watch a movie - Just about every international airline has seats fitted with personal monitors, and a library full of new and old movies to watch. If you get immersed in an interesting movie the time can fly by before you know it. Or if the movie turns out to be boring, often it sends you to sleep!
  • Stay hydrated - At high altitude it's common to get dehydrated which can cause discomfort, headaches and restlessness. Do your best to drink lots of water and stay hydrated so you avoid dealing with these issues.
  • Avoid alcohol - Some people think it's a great idea to have a glass of wine or two when you get on a long flight, so it puts you to sleep. But often it can have a less than ideal impact on your flight. Alcohol accelerates the effects of dehydration and will also force you to visit the washroom more often than you would like.
  • Move around the cabin - As much as you can, get up from your seat and move around the cabin. It's not only a good way to pass time, people watch and see who else is on the flight, but it will also save your body from any unwanted health issues such as DVT.
  • Do exercises at your seat - If you're not in an aisle seat it may not be possible to regularly get up and move around the cabin. In this case, do some basic exercises such as calf raises and other stretches to keep your blood flowing at your seat.
  • Don't over eat - It's tempting to take advantage of every meal and snack that your airline distributes during a long flight, after all what else are you really doing? But if you over eat you run the risk of feeling lethargic, unwell or simply uncomfortable.
  • Make the most of in-flight services when you can - The flight attendants are there to make your flight a memorable experience, so make the most of it when you can. But don't over-do it by being that annoying passenger who continually presses the service button!

What else do you do to survive long flights?


  • Sue

    I always travel business class, then most of these don’t impact on me. I know that it’s more expensive, but you get your own seat which converts into a lie-flat bed which is more comfortable than trying to get sleep in ‘cattle class’, especially on a long-haul flight.

    Don’t forget that if you take your own snacks on board, then you’ll have to declare them on your incoming passenger card when you arrive at your destination, or you could risk a hefty fine. Just watch all the Border Security programs on 7two if you don’t believe me.

  • Anne

    Follow protocol and leave your seat up until the people behind you have finished their meals. Nothing worse than being halfway through eating when youtpr tray gets pushed into your lap, drinks and all!

  • Jacqueline

    Something to muffle ambient sounds, especially if you’re unlucky enough to be in the vicinity of screaming kids. Or a stash of NyQuil & vodka to offer said kids.

  • Lynnette Ziya

    Take a baby pillow for sitting on. .After hours on a plane the seat can get really hard. A piece of cushion foam in a pillowcase also works. It can be rolled with Velcro straps and attached to carry on.

  • Melody

    For the passengers that are obese and can not fit within their own seats.
    Nothing is worse then being forced to touched by someone’s legs and arms while traveling. They must buy a upgrade seat or two sit I feel

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