How to Survive a Long Flight

Updated on August 15, 2017
Lindsay Langstaff profile image

Lindsay studies global business and Spanish at the University of Evansville while traveling in her free time.

View of Montreal from the airplane.
View of Montreal from the airplane.

Traveling by plane is an exciting way to travel. You get to fly thousands of miles over mountains, oceans, hills, valleys, and so much more. The views can be absolutely stunning, particularly at sunrise or sunset. Not to mention that it is, by and far, the most effective way to travel long distances.

The drawback, however, is that you're crammed into a small space with a hundred other people, some of whom may have screaming children or poor hygiene. Suddenly, traveling by air begins to lose its appeal.

Don't worry though, because there are many different ways to make your flights more bearable and even enjoyable. I've done quite a bit of flying myself and have learned some tips and tricks along the way. In this article I will pass along my knowledge to you so that your flight experience is the best it can be.

Look Into In-Flight Entertainment

Some flights will offer movies, pod casts, music, etc. during the flight on a screen in front of you. This is incredibly convenient and helps make long flights pass by more quickly. Not every flight will offer this, however. Usually the cheapest flights you can find will not have it. If you're going on a shorter flight (less than four hours), you may be fine without in-flight entertainment. For a flight longer than that, however, it may be challenging to keep yourself content without it.

It's a matter of personal preference, more than anything else. If you're very tight on money, you may have to forego more expensive flights with entertainment offered. Or, if you can keep yourself easily entertained without a screen, in-flight entertainment may not be a necessity for you. Regardless of what your situation is, I have many different tips listed that can help a variety of people.

Planes with in-flight entertainment will typically have screens mounted on the seats as shown.  They offer a wide variety of options to help you stay entertained.
Planes with in-flight entertainment will typically have screens mounted on the seats as shown. They offer a wide variety of options to help you stay entertained.

Bring Snacks

While some airlines will offer complimentary snacks and meals (meals come with longer flights), it's also a good idea to bring your own so that you don't get hungry. It can be hard to stay in good spirits when your stomach is growling and you can't stop thinking about your next meal.

It's also a good idea to keep some gum or suckers on you as well to help your ears pop. Sometimes it can be very difficult to make your ears pop during take-off and landing so having something to aid that can help you feel more comfortable.

Bring Earbuds and Music

I would highly recommend investing in a quality set of noise-cancelling earbuds for your flight. You can bring headphones instead if you want, but they do take up more space so you need to take that into consideration. Space may be tight and many times it's easier to simply bring earbuds.

Create a good playlist of music before you get on your flight so that you have something to drown out the background noise and even fall asleep to (if you can). Sometimes you may be blessed with a quiet flight where everyone is silent and minds their own business, but other times you may have screaming children or drunk people. Always prepare for the worst.

On my eight hour flight to Israel I recall having a large family on the plane that would walk around with their screaming children, trying to rotate all of them between family members to see who could get them to be quiet. This was non-stop during the entire duration of the flight. A nightmare for everyone on the plane and the flight attendants who kept trying to keep them seated. The only thing that saved me during this flight was an excellent set of earbuds and good music, so I would say that this is a must-have.

Anker SoundBuds

Anker SoundBuds Wireless Headphones - Bluetooth Black Water Resist Built in Mic
Anker SoundBuds Wireless Headphones - Bluetooth Black Water Resist Built in Mic
I use these earbuds for working out and also for flights. They are durable, stay in your ear, and do an excellent job of canceling out sound.

Talk to Your Neighbor

I know that I just said in my previous point to bring earbuds and stay silent, but you don't have to do that the whole flight. You may have someone sitting next to you that's interesting and fun to talk to. I have actually met some absolutely fascinating people on flights.

Be careful with this one though because not everyone enjoys having conversations while flying. Your neighbor may want to sleep, read, or listen to music during the flight instead of talk. Make sure that you're being respectful of their space.

Bring Books or Puzzles

If you're not a reader, it may be a good idea to become one before your flight. Books are a great way to pass the time and entertain yourself. Find what interests you, whether that be fantasy, biographies, or realistic fiction, and read that. With some ear plugs and a good book, time flies (pun intended) when you're on a plane.

If you can't get into reading, there's still plenty of other things you can bring with you like crossword puzzles, sudoku, or any other form of written entertainment. Any activity that will keep your mind occupied is an excellent idea for a flight.

Dress Comfortably

Don't worry about how you look when you fly (unless you're going somewhere that you need to look nice for). Wear what makes you feel the most comfortable because you will be sitting in a small space for a long period of time. Having anything on you that could become itchy could turn into a nightmare very quickly.

Keep in mind that planes tend to be cold, so you may want to wear something warm. I would recommend bringing layers so that if you start to get cold, you can put something on and vice versa.

Stay Hydrated

The air in planes is very dry and you can get dehydrated much more quickly, which can lead to some nasty headaches. Make sure that you bring water on the plane with you because the flight attendants won't bring enough water to keep you hydrated.

Some people (myself included) tend to dehydrate themselves on planes to avoid getting up to use the restroom. This is a mistake because while it is annoying to get up to use the bathroom, particularly if you have a middle or window seat, it does give you an opportunity to stretch your legs and avoid cramps.


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Don't Get Drunk

Surprise, drinking alcohol dehydrates you, which can leave you hungover if you have too much. As I mentioned before, you get dehydrated far more quickly on planes than you would on the ground. For some people, a glass of wine can help them sleep better. If you are one of these people, by all means, have a glass of wine so that you can sleep through your flight. Otherwise, I would recommend avoiding alcohol on flights since it may make you feel unwell.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Feeling well-rested before your flight will improve your mood and therefore, your experience. When you're in a good mood, you will be able to tolerate whatever may come your way in the airport and during your flight more easily. Don't skip out on sleeping the night before in order to sleep on the plane. Sleeping on planes isn't easy to do for many people and even if you do fall asleep, it won't be very peaceful or fulfilling sleep.

I still recommend making an effort to get some rest on your flight though, so make sure that you bring a neck pillow, a sleeping mask, and earplugs/music to help you feel more comfortable. Even if it isn't restful sleep, it will still help time pass far more quickly.

Take in the Scenery Below You

Sometimes you will be flying over oceans or deserts where there may be absolutely nothing to see, but other times there may be beautiful mountains or fields. I've been on a plane over twenty times now and I can still find beauty in looking at what's below and around me. Especially when there is a sunset or sunrise.

Take time to marvel at the sights from thousands of miles above the ground because you're experiencing something that not everyone gets to experience. The world is a beautiful place, so take advantage of that and observe it's wonders as much as you can while in the air.

The view from my flight coming into Heathrow Airport in London, England.
The view from my flight coming into Heathrow Airport in London, England.

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    © 2017 Lindsay Langstaff


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