7 Tips for How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

Everyone’s has a flying story. They’re a stand-up comic’s bread and butter. But a long-haul flight is no laughing matter. Here are our 7 neat tricks to help you survive your next long-haul flight.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 7 tips for How to survive long haul flights

I suppose I could just say ‘fly 1st class’ and leave it at that, but I don’t suppose you’d appreciate that much, would you? Mrs Romance and I fly a lot, and we’ve taken quite a few long-haul flights alone and together over the years.

Here are our top 7 tips we’ve accumulated for surviving those 7-hour-plus flights – though they also work on short, domestic flights too:

Give yourself more space

If you’re travelling with a partner, reserve the window and the aisle seat, leaving the middle one free. It’s unlikely a lone traveller will book that seat and if someone does, just ask if you can swap seats to be next to your partner.

Sleep

Find out the time at your destination and sleep when it’s nighttime there. The sooner you can get into that sleep pattern, the sooner you’ll get over jet lag.

Get into position. I find the most comfortable way to sleep is loosening my seatbelt, reclining my seat, folding up the wings of my headrest and rolling onto my side. My feet and legs just fit under the seat in front.

Mr and Mrs Romance - How to survive a long haul flight

Drink

Try to keep up your water consumption, though I try not to drink too much because I hate having to use the on-board toilets.

People will tell you not to drink alcohol on flights, but damn it, you’ve paid for it! I try to balance the rehydrating effects of water with the dehydrating results of booze so I don’t have to get up too much during the flight.

Mrs Romance and I both enjoy a bloody mary – we believe the tomato juice counts as one of our serves of vegetables! It also fills you up. If you don’t want the alcohol, you can still ask for the bloody mary mix, which can taste a bit better than just tomato juice.

Food options

I hate missing meals, but if you do, you can usually ask if there’s something left to eat when you wake up.

I always try to avoid the ‘cooked breakfast’ airlines love to hand out. That scrambled egg stuff is revolting and that white ‘chicken’ sausage is just weird.

If you’re flying with – for example – an Asian airline, ask for the local dish over the international one. It’s likely to taste a whole lot better. And at least you’ll have a novel experience.

Order a ‘special meal’. Mrs Romance has discovered that ordering the gluten-free option usually results in something quite tasty these days – tastier than the regular meals in fact. Her food also comes out first, which she thoroughly enjoys!

Carry mints with you. They combat the perma-morning-breath and will also help if you’re having trouble with decompression in your ears.

Mr and Mrs Romance - 7 tips for How to survive a long haul flight

Film choices

There’s nothing better than flicking through the media options during your mid-air incarceration. But what to watch? I usually go for mindless action movies or kids’ films, and that serves me pretty well.

Mrs Romance – for some reason – likes to watch real tear-jerkers, which tend to upset her sleep pattern with dreams.

Try not to start watching anything too involved either. You want something that’s easy to put down and pick up again if you fall asleep in the middle.

Make your flight time a facial session – or at least moisturize

You’re sitting there with no one looking at you for an extended period of time. Why not put a nutrient-rich facemask on?

I’m not saying sit there with cucumber slices and a mud pack on your mush, but Mrs R recommends taking your make-up off and applying an oil-based treatment or serum to keep the drying effects of flying at bay.

At the very least, bring a small (under 100ml) tube of moisturizer that you can pop on mid-flight.

Mrs R also has a freshening mist that she likes to spray on my face and make me flinch. It seemingly helps wake you up and annoys your husband!

Mr and Mrs Romance - in-flight essentials to survive a long haul flight

Noise-cancellation and eye masks

I wasn’t sure if these worked, but what an investment! Noise cancelling headphones cut out that constant background hum from the jet engines and some of the chatter of a busy flight. They also improve the sound quality of the movies 100%.

They seem a bit expensive but for around $200 you can get a pair that’s comfortable and stops a lot of the noise that you don’t realize is keeping you awake.

Don’t get the really cheap pairs though – they do nothing. On the other hand I don’t know if the $500 pairs are worth that much.

