Flying Tips for International Flights

Updated on May 11, 2016

Everything I've Learned Over 10 years About Flying

I am a self-proclaimed expert on overseas travel. I've been doing it with ease for the past 10 years to SE Asia, and prior to that for an additional 4 years in Europe.

A flight from Thailand to New York City, can take up to 27 hours including the layovers, depending on what airline you're traveling. I'm about to give you all the information I know on how to make your international flight the easiest and most peaceful flight you can have.

I usually travel alone or with one partner. I'm fast - wickedly fast. If you've seen the movie, "Up in the Air" with George Clooney, his assessment at the security checkpoint is the same as mine. Always choose the line with businessmen who wear slip on shoes and start unbuckling their pants when they're still 2 back in line. If you're in a hurry, never get behind a family or parents with a newborn.

Essentials For an Overnight or Overseas Flight

Bring an empty bottle through the gate!
Bring an empty bottle through the gate!
A Sarong is So Right!
A Sarong is So Right!
Socks are helpful!
Socks are helpful!
Neck Pillow - inflatable
Neck Pillow - inflatable
Sleeping Pills, just in case...
Sleeping Pills, just in case...
Almonds for protein
Almonds for protein
Lip Balm to save your lips
Lip Balm to save your lips
Baby wipes aren't just for babies
Baby wipes aren't just for babies
Moisturizing face mask for tranfers
Moisturizing face mask for tranfers
Samples of face moisturizers
Samples of face moisturizers
Collapsible, reusable bag for travel gear.
Collapsible, reusable bag for travel gear.
How small your collapsible bag should be when stored.
How small your collapsible bag should be when stored.
Towlettes are great before a meal or when you need a refresher.
Towlettes are great before a meal or when you need a refresher.
Sample moisturizer to save your skin.
Sample moisturizer to save your skin.

A Survival Guide for a Long Airline Trip

On an airline flight, there is only one thing aside from not crashing that I care about, and that's comfort. I have carefully designed the following list of articles to bring on board to ensure complete comfort (well as much as possible when you're in the air for 2 days). The idea is to deck out your seat to create an environment that will cradle and love you while you are in flight.

On an international flight, if you can't fly business or first class, there is only one option: the Emergency Seat. If you can read, see, walk and talk, you can have the emergency seat. Airlines usually do not reserve this seat until check-in.

Get to the airport check-in before it opens and wait in line to request the emergency seat. It's well worth the wait - especially on a 20+ hour flight. The seats are golden, rich opportunities of opulence and freedom. Don't get the one near the window, or you will have no leg room. Take the middle or the aisle.

This amazing seat does come at a price, there is no seat in front of you to stash extra stuff, it all needs to go above you or on your seat. But, it's easy to stand up during the flight, plenty of leg room, room to stretch, you're right near the bathrooms and the kitchen. And, the stewards are nicer to people that get the emergency seats than anyone else on the plane.

Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at the gate using a water fountain. This assures you will have water on the flight when you want it. Actually, take two with you and you'll be twice as happy. Jet-lag is caused in part by dehydration.

No matter how thrilling their wine and beer list is on the airplane, don't drink alcohol or caffeine or your jet-lag will be worse than it needs to be.

Bring a collapsible, reusable bag with you. Inside this bag, you can put your water bottles and other essentials such as:

An inflatable neck pillow - find one that folds down and can be put away in a sleeve. I know the plush ones are awesome, but they take up too much space and slow you down. Inflate your pillow after take off. Deflate your pillow as soon as you land.

A pillow for your lower back - I have a fuzzy, oblong pillow with a monkey on it. It's a kid's pillow and I toss it behind my lower back and the airplane seat is actually comfy - if you can believe it.

If you have space next to you once all the pillows are in place, shove a bottle of water between your hip and the arm of the seat. If it won't fit,see if you can wedge it between your foot and the seat so it's handy. Be careful not to let it roll to the seat behind you.

Earplugs - forget the pharmacy. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and get construction worker grade earplugs. Find the highest density they have. They are my favorite tool for flying, especially when surrounded by 12 screaming infants. (it's happened before!).

Sleeping Pills - I don't like them, but they work. Find out your flight schedule and see when you should be sleeping at the point of arrival. Try to get a good 7-8 hours sleep if you can.

Almonds - I keep extra protein with me - especially when they're serving food and I'm starving and know I'm going to be on the last row to get served. If you request a special meal (vegetarian, Kosher, fish, etc), you'll be served first, but you have to wait with your empty food tray until they clear everyone else's.

Sarong - Another favorite tool. Sarongs do everything. They are clothing, towels, pillows, sheets, bags and most importantly blankets. Take your sarong and use it under the blanket they give you. It gets really cold when you're traveling over the sea at such high altitudes. I like to bring my brightest most obnoxious one so I don't forget or lose it on the seat when I leave. They also fold down to a tiny square if you need to be compact.

