The Long-Haul Flight Survival Kit

Once, within the span of 1.5 years, I crossed the Pacific Ocean no less than 10 times.

On the first of those journeys, I was so exhausted and sleep-deprived that I walked full speed into a glass door.

Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to lessen the pain of long-haul flights.

This isn’t to say that I don’t dread being strapped into a tiny numbered seat with nowhere to go for a day and a half or attempting to sleep at strange airports during layovers, but I have acquired some coping methods.


For Sleeping

I hate flying. All of the sitting and waiting that I’ve had to do over the years has probably done a number on my overall sanity.

Therefore, I attempt to sleep as much as I can so I don’t have to be conscious for my commutes.

However, it’s not easy to sleep when you’re sitting completely upright and have nowhere to put your legs.

Here are a few things that help.

airplane sleep

Earplugs – Crying babies? No thanks.

Headphones – If you don’t want to be completely sensory deprived, you can always plug in instead of using earplugs.

A soothing playlist – At some point, I started listening exclusively to Late Night Alumni on long-haul flights. I unknowingly conditioned myself to fall asleep to their music and now always play their albums on when I want to nap on a plane.

Sleeping mask or beanie – The best way to sleep is to shut out the outside world. A sleeping mask is great for this or you can pull a beanie over your eyes.

Neck pillow – It took me years to realize that a neck pillow is a great investment and I regret every flight I’ve ever been on without on. Do yourself a favor and get one.

Melatonin – Melatonin is produced by the body to anticipate the daily onset of darkness, therefore can be used to induce sleep and is useful for help you fall asleep and for adjusting jet lag.


For Wearing

No matter how hot it is in the country you are in and how hot it is in the country you are flying to, airports and airplanes are always cold. It makes sense, considering temperatures at 40,000 ft. above sea level.

However, it’s rather inconvenient to change before/on/after a flight so I’ve found it best to wear layers.

Here is my ideal airplane wardrobe so I’m comfortable during the trip, warm while on the plane, cool while traveling to and from the airport, and don’t look completely scrubbed out.

airplane clothes


T-shirt – I prefer a top with sleeves because it it easier to keep a median temperature when your shoulders are covered.

Leggings or yoga pants – Planes tend to be too cold for shorts and jeans are not comfortable for a long-haul flight.

Comfortable outerwear – I find hoodies the best for lounging. A cardigan is works as well.

Large scarf – Some airlines provide blankets, some don’t. A large scarf can double as a blanket.

Your most space-consuming shoes – Unless you have a lot of room in your suitcase for shoes, try to wear the most space-consuming ones (that aren’t heels) on your flight so there’s more room in your luggage.

Backpack or purse – Something that fits in under the seat in front of you so you can access your in-flight necessities without having to get up.

Glasses – If you need glasses, wear them; don’t wear contacts because the cabin is very dry and you’ll probably want to sleep.


For Sanity

Keeping fed, watered, and entertained is very important for retaining sanity on a long-haul flight.

airplane sanity

Water bottle – I’ve mentioned, airplane cabins are very dry. It’s also inconvenient to ask the flight attendant for water, which comes in a cup therefore requires you have your tray table down so I like to pick up a bottle of water after I pass through security.

Snacks – Unfortunately for those (such as myself) who need to eat every hour, food on airplanes is not served as regularly. Complimentary food on board is also becoming progressively scarcer so it’s best to board prepared.

Book – I’ve never been able to read on planes because I’m usually too tired or annoyed to concentrate but if you’re capable, a book is a good way to kill a day or two.

Computer or tablet – Some airlines provide free movies, others charge you $7.99. If you have a computer or tablet with you, download a few movies beforehand to watch in flight.

Lip balm – Did I mention that airplane cabins are very dry?

Hand cream – See above.