The destination is always worth it, but the long flight can be rough. Between navigating the stressful airport, uncomfortable plane seats, unappetizing plane food, and navigating the inability to sleep, flights can be a little overwhelming. If you're like me, you might even get a little impatient and antsy on a long flight. Here are my favorite tips and tricks for conquering your next long flight including where to sit, what to bring, and airport hacks you need to know.
When it comes to buying your flight...
Book ahead of time- not only does this eliminate any unwanted stress and worry prior to your trip, but it allows you to pick the best seat. If you're waiting to book because of that $20 price drop, well... don't. Most of the time the price won't go down as your departure date approaches and it's just not worth the time and energy to consistently watch.
Utilize flight applications- a great way to make sure you get the right price is to track your flights. On Hopper, you can make flight watchlists that notify you of upcoming price drops and the best times to buy. It will also tell you when the price is too high, but when it will go down in the future. This is a perfect way to let someone else do the work for you (for free).
Pick the best seat- a bad seat on a long flight is arguably one of the worst aspects of flying. Here's how you pick the perfect seat every single time. First, choose seats from the middle of the plane, that's where the least amount of turbulence is and it's the farthest point from both bathrooms. I always choose an aisle seat for extra leg room and to have the freedom of getting up whenever I want without interrupting my seatmates. Choose an exit row seat if you need to stretch out your long legs, but it's important to note that those seats do not recline and you'll be expected to assist in an emergency. Use SeatGuru to book the best seats.
Here are the worst places to sit on a plane, try to avoid these spots!
Here are the top 10 rated international airlines based on comfort and service:
All Nippon Airways
Air New Zealand
Cathay Pacific Airways
Virgin Atlantic Airways
When you're on the plane...
Wear a comfortable outfit- your cute jeans and blouse might make you feel like you're ready for vacation, but after sitting and attempting to sleep in them for 10+ hours, you'll never want to look at them again. Stick to comfy, neutral, loose-fitting layers you can move around in and take off easily. Planes can vary in temperature so you want to overdress then take layers off if needed. Experts recommend wearing compression sock to reduce swelling and decrease the risk of blood clots with the high altitudes.
Bring your sleepwear- investing in a good travel pillow, earplugs/headphones, and a sleep mask are always a good idea. Find a memory foam pillow that provides comfort while also keeping your spine aligned so you don't wake up with that nasty crick in your neck. If your fellow passengers don't close their windows, your flight will be bright so make sure you have a silky, comfy, (& cute) eye mask to wear in the meantime.
Noise cancelling headphones- and I can't stress this enough. There's nothing worse than having the perfect movie lined up, plugging in your headphones, and hearing everything but your movie. The roaring sound of the engine mixed with the crying toddler in the row behind you makes for a noisy and annoying flight. Noise cancelling headphones will help to drown out all the outside noises. Here are the 10 best noise cancelling headphones for travel.
Take the smallest carry on you can- legroom on long flights is precious so make sure you can squash your bag down if need be. You really don't need to bring much on a flight, so just remember to keep your bag small.
Bring your own snacks- you definitely don't want to have to purchase snacks on board your flight since they charge way more than if you had just bought them in the airport. Typically, you will get two meals and a snack on a long-haul flight, but if you're the type that likes options, definitely bring your own. Airplane food isn't always super appetizing either so plan ahead if you're picky.
Try not to wear makeup- but make sure you moisturize! Your skin has enough to deal with at 30,000 feet in the air (dry cabin air, decreased blood flow, swelling) so don't add pore clogging products into the mix. Instead, keep your skin moist and glowing with serums and moisturizers. Bring eye drops to counteract irritation and make sure you don't forget your chapstick! If you plan on sleeping, think about bringing a disposable under eye mask to pop on under your sleeping mask to keep your eyes refreshed all flight long. Here are my favorite moisturizing products.
HYDRATE- seriously one of the most important things to remember on a long flight. Planes are basically as dry as the desert and can lead to dryness in the skin. In addition, dehydration leads to worsened jet lag, and you definitely don't want to feel groggy for your trip. Make sure you empty your water bottle before security then fill it back up after. Here's my favorite water bottle for long flights.
Get up and move- pressurized cabins give out less oxygen than we're used to and a lower blood oxygen level in our body leads to fatigue, headaches, swollen limbs, and dehydration. Make sure you get up and walk around every few hours just to keep the blood flowing. In your seat you can roll your neck, shoulders and arms, rotate your ankles, and wiggle your toes.
Airport hacks you need to know...
When entering security checks, head left- research shows that people typically gravitate toward the right lane, so do the opposite and go left for a shorter wait time.
Use a brightly colored luggage tag- you want to be able to quickly differentiate your bag in baggage claim so you never lose your possessions.
Write 'fragile' on your luggage- no only will this allow your luggage to be handled more carefully, but it'll remain at the top of the pile on the plane.
Wear shoes you can take off quickly- make sure you don't hold up the security line with your hard-to-take off shoes. Wear slip ons or comfy sneakers.
Ask for an upgrade- if you're traveling alone or for a special occasion, ask for a free flight upgrade. More times than not, they'll give you an offer. The worst that happens is they say no.
Fly red-eye- evening flights are usually cheaper, the airport is always less crowded, and you can doze off on the plane with plenty of energy when you wake up.
Remember where you parked- airport parking lots can be confusing and irritating after coming home from a long trip. Take a picture of your parking spot and floor before you go.
Check the status of your flight- make sure you check the status before heading to the airport. You want to make sure you know if your flight has been delayed or cancelled so you can rebook.
If you don't like turbulence, book an early flight- most storms and wind happen in the afternoon and evening so book your flight in the morning to avoid this.
Have easy access to important information- if you know you'll need your passport, license and other travel documents, make sure you have them accessible; no one wants to wait for you to rustle through your bag.
Look into the ways in which you can become an airline member! This is a perfect way to stay organized and comfortable during long layovers to get that much needed sleep you so crave.
You might be thinking, why would I need an airport lounge when I can just wait at the gate. Well, let me tell you... if you have the opportunity to choose an airport lounge over a regular airline gate, you will definitely not regret it. Picture this, extraordinary cocktails, excellent food, comfy pillows and couches, complimentary wifi (that actually works), and an exceptional amount of space allowing for productivity and relaxation.
Here are several different ways you can gain access to airport lounges (without flying first class):
Delta: obtain a Delta American Express credit card and pay a small fee
Platinum American Express card: American Express Global Lounge Collection access (1,500+ airport lounge access)
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Priority Pass Lounge access (plus 2 guests)
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Priority Pass Lounge access (plus 2 guests)
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card:Priority Pass Lounge access (plus 2 guests)
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: American Airline's Admirals Club access and select partner One World Alliance Lounges
United Explorer Card: United Club Lounge access
Citi Prestige Card: Priority Pass Lounge access
United Club Card: United Club and select partner Star Alliance Lounges.
Here's an article about everything you need to know when it comes to accessing airport lounges.