Fifteen tips to make your long-haul flight more enjoyable

Now that our Go2 Travel Insurance covers you for many countries worldwide, why not try a long-haul holiday? Here’s how to have a great flight!

1. Dress in layers
One of the things that can make a flight uncomfortable is temperature fluctuations. Planes are typically quite cold due to the air conditioning, but you might start to feel overheated after being in close proximity to so many other people. Some people also tend to feel hot or cold as they get tired. 

The best way to prepare for this is to wear layers. Wear a comfortable T-shirt with a sweater, cardigan, or fleece on top that you can easily take on and off. Don’t wear tight-fitting footwear, because your feet tend to swell at high altitudes.

2. Look for seat upgrades
When you’re booking your flight and choosing your seat, a website like SeatGuru will help you to choose a slightly more spacious and convenient seat.

Most airlines today have their own mobile phone app where you can check your flight’s seat map before you board. If you check this carefully, you may be able to move to an empty row or even get an upgrade to premium class. 

Keep an eye on the seat map for your flight starting a few hours beforehand. If it looks like economy class is overbooked, but premium economy or business class is relatively empty, and you fancy taking a risk, consider not checking in until you arrive at the airport. Airlines sometimes need to move your seat out of necessity, either because they have overbooked the economy cabin or they need to move passengers around to balance the aircraft. Just don’t wait too late: you don’t want to be last to check in, just in case the flight has been overbooked and all the seats are now taken! 

On the airline’s app, you should also keep an eye out for empty rows in economy class. If you notice an empty row, ask the airline staff politely if they can move you. Be sure to do this when the gate agent isn’t busy, and you’ll be much more likely to get a positive response. 

3. Stay hydrated
The air on planes is very dry, another reason many people find them uncomfortable for long periods of time. It can be tempting to drink alcohol to help you relax, but this will actually dehydrate you further. Tea and coffee can also dehydrate you, due to the caffeine.

You can either buy a bottle of water once you’ve gone through security, or bring your own empty water bottle with you and ask the cabin crew to fill it when they pass by. Sip your water slowly, rather than having a huge drink all at once: this way you’re a lot less likely to need the toilet!

4. Bring a snack
You can also bring small snacks, which help pass the time and stave off any hunger pains. Try and choose something that will fill you up and has at least some nutritional value, like a muesli bar, rather than just chocolate!

5. Moisturise your skin
Bring moisturising products for your hands, face, and lips to prevent them from drying out. 

6. Protect your eyes
If you wear contact lenses, bring eye drops that you can use while you’re still wearing your lenses. The air conditioning, the long time you’ll be wearing your lenses, and possibly falling asleep with your lenses in, will all conspire to really dry out your eyes. 

[Editor’s note: my optician recommended Hycosan eye drops, which work very well for me, and an opened pack lasts for six months.]

7. Bring several entertainment options
Remember to pre-load your phone or iPad with goodies! You can download multiple podcasts or audiobooks, as well as TV series, films, and addictive games. A magazine app such as Readly gives you access to hundreds of top magazines which you can download before your flight and then read at 39,000 feet! 

Staring at a screen can make your eyes tired, so some audio-only options can be nice. Books, magazines, and puzzle books are also nice ways to stay occupied.

8. Bring a battery charger
portable battery charger with a USB connection can help prevent your gadgets from going flat during your flight. Remember you’ll need enough battery power left in your phone to help you get from the airport to a taxi, and then to see a map to get to your hotel! 

9. Plan your trip while you’re on the plane
You could take a guide book (or download some Kindle travel guides) and start getting excited about the holiday, planning your trip while you’re on the plane. Many guide books have a section on the history, culture, and customs of the place you’re visiting, and reading this can really set the scene for your holiday.

Other people like to bring a pen and a notebook and do some journaling, thinking about their goals for the next few months.

10. Reduce fatigue with noise-cancelling headphones
Noise-cancelling headphones can reduce fatigue because they block out the background hum of the engines. You can even just wear them and turn on the noise cancelling without even listening to music! Remember to bring spare batteries. These headphones tend to be quite bulky, but smaller in-ear versions are now being sold by Bose and other manufacturers.

11. Catch up on the boring stuff to get it out of the way
If you don’t need to get into the holiday mood immediately, you can use the time onboard the plane to catch up with your paperwork or admin. Lots of people actually find planes a productive place to work, since there are few distractions. Long-haul airlines are starting to offer WiFi (wireless internet) now, sometimes just for basic messaging, with an option to pay to get a full connection.

12. Move around
You can ease the boredom by getting up, walking around, and stretching. This also helps to lower the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Just walk to the toilets every couple of hours or so, even if you don’t need to go, and stand up for a while.

13. Bring along a small dental kit
Taking care of your hygiene is an easy way to make a long flight a little less unpleasant, but many people don’t think to do it. Pack a travel-sized toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, and perhaps some travel-sized mouthwash too, and brush your teeth after meals on the plane. It will help you feel more refreshed, plus it lets you stretch your legs. Some people like to bring a small bottle of hand sanitiser too. 

14. Get some good sleep
Sleeping is one of the best ways to make a long-haul flight go by faster. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to sleep on a plane, but a few things can help.

You could bring a lightweight blanket or an eye mask to help you sleep. Airlines will often give you these, but they tend to be quite basic. You could also bring earplugs, or keep your noise-cancelling headphones on.

A neck pillow or head support can also be helpful. Things have moved on from the days of the simple U-shaped neck pillow, and you’ll now find a huge variety of weird and (possibly) wonderful head supports to choose from! Reviews such as this and this might help you make a choice.

15. Bring a small extra bag
Since the space at your seat is limited, it’s often useful to pack a spare carrier bag or shoulder bag inside your main rucksack or cabin bag. Then, you can simply put the items you need for the actual flight into the carrier bag and keep it at your feet, while keeping your main cabin bag in the overhead locker.