Long Haul Flight Essentials & Tips

airplane window

Long Haul Flight Essentials & Tips

International travel is thrilling except for one big part… the long flight there. Not only can long flights contribute to hard-to-kick jet lag, but they can also give your trip a pretty rough start. One example, on our flight to Osaka, Japan I got sick… I mean REALLY sick.

I’ll try to spare you most of the gory details but… I was throwing up in the bathroom for hours with multiple people knocking because they needed in. Do I suffer from motion sickness? Not usually. But the turbulence on this flight definitely didn’t help out. So we thought of some helpful carry-on items and tips to help you survive your next long flight.

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Bring Healthy Snacks

Yes, bring healthy snacks. But not just any snacks. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and salt content and bring snacks that make you feel good and give long-lasting energy.

These are the snacks we usually bring on a long flight:

  • Fruit: Clementines, bananas, apples, and grapes are perfect choices for long flights because they have natural sugars, are refreshing, and easy to eat. We also love dried fruit because it is easy to keep fresh and won’t bruise in your bag. Plus many of these are high in vitamin C and will help keep you healthy on the flight.
  • Dried or raw vegetables: Opt for a sturdy veggie that is great raw. Celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower are all great picks. Pair it up with favorite nut butter or salsa but make sure it follows TSA guidelines.
  • Nuts/seeds: Unsalted peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios, etc all make for a great snack and are high in protein. Just be considerate of those seated next to you and ask about allergies. As someone with a severe nut allergy I always inform flight attendants about my allergy so they can make an annoucement for others to not eat your allergen on the plane. If you are someone who also has a severe contact allergy you should definitely do the same!
  • Jerky: Perky Jerky is our go-to for high protein and lower fat jerky. It has slightly less sodium than regular jerky too.
  • If you are a chocoholic then check out the dark chocolate wedges from Trader Joes. These are perfect individual sizes to take on your flight.

Drink A LOT of Water

It seems like a given but once you board your international flight it’s easy to start taking advantage of the free soft drinks, coffee, wine, and beer, but keeping up with your water intake is the most important.

One way to make sure you are drinking enough is to bring your own empty water bottle through security and fill it up once on the other side. You can also purchase a large one in the airport but prepare to pay about $5 for it.

Pack Your Toothbrush in Your Carry-On

After sleeping or eating brush your teeth to give yourself a refresh. Sometimes airlines have disposable ones they provide in the bathroom but don’t bank on them because every international flight, we’ve taken these go fast!

Check the Airline Menu Before Leaving

If you’re a picky eater or have dietary restrictions it’s best to visit your airline’s website and check the menu for the month of your flight. You can even make requests for specific meals (i.e. vegetarian, Hindu, gluten-free, etc).

ANA international airline menu
Example of ANA’s vegetarian meal choices for those who have dietary restrictions or personal preference.

Pack an Extra Travel Pillow

You are provided with one from the airline but to make the flight more comfortable you could buy a blow-up one that will easily fight in any size carry-on.

Take Motion Sickness Medicine

The original formula of Dramamine will not only keep you from getting motion sickness, but it will also help you sleep on the plane and that’s a win-win! Even if you’ve never had motion sickness it doesn’t hurt to take one of these for turbulence (it got me last time)!

Avoid an Airplane Cold

Airplane seats definitely aren’t cleaned as often as one would hope. Avoid getting sick from the flight by packing some disinfectant wipes to clean the seat back tray, remote, and armrests. Also, keep your hands clean with antibacterial hand gel.

Wear Compression Socks

Compression socks are used to help increase circulation and prevent blood clots in your legs. When sitting for multiple hours on end, these socks are really important!

When thinking about what shoes to wear on your flight, we suggest wearing something that is easy to slip on and off so you can get comfy while seated but also be able to get up and move when needed more easily.

Get Up & Stretch Often

Similar to our last item, in order to keep yourself from feeling cooped up and to help circulation, get up and move! While awake try to walk around the cabin every hour or two.

After sleeping take extra time to stretch your legs, back, and arms to avoid feeling stiff. Check out this helpful article from The Week for some simple stretches you can do on an airplane.

Grab a Good Book

International Flights can be a real snooze-fest if you can’t sleep or run out of movie options. I suggest grabbing a good book for the flight. Another perk? If you have a public library card you can often download eBooks for free before you leave on the Libby app!

Consider Upgrading Your Flight

While economy seats aren’t bad for domestic travel, they can get fairly crowded during an international flight. If you can afford to, upgrade your flight! Typically there are four levels of seating on international flights, economy, premium economy, business, and first-class. 

Some of the main differences include seat space, seat style, meals, and different amenities. Check out your preferred airline’s website in order to find specific details regarding their upgrades.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.44.41 PM
Here is the fare comparison for each of the upgrade options.

