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13 Long-Haul Flight Tips – Coping With Long-Distance Travel

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  • How to cope with a long-haul flight – 13 tips for arriving feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy your holiday
  • Beat the bloat and stay hydrated – expert advice on what food and drink to pick on long haul flights
  • Handy long-haul flight tips – what to bring on board and what to wear for great sleep and comfort when flying

Getting to distant destinations has never been easier or quicker – it’s possible to cover 8,000 miles in under 24 hours on some flights – but coping with the effects of a long-haul flight isn’t always so straightforward. Follow our long-haul flight tips to rest more deeply while on the plane and arrive feeling fresh, relaxed and ready to enjoy your holiday to the full.

long haul travel tips couple at the airport

13 essential long-haul flight tips
Pre-flight diet

In-flight meals aren’t the only meals you should consider as you prepare for a long-haul flight. In the 24 hours before a trip, pay attention to your diet. Avoid high-fat and high-protein meals as these are harder to digest than other foods. Snacking on plenty of fresh fruit and veg, along with complex carbohydrates (wholewheat bread, brown rice, muesli or granola bars, for example), and some lighter protein in the form of cottage cheese or yoghurt is ideal.

Say no to in-flight snacks

The dry cabin air reduces your sensitivity to sweet and salty foods by 30% according to a study commissioned by German airline Lufthansa. Which is why airlines add more flavours to your meals to try and combat that. But those salty pretzels and peanuts served with drinks encourage water retention, adding to that bloated feeling. Ask for a tomato juice instead. According to the same research from Lufthansa, tomato juice tastes better at altitude, and the fibre in it makes it more filling than other beverages, helping to settle your stomach. And don’t use those little sachets of salt with your meals, you’ll feel better for it!

Beat the bloat

Even with the best intentions and preparation, it’s possible to suffer from an uncomfortable build-up of intestinal gas, or bloating while on a flight. This is partly because of changes in cabin air pressure at altitude, causing the air in your digestive system to expand. Pack some antacids (calcium carbonate) so that you can ease the bloat quickly and painlessly.

Drink like a fish

If you want to know how to survive a long-haul flight, the answer is clear: stay hydrated. But despite the appeal of free alcohol, those mini bottles of spirits and wine are best avoided. Alcohol dehydrates your body at a cellular level, meaning you’ll need to drink even more water or other non-alcohol beverages to balance it out. According to the Aerospace Medical Association, you should aim for a glass of water every hour that you are in the air. Take a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up from the several small bottles or glasses of water provided by the airline so you can sip throughout the flight without having to ask for extra from a flight attendant.

long haul flight tips water on plane

Bring your own

Most airlines don’t offer a wide arrange of herbal teas in-flight, but you can bypass this problem by taking a flask and own your tea bags. A flight attendant can fill the flask with hot water for you, and you can make your own cuppa – an ideal way to combat the often-chilly cabin air temperatures. Make your tea ginger, and you’ll also be aiding your digestion and preventing travel sickness, too.

Slather on the moisturiser

It is essential to hydrate your skin before and throughout the flight – though you may want to avoid looking in the mirror in the plane toilet where the lighting is incredibly unflattering! Cabin air is extremely dry, so your skin needs extra help during a long flight. Choose an oil-based cream to help seal in moisture. Massaging your skin as you moisturise will help prevent puffy eyes or bags forming, too, so you’ll arrive feeling and looking fresh.

Add moisture elsewhere too

One of the most overlooked long-haul flight tips involves keeping your nasal passages and throat moist throughout the flight. The dry cabin air means your throat, eyes and nostrils gets drier on a plane, which makes you more susceptible to illnesses. Bacteria and viruses find it much easier to enter your respiratory system when it’s dry and lacking in bug-fighting mucus. Drinking will help soothe your throat. It’s a good idea to take eye drops so you can lubricate your eyes too, helping to prevent bloodshot eyes and that uncomfortable dry feeling. Saline solution nasal spray is another essential – spritz two or three times during your flight to ensure your nasal passages never dry out.

What to wear on a long-haul flight

When you’re considering what to wear on a plane, choose loose-fitting clothing, especially around your waistline – bloating can make even the most comfortable pair of jeans feel painful. It’s always advisable to take a large scarf (cotton or silk) to cover your neck and even your head as cabin air can get quite chilly. An extra cardigan or jumper is useful too, as is a spare pillowcase. If it’s cold, you can wear the extra clothing, and if it’s not, you can roll it up inside the pillowcase and use it to bolster your armrest or place it behind your back for additional support.

long haul flight tips enjoy your flight

Keep the blood flowing

The most important of all the long-haul flight tips relates to looking after your circulation. Not only will it help prevent discomfort in the form of swollen feet and fingers, but it may also prevent potentially fatal deep-vein thrombosis. This is where a blood clot becomes lodged in a vein and prevents blood from flowing properly. Flight socks, designed to avoid blood pooling in your lower limbs, are excellent and highly recommended. Standing up to use the bathroom regularly is another way to ensure your blood keeps flowing. You can also do exercises in your seat without bothering the person next to you. Try wrist and ankle rotations, and leg raises (with knees bent) and raising your arms above your head, twisting your hands from side to side. Massaging is another way to get your blood moving. Rub your feet and lower legs, starting at the toes and making sweeping movements upwards; do the same with your arms.

Use those flight accessories

Some flights, such as when taking holidays to Australasia, for example, are nearly 24 hours of your time, so it’s worth investing in some items that will make the flight experience more pleasant. A supportive neck pillow and an eye mask will help you sleep well. Sound-blocking headphones will prevent sudden noises from disturbing your sleep. A foot hammock that slips over your food tray when closed will give you a comfortable place to rest your feet.

Use your time wisely

Long flight tips often fail to take into account the unique situation you’ll be in. For once you can’t clean, do the laundry, nip to the supermarket or pick up the phone. Use this precious time wisely, and you’ll get more out of your flight. Watch only the movies you’re keen on, and the rest of the time do those things you otherwise wouldn’t get to such as reading your favourite magazine and a local guide book, grappling with a master-level Suduko or whatever else you fancy. This will also give you much-needed non-screen time before settling to sleep.

long haul flight tips sleeping on plane

Make the flight shorter

A long-haul flight that’s broken up into two shorter flights with a stop, even if it’s just to spend one night in a comfortable airport hotel bed, will save you recovery time once you arrive at your destination. So if you find it impossible to rest on an aeroplane, this may be a better option for you. Often, a stop-over airport is a destination in itself, so you could even enjoy a brief city exploration.

Opt for more comfort

Upgrading your flight from economy to business class or first class will also make a long-haul flight more bearable, with pull out beds so you can incline fully and wider seats with more legroom. If finances don’t permit that, perhaps consider switching your credit card spends to one that gives you air miles or points each time you use it. That way, when it comes to booking one of your dream holiday destinations, you can use your accumulated points for an upgrade. British Airways and American Express, among others, offer flight points with their credit cards.

long haul flight tips long distance travel

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