The Ultimate Guide to Flying Comfortably on Long Flights (30 Tips and Tricks)

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Flying. For some of us, viewing the cotton candy sky from the little window, snuggling up with the blanket and a good film or slurping down a miniature Diet Coke and pretending you’re a pixie are all part of the magic of travel.

For many more of us, however, flying can be, and often is, very stressful. Not just ‘deadline at work’ stressful; we’re talking ‘dinner with the in-laws’ stressful, right?

But, just like anything in life, that stress can be drastically reduced, or even removed, with a little more forward-thinking and know-how.

Here’s our definitive list of thirty little tricks, tips, and hacks that you can do to make your next flight, from your front door to the hotel suite, a far more pleasant, and far less stressful, experience.

Pre-Flight Tips and Hacks

1 – Pay for baggage in advance. Although many flight booking websites will hide the extras behind the initial cost, the option to add baggage is always there.

As much as watching the number in your cart rise is never fun, paying for it all in one go will make your check-in swifter and cheaper, as you’ll always pay more at the airport, particularly on budget airlines.

2 –  When you pick your seat on the plane, check the seat map for your specific airline through Seat Guru.

Seat Guru have the lowdown on 1208 aircraft and counting, and color code bad or awkward seating, so that you don’t have to find out the hard way for ten painful hours.

3 – Make sure your frequent flier number is attached to your reservations.

If you don’t have a frequent flier number, and you travel often with a particular airline, it’s definitely worth you getting one in the long run.

The more miles you fly, the more points you earn that can go toward flight upgrades and other perks. Many programs also cover more than one airline.

4 – If your airline has an app, download it and use it to check-in. The less time you can spend in the counter queue, the better. Some even offer free onboard entertainment via your personal device if you have the app.

5 – Anything you can do to destress before you fly will help. This includes before and at the airport. Even the lightest of workouts will help you take your mind off of things.

At large international airports, you’ll have spas and games rooms to help you take your mind off of the flight. You can also relax in the lounge if you have a business class ticket or have a Priority Pass membership.

6 – Always charge all your electronic devices the night before you fly. Not all aircraft have USB ports. And it can be a long, long flight without your trusted devices in hand and alive and kicking.

7 – Prepare your devices for being offline by downloading music playlists, moves and/or podcasts to your tablet or laptop, and/or books to your Kindle.

You’d be amazed at how quickly time goes by up high when you’re sucked into an action-packed film or a page-turning novel.

8 – If you don’t have a portable charger, be sure to get one. It’s a lifesaver to have it will charge devices up rapidly and give you hours of extra juice. Just remember to charge the charger, too, the night before!

9 – Do not binge on sugary, caffeinated or carb-heavy food. The desire to reach for comfort food in times of stress is strong.

But once the crash inevitably comes, you’re only going to feel even more agitated and restless when airborne.

Pack healthy food for your time in the airport and on the plane. Protein-rich food, such as almonds or protein bars, are the best to have for when the cravings flare up.

Related: How to Eat Healthy While Traveling – 7 Smart Travel Tips

10 – If you need a special meal on the plane (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher), remember to order ahead.

Most airlines require 24-48 hour notice for any special meals, so be sure to do this during booking.

11 – Get yourself a sleeping kit. Many of us are light sleepers, so the noise and discomfort of a plane are far from desirable when it comes to getting some much-needed shut-eye.

But you’d be amazed at what a good sleeping kit can do for you. Eye masks, earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, and travel pillows can all help numb the distractions around you and help you nod off for a few hours.

If these items are alien to you, try sleeping with them at home to get accustomed to wearing them.

12 – Drink plenty of water. Keeping hydrated is a key way to reduce restlessness and stress on flights, yet is so often always overlooked in favor of a sugary drink.

By bringing an empty plastic bottle or two, you can often fill up using the water fountains found in nearly all airports, and avoid paying extortionate fees in the shops for drinks.

Just be sure to fill up after you’ve been through security, otherwise your bladder and your head will be pulsing on the plane!