Socks - Take off your shoes and stay a while. But, keep your feet warm. Again, bring the super bright ones so you don't lose them. Some airlines provide little slippers that you can use when you got to the bathroom. It's a very nice feature.

Baby Wipes - Not just for babies. Bring them to the bathroom and use them to "freshen up" since you don't have a shower. They work great instead of toilet paper.

Moist Towlettes - save them from the restaurants. They're great for cleaning your hands before you eat (alcohol to kill germs). And, use them on your face to freshen up. And, they don't count as a liquid at the security gate.

Face Mask - I know this looks absurd - especially if you're a guy. But, when you transfer, (if you transfer), go to the bathroom and pop one of these on your face for about 8 minutes and it will save you from chapped, flaky skin, which sometimes happens on these long flights.

This is a good time to remind you to drink lots and lots of water during the flight.

Lip Balm - Chapped lips happen frequently to travelers. Burt's Bees is divine and will help with this potentially uncomfortable problem.

Samples of Face Cleanser and Moisturizers - I stopped by a Chanel counter at a department store and asked for samples of their latest products. The sample size happens to be free and fits within the liquid requirements of what airlines will allow you to take on the plane. That's two major pluses - good products for your journey (why not live it up like royalty!), that are free and in-line with the rules of flight. Do your face a favor - clean it and moisturize it. That goes for men too.

Make sure you toss everything that is empty in trash cans along the way, so when you get to your final destination, you should have your sarong, socks, pillows and your bag. Everything else is used and garbage...very clean and compact.

Those are all of my tips for international travel. Of course, bring something to entertain yourself such as a book, magazine or an ipod.

Do everyone a favor on the plane - rip out the perfume ads from the magazine before you get on the plane. And, please refrain from wearing perfume or smelly lotions on the plane...You never know who may be sensitive to your scents. And, unfortunately, they haven't invented breathable nose plugs yet!

By the way, I didn't mention this earlier. I recommend wearing comfy jeans and a t-shirt with a zip up jacket for the flight. Try to skip the accessories as they only slow you down. If you don't wear a belt and wear slip on shoes, you'll fly through security.

Happy and safe travels!


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      One of the things that I always remember to take is music. It helps to drown out every other noise.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I would recommend (for long flights) using compression socks. They'll help prevent deep vein thrombosis and keep your legs comfortable when trying to sleep.

    • emilynemchick profile image

      Emily Nemchick 

      6 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      These are some awesome tips! I'll keep them in mind for my flight from America to England in a few months.

    • matt_elmore profile image


      6 years ago from San Diego

      Great tips! Eye mask and ear plugs are a god send. I'll go with your suggestion on trying long socks next time. Planes are COOOOLLLD.

    • BahamasFinder profile image

      Eric Smith 

      7 years ago from Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas

      Great tips thanks for sharing them! Great idea with the water bottles too, I never thought of that. I usually just buy one on the other side.

    • dwachira profile image

      Danson Wachira 

      8 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Very useful tips. Voted up and useful.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      8 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Very good information on flying. I have done most of your tips during my flight to the Philippines but not with the empty bottle to bring with me to pass through the security guards. I usually buy mineral water when I´m inside the boarding premises. I´ll share this to my facebook account. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and useful.

    • EllenDean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Austin

      Hi 2patricias, Thank you for those additions - very helpful information.

      Flying from the tropics to cold weather, I always have friends meet me with winter coats and scarves! It's a ridiculous sight at the airport of winter transformation.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • 2patricias profile image


      9 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Two other points:

      Pat writes - I often travel to cold countries (long haul flights) and I take a huge cashmere/wool shawl. I use it as an extra blanket on the plane. When I reach my destination is a scarf/extra layer under my coat.

      Going to a cold place I want my boots. I have to wear these to save luggage space. I wear boots with laces as my feet/ankles sometimes swell. I take these off way back in the security line to save time.

    • EllenDean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Austin

      Hi surf traveler, I wonder if the emergency seats differ from airline to airline?

      Whereabouts were you going on your journey?

      I've usually been on Boeing 747's, Boeing 777's and Boeing 767's as far as I can remember. And, the main carriers were usually China Air, China Eastern or Korean Air. In these planes, there actually was no seat in front of the emergency seats - just empty space. (lots of it) Unless, you get that window seat, then the emergency door takes up leg room. (Seems like they should be a bit less cheap and not make that a seat, since it's impossible to sit there.)

      Moist towlettes are pretty great, aren't they?! Thanks for stopping by!

    • surf traveler profile image

      surf traveler 

      9 years ago

      You got some good advice Ellendean for those long airline flights. I like to have a moist towlette on the flight too. I haven't always had good luck with the emergency seats. On one airline, the seats were not as long, so my legs hung down strangely. I guess they wanted to free up more room in the space between the seat in front, yet not have to move the seat further back.


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