Mrs Romance loves her eye mask. It cuts out all light and keeps her asleep. It’s also a clear sign that she’s asleep so no one bothers her with anything.

I can’t wear them – I feel claustrophobic and a little vulnerable.

Bonus tip: how much do you move around?

With a lot of people worrying about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), planes are now full of people wandering around getting in the way. DVT is a danger – especially if you’re sitting in one place for a long time.

However, unless you are on certain types of medication, have a pre-existing condition or are very unlucky, it’s unlikely you’ll suffer from this very dangerous symptom.

DVT is where blood sits in veins of extremities, and pools and can eventually clot due to lack of movement.

Blood is moved back up the body from the feet and legs by blood pressure but also with the help of the tiny muscles in the legs that act as pumps every time you move. You don’t need to run around or do sets of squats to get these muscles working.

Providing you move your feet and legs a little and frequently stretch, there’s no reason why you should need to get up other than personal comfort. Making circular movements with your feet and ankles, stretching your legs out and flexing your calf muscles is plenty.

What’s your top tip for flying? Do you have any pet hates when you’re on board? How about a good flying story? Tell us in the comments!

38 Comments

  • Reply November 4, 2014

    Ashley

    Love this! Some really great tips! I didn’t think about the moisturizing or the reserving the window and aisle seats! What great ideas guys! Thanks!

    • Reply November 4, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hi Ashley! So glad you like the tips – that booking the seats thing is good, isn’t it? And the check-in staff know that little game too, so as long as you’re nice to them – or you don’t get anyone on their bad day – they keep that middle seat free.
      Happy travels
      Jxx

  • Reply November 4, 2014

    Steph @ Lipstick & Cake

    Brilliant tips! I hope one day soon we can all catch a long flight together, I think it would highly entertaining… you can never play enough ‘would you rather’… or can you?
    By the way… would you rather have a window seat and risk being unable to move out to visit the toot because the two peeps next to you won’t wake up and are too big to climb over OR have an aisle seat and the two people next to you have drunk a lot and keeping getting up to use the loo?
    GO!

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      That sounds like a very good idea indeed, Stephanie! We should make that happen!
      No, there cannot be enough Would you rather…? games. They’re awesome. As for your latest efforts, I would have to say the first one. I’d rather be clambering over people than the other way round and have someone try and push past me every five minutes. The shit does my head in.
      Be good and see you soon.
      Jxx

  • We’re big fans of the aisle and window seat trick and it really does work, more often than not. I swear by those C shaped travel pillows, it makes sleeping so much more comfy, and I always take a pair of socks to wear in flight to keep my tootsies toasty.

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hi Sammie. Yeah, that aisle and window trick’s really good, isn’t it? I like the C-shaped pillow idea providing they’re not the blow-up types. Whoever designed those things didn’t think where the seam would go… as in right across the back of your neck.
      Good idea with the socks too. Nothing worse than cold toes on a flight. I like to wear shoes that come off and go back on easily too, so I’m not battling with laces when I need to go to the loo etc.
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • Reply November 4, 2014

    Paula

    Having just done 4 long flights I can totally relate to pretty much all this. I am with Mrs R on the eye mask – love mine and the spray mist when your skin feels dry.

    I always go for an aisle seat because I hate feeling trapped. When possible I try to nab the first row of two at the back of the plane as it starts to narrow. You have more room as there the aisle gets wider here for a little bit before it really narrows. Only trade-off is the back of the plane is a little noisier and you may not get your meal choice if they start service from the front.

    My biggest tip though is for Air Asia and their Optiontown service. For $20 you can “option” the empty seat next to you. If the plane is not full you get that seat, if it is you get your money back – Sometimes for $40 you can option two seats and end up with room to lie down. Of the 5 times I have used the service I have got the empty seats 4 times. They also let you option a business class seat for under $200 – have not managed to get one of these yet…. maybe one day.

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Yes, I don’t mind those back-of-the-plane seats either, Paula. I reckon with a ‘special meal’ and noise-cancelling headphones, you’d be sorted. Then add your awesome tip for the $20 to book the free seat next to you and you pretty much own the back of the plane! 😀
      Thanks for the tips.
      Jxx

  • Reply November 4, 2014

    Smaggle

    I love the concept of alcohol consumption being compulsory. I have to be so careful on flights it’s like every drink I have is worth about 5. PLANE LUSH!

