1. What clothes to wear on a long-haul flight
This is easy – comfortable clothes. Remember a plane can get cold, so you want comfortable, loose-fitting layers that you can easily take on and off. You’ll also spend most of the time sat in your seat, so anything with a tight waist band or itchy label is a no-no. An extra pair of socks or slippers are a good idea, and bear in mind your feet might swell at high altitudes, so tight-fitting shoes are not sensible. Also, take a little bag to store your jewelry in your hand luggage while you’re in the air.
2. Reserve the best seats on a long-haul
Reserving a good seat on a long-haul, especially if you’re in economy, is one of the best ways to make sure you survive the flight. Think ahead, do your research, and book early. To get the best seats follow these rules:
- If you need more leg room, choose an exit row. If they’re not available to reserve online, ask at the check in desk.
- If you want to avoid children on the plane, book further to the back. Families are usually given the bassinet seats at the front of the plane.
- If you like to move about on a long-haul flight, choose an aisle seat. While window seats might offer you (relatively) more privacy on a short-haul flight, 10 hours is a long time to be hemmed in by two other people.
Some airlines make you wait until just a few days before departure to reserve your seat, but if not, it’s best to get in early.
3. Help yourself to sleep on a plane
Some people can sleep on a plane as soon as they sit down, but others need more help. This is where your long-haul flight essentials come in handy. Invest in a good travel pillow to help you get comfortable and avoid neck ache. While you’re at it, get a good sleeping mask, ear plugs, or noise-canceling headphones. Miniature toiletries such a toothbrush and toothpaste can also help you feel ready for sleep. The more distractions you can block out from your senses, the better chance you have of ignoring the other few hundred passengers around you!
4. Don’t over pack your hand luggage
The more you pack, the more you have to take care of and find space for. On a long-haul you need every inch of legroom you can get, so pack your long-haul flight essentials (pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, water and a shawl or light blanket), and make sure your hand luggage fits into the overhead lockers. Try to take one cabin bag and one smaller handbag which can fit neatly under the seat in front of you. Read our list of some interesting cabin bags on the market for some inspiration.
5. Take your own food and drink on the plane
Your body clock can take a bit of a hit on a long-haul flight and your meals might be served when you’re not expecting them. To avoid getting hungry, pack some slow-energy release snacks like nut bars or dried fruit in your hand luggage. You can take a sealed bottle of water on to the plane if you’ve purchased it after you passed through the security gate.
6. Move around the plane
Doing gentle exercises in your seat or going for a walk up and down the aisles is absolutely necessary on a long-haul flight. As well as helping to keep you sane, it’ll reduce your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You need to keep the circulation flowing in your legs, so it’s recommended you get up at least every two hours. It won’t be a particularly scenic walk but it could help you burn some energy and hopefully sleep a little better.
7. Drink water
We know the lure of free drinks is appealing, but the best thing you can drink on a long-haul flight is water; it’s really important you stay hydrated. You could take your own flask or empty bottle and ask the cabin crew to fill it up for you if you didn’t want to wait for the regular trolley runs. The other important reason for staying hydrated is it helps stop your skin from tightening up or feeling dry. A little travel-size tube of moisturizer would also help with that (just make sure its 100ml or less). If you’re prone to dry eyes, pack some eye drops in your clear plastic bag for liquids in your hand luggage.
Take advantage of the time you have on a long-haul fight to switch off and relax. Watch a movie (or three), read the book you haven’t yet had the time to get stuck into or get your guidebook out and start planning your itinerary. Or if you’re flying home for your annual visit to see friends and family, do as little as possible before the craziness of your trip really begins! Try to see all those hours in the air as bonus time rather than just a necessary evil.
9. Find new friends
Flights can be a great way of meeting interesting people heading the same way as you. If you’re bored, you could always strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you or the person queuing for the bathroom. Admittedly they may not be a friend for life, but if it kills half an hour, that can only be a good thing! Best case scenario is you find a kindred spirit and someone you might actually see again after you step off the plane.
10. Pick a good airline
If you’re an old hat at flying long haul, you’ll know how to tell a good long-haul airline from a bad one. Do some digging and look for reviews of what other passengers have said about the different carriers. You might feel loyalty towards one particular airline, but they might be notorious for offering bad long-haul flights. In general, the best long-haul airlines will have seats wider than 17 inches, but work out what’s important to you. If you’re looking for good food, talk to other passengers about what they think of British Airways or Cathay Pacific. Or if space is important to you, look up the leg room measurements and reserve yourself a good seat. Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines consistently rate well for long-haul flights. The Telegraph Travel Awards 2015/2016 awarded Emirates Airlines as the best long-haul airline, bumping it up from runner up the previous year.
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*Published December 2016. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.