How to survive a 15 hour plane flight

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Long haul international travel. Oh joy.

No matter how much you travel, you never get used to those long haul flights. Who likes spending 12 hours (that’s half a day!) couped up in the one spot… a tiny, not-very-comfortable economy seat? I’m headed to Miami for New Years, so unfortunately I’ll need to take one of the longest flights in the world (15 hours and 25 minutes) from Sydney to Dallas.

To prepare myself, I’ve been asking the TID team for some suggestions about how I might make my 15hr flight a bit more tolerable.

How to stay sane on a long haul flight

Make yourself comfortable

  • Invest in a good set of earplugs! They keep out germs, regulate air pressure at high altitudes (particularly during take off and landing) and help block out noise so you can get a good night’s sleep.
  • Wear comfy clothing – instead of tight clothing that will restrict blood flow, try tracksuit pants or leggings. If you take a few layers, you can easily make quick changes to adjust to the temperature.
  • Pack a pair of socks in your carryon to keep your feet warm, especially if you’re wearing open toe shoes.
  • Some people swear by neck pillows and an eye-mask can help block out light.
  • Get up and stretch whenever you can!

Eat wise

  • Don’t rely on airlines to provide you with adequate (or quality) meals. If the airline is fairly low-end, take your own food from home.
  • I always carry muesli bars, fruit, and nuts as it’s hard to find fresh foods in airports and on the plane. Avoid the overly sugary/salty things that airlines hand out.
  • Many airlines offer special meals tailored to individual medical, religious or other dietary needs. As a vegetarian, I always specify my meal preference when booking my ticket so that I don’t go hungry.

Stay hydrated

  • Drink heaps of water before, during and after your flight.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages (such as coffee and soft drink), which can really dehydrate you. Electrolyte drinks are also a great way to help keep you hydrated.
  • Have some moisturizer handy as the air in planes can suck the life out of your skin.

Keep yourself entertained

  • Load all the books that you’ve been wanting to read for the last 6 months onto your Kindle/iPad so you can switch between movie watching/onboard entertainment to mix things up a bit.
  • Some noise reducing headphones help block out airplane roar and “noise fatigue” (a kind of edgy tiredness that you get when you’ve been exposed to loud noises for extended period of time) and let you listen to music at a much lower (and safer) volume.
  • If you’re travelling with children, make sure you pack a small stash of toys, games and colouring in books to keep them entertained. Even better, if you have an iPad, download some kid-friendly apps before you leave (be prepared to lose access to your iPad for the duration of the flight though!).

Choose your seat

  • When booking your flight, select your own seat and avoid galley & toilet areas. Think about your usual travel behaviours when making your selection. I like sitting next to the window so I have something to rest my head on. This might not be the best choice for you if you’re the kind of person who constantly needs to get up to stretch your legs or go to the bathroom.
  • SeatGuru can help you when making a decision about which seat to pick. It offers maps of aircraft seats, seat reviews, and a colour-coded system to help you see which seats are superior and which are substandard.
  • If you’re travelling in the US and check-in online beforehand you can sometimes upgrade (say from economy to premium economy) for a small fee. Be warned – while you may get extra legroom, you probably won’t get any special treatment.

Secure your valuables

  • The last thing you want at the start of your trip is to lose something important, like your passport. Don’t put valuables (including your wallet, camera and iPod/tablets) in overhead luggage compartments, especially if you’re travelling in low-income countries.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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