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Ah yes, high altitude alcoholism (HAA) is my favourite game to play, Smags! The trick is getting more booze than the flight attendants are willing to serve you. In the ‘main cabin’ – aka The Slum – they can be very stingy. The times I’ve been upgraded to Business Class have been like a kegger party. Lord only knows what First must be like. Opium pipes, pole dancers and swilling tequila from the captain’s hat I reckon!
      Jxx

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Nick Deane

    Great tips for those long flights! You hit the nail on the head with the water consumption vs alcohol ratio. I hate using airplane toilets and I will do anything I can to make sure I hold it besides using diapers. I will make sure I ask for the gluten free meal for my next trip. Thanks guys

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Cool! Thanks for the thumbs-up, Nick! Yeah, those toilets are always gross. Even early on in the flight they’re bad, aren’t they? Ha ha! Yeah, I think I’d draw the line at diapers too!
      Let us know how you get on with the gluten-free food option.
      Cheers
      Jim

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Erin | No Ordinary Nomad

    Great tips! I actually quite like flying, and am always excited to get onto a flight – it usually means I’m going somewhere new and exciting! I swear by noise-cancelling headphones, an inflatable travel pillow (not quite as comfortable as those ones filled with beans or memory foam, but saves heaps of space in my bag), and an e-reader stocked with new books.

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hi Erin. I love flying. I particularly like turbulence. It’s weird, isn’t it? Totally true though. The motion sends me off to sleep! Glad you agree with those headphones. Ever since we got a pair for me, Mrs Romance has been eyeing them up. Think it’s time to get another pair! I’ve tried those neck pillows but I can’t get used to them. I just get too hot around the neck.
      I love my Kindle. It’s so comfortable to read for long periods of time and much more convenient than a book. My Paperwhite is great too because it’s got an internal light, which makes reading in the dark so much better too.
      The other tip I forgot to add was to use the cushions they give you as lumbar supports. I fold mine in half and wedge it in the chair where the back meets the seat. It feels weird at first but by the end of the flight, my back’s in much better shape (literally!) for it.
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Maxabella

    I love your first tip – great idea! I’m gutted that we never thought of that over the years. Now we have our entourage, we tend to spread out enough to get all the space we need (generally people give it to us!!). The only thing I’d add to your tips is to dress in layers. You will be hot, you will be cold and you need options! x

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Ah yes, the spread and conquer technique. I’ve seen that work well many a time, Bron! And rightly so. There’s no point trying to squish people into a little space like that, is there?
      Great tip on the layers. Definitely the second worst thing to experience on a long flight other than pukey; it’s horrible being cold then hot then cold again. I’m a bit of a freak and am generally always warm. I usually use the weird blankets they never wash (I have low standards when I’m flying!) to keep my hands warm, and that’s good enough for me. Mrs Romance on the other hand experiences the temp fluctuations all the time though, so thanks for the tip!
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Ling @ Ling Out Loud

    Great travel tips, you guys!!! Now I’m dying to hop on the next available flight just to make sure these tips really work 😛

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      It’s a great excuse, isn’t it, Ling?! I think they all need further testing for sure. Get yourself to San Diego – I’ve heard there are some really cool people there at the moment! 😉
      Jxx

  • I’m thinking those noise cancelling headphones might need to go on my wishlist. Excuse my ignorance, but do you just wear them to listen to something (music, movie) as an alternative to the airline provided ones, or do people wear them to listen to nothing, just to block out cabin/engine noise? And are they too bulky to sleep in?

    Thank you. Love these tips.

