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10 Dos and Don'ts for Long-Haul Flights

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by Tina Maria (subscribe)
Freelance writer based in Helsinki, Finland.
Published October 7th 2012
Some helpful hints on surviving long-haul flights
Long-haul flight - Image from

Many of us will have taken a long-haul flight at some point in our lives. If you haven't then don't worry, you're not really missing out on a great deal. If not done correctly they can be an extremely irritating or stressful start to a holiday.

I enjoy flying but even I sometimes struggle having to stay on the same plane for 10 hours. So here are some of my tips on how to make your time in the air a little more bearable.

Of course there are a million and one different tips and another million and one different combinations to list them in but here are a few which allowed me to keep my sanity during this Summer's travels (and some I noticed others doing and wish I had thought of myself).

Make a list of things to take in your on-board bag - Image from


1) Do order a 'special' meal.*

Order your meal before your flight, ideally at time of booking, and then re-confirm it at check-in. As a vegetarian I always order a special meal and am among the first on board to receive my food which is nice as you don't have to wait ages before the flight attendants have made their way up and down the aisles and served everyone else. Put on an in-flight film and enjoy your meal in peace. I should however mention that the trays won't usually be cleared any earlier but this is hardly ever a downside for me as I take my time eating my meal. You're not in a hurry to go anywhere so why not?

Long-haul flight
Flight attendants serving in-flight meals - Image from

2) Do bring mini toiletries with you in your carry-on luggage.**

I always bring a mini set of shampoo & conditioner, dry shampoo, shower gel, cleanser, toner, moisturiser, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant as well as some cotton wool pads and lip balm. These are ideal for freshening up during your flight or in the airport between flights. I was so happy to have a chance to freshen up after my 11 hour flight from London to Hong Kong (before spending 5 hours in an airport and stepping onto yet another plane for 12 hours). Make a list of things you use on a daily basis and then leave as many of them as possible for your carry on luggage as it is easy to think of the travels in terms of 'flights' rather than an morning/evening/night spent on a plane (toothbrush is easily forgotten and very annoying!).

Toothbrush and toothpaste are essential - Image from

3) Do bring pajamas!

Yes I am being genuinely serious here. I cannot even recall the number of people I saw this summer on my flights getting changed into pajamas or at least comfy clothes like jogging bottoms. The last thing you really want to be doing is attempting to sleep on a crowded plane in your skinny jeans and high heels!

4) Do bring a spare outfit.

On my recent trip to Fiji from London I bumped into two fellow travellers who had made sure to pack all the necessities for their week away... in their backpacks! They forgot to bring a change of clothes and had to spend two days in the same clothes on their flights. It is oversights like this that can be stressful or annoying when travelling.

Remember to pack spare clothes and pajamas! - Image from

5) Do ask for a window seat.

I prefer to have a window seat on a flight because it means I can relax much better. Knowing I can settle down, get comfortable, put an in-flight film on and snuggle up with the complimentary blanket without getting disturbed is bliss. It is tiring having to constantly stand up and let people get out of their seats to go to the toilet or to get things out of their bags. It also means that I won't get barged into by people walking up and down the aisles when I am trying to sleep.

plane window
Window seat - Image from


6) Don't be rude/demanding/offensive to members of staff.

Remember that they are spending the same amount of time as you on a plane, and although they get paid for it and it is their job, it is never nice to have to work in a hostile environment and it will only go against you when you want service. Similarly the staff in the airports are not getting paid to deal with your bad mood so any issues which you may have will be better dealt with when you are courteous and don't resort to rudeness.

I had to have a flight re-routed on my way to Fiji in June as one airline had cancelled an onward flight. After a few conversations with staff at the customer service desk I was given new flights which would get me to my destination with no extra charges and a voucher for some food in the airport as I had to wait longer to board my flight.

I do not think they would have been as helpful if I had demanded to be re-routed rather than explaining my situation and saying that I was unable to pay for new flights and any extra costs incurred. They were more than happy to help, therefore it is in your best interest to be polite.

Rude customer - Image from

7) Don't invade other passengers' personal space.

Kicking the seat in front of you, lowering your seat back to a lying-down position so the person behind you cannot move, and leaning into the seat of the person sitting next to you. These are all things which make you one of the most dreaded passengers in my books.

