When was the last time you took a long-haul flight? Regardless of how long it’s been, chances are that you haven’t forgotten the incredible discomfort (and boredom) that can result from sitting in a tiny, restrictive airplane seat for hours on end. From losing circulation in your legs, to losing sleep because of the crying baby a few seats away, long flights can feel like a physical and mental test of endurance.
But with a little preparation, your long-haul flight doesn’t have to be that way. This week, we’re sharing our top tips for how to make a long-haul flight feel more comfortable, and maybe even a little bit shorter.
What is a long-haul flight?
A long haul flight is considered any direct or nonstop flight over seven hours long, and an ultra long haul flight is any flight over twelve hours long. You should expect a long-haul flight when you’re flying across continents and oceans. Needless to say, you’ll need to be more prepared to take on a long flight than you will a short one, because seven plus hours of discomfort can feel like, well, an eternity.
Summary: How to make a long-haul flight more comfortable
- Choose the best clothes for the flight
- Pack your essential tech
- Choose toiletries to help you feel fresh
- Pack your own snacks
- Bring your sleeping gear
- Choose the best seat on the plane
- Bring the best bag for your flight
Best clothes for a long haul flight
The clothes that you wear onto the plane are undoubtedly one of the most important factors in your airplane comfort. Here’s how to dress for your long flight:
Wear loose clothing
If you only follow one rule for how to dress for a flight, it’s this: Wear loose clothes. Can you imagine sitting in a tight pair of jeans for twelve hours and enjoying it? Probably not. Tight clothing restricts your circulation, which is already impaired by the fact that you’re confined to a seat for hours on end.
For bottoms, go for sweatpants, leggings, and even pajama bottoms. Loose t-shirts, oversize sweaters, and hoodies make great tops. When it comes to long haul flights, your comfort is way more important than the cuteness level of your outfit.
Dress in layers
Although most airlines try to keep their cabin temperatures between 73 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, it never seems to be the just right temperature. And since temperatures can fluctuate, you should always bring layers in case you get too hot, or too cold.
For example, make sure that if you’re wearing a warm hoodie, you have a cool t-shirt underneath. Scarves are also excellent pieces for layering, and you can use them as a pillow when you’re not wearing them.
Bring compression socks
The only tight clothes that you should wear onto the plane are compression socks, which squeeze your legs and feet to increase blood flow. If your feet get cold, compression socks are usually thin enough that you can put a pair of warm wool socks on top.
Bring a simple change of clothes
Whether you’re the victim of an unfortunate spill during meal service, or you just want something fresh to change into before you land, it’s always a good idea to pack a change of clothes. If you’re using a Knack Pack, you can keep a change of clothes in the expandable suitcase compartment.
The best shoes to wear on the plane
One Bag travelers know that in order to save space in their bag, they should wear their bulkiest pair of shoes onto the plane. But if you’re traveling with more than one bag, or just want to put your in-flight comfort above all else, the best shoes to wear on the plane are slip-on shoes or sandals- they are easy to remove at the TSA checkpoint, and they are typically roomy enough to give your toes room to wiggle (which is good for circulation).
Best tech to bring on a long haul flight
Quality in-flight entertainment is never a guarantee. The movies might be sub-optimal, or your screen just might not work altogether. For this reason, you should always stock up on your own entertainment. And your entertainment doesn’t necessarily have to be all fun - even if you don’t plan to purchase WiFi on your flight, you can download work documents for offline editing before you take off.
Here’s a checklist that’ll help you make the most of your entertainment, whatever your entertainment of choice is:
. Your laptop or tablet - Make sure they’re fully charged before takeoff, with all of your Netflix, Hulu, and HBO downloads complete.
. Noise canceling headphones - These are an absolute must. Planes engines are white noise, but they’re incredibly loud, and it can be difficult to hear your audio with regular earbuds. They’re also great for canceling out the sounds of the unruly passengers in the seat behind you.
. Portable battery bank - Again, there’s no guarantee that the outlet in your seat is going to work. Just in case, bring a battery bank to charge your phone or your laptop.
. Ebooks - TV screens can really strain your eyes; give them a break and read a page-turning e-novel.
. Chargers and adapters - Make sure you have your laptop charger, plus a USB, USB-C, as well as the right adapter for the country you’re traveling to.
. Personal light - Bring your own small clip light; this will let your fellow passengers sleep while you’re reading or working.
Best toiletries for a long haul flight
Even though the air on planes is heavily filtered and very clean, you can still start to feel pretty grimy after sitting in a confined space for so long. Despite the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids, there are a bunch of toiletries that you can carry with you on the plane that’ll help you feel fresh, even though you can’t shower.