13 – Wear comfortable clothes. It sounds obvious, but most of us will still opt for smarter, dressier clothes when leaving for the airport.

Don’t worry about looking smart. You’re at an airport. Everyone is too busy getting to their flight to focus on you. You’re not on a date, so don’t worry about it.

If you are… bad choice of location!

In addition, always pack an extra layer or two in your carry-on. When the plane air con comes on, it can get incredibly cold.

14 – Travel with hand sanitizer. Sweat and germs are rife in airports, and it’s very easy to feel sticky and clammy. A small bottle of hand sanitizer will get through security and can help you stay hygienic.

15 – Bring a pen. That way, you can fill out immigration forms on the plane & get ahead of the queue when you land. 

Airport Tips and Hacks

16 – Never join the security line with kids in it. It will take much longer.

17 – Airport lounge access, we guarantee, will change your life. If you fly frequently, it’s a worthwhile investment. Paying for Priority Pass or LoungeClub will give you access to various lounges around the world.

Alternatively, you can get those passes via credit cards like American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

From free food to comfortable seating, television to just simple peace and quiet, they’re far more relaxing than the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport.

18 – If you do have lounge access, be sure to set an alarm so you don’t miss your flight.

It’s very easy to lose track of time when you’re sitting back with a beer and watching the television.

You can also ask the lounge concierge if they make flight boarding announcements (some do and some don’t).

Similarly, some have tv monitors displaying the boarding announcements.

19 – Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to your gate. Sometimes, you have to pass through additional checks (like going from a Schengen zone to a non-Schengen zone) or having to take a shuttle to your gate.

In some extreme cases, it can take up to 30 minutes to get to it. In larger airports, the signage will give you time indications.

20 – Bring a water bottle and refill it at the water fountains after you’ve passed the security checks or at the airport lounge. That way, you’re ready to stay hydrated throughout the flight.

21 – At the counter, it’s always worth asking if you can upgrade your flight. If you don’t ask you don’t get, and sometimes the fee is much less if there are still spare seats on the flight.

If you have special airline status, make sure to enlist yourself on the upgrade list.

Airplane Tips and Hacks

22 – In addition to staying hydrated on the plane, lip balm and moisturizer can help address the issue of irritable dry skin.

23 – Try and stay off the booze, and instead stick to your water. Having a drink to take the edge off is always tempting, but more often than not drinking will actually make your state worse, as the alcohol will dehydrate you.

24 – While we’re on the subject on drinks, coffee too can be just as bad. If you’re tired, it’ll feel like a good decision, but once you crash, you’re going to feel much, much worse.

25 – Bare in mind that it’s harder to digest food up in the air, so try not to binge on too many snacks. If you can, stick to the inflight meals.

26 – Once you’re on the plane, change your watch to the local time of your destination, which you can look up online beforehand.

That way, you can plan ahead and won’t be shocked when the pilot announces it on landing.

27 – Try not to stay seated for the whole flight. Get up when you can, and walk up to the toilet area, where there’s generally more space. Here you can stretch, move around and break yourself out of the stiffness.

28 – Fill out any necessary immigration forms on the plane, as the flight attendants usually hand them out before landing.

29 – Sit back and lose yourself in your downloaded media if you’re not one of the lucky ones who can sleep on flights.

On Arrival Travel Tips and Hacks

30 – Make sure you’ve arranged your travel from the airport to your destination ahead of time.

If you haven’t, make sure you only book an official taxi or Uber and you’re familiar with any taxi scams that might be going on in the country.

Travel Tips Summary

And there you have it. Now, flying doesn’t have to be a prolonged ordeal of misery!

If you can follow even a few of these steps, you’ll have a far less stressful time from the moment you lock the front door to the moment you pull up at your accommodation.

So, all that’s left for you to do is book your next flight, somewhere exotic and wonderful!

We recommend Skyscanner. Some of the flights they can find you are astoundingly cheap. Have a look for yourself.

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Author: Dale Johnson is a content writer, creator, and full time digital nomad as of 2016.

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