I forever fear sitting next to the noisy, fidgety or space-greedy passengers on long flights because, as much as we can all tolerate each other in the short-term, a 12 hour flight becomes thoroughly testing around these people.

On my recent flight I had to endure a whole 11 hours of almost being pushed out of my seat because the passenger sat next to me didn't quite have the same idea of personal boundaries as I did. He was practically using my shoulder for a pillow when he was asleep and leaning halfway into my seat when awake. Annoying, yes. Avoidable, yes. Don't be that passenger.

Don't be too noisy, other people might not appreciate it - Image from

8) Don't rush.

Do not rush to get off the plane as soon as it touches down on the tarmac. The doors will remain shut and the luggage will remain in the hold until the aircraft is parked. Standing up a half hour before you are let off the plane is only going to stress you out and make you irritable.

Instead sit back, relax and let everyone else scuffle about trying to elbow their way to their bags. You will still get your luggage from the same conveyor belt at the same time as everyone else so ask yourself, what's the rush? It's your holiday, chill out.

Waiting for luggage - Image from

9) Don't stay seated for the whole flight.

Most people will be aware of the dangers of staying seated for the whole duration of a long-haul flight. However, I feel I should mention it anyway as it is easy to get engrossed in a film or a book or just sleep and forget to go for a walk to stretch your legs.

The reason you should get up and stretch is to avoid increasing the risk of developing DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Even if it's just getting up once an hour for five minutes to walk the length of the plane, go to the toilets or ask for a drink from the flight attendants. If nothing else, you'll feel fewer muscle aches when you get off the plane as you wont have stayed in the same position all flight.

Remember to stretch and move around during long flights - Image from

10) Don't dehydrate.

Make sure you drink enough water during the flight so you do not get dehydrated. Also, try to avoid drinking too much alcohol as this makes your body more dehydrated and will make you feel worse in the long run. Get at least a few good hours of sleep and keep drinking water throughout the flight to feel a little bit more refreshed once you land. No one wants to feel hungover, tired and thirsty when they have to queue up through customs and go collect their luggage after a long flight.

Drink plenty of water - Image from

A 'special' meal is usually a vegetarian, vegan or a specific 'dietary requirement' meal (due to allergies) or a kosher or halal meal (due to religious requirements). Some airlines have a huge range of different special meals so be sure to check on their website. All are subject to availability, inquire with the specific airline you will be flying with.

**Remember to be mindful of the different allowances of liquids per person. Dependent on each airline's policy. Click here for some information for UK travellers.

***It may sound strange bringing shampoo and conditioner but I guarantee you will thank me once you get to your accommodation at a ridiculous hour/after hours upon hours of travelling and can just open up your carry-on bag to get the essentials out and once showered go and have a nap. At 3 am who honestly can be bothered to root around your huge suitcase for random items?
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Why? Helpful information
When: During long-haul flights
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Your Comment
Thanks for your information. It was well laid out and informative.
by evric (score: 0|5) 3396 days ago
You are right about getting up and walking around but don't forget if you are at the window seat you have to climb over people, waking, disturbing them, to excercise and toilet visits. A much better option is overnight at the halfway eg Singapore etc. Book into a hotel and have a mini holiday exploring and getting a decent night's sleep. 2 nights is even better!!! And who is going to change in those horrible little toilet cubicles where there is urine everywhere......
by colle (score: 0|3) 3390 days ago
Thanks Evric glad you found it informative :-)
by Tina Maria (score: 2|148) 3390 days ago
Hi Colle,

This is true, it is a slight catch 22 with regards to sitting at the window and getting up to go to the toilets or to walk around. Where ever you sit I guess it will be almost impossible not to get in the way, whether you're the one getting up for other people or the one making them get up.

I like your point about having a stop-over somewhere in between two long haul flights and making it a mini holiday. I'll try to do that next time (although it will depend on my budget as that is an extra cost on top).

As for getting changed, I saw lots of people getting up to go and get changed into pajamas on the plane but if you prefer not to spend a lot of time in the vicinity of the toilets then wearing linen trousers or jogging bottoms would be a good option. I usually wear jogging bottoms and then get changed in the airport toilets in between flights rather than on the actual plane.

Ultimately I suppose it all comes down to personal preference. Some people will prefer to do what others would hate to and vice versa.

Thanks for the comment and the useful stop-over tip :-)
by Tina Maria (score: 2|148) 3390 days ago
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