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How to survive a long flight on your next holiday

For some, the thought of spending an entire day or night trapped in a tiny metal container hurling through the upper atmosphere sounds like a nightmare, but savvy travellers know that even the longest of the long-haul flights can be pleasurable experiences with a little preparation. Using these 10 handy hints from Skyscanner, you’ll emerge from your next transoceanic flight feeling refreshed and ready to go.

1. Dress for it

The clothes you choose are a very important aspect of your next long-haul flight. After all, you’ll be wearing them for quite a long time. And don’t forget to factor in air-con. You may be flying from the tropics to someplace equally sunny, but it can get cold on the plane, especially after a full day’s worth of travel. Try not to wear too many accessories, especially metal ones, as they will simply trip the metal detectors. For footwear, open-toed shoes are less than ideal for emergencies, so consider stashing the flip flops in your check-in luggage, but make sure your shoes aren’t too tight, because your feet will swell during the flight.

A man sleeping comfortably on some chairs

Wear something you won’t regret 18 hours from now.

2. Get the good seats

Even in economy, there is such a thing as the good seats. And getting those good seats can transform a nice flight to an amazing flight. There is of course, a science to the art of picking the best seat (seat 6a, which has been scientifically proven!), but in case science isn’t your thing, just remember these simple rules to finding the perfect airline seat:

  • For leg room, stick with exit rows
  • To avoid screaming children, head towards the back of the plane
  • For extra mobility, go for an aisle seat

You might have to wait until the day or two before takeoff to actually make these selections, though this depends on the airline.

Airline seats

Book your seats early to get the best.

3. Facilitate a nap

Your flight may take upwards of a day, depending on how far you’re going, and if you’re like us, you’d like to feel fresh and ready to go when you hit the ground. That’s why it’s worth bringing a few things to help you doze off while airborne. You can start with a nice, lightweight blanket and you should definitely look into a travel pillow to make sleeping as neck-friendly as possible. And you’ll soon forget that anyone else is even on the flight with the aid of a good pair of earplugs and a sleep mask.

A man sleeping on a flight and a cabin attendant removing his glasses

Be prepared and you’ll sleep easy.

4. Keep your carry-ons light

While of course we recommend the little extras that will make your flight better, be careful about not overdoing it. Keep your carry-ons to a minimum to make your flight as pleasant as possible. If it doesn’t fit inside one cabin bag and one shoulder bag, ask yourself if you’ll really be using it on the flight. If not, either put it in the check-in luggage or just leave it at home.

A lady packing her suitcase

Don’t overpack.

5. Pack a snack

The airlines will be feeding you of course, but the quality of these meals is hit or miss and their serving schedules might not sync up with your expectations. When crossing time zones, you’ll be getting breakfast for dinner and vice versa. To ward off hunger pangs, pack your favourite snack in your carry-on luggage and bust it out during the flight. Airlines have heavily restricted what liquids you can bring aboard, but solids are still safe for now.

In-flight meal

You’ll get an airline meal, but your own snacks will help you survive.

6. Do some laps

Stretching your legs in the middle of a flight doesn’t just feel good, it could even save your life. The risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis is a real threat for long-haul travellers, but one way to ensure continuing health is to keep your blood flowing by standing, stretching, and moving about the cabin when the fasten seat belts light goes off. Smart people have even developed exercise routines for frequent flyers.

A lady seated low on her seat on her flight

Stretching every few hours will help you avoid deep vein thrombosis.

7. Drink lots of water

The inside of an aircraft has the magical ability to suck the moisture right out of you, and those complimentary wines you drink just exacerbate the problem. The solution is obvious: drink more water, and skimp on the tea and coffee while you’re at it. If possible, bring a bottle with you to avoid flagging down the cabin attendant too often. If you find your skin drying out too, make sure to bring a small bottle of moisturiser to rehydrate, and eye drops to avoid the infamous red eyes of red eye flights.

A lady drinking a bottle of water.

Remember to stay hydrated.

8. Chill out

If your life is as stressful as the rest of Singapore, then use your flight time to relax to the max: breathe deep and enjoy the service. Use your time to catch up on the reading you’ve been meaning to do, watch a few flicks on the inflight entertainment system, or just practise deep breathing meditation exercises to rediscover the serenity that modern life so often makes us forget. You’re in good hands on your flight, so recline and relax. With the right mental attitude, your flight can be a relaxing, rewarding experience.

A mother with her baby sleeping on her

The best flights are relaxing experiences.

9. Be social

A flight is the perfect time to meet the interesting people on their way to the same destination as you. Everyone has a story to tell, so why not ask them? Simply smiling and greeting someone in the same situation as you (in the same row; waiting for the same bathroom; watching the same movie) could even net you a new travelling companion for the next leg of your epic journey.

A couple talking to each other on a flight

Chatting up the people on the same flight can be an interesting experience.

10. Choose the right airline

There are huge differences between the best of the long-haul airlines and the worst of them. Doing a little research before booking can help you make the best choice. Sometimes price is the most important determining factor, but at other times, a few dollars more can help you avoid disaster. As a rule, you’ll want to avoid airlines with the tiniest seats and skimpiest meals, but more specific things to look for are legroom measurements and menus. Airlines that consistently make the top of the rankings include Air New Zealand, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and our own Singapore airlines.

Someone writing on a notepad

Do a little research before choosing your carrier.


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Originally published on 21 September 2016 and updated in June 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

Adapted from an article originally written by Laura Gavin for Skyscanner.