Pack these to feel clean on a long flight:
- Face wipes or a 1 oz bottle of face toner
- Listerine tablets or minty gum
- A disposable toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste
- Hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes
- Dry shampoo
- A small hair comb
Also, airplane air is extremely dry. Bring these toiletries to stay hydrated:
- A small, 1 oz. bottle of hand lotion
- Eye drops
Remember that the TSA is temporarily allowing passengers to carry a 12 oz bottle of hand sanitizer during Covid. Read this post for more tips on safe flying practices during Covid.
Best snacks for a long haul flight
Most flights over 8 hours will serve meals and snacks, but unfortunately, airplane food is famously bad: it’s salty, flavorless, and generally unhealthy. Pack your own healthier food so that you’ll feel better when you land, and so that you don’t have to wait for meal service to eat.
Some good snack ideas include:
- Multigrain crackers and cheese
- Your own not-salty trail mix made from nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and dark chocolate.
- Carrot or celery sticks
- Low-sugar granola and granola bars.
You can also ask for a cup of hot water on the plane, and use that to make your own tea, instant oatmeal, and even instant noodles.
Eat the food that makes you feel good in general, but remember that most non-solid foods such as hummus, yogurt, and nut butters won’t make it through TSA unless they’re in containers under 3.4 ounces. Also keep in mind that if you’re flying to another country, produce may get confiscated (so eat it before you land).
Pack your snacks in containers that don’t take up too much space, like reusable silicone bags or Ziploc bags. Definitely don’t bring Tupperware containers, as these take up a ton of space in your bag.
Although it can be tempting to indulge in the free alcohol that’s typically served on transcontinental flights, you may want to think twice. Alcohol can make you seriously dehydrated on a plane. And the same goes for coffee and caffeinated sodas; they’re dehydrating, and they’ll keep you awake. Plus, the best way to make a flight go by faster is to sleep through it.
An absolute must-bring on a long flight is your reusable water bottle. Fill it up before you get on the plane, and then ask flight attendants for refills. Aim to drink one bottle of water for every three hours of flight time. Not only will it keep you hydrated, but going to the bathroom is an excuse to get up and walk around.
Bring your sleeping gear
It’s not uncommon to face serious insomnia on a long flight, thanks to all the lights and noise and people bustling around the cabin. Some long-haul flights will provide you with a small sleeping kit, which usually includes earplugs, a face mask, a blanket, and even a small pillow. But it’s not guaranteed, so check with your airline before you pack, so that you know whether or not to bring your own.
For extra sleeping comfort, you may also want to bring a lightweight travel blanket, a neck pillow (ideally inflatable, as it’ll take up less space), and something for lumbar support like your scarf, another small pillow, or even a balled up sweater.
Pick the best seat on the plane
Before your long-haul flight, it’s a good idea to research your airplane and determine which seat will make you the most comfortable. Seat Guru is an excellent resource for doing this; it has seat maps and seat reviews for different airlines and airplanes. But before you take a deep-dive into seat research, here are few rules of thumb for seating preferences on the plane:
. Choose an aisle seat if you like to get up and move around. Just remember that sleeping might be more challenging, as you’re exposed to all the movement in the aisle. Aisle seats also have better access to the overhead compartments.
. Choose a window seat if you want to sleep. You can rest your head on the wall, and you’re farther away from all the movement.
. Sit near the front or back of the plane if you want to avoid the loudest engine noise (the engines are underneath the wings).
. Sit towards the back of the plane for a lower chance of being near crying babies. Airlines often put families with babies and small children near the front of the plane on international and long-haul flights.
. Sit near the front of the plane, or near the wings, for less turbulence. The worst turbulence is felt in the back of the aircraft.
. For a higher likelihood of having a row to yourself, choose seats at the very back of the plane, as these are usually the last to fill up.
Choose the best bag for your flight
You’ll need a good backpack to hold all of your long-haul flight essentials. The best carry-on backpack for a long flight has the following features:
. Lots of pockets - Pockets keep you organized, so that you know where everything is at all times.
. A clamshell opening - This makes it way easier to access all the items in your backpack, without pulling everything out first.
. Fits under the seat in front of you - If you’re not sitting in the aisle seat, you won’t have easy access to the overhead compartment. Make sure that your carry-on will fit under the seat in front of you so that you can get to all of your snacks and toiletries without having to make your seatmates get up.
Always check your airline’s baggage size specifications to be sure that your backpack will fit under the seat in front of you, and at least into the overhead bins. Knack Packs are designed to fit under the seat on most jets, even when expanded.
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to your comfort on a long-haul flight. What’s the longest flight that you’ve been on? Let us know in the comments!