How To Survive a Long-Haul Flight With Finesse

Source: Angelo DeSantis / Flickr

Source: Angelo DeSantis / Flickr

Not everyone enjoys long-haul flights. But here’s how to safely survive a couple of days trapped in an gigantic can of tuna with your sanity intact.

Some flights pass by in the blink of an eye, and some drag on forever. The good news is that some flights are better than others and there are things that will help mitigate the journey along the way.

It should also be noted that the following advice mostly applies to people who are flying international long-haul flights in economy class. If you’re in business class, you might want to take your glass of wine and hang out exquisitely.


Good seat is paramount like on any flight. On a transcontinental or transoceanic flight, you want an aisle seat. No matter how much you hate it, there’s no way anyone can avoid the airplane bathroom over a 12-hour period.

If you are sitting in an airplane that has three-row configuration, where there is a section of seats on the left side of the plane, followed by a middle and a section on the right side, you should opt for one of the aisle seats in the middle section in particular. Though it may not seem obvious, the seat has several advantages.

Most importantly, it gives you easy access to the aisle and bathroom while also givng the people sitting in the middle seats two options to get to the aisle. It automatically reduces your chances of getting climbed over by 50% or somewhat significantly. The seats on the left and right aisle don’t have this advantage.


It’s actually important to keep the blood flowing while you’re sitting down for ages. For those concerned, some of the foreign carriers are pretty good at demonstrating in-flight exercises in their safety videos. Use bathroom breaks as a periodic opportunity to stretch your legs and and either hang out in the back of the galley, at least for a few minutes.


In the days leading up to the flight, stick to fairly light and healthy meals. There’s nothing worse than sitting with a Mexican burrito like a stone in your stomach, combined with long periods of no movement, you’ll feel absolutely bad for it.

Though some people suggest skipping the meal service to combat jet lag, this depends on your own personal discipline. Airlines actually tend to serve more correct portions (Asian and/or European meal sizes). However, pack something easy to snack on, if that’s not going to be enough.


Especially because international flights usually serve free booze, people often resort to alcohol to help them sleep. Unfortunately, not only alcohol is a depressant, it’s also a dehydrating agent. When combined with the pressurized cabin of an airplane, its effects can be amplified.

Investing in a cheap eye mask and earplugs works fantastic in terms of improving the quality of your sleep and regulating your circadian rhythm by limiting light.

Getting to actual sleep is a far trickier business. That said, shortening your normal sleep by a few hours does help.

Jet Lag

Everything starts from the minute you book the flight. If it’s inevitable that you are going to have a flight with a connection, try booking the connection at the end. Nothing is more draining than beginning a 12-hour flight after you’ve spent three or five hours flying across the country just to get to the hardest portion of it. This may or may not be possible depending on where you live.

One of the most important factors in beating jet lag has to do with remembering that it’s easier to go to bed later than wake up earlier. Keeping this in mind, flights that have a late afternoon or nighttime arrival are preferred. If you arrive earlier, all it means is that you’ll have to stay up a whole lot longer.

The cabin crew is pretty good at giving visual cues during a flight; for instance, they’ll dim the cabin lights when it’s a good time to rest or return them completely on and be in-your-face during specific intervals. The point is to not be deterred if you can’t sync your body exactly, but to sleep proportionately when you need to.

If you’re on a long-haul flight, the chances are pretty high that we’re looking at a minimum time zone shift to six to twelve hours. If you sleep for half or up to three-quarters of the flight to anticipate an approximately 12-hour time zone change, consider that a job well done.

In a nutshell…

The thing about most of these tips is that what may work for another person may be completely different, but like anything, it’s only over time and with lots of practice does someone get used to flying long distance. Still, many of the strategies can cut down significantly on the stress of flying.

The important thing to remember is that, the flight does end eventually, thankfully.


Source: Map Happy – “How To Survive a Long-Haul Flight With Finesse”

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