Greenwich Royal Naval College

In-Flight Survival Tips (Part 2) — Surviving the Long Haul Journey

Flying used to be an exciting adventure – rather than just mere survival – especially for long haul flights.

The reality of the airline industry is centered on functionality, as they cut personal space to add more seats, and reduce service in the main cabin.

This has led to a test of endurance – a test that I want to help you pass with “flying” colors.

With some advance planning, your long haul international flight does not have to be a 10+ hour nightmare in a horribly cramped prison-like seat.

In a previous post, Surviving the Long Haul Journey: Choosing Your Flight, I shared how your flight selection can have a large impact on your flight experience.

In this post, I share Part 2 of my tried and true In-Flight Survival Tips  (see Part 1).
Financial disclosure:  I have no connections with any of the named entities discussed in this article.

In Flight Comforts

In-Flight Comfort Pack

International flights are long and challenging.  Having a few comfort items can really make things much more bearable.  Of course, you must carefully weigh the benefit of each item you bring on-board, as they will take up room in your small area of personal space.

  • Slippers  (thin, disposable hotel slippers work well)
  • Socks  (a change of socks really does feel good on a long flight)
  • Moisturizer  (doubles as air freshener for in-seat / lavatory use)
  • Hand Sanitizer (also air freshener for in-seat and lavatory use)
  • Pillow  (inflatable or microbead travel pillow)
  • Blanket  (small packable one if you don’t trust the airline blanket)
  • Eyeshades  (I have used sunglasses also, in a pinch)
  • Medications / sleep aid**  (have them handy when you settle in your seat)
  • Water bottle  (stay hydrated)
  • Toothbrush / Toothpaste  (Remember that toothpaste is considered a gel by the TSA — see my 411 on TSA’s 3-1-1)
  • Lip Balm (for the dry airplane recycled air)
  • Earphones / ear plugs  (significant ambient noise on a plane)
  • Music (your favorite tunes can help you relax and pass the time)
  • Back-up Entertainment (we have been on international flights where our in-flight entertainment system was broken)

Some of these items come in the Business or First Class amenity kits, but you can be prepared by bringing your own when seated in Coach.

**A note about sleep aids: always consult your doctor before taking medications for sleep.  Always try medications at home, before your flight, to see how they affect you.  Some people have been known to sleep walk, sleep talk, and have entire conversations that they don’t remember after taking sleeping medications such as Ambien.

In-Flight Safety

You keep a watchful eye on your purse and valuables while on land.  It is important to do this during a flight as well, and a bit more of a challenge to do while you are sleeping.

  • Take turns with your traveling companion when leaving your seat.      Your companion can watch your valuables while you stretch or get a snack.
  • Place a small combination TSA lock on your carry-on bags in the overhead bin.    Your bags will be safe from prying hands even while you are sleeping.
  • Keep your passport and cash with you at all times – even during your flight – in a money belt or neck wallet.
  • Follow instructions of the flight crew.   They are there for your safety, not just to serve drinks.
  • Report any suspicious behavior.  In this day and age, it is important that we all look out for each other.  While in flight, we are ‘all in the same boat’ — literally.


Disciplined Plan

I have had international flights when I did not sleep at all, watching movies the entire time.  While I got caught up on movies, (and hooked on Downton Abbey), I was pretty exhausted after the flight.

  • Considering pre-ordering a “special meal.”   These meals are brought out first, so you will not have to wait for the rest of the cabin to be served.  When you are done, you can continue with the rest of your plan: movie, or nap.
  • Go in with a disciplined plan, and stick to those limits.   Flying from Los Angeles to London nonstop is about 11 hours.  A reasonable plan is: two movies, two meals, and a nap.  I say “nap” because I usually do not sleep well on planes, and rather than expect a good “sleep,” setting the expectation for a “nap” seems less disappointing.
  • Re-create your bedtime routine with usual hygiene practices.  Brush your teeth, wash your face.  Prepare your mind and body for your nap.
  • Stay well Hydrated.  Medical professionals recommend staying well hydrated, especially on airplanes.

Some travel tip sites have advised limiting hydration to reduce trips to the lavatory.  While this is a consideration if you are in the window seat and have to step over several neighbors to reach the aisle, this is generally not medically recommended.

  • Remember to stretch and change positions to avoid dangerous DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) blood clots.   Regular stretching and movement during your flight can help reduce the risk of serious DVT blood clots.  Getting up to use the lavatory accomplishes two tasks in one.

The Galley is Open

Many people may not realize that snacks are available in the Galley in between meals.  While everyone is sleeping – and you’re not – take a stretch break and peruse the Galley.

The flight attendants often have a basket of granola packets, cookies, and other snacks available.  (My husband often wonders at the end of the flight where I come up with these snacks!)

These goodies can be handy as you first arrive at your destination after all the food halls have closed, and you have not found food yet.

Remember to be kind and courteous to your flight attendants, and do not linger around the Galley.


World Clock Picture

Arrival at your Destination

  • Mentally and physically set your clock to the local time at your destination.
  • Know what time of day you arrive at your destination, and be mentally prepared to continue your journey once you arrive.  If you arrive during the daytime, rest as much as you can on your flight, and stay up until normal evening hours at your destination.  This helps reset your sleep-wake cycle.

If your flight arrives in the evening, avoid too much caffeine before landing so that you will be able to settle in once you reach your hotel.

Travel show host Samantha Brown recommends avoiding caffeine for two days before your flight.  When you arrive, the caffeine will be more effective in combating jet-lag.



Do you have any tips for surviving your long-haul international flight?

Where are you dreaming about exploring?

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The information, including but not limited to, text, images, graphics, links, and other materials contained on this website are for informational and educational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote safer and happier travel by assisting travelers with helpful information.  It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition, new medications – including over the counter medications – and safety for you to travel.  Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional medical care because of information you have read on this website.

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