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hi Kirralee. Really good question – I had no idea until the oik at the airport shop explained it to me. You can do both. The noise-cancelling bit works independently of the plane’s system – you just need to switch them on! So they’re battery-powered in other words. The noise-cancelling works by the headphones receiving the noise from the cabin, recognising it and ‘bouncing’ the same frequency sound waves back away from your ears, thus cancelling the sound.
      You can remove the jack in mine that you plug into the plane or your phone or mp3 player or whatever. If you’re using them to listen to music or movies, the sound quality’s better because you don’t get the ambient sounds of the flight interrupting the track and also the headphones sit more snugly on your ears than the ones on the plane.
      They can be a bit bulky, which means having your head on one side can be a little awkward, but they don’t dig into your head or anything like that. I wear my glasses on the plane so I need to adjust where the arms of my specs sit on my ears or that can be a bit uncomfortable. Over all though, they’re great. 🙂
      Hope this helps.
      Cheers
      Jxx

      • Thank you so much for the comprehensive answer! I really appreciate your help.

        • Reply November 6, 2014

          Mr Romance

          Lol! Sorry, Kirralee – bit long-winded. That’s the problem when I get going and there’s no one around to rein me in! Hope it helps.
          Jx

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Fairlie

    I love my noise-cancelling earphones, they make a huge difference to the cabin noise. I like to watch TV series on long-haul flights (such as House of Cards) – at under an hour per episode, they make the time go really fast because, of course, each episode ends making you want to watch the next one.

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      That’s a superb idea, Fairlie! We love watching those big TV shows! House of Cards is awesome, Orange is the New Black, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development, Game of Thrones… they’re all awesome! Thanks for your idea!
      Jxx

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo

    Some great tips here. I particularly like the one about ordering local dishes or a special meal and the one about reserving ailse and window is just genious!

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hi Phoebe! Glad you like our ideas. Yes, the move away from just choosing chicken or fish is the best thing you can do in my books. Though Qantas’ new dinner menu is really quite good, I’d go for the local option over ‘western’ ‘food’ (please excuse my over-use of the inverted commas there – I think it was justified!).
      It’s amazing how often that window and aisle seat thing works by the way. Love that extra space!
      Cheers
      Jim x

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Vanessa

    I always get a special meal – it’s usually nicer, fresher and the fact that it comes out first means you’re also finished first and beat the large-airplane post-dinner toilet rush.

    I drink a lot of water – my personal limits are one alcoholic drink with dinner and one juice with breakfast.

    I bring a change of underwear (including socks) and do a travellers’ “shower” in the bathroom at the stopover – baby wipes, deodorant and change the underwear. Helps a lot to feel less gross when you arrive.

    When you get off the plane, don’t stop at the first set of toilets – that’s where everyone else will go & you’ll end up in a queue. Try walking down the terminal an extra few gates, most large airports have frequent sets of toilets. Obviously this doesn’t work if there are multiple large planes offloading at once! But if you take a few seconds to look down the terminal, you can save yourself some queue time.

    I’ve never spend $200 on noise cancelling headphones – cheaper ones do work. Not as sturdy by any means but sit on a turboprop plane and $50 cuts out a heck of a lot of the racket. The two pairs I’ve owned, I’ve been lucky enough to get $100-120 ish ones marked down to $50 ish due to them being the last pair in the store. Only takes a few phone calls to get them put aside for you. I’ve found Officeworks can have real bargains on mid-range brands in this area.
    Having said that, one person did tell me once that their noise cancelling headphones didn’t work unless they were listening to something, so maybe they were ultra cheap and I’ve lucked out with the quality I’ve gotten for price. Now, if only I didn’t keep sitting on them and breaking them on my commute… 🙂

    • Reply November 5, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Great tips, Vanessa. Those special meals do tend to be better, don’t they? And beating the post-dinner toilet rush is a good addendum to why Mrs R likes to get her meal first.
      Drinking lots of water does seem to be the call of the day – especially if you don’t mind using the plane’s loos. Staying as hydrated as you can is a good idea on long-hauls. It helps a lot with recovery from fatigue and jet lag. I’m just a mug for free booze!
      Great idea with the change of undies and the ‘traveller’s shower’… thank you for not calling it a ‘Pommie shower’! 😀 I sometimes also take a little travel toothbrush and toothpaste with me onboard. A fresh and minty smile helps along with clean pants!
      Definitely agree with you on the ‘hold it till you get to a less busy toilet’ point. That first loo inside the terminal can get not only too busy but very grotty extremely quickly.
      Sounds like you really lucked in with the headphones. Like the person you spoke to mentioned, sometimes the noise cancelling bit only works if the unit’s plugged into something, whereas more expensive models have to have their own power source and so work whether they’re plugged in or not. The other thing – apart from being a bit more robust like you said – with more expensive units is they just cut down a far wider range of noise frequency. So the really expensive ones (we’ve seen them for $500 plus – ridiculous!) will reduce everything from very high to very low noises and also cut out a lot of incidental noises like babies crying and people talking. Not sure I’d pay that much though.
      So sorry to hear you broke your last pair though. That sucks. Hope you score another bargain soon.
      Thanks for your input. Really interesting.
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • Reply November 16, 2014

    Julie H

    We tried the window / aisle trick from Melbourne to LA – worked a treat. But karma bit us on the way back…we booked the same seats, but when we got to our row the window seat and half of the middle seat were already taken up by a very large single traveller 🙁

    We bought an excellent pair of noise cancelling headphones at Melbourne Airport Duty Free (they were cheaper there than anywhere we saw them later in US or Canada).

    Don’t watch 2 movies with the same main character – the plots just get wierd.

    • Reply November 17, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hi Julie! Glad the seat trick worked on the way there. Shame about the way back – sounds like a bit of a nightmare. My friend once had a seat next to a very large traveller – let’s just say there was ‘overflow’ onto his seat. In the end he got up and discretely asked if there were any other seats available. He felt really bad about it when he went back to get his hand luggage to move, but in the long run everyone benefitted with a bit more space. Anyway hope your flight home wasn’t too bad.

      Score on the headphones! Love finding a bargain, especially when it’s cheaper than what you found in North America. Almost unheard of, that! And LOVE the tip on movies! So funny – and so true! Brilliant!

      Cheers

      Jim

  • Reply November 17, 2014

    Talia

    Umm… okay, so I feel like an idiot. I’ve done heaps of flying, and I DID NOT KNOW YOU COULD PUT UP THE “WINGS” OF THE HEADREST!! Ahh!! Our next trip is booked for April. Definitely doing this!!!

    And thanks for linking up with Wanderlust! Our next link up will be on the 3rd December, so mark it in your diary!!

    • Reply November 18, 2014

      Mr Romance

      When I first discovered this, Talia, it was quite some time after I’d started travelling. It was pretty life-changing. Those headrests lift up too. Makes a difference.
      Hope it helps in April. Where are you heading?
      Jxx

      • Reply December 1, 2014

        Talia

        We’re off to Israel for 2 months, and will spend a few nights in Seoul on the way. We’ve been to both places before, but still looking forward to it!
        We’ll be travelling with Luke’s Nonna, and our (at the time) 3 and 1 year olds, so it should make the flights quite interesting trying to keep everyone happy!!

        • Reply December 7, 2014

          Mr Romance

          Cool! Lucky you, Talia. We’ve not been to either of those places. Would love to go though. My sister was in a kibbutz a long time ago and really enjoyed exploring Israel that way. Are you flying with Korean Air? I’ve heard they do really good stopovers in Seoul and put you up in really nice hotels as part of the ticket price. Bet you can’t wait to get going – though the flights might be a bit of a challenge like you say. At least you’ll have a nanny (in both senses of the word!) with you all the time you’re away though!
          Cheers
          Jxx

  • […] then on though, the stress of driving in LA, the horrors of the long-haul flight – along with everything else – […]

  • […] Here are some of our other tips for surviving long-haul flights. […]

  • Reply November 8, 2015

    Melinda at United States of Mama

    Hmm, first of all, I LOVE that you believe alcohol is a reasonable part off any long haul routine! Makes me feel so much better about waving down the first available attendant for a G&T and champagne chaser… will definitely be giving the in flight facial treatment a go as well. Of course there’s nothing in here about how to deal with those pesky kids I’ve got to take with me… ?? Thanks again, will be employing all of these with gusto in a few days.

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