Now you just need to combat your jet lag or enjoy the window seat as we have seen some beautiful photos taken on airplanes. Any other tips and tricks that have made your long flights more comfortable?


  • Reply
    Neha Verma
    September 18, 2016 at 12:36 PM

    very informative tips indeed. Would like to add, although rest all is fine with me, I get a good dose of ear pain every time the plane descends even few thousand feet . The more quickly it descends, the sharper is the pain. Even earbuds didnt help. Offlate I realized, snacking does. If I am continuously chewing, particularly during the descend, it becomes almost like a breeze 🙂

    • Reply
      September 18, 2016 at 12:56 PM

      So interesting! I have actually heard of people that get terrible ear pain from flying. A friend of mine buys these ear plugs that look like a screw and he swears by them. Chewing and snacking always seems to help my ears pop as well!

  • Reply
    Christina M.
    September 18, 2016 at 7:31 PM

    We always use http://www.seatguru.com to select our seats for long haul flights. There is so much helpful info like which seats do not recline, which ones have a little extra legroom, etc. Also a warning on bringing fresh fruit on a flight, many countries will not let you enter with any fresh fruits or vegetables so plan to eat or throw away anything you bring before you get off the plane. This does not apply to unopened and sealed processed food.

    • Reply
      September 18, 2016 at 7:35 PM

      Christina, thank you for the suggestion! We have used Seat Guru a few times and it has been really helpful! Wish it also could tell you if you’d have a pesky passenger that will be kicking the back of your seat! 😉

      Definitely should have included that warning about the fruit. We typically always eat our snacks before arrival unless it is prepackaged! Once I had sunflower seeds confiscated at customs in Australia.

  • Reply
    Hanani M. Ali
    September 18, 2016 at 7:35 PM

    Very informative post! I think I wrote a similar one sometime ago. I don’t like long flights (my worst nightmare is always flying back to Asia from any points in the Americas) — I agree that it is important to keep oneself hydrated. Avoid alcohol at all cost. I always try to split my super long flights into transit (so I can walk around the airport for a bit). Plus nowadays airlines are always offering free stopover in between, which is great too!

    • Reply
      September 18, 2016 at 7:41 PM

      Hanani, I will have to go take a look at yours and see if I can learn from your tips! Flying to Japan I was extremely sick from the turbulence but the flight back wasn’t as bad.

      You’re so right about alcohol! The gentleman next to me on our Japan flight kept chugging the free beer and talking about how it was his first lengthy international flight. I tried to bite my tongue but eventually I had to say “hey man… might wanna drink some water.” Not long after that he spent the rest of the flight (about 8 hours) throwing up in the bathroom. So unpleasant and not at all worth it!

  • Reply
    September 18, 2016 at 11:28 PM

    Long haul flights are my own personal form of torture, despite the fact it seems I’ve spent half my life on a plane. Totally agree with the jerky though. Over the course of a transatlantic, I can easily work my way through three jumbo bags of Jack Links!

    • Reply
      September 19, 2016 at 6:14 PM

      Gareth, definitely laughed out loud a this one! It seems like all of my international and domestic flights lately have been riddled with rude passengers that spill on me or lay down their seat for the whole duration of the flight. Typically I bite my tongue for fear of being rude myself, but there comes a point where you must say something, right!? Logan always brings jerky on our flights and when we are hiking too. Great for protein!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2016 at 12:50 AM

    I actually love flying, the longer the better! It forces me to relax & watch movies! My problem is that I usually choose the cheapest flights so I don’t get any free food or drinks or even entertainment sometimes… so I can vouch for the excellent snack suggestions listed!

    • Reply
      September 19, 2016 at 6:11 PM

      I can agree with you there! I enjoy the flights too, especially for the movies. But I get a little restless and don’t typically sleep well which can make for a loooooong trip! What airline do you typically fly?

  • Reply
    September 21, 2016 at 6:23 PM

    Solid advice! We always pack an absurd amount of snacks (pb&j’s, trail mix, protein bars). The toothbrush tip should be a requirement. Nothing worse than your seatmate breathing fire on you at the end of the flight. The plane smells bad enough without adding halitosis to the mix!

    • Reply
      September 21, 2016 at 7:33 PM

      Bahaha! Amen to that Sarah. I’ve had beer/barf breathe dude next to me and I about died myself. I wanted to grab a toothbrush for him!

  • Reply
    Russell Fernandez
    September 24, 2016 at 8:44 PM

    great travel tips here! definitely agree with walking over time to keep the blood circulation. I tend to tie it up with going to the bathroom and stretching around. I don’t necessarily find I need to upgrade (if you can put up with the limited space), however saying that, economy at Lufthansa and Korean Air were great for leg and personal space.

    thanks for the heads up!

    • Reply
      September 25, 2016 at 4:59 PM

      Russell, thanks for the tips about Lufthansa and Korean Air! We haven’t flown either of those but we will definitely check them out as we typically prefer to have more leg room.

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