Today, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to fly anywhere in the world. You can literally hop on a plane and in half a day be on the other side of the planet.
Despite how cool and easy traveling by plane may be, no one can argue that a long flight can also be pretty grueling.
I completed an internship in Sydney, Australia, and it was an amazing experience to say the least. I learned a ton, made professional connections, met life-long friends, and had a blast. The only downfall of traveling from the U.S. to Australia was well… the traveling.
Long flights, layovers, security lines, checking luggage, it can all be a bit overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. Now that I’ve done the 20+ hour trip a few times, I feel like I’ve gotten a grip on how to thrive on these seemingly endless flights.
Here are my top 10 tips for your next trip abroad!
1. Do your research on tickets, airlines and seats
A nicer plane and flight experience doesn’t always mean more expensive. Use multiple sites when looking for your ticket, explore all your options, and be sure to open an incognito window on your browser, it will save you!
Be strategic when you purchase tickets too. Buy early and check consistently for good deals. By doing this, I was able to get one of my flights for literally half of the original price, with a better seat… score!
2. Be strategic with your packing
Seasoned sky travelers know legroom on flights is limited, so try to keep your personal item small and only carry-on what you really need. That being said, most people tend to under-pack their carry-ons, or use a tiny bag or backpack. Take advantage of the space you have!
Use a carry-on bag that is close to the size limit. Remember you’ll be on this plane for a long time, so let your packing reflect that.
What carry-on items to bring on a long flight:
- Earbuds (nobody likes those disposable ones they give you)
- Ear plugs / noise canceling headphones
- Neck pillow
- A book
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Socks / compression socks
- Phone charger
3. Be active
Being on a plane, the oxygen level is lower than it is when you are on the ground. Not moving for very long flights can lead to circulation issues. How can we avoid this?
Move in your seat; roll your ankles, march in place, roll your shoulders, roll your neck. Move throughout the cabin; walk around the aisles, stand in the back and stretch, do some bodyweight exercises like squats or lunges.
This all sounds like you may get some weird looks, but I promise you, everyone else is in the same boat. On my last flight from Australia, I got up once every hour or two to do some bodyweight exercises in the back near the bathrooms and left the plane feeling great!
4. Utilize in-flight entertainment
Longer flights are usually pretty expensive. And part of what you’re paying for is the extensive in-flight entertainment. This is usually filled with all kinds of great movies, podcasts, shows, games, and more.
I’m usually not a big movie guy myself, but when I have the chance to catch up on a bunch of new releases that I never would have time to see at home… why not!
5. Prepare with things to do
The in-flight entertainment can be great, but it can only keep you busy for so long. For those long flights traveling overseas, pre-download music, movies, and podcasts to your phone.
Bring some books or write in a journal. Would you rather pass the time with a game? Bring a crossword puzzle or sudoku book.
6. Make a friend
Not everyone you’re flying with will be social, and that’s okay. But let’s face it, you are stuck with these people for a while, so why not be friendly with them!
On my first flight across the U.S., I made friends with the nicest set of twins from near my hometown. We ended up chatting for hours and it made the flight fly by… and we still keep in touch and share travel stories every once in a while!
I can’t stress this one enough… try to get some sleep! It may be hard, but to give you the best chance of getting some rest, use earplugs and a sleep mask.
Another thing that was a massive help for me was Timeshifter (the jet lag app). You input your flight information and it gives you a personalized plan of when to sleep, when to use caffeine, and when to get out in the sun for the days leading up to your flight. It has helped me avoid jet lag EVERY TIME, so give it a try!
8. Be mindful of your food and drink choices
Planes use recycled air so naturally they are much dryer inside. Make sure to drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol for this same reason.
In-flight meals are pretty impressive nowadays, so take full advantage of them. Pro tip: If you want your food before everyone else, order a specialty meal.
Bring your own snacks, you will get hungry between meals. Sometimes flight attendants will even put snacks out on the counters around the cabin.
9. Dress warm and comfortable
This one is important. For long haul flights, planes are also usually much colder than you would expect. A sweatshirt and sweatpants is usually my go-to.
Even if you’re flying to or from somewhere warm, ensure to pack warm clothes to throw on once you get to the airport. Being in comfortable clothes is a game-changer!
10. Use this time to relax
Most of us are go-go-go all the time and never give ourselves a chance to rest. I know, I’m guilty of it. Use your long flight as a time to decompress and enjoy being alone for a while. With no cell service or internet, unplugging from your devices is easier than ever!
For me, my 15-hour flight home from Sydney after 3 months of non-stop fun was a chance to slow down and reflect on the amazing experiences I just had.
Hopefully you can use some of these tips on your upcoming flight and arrive happy, healthy, and ready to tackle